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Why empirical learning should be based on game design theory

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Activity-based learning is an intuitive concept widely accepted in learning theory, but too often the reality is “learning slowly by fighting”.

We can come up with empirical learning as a solution to learning backwards: if formal learning involves learning information and then completing a task, empirical learning involves performing a task to learn information.

In general, “learning on the go” has a number of advantages:

    • Motivation: Students become motivated to learn because they see a reward (completing a task).
    • Effectiveness: They learn only because they need to complete the task (reducing the overall effort spent on learning).
    • Conservation: they instantly relate the information received to the activity (which improves their ability to memorize information in the future).
    • Reward: They are rewarded for their learning efforts by completing the task immediately.

This approach seems superior to formal learning, but it is not as easy as throwing students into a task and hoping they will understand it. Without careful thought, learning from experience can lead to a dangerous cycle of failures and disappointments. Learning to swim is a useful analogy; without training and means for swimming staying in the water is tiring and confusing. Basically the student is worried about not drowning.

How can we improve empirical learning? Game theory offers some ideas.

The design of the game gives us clues

While the learning and development (L&D) industry was discussed gamification over the years the concept of game design has included other powerful features that have not been so widely advertised. The great design of the game includes elements which make the game enjoyable:

    • Objectives: Games are based on objectives, with clear objectives and travel in mind. They are complex but not overwhelming.
    • Creative License: Games have protective railings, but otherwise give players creative autonomy.
    • Stream: Games are addictive, reduce distractions and make the next steps clear.

These characteristics have important implications for curriculum leaders who are thinking about implementing empirical learning.

Application of game design principles

A thoughtful and transparent sequence of goals helps to create achievable but motivating learning journeys. Experimental learning should also include the progression of difficulty based on students ’work tasks and responsibilities. Great games pace of learnersthat allows them to develop their skills through the challenges they overcome. One practical approach to incorporating difficulty progression is to gradually remove student dependencies throughout the empirical learning program.

Learning should also encourage students to use their own style of work and creativity when performing tasks, rewarding work results instead of prescribing contributions. Research on the theory of self-determination suggests that this autonomy creates a more engaged and motivated mind.

Finally, reduce unnecessary context switching. Side quests are fun, but can distract students from fulfilling their mission and going to the next level. Encouraging the flow means making it easier for students to understand where to go and what to do next. For the success of empirical learning, students must be able to extract certain information in the workflow with easy navigation of resources and responsibilities.

Improved learning design will yield learning outcomes that align the learning curve and lead to more confident and interested teams. The game is included!

Editor’s note: don’t miss ours Infographics about experimental learningwho shares thoughts from leaders like this one.

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