Eileen Kirk, eLearning Programme Development Manager for Derbyshire Adult Community Education Service (DACES) has been involved in a European project to improve the communication skills of people in service industries through game-based learning.
They designed resources around a workplace scenario, with the learner taking the part of a character in the story. At certain points, the learner is faced with a situation where they have to make a decision on the action they should take. The route they follow through learning game will vary depending on those decisions.
The game is built around very specific learning objectives and at the points where the game branches (a decision point) it is possible to award and subtract points against the specific skills you are developing.
In the game below, communication skills are being developed. As you look at the game produced by DACES being played, consider what skills it is measuring and how the situations and questions enable that to happen.
At each point a decision is made feedback can be given about the decision made. At the end of the game learners are presented with their results and can reflect on the areas they may need to improve further. The aim of these branching stories is to encourage discussion amongst learners of the routes they took and the outcomes of their decisions. They can learn from the resource, their own journey and that of others. The eTrees authoring tool enables the tutor to analyse the results so they can support further development of specific skills.
Benefits of game-based learning:
- They enable learners to work on solving problems and performing tasks that relate to real-life situations.
- Including the learner as a participant in the scenario gives them an instant attachment to the learning and a sense of responsibility.
- The gaming element can motivate and engage.
- The learner is in control of the paths they take and if they repeat the exercise they may follow a completely different journey.
- The learners reflect through feedback from other characters in the scenario on the actions they take, at that time they make them.
- If combined with discussion, there is a social element to the learning.
- They can measure their strengths and weaknesses on completion of the game.
- The learner analytics can aid the teacher in informing future learning needs.
- They promote changes in attitude and behaviour
How do you create a branching story?
The scenario posed to the learner must be relevant to them. Your aim is for the learner to learn through the consequence of the actions they take. The learner has to engage with the story for this to happen, so that they consider carefully the actions they take at the decision points. When designing it you need to offer alternative options, avoiding giving totally implausible suggestions. Feedback following an action by the learner should prompt them to reflect on their actions so that they consider their performance during and on completion of the resource.
- The game needs to be easy to play from the learner perspective
- Decide what learning outcomes the game will cover. Create a scenario and decision points that focus on specific skills towards those learning outcomes, that way you can award points for each branch at each decision point.
- The questions set should challenge the learner, if the options are too easy they will be bored, too hard they will simply guess without thought.
- Think about the other characters within the scenario, the dialogue they use is it authentic to a real life situation.
- Involve the learner so they participate through the character they are assigned. You want to draw them into the game. Give them a sense of anticipation about what might happen next.
- Encourage reflection throughout the game.
If making a game like this it is iimportant to plan it out, you could do this using mind-mapping software or even post-it notes.
Eileen had access to the eTrees authoring tool for the project and the game was built up using different backgrounds, characters, text, audio and the ability to branch. Simialr games could be produced using Xerte or using the Lesson Tool in Moodle. Quandary offers a basic game-based learning tool.
Written for HOLEX by Ideas4Learning Limited