Beyond Gamification: Think Like a Game Designer to Create Engaging, Meaningful Instruction

Speaker: Dr. Karl Kapp

 Dr. Kapp began the presenting by asking the audience for five things they think about a an instructional designer when they are designing a course. Their answers included, branding, how much time the course would take, measures of success, outcomes, and platform to be used.

 In a very large ballroom, nobody mentioned motivation.

 He presented a scenario and tried to use pollev.com to let audience pick teams and vote. Unfortunately it seemed he had locked his questions and so had to get answers by show of hands. Ideally Pollev lets audience answer questions by browser or app and display their answers immediately.

According to Dr. Kapp, research now shows that people are wired to enjoy learning, but more facts are retained through stories than bulleted lists.

Learners are motivated by challenge, curiosity, control, fantasy, cooperation, competition and recognition. If something is too easy nobody cares, figuring out they don’t need to pay attention. Learners want some sense of control over their learning as well.

Kapp referred to the unholy trificate of gamification – points, badges, and leaderboards. These tools have their role, but sometimes they are not enough or the right approach for the audience. Perhaps for instance engineers would rather solve problems. Malone’s theory of intrinsically motivating instruction shows that the impact of external motivation can decrease over time.

 Fantasy helps learners to apply old knowledge to understand new things and help them remember the content. Emotionally people can connect with the experiences in the fantasy and no have to bring with it “real world” concerns or fears.

In games, failing is allowed, it’s acceptable, and it’s part of the processes. Continual success would bore the learner. Research indicates that our brains grow when we make a mistake because it is a time of struggle. However, some research says you learn more from the failure of colleagues than your own failures. With your own failures you make excuses and justifications, there is distance with observing and learning from failures of others. That’s why it can be educational to see a character in a story fail.

 We as designers need to point out to learners what they don’t know, and create cognitive dissonance that they want to have solved. (paraphrasing Knowles). To do so he like to send out a survey pre-class to get people discussing and wanting to know the answers before they start.

Curiosity and mystery should be drawn into the design – gaps between known and unknown that needs to be resolved. The following enhance mystery:

  • Novelty

  • Complexity

  • Inconsistency

  • Surprise

  • ·Incomplete information

  • Inability to predict the future

 Videogames don’t start off with a lot of instructions – they throw you into the action right away, providing complexity before mastery.

Quizzing learners with embedded question a very good way to build in spaced repetition and increase retention and recall. Most gamified platforms use this.

 Learners shouldn’t be able to do things so quickly. Too little challenge leads to boredom. Start with challenge, and build on the challenge level as they master. But too much challenge can make learners anxious. How do you put learners into flow state? Learners have to know the task can be achieved. Present clear goals, give control over actions (autonomy) and allow them to concentrate.

Choices allow learners to be motivated, give them a sense they can master content. When given control over the learning, learners invested more time and retained more. Sometimes it helps to let learners choose their path in the beginning to make it seem more applicable to their circumstances - especially if you have some difference in your learners.

On a side note, people who study in-person presentations have noticed a “magic T” formed of the learners in front rows and aisles who tend to learn more. But it’s self-selection, not that the teacher focuses there most.

At the end of the presentation Dr. Kapp had the audience summarize key takeaways of the presentation. Their responses were:

  •  Competition

  • Curiosity

  • Choice

  • Non-linear

  • Fantasy

  • Mastery

  • Learning from failure

  • Fun

 Dr Kapp pointed out that none of these were on the audiences list in the beginning.

Other key takeaways:

  •  Military is in the forefront of using gamificaiton in training – war games, strategy games.

  •  Medical industry was one of first industries to do so.

  • He is inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure books and cheap spy novels.

  • He also tries to talk to clients and see what they like (for example some might like Survivor type shows, which would be a good thing to adapt to games)