If you happened to catch my earlier article on the gamification of learning, then you know that I have been dubious about its effectiveness. To be clear, it's not the premise of having fun in learning that I feel we should be wary of. It's the tendency to turn everything into a competition based more on winning than on learning. I guess you could say I don't mind using a few tricks from gamers; it's the actual games that have me worried. Short of setting up levels and leader boards and the number of "lives" you get in this lesson, here are some game-like concepts you can use to punch up your lessons.
Stories, Yes. Bullets, No!
We've all heard that it is no longer cool to give a presentation of nothing but bullet points. But while it's easy to say "don't use bullets," it's a lot harder to figure out what to do instead. One option is to think like a video game developer. The objective of the game may be to save the princess, but to make the game compelling, you have to tell the princess's backstory, make us adore the princess, and then tell us what trouble the princess is in and how we'll save her.
At a minimum, create a work-like scenario. The learning objective may be to create a database in Excel, but that goal will seem more compelling if you tell the learner how we got the data, what problems we are having in using the data, and how we will solve those problems. Make your learning contextual. Give it meaning and interest, not bullets.
An even more compelling story will have actual characters and a string of events. Let's say your objective is to teach proper procedures for setting a broken bone. You could certainly create a checklist for deciding the proper course of action and apply that to humans in general. But it would make a more captivating eLearning module if you add a story context:
It's the bottom of the 8th in the high-school baseball game. Fifteen-year-old Havier Fuentes hits a line drive deep into center field. As the outfielder bobbles the ball, Havier flings himself into a diving slide into third base. As he reaches the bag, his hand catches the edge of the base. His forearm is broken in two places. You meet Havier in the hospital emergency room. You'll need to run your standard checklist for bone-setting. But first, you need to take a patient history from Havier's family.
Elaborate as much or as little as you need to create interest and get the point across.
Challenge Learners and Promote Creativity
That same story-telling approach can be used to spiff up quizzes. In keeping with our medical theme, let's say you want to quiz your learners on surgical tools. You could, of course, simply ask learners to list tools. You could also do a name and application match-up. But how about this instead:
You are in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. You are the only non-zombie in sight. You know your medical experience will eventually come in handy. Before you escape from the zombie-infested hospital, you decide to grab some equipment. But you can only carry five things. What do you grab and why?
Provide Continual On-The-Spot Feedback
One of the best things about games, particularly of the video variety, is that you don't have to wait to find out how you did. Everything you do in a game provides instant feedback. "+500" flashes on the screen. Negative life points show up in your dashboard. The same isn't always true for traditional education. You often have to wait for a teacher to grade your paper and give it back to you or wait until the end of a course to see how you fared. Capitalize on the eLearning medium by letting your learner know right away how they did. Instead of a quiz where results are given at the end, consider displaying results after each question. Perhaps you could even give the learner the opportunity to learn from and change mistakes instantly.
The overall take-home here is that adding badges, levels, or points to learning is a game, and that's probably a fad. But designing and presenting learning objectives in a more engaging and meaningful manner? That's valuable-and fun.
AJ teaches a live, 3-hour class that offers tips/tricks for improving the look and feel of your PowerPoint presentations: Slide Sprucing: Remodeling Lackluster PowerPoint Slides for eLearning and Presentations.