How To Integrate Serious Games In Your eLearning Course

Top 7 Tips To Integrate eLearning Games Into Your eLearning Course
Summary: In this article, I'll walk you through some tips and tricks for how you can integrate eLearning games into literally any eLearning deliverable, whether this is an online corporate training for a Fortune 500 client, or a K-12 eLearning course.

How to Integrate eLearning Games Into Your eLearning Course

One of the most amazing things about being an eLearning professional today is that you have so many invaluable eLearning tools and techniques at your disposal. From new eLearning technologies to emerging theories that improve the eLearning experience, there are a variety of ways that you can make each and every eLearning deliverable more powerful, meaningful, and informative for your learners. For example, you can now use real-world and highly engaging eLearning games to motivate your learners. Integrating eLearning games into your eLearning courses can help you transform even the dullest and driest subject matter into an engaging and exciting eLearning experience.

Top Tips To Gamify Your Courses

1. Start With The Learning Objective Or Goal

Before you even begin to develop your eLearning game, you'll need to clearly determine your learning objectives or learning goals. This will be the foundation for your eLearning game as you move forward. While eLearning games are meant to entertain, they aren't truly valuable educational tools if they don't serve the learning objectives. So, write out an eLearning gaming script that touches on the key points of the eLearning course, and use it as a guide throughout the eLearning design and development process. Keep in mind that your online learners are working on a tight schedule. They don’t have time to sit through a half-hour serious game in order to build skills or gather new information. You must research their preferences, performance gaps, and expectations to create a quick online gaming experience that meets their needs.

2. Always Preface eLearning Games With Expectations Or Desired Outcomes

In some instances, it may be beneficial to simply “throw” your learners into an eLearning game, especially if you want them to explore a concept on their own before formal instruction takes place. However, nine times out of ten it is more beneficial to preface eLearning games with a description of the desired outcomes and expectations. Let them know how they will benefit from the eLearning game and what skill sets or knowledge they will acquire. You can also let them know about the real-world applications of the eLearning game. For instance, you can tell them that this eLearning game will teach them how to complete return or exchange transactions within the POS system, or that it will show them how to solve a common problem they encounter on the job. They will then see the real value in the eLearning game, and be more motivated to learn and actively participate.

3. Encourage Learners To Apply Knowledge They've Learned Through The eLearning Games

One of the most significant benefits of using eLearning games in eLearning deliverables is to help recap concepts and show learners how these concepts or principles can be applied. You can do this by incorporating problems or concepts into your eLearning game that require the learner to apply knowledge or skills that they've already acquired. This will help to boost retention and to see the benefits of the overall eLearning experience, firsthand. You may even want to include an eLearning game at the end of each module, just prior to an exam or quiz, so that they can review learned concepts and more effectively commit them to memory.

4. Use Online Game Mechanics To Positively Reinforce Behaviors

One of the main purposes of using online game mechanics in your gamification strategy is to reinforce behaviors or knowledge. If online learners successfully complete a task or pass an online exam, they move onto the next level or earn coveted points. This positively reinforces favorable behaviors and encourages them to repeat them. However, offering incentives too readily can reduce the effectiveness of your eLearning game. Be careful about what you reinforce and how often. For example, an online learner who receives points for simply clicking on an object or reading a passage won't assign any value to those points. They know that ANY action will be rewarded.

5. Realism And Relevancy Are All-Important

When creating eLearning games realism should be a top priority. For instance, if you're including an eLearning game that walks a learner through the process of repairing a sales terminal, the eLearning game should include an accurate depiction of that sales terminal and all of the tools that are required to complete the task at hand. This will help to enhance learner engagement, and also give them the opportunity to gain invaluable experience in a safe virtual setting. Learners won't have to worry about making mistakes on the job, in other words, because they will be able to build upon their knowledge base via the eLearning game.

6. Include Realistic And Memorable eLearning Characters

Your serious game should feature eLearning characters that connect with your online learners in a meaningful way. This requires that they are memorable, realistic, and well-developed. For example, each eLearning character should have their own personality traits and motivations. There must be a reason why they are behaving in a certain manner. These eLearning characters must also face a challenge or obstacle that online learners can relate to. Ideally, this conflict will mimic a real-world situation that the online learner faces on a daily basis. Take your time creating the perfect plotline and setting the scene, making sure that the online learners know who is who and how they are related.

