Here is a question I was asked the other day and some of my thoughts.
What is the greatest challenge still facing trainers trying to successfully implement serious games and simulations to train their workforce? And how do you recommend they meet this challenge?
One challenge is that there is a great deal of misconceptions about the use of games for instruction. One misconception is that the literature doesn’t indicate when games are effective for learning and when they are not effective for learning. In fact, we know a great deal about how games and simulations can be used effectively by trainers to facilitate learning.
We know that games are most beneficial when the games are tied to specific learning outcomes, when they are embedded into a larger curriculum and when the cognitive activities of the game or simulation match the cognitive activities of the job.
We also know that a critical element to the successful use of a game or simulation is to provide prework or instruction prior to the game, allow the learners to play the game and then debrief the learners about the game playing experience. We know that games and simulations do not have to be entertaining to be educational. We know that unlimited access to the game facilitates learning. We know that games that only include points and rewards as motivation and not items like mastery or purpose tend to be less motivational.
So we know a great deal about using games in instruction. So the challenge is to educate our stakeholders and others on the proper use of games and simulations in an instructional curriculum as opposed to just adding games and simulations because it seems cool or appropriate. The truth is that games and simulations have a place in a curriculum but a specific place and they need to be implemented properly to be most effective. They should not be seen as the answer to every instructional problem we face.
Another challenge I see is that a number of training and development professionals have never played video games themselves so they misunderstand what makes an engaging game. They have no frame of reference from which to draw upon when they create instructional games. My advice in this instance is to play games and simulations–lots and lots of games and simulations. Instructional designers and trainers need to play a wide variety of games and simulations to truly gain an understanding of what makes a game and then apply those lessons to their own design of instructional games.
Another challenge is trying to over engineer a game or simulation. One of the biggest mistake I find people making is they try to create a game or simulation that does “everything.” They try to teach the entire sales process from start to finish with all the nuances associated with the process. Instead, especially for an organization just getting into games or simulations, its far better to start small. Create a game that teaches one thing–one really important thing. Then develop a second game that teaches one important thing…then grow the internal capabilities to develop or create games, being stuck on creating a mega-game is too much. Start simple and work your way toward a bigger, more involved game but don’t start at that point.
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