Thursday, June 21, 2012

Do Games Teach?

Recently, I came across an article titled Why Games Don't Teach from Ruth Clark. The article sparked a lot of controversy and debate in the learning circles, primarily because of its title. Karl Kapp even responded back to Ruth's article with Games Teach. And, he quoted various researches to prove his point.

Personally, I do think that Ruth's views about the value games bring to e-learning actually make a lot of sense. So far, I haven’t seen many few game-like components that work for learners. Mostly, in the effort to provide a game-like feel to a course, we end up adding unnecessary complexity and hampering learning. Any unnecessary complexity kills the learning experience, and that's what most of the so-called games do. This view is substantiated by the experimental evidence provided by Ruth in the section “Beware Masquerading Your Content in Game Costume” in her article.

However, the entire controversy sparked by Ruth’s article is also because of the lack of a formal definition for games in e-learning. What most learning designers call games are scenario-based simulations with game-based interfaces. And, there is no doubt about the fact that simulations work. What can work better than experiential learning in a simulated environment, anyway. A simulation teaches the real-world application and in some ways "looks" like a game.

So, I hold my view unless I see a game (and not a game-based interface or a simulation) in e-learning that actually teaches . Do let me know if you come across any.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Storytelling: When Does it Work?

"Storytelling" as a communication tool has been around for years and is very powerful too. For e-learning, I used to think that stories typically work to grab attention etc. A passive story running through the course? Too boring! Over a period of time, I discovered that even passive storytelling works for the following:

1. Establishing the training need: There can't be a better way to grab learners' attention, for sure. Training employees on a new system/application implemented in the organization? Tell them how it helped a certain employee with a similar profile and get them hooked.

2. Connecting various topics: Weave the magical connection by having  an overarching story for the training course, and connect different topics using smaller stories derived from the same story. Apart from building connections, stories help break the monotony, build motivation, and reinforce teaching points.

3. Teaching abstract topics: A subject that is not literal or experiential (by five senses, that is) may get difficult to explain. Nothing works better than using stories and analogies from real life to transfer these concepts effectively. Need to sensitize people about avoiding debt? Tell them a story about how debt spelled doom for certain characters and see the results.