In his book Tapworthy: Designing Great iPhone Apps, Josh Clark defines the three different mindsets of the mobile user: “I am microtasking,” “I am local,” and “I am bored” (see References). I agree entirely with these categories and their descriptions, and therefore, every time I design a mobile learning solution I try to cater to these three frames of mind. One effective approach is to rely on the best practices in game-based design and the key considerations for multi-device applications.
First things first
Bibliographical resources and research evidence about the impact of video games in education are abundant. Much has been said about their potential benefits on the learner´s engagement and cognitive-skills development. Many educators and L&D professionals have reported how the use of video games has resulted in higher levels of participation and has improved performance. But, what are the key ingredients of a successful game-based learning experience?
I will try to avoid broad terms like “engaging,” “interactive,” or “relevant” to answer this question. While these characteristics somewhat describe the type of experience we seek to design, sometimes it is difficult to clearly grasp what they really mean or encompass. As stated by Ethan Edwards (see References), these words are not enough to describe what makes a game a real learning experience.
Take for example Jeopardy!-like educational games. They are engaging because the interface is visually attractive. They are interactive because they involve actions from the user, such as identifying the most suitable answer. And they are relevant because they base the questions on real information and facts. But, is that the type of activity our learners will be doing as part of their daily tasks?
Don’t get me wrong, please. Question-based games can work well in some situations, and their effectiveness as an instructional strategy will depend heavily on how the questions are structured. However, before jumping into software options to address a training need, we need to carefully think about two key questions:
- Is a game the right medium for the learning objective?
- Can you elicit the relevant behaviors in a game? (see Hussain in References).
These questions are the foundation for designing effective game-based experiences that:
- Aim at eliciting certain behaviors from the learners or at developing specific skills. The game focuses on the actions the learners must perform in order to acquire new abilities.
- Address learners´ attention to a single task that resembles a real-world situation so they can make a successful transfer to their work.
- Have concrete, achievable, and rewarding goals to clearly define the game rules.
- Allow the learners to do something with the content, for example, practicing strategic decision-making.
- Include different levels of difficulty that constitute a challenging path towards the final goal and the skill mastery.
- Provide feedback about the consequences of actions
and arouse learner’s emotio…
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