7. Don't Let The eLearning Games Steal The Show

While the eLearning games you incorporate have the power to make the eLearning experience more entertaining and effective, they shouldn't be the most important element of your eLearning deliverable. The content, first and foremost, should be the star of the show. If the eLearning games are a distraction from the core message, then they should be modified or entirely removed. For best results, focus on one goal, skill, or task when you're developing your serious game. This allows you to explore all aspects of the topic without overwhelming your online learners. It also ensures that your serious game still falls under the category of "microlearning," meaning that online learners can access it repeatedly to increase their knowledge retention. Essentially, eLearning games are a support tool and a learning aid for the eLearning deliverable and should fit seamlessly into the overall eLearning design that serves the learning objectives.

Bonus Secrets To Integrate eLearning Games

1. Include Details, But Don't Be Too Specific So As To Exclude Members Of Your Audience

When creating eLearning games, it can be tempting to include an abundance of details to boost its realism. However, this can be a slippery slope, since too many details may cause some of your learners to disengage. A perfect example of this is including a character that reveals its whole fictional life story and depicts very specific personality and cultural traits. While this may make some learners feel more connected to it, it may exclude others because they simply cannot relate to it. Therefore, they don't feel connected.

2. Choose An eLearning Authoring Tool That Features In-Depth Analytics

There are a variety of eLearning authoring tools that now feature serious game tools, such as eLearning templates and asset libraries that include eLearning interactions. However, when you're choosing the ideal eLearning authoring tool you should be on the lookout for in-depth analytics and reporting. These features give you the ability to track online learner progress and identify areas for improvement. For example, if most of your online learners are stumbling through a level of your serious game, it's a good indication that it is too challenging or confusing. You may also need to include more eLearning activities in your eLearning course that focus on those specific ideas or concepts.

3. Have Effective Feedback Systems In Place

Have an assessment and feedback system in place, where you can truly gauge the effectiveness of your eLearning games. Create surveys that allow you to see what the learners thought about the eLearning game, whether it offered them any real value, or what they took away from it. Ask them to complete a brief quiz after they've completed the eLearning game to determine if the learning goal or objective has been achieved, or if you need to fine-tune your eLearning strategy.

4. Get Online Instructors And Facilitators On-Board

Bring as many people on board as possible and solicit their feedback, especially online instructors and facilitators who interact directly with your online learners. You should also hold a pre-launch or orientation meeting where you discuss all of the online game mechanics and instructions. Keep in mind that these team leaders need to offer ongoing support to your online learners while they are participating in the eLearning game. They must be aware of the rules and how to properly use the system. Give your online instructors eLearning videos, tutorials, and anything else they need to ensure the best possible online gaming experience.

5. Add Online Forums And Social Media To Your eLearning Strategy

One of the drawbacks of serious games is that they are often asynchronous, which means that online learners must progress through the levels on their own. There is nobody to commiserate with after they've triumphed over a difficult challenge. They cannot ask questions about a puzzle that is posing problems in the second level. Adding social media and online forums to your eLearning strategy changes all of that, however. It gives online learners the chance to reach out to their peers, address their concerns, share tips, and discuss the subject matter. In short, it offers them a social, interactive, and collaborative outlet that magnifies the benefits of your serious games.

Conclusion

Use these tips to successfully integrate eLearning games into your eLearning course or online training event, so that you can create eLearning experiences that are both exciting and effective for your target audience.

In addition, if you are wondering How e-Learning Games Translate into Real-World Success, I highly encourage you to read the article 4 Important Questions You Have To Answer As You Design A Gamified Learning Experience.

If you'd like additional insight into how to make your learning games even more effective, the article Tips To Make Learning Games Effective offers 5 tips that can help you ensure that your Learning Games walk the fine line between entertaining and informative. Animations can also be a valuable eLearning tool that gets online learners excited about the eLearning process. Read the article 6 Tips To Use Animations In eLearning to discover that animations not only bring out our inner child but also have the power to improve knowledge retention.

Last but not least, in the article The Secret to Effective e-Learning Games you will find how to Design Effective e-Learning Games.

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