I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a big video game guy. I mainly play sports games, but my current game of choice is Red Dead Redemption for the Playstation 3. The game takes place in the Wild West and you are an outlaw with a heart of gold. For those of you not familiar with the game, you basically follow a complex storyline by performing a long list of missions and activities. The great thing about the game is that you don’t perform these missions in any particular order; you are free to play the game as you please. This means you can choose to turn down certain missions if you so desire.
But by turning down these missions, or performing them incorrectly, you affect and alter the storyline; any of you familiar with the Choose Your Own Adventure books can understand this concept. But there is a big difference between this game and the books. With Choose Your Own Adventure books you make a decision and are taken on a completely different storyline path. In Red Dead Redemption, you make a decision and your storyline is only slightly altered. You can still reach the same ending but sometimes you make it harder on your character and sometimes you make it easier. It’s completely up to you.
So where am I going with this? The more I play the game, the more I think that it would make a great elearning course. Just imagine creating a course that puts the hero in numerous scenarios with the ability to alter his or her final outcome. I know this concept of scenario based learning is nothing new. I’ve created plenty of these courses myself, but most of the scenarios result in simple cause and effect outcomes. You present the learner with a scenario, she makes a decision based on the information provided to her and she’s told if she’s correct or not.
I’m talking about taking elearning scenarios to the next level. Why not put the learner in a scenario where there is no right or wrong answer, only a decision? The next scenario is dynamically created based on the decision that precedes it. No feedback is provided until the end of the course because, think about it: when we make decisions in life, we don’t get immediate feedback. No thought bubbles pop up and tell us if we are right or wrong. We just continue to our next decision and hope for the best.
In this new type of elearning, only when reaching the end of the course is the feedback revealed. Once the course is complete, we tell the learner what she could have done differently or how she could have come to this conclusion in a much easier fashion. Allowing the learner to reach the end of the course provides a sense of closure, much like a good novel. The main problem with current scenario based elearning is that the scenarios are seldom tied together to form a coherent narrative. With this new type of scenario, the lack of feedback during the course lends itself to an improved flow and makes the learning seem more organic.
Now I know that creating a course like this will be difficult. The amount of programming and behind the scenes research will probably be substantial. But the payoff could be magnificent. This type of course would appeal to a younger generation of learners, those who do not buy into our current (and sometimes outdated) elearning models. And this type of learning could get younger people more interested in the actual creation of elearning. Every kid wants to make video games for a living. Why not “elearning” video games?
FYI – the name of this post is based on the maker of Red Dead Redemption: Rockstar Games.
For more information about adult learning, instructional design or elearning, visit www.learntoelearn.com.