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5 Great Ways to Design Games for eLearning

gamification tips for eLearning courses

eLearning games are mounting in recognition for their motivation and engagement value. Most of us believe that game design for eLearning is for experts.

Indeed, games are designed better with the aid of game experts. But with a little imagination and plenty of material borrowed from your content, you can create smart games that lead to enjoyable learning experiences.

Why are games so fascinating? What is it about games that traps us into their world and transport us within their stories? How come we’re able to engage in playing games for astounding periods of time? And why is this quest to win and achieve points and higher leaderboard positions so important?

We could be waiting at the doctor’s office or riding a train; if we are engaged in a mobile game, we easily lose track of time. If there is one answer that will satisfy all these questions, it is this: human emotion. Games engage us through emotion.

Notice how, in a single game session, the user begins with anticipation, then moves into excitement and in the end finds himself or herself screaming in glee or disappointment. The range of emotions experienced during the game are powerful motivators to stay engaged until the game concludes. This also depends on how well the game is designed.

Another interesting feature of a game is its levels. Players love to complete a level and move on to the next one. The feeling of achievement and mastery propels them to achieve even more and progress even further.

Notice the similarity between levels in a game and chapters in an eLearning course. If designed with the game mindset, training programs can have similarly impressive engagement, as games. The end-of-the-chapter quiz can be inserted after a topic or two within the chapter. The points accumulated can be totaled towards the end of the chapter to prove mastery.

What about the music element of the game, does it have any place in the eLearning environment? Think about a short video or a case vignette as a chapter. You can use an avatar, complete with music and an attractive background, who talks directly to the learner.

With the audio and visual elements as well as the level element implemented from the game to the eLearning environment, interactivity will inevitably follow. Posing riddles and providing hints to solve a question in the drill-and-practice section of the topic would easily satisfy the interactivity feature of the game.

Incorporating games in eLearning is a not a new idea. eLearning developers have used premade games and integrated them in their courses for a long time. However, sometimes the flow and theme of a course may be disturbed by such external additions! When this is the case, such games interrupt learning more than they promote it!

How can you plan for a game in your eLearning program? Let’s look at these 5 simple steps to designing games for your next course:

1) Explain the game clearly. Provide complete instructions for the game. Instead of displaying the game console in the beginning, encourage learners to walk through the instructions first. Then make instructions available clearly for display whenever they’re needed. The goal of the game needs to be very clear too. What is the learner going to accomplish by completing the game? Are your learners creating their own goals? Also, include hints and links to resources for information needed, in the game. Minimize frustration for your learner-players!

2) What is the role of the learner in the game? Define roles and state whether choices for roles are available to them. If there are characters in your game, what are their motivations, values and goals?

3) How will you learners start the game? The first step is always the hardest! Guide your learners to start the game through a strategy. Show them a message that instructs them what to do, for example, “Psst! check out your basket!” or “You’ve got mail!”. Smoothly transition learners into your game.

4) What are the rules of your game? The idea for creating rules is to ensure that learners play in such a way that they achieve the learning goals for the section. State what is acceptable and how exceptions can be made. Encourage players to use the concepts recently learned.

5) How will your game operate? Label all parts of the game interface. How are real-world actions translated into the game? What do they click, drag, type and select to execute these actions? Include a Help facility within the game to provide guidance.

Use these five steps to design games using your favorite course-authoring tool. Do share with us your game design experience!

eLearning games can be created by anyone! If you have command over your course authoring tool and collaboration tools of your learning management system, you can create a game!