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What eLearning Can Borrow From Game Design – Part 1

Updated: Nov 12

I wrote this article for the September 2023 Evolve insights newsletter:

Part 1: Elevating Your eLearning Courses With Game Design and UX Techniques

Want to make your e-learning courses truly engaging? Games are about much more than points and leveling up. Let’s dig into how simple game design strategies like UX and interactions design can help you achieve that.

Easy Navigation

In games, a clear path often guides you. Your eLearning course should offer the same clarity. Consider a straightforward dashboard layout complemented by clear menu items. A progress bar at the top can help learners gauge how much they’ve done and what’s next, or which topic they’re on in a larger curriculum. Additionally, icons or small thumbnails next to each module can give a quick visual clue about the content, making navigation even more intuitive. A well-placed ‘Help’ button or a ‘What’s Next?’ preview could also assist learners in navigating the course with ease.

Interactive Elements

Games draw players in with interactive elements. Engage your learners similarly by incorporating clickable elements like maps for topic exploration or drag-and-drop activities for term-definition matching. Another example could be interactive timelines where learners can click on key areas for more information. Consider embedding mini-quizzes within video lectures and rewarding points for correct answers to make tasks more engaging and game-like.

Visual and Auditory Cues

Games often use color and sound to steer players. For your eLearning courses, bright colors, bolding, drop shadows, or glows can highlight key points or emphasize clickable buttons. Some games use glows, arrows, or simple animations to direct attention to critical or interactive areas. On the auditory side, a sound effect could signify when a button appears. A pleasant chime may indicate when a user chooses a correct quiz answer, while a soft buzz could indicate an incorrect one.

Just-in-Time Help

Games usually pop up with tips or cues just when they’re needed. Onboarding in game design shows what’s expected of the gamer and how to complete basic tasks – a helpful strategy for simulations and software tutorials. Other types of training might benefit from including tooltips or pop-up tutorials at moments when users might need clarification, like on a topic or policy that often generates confusion, or before introducing a complex topic that builds on a previous topic. Consider using small ‘Did you know?’ boxes to provide extra information that could help clarify complex points, making the learning process smoother.

Instant Feedback

In games, you get immediate indicators about your performance. Mimic this by offering quick quiz results or instant feedback on knowledge checks. For example, after a multiple-choice quiz, not only show the correct answer but also provide a brief explanation for why it’s correct. Provide supporting information, while being careful to keep feedback concise. Give the opportunity to go back and revisit specific content areas or slides when questions are missed.

Personalized Paths

Games often adjust gameplay depending on a variety of factors – the character chosen, the skill or level of the player, the type of task. Consider different paths for different organizational roles or levels of seniority, depending on their involvement with the content. Pre-tests are a great way to gauge learners’ foundational knowledge and allow them to skip introductions rather than forcing them to get bored reviewing content they’re already comfortable with. Use quiz scores and knowledge check responses to identify knowledge gaps and assign additional activities or material.

Incorporating game design techniques into your eLearning courses can make them more engaging, navigable, and effective. By enriching your courses with easy navigation, interactive features, and instant feedback, you’re not just encouraging completion—you’re setting up your learners for genuine success.


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