The Gamer’s Wish List: Get started already!

I have a shocking confession to make: I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons.

I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve just never had the opportunity. My husband, on the other hand, has many wonderful memories running modules, and we’ve recently had discussions about whether or not our son was ready. So, in a moment of giddy geekiness, I went out to Amazon and bought our son his very first dice set, complete with a satin-lined velvet bag to keep them safe.

A few nights later, the three of us were sitting around our dining room table, armed with the Player’s Handbook, to begin creating a pool of characters to choose from and take on many exciting adventures. It was tedious work, but before my son went to bed we had about a dozen characters, some of which had real promise to eventually level up to become monks, paladins, and elves who could see in the dark.

I’ve still never played Dungeons and Dragons. Because the events of that night, the endless dice rolling, the constant referrals back to the handbook, and the number of times we rolled completely trash characters wiped out my enthusiasm for the game.

And that’s when I realized it’s like that for me with every RPG. When I created my wookie in Star Wars Galaxies, I took the system generated name because I didn’t really care. When I opened my WoW account for the first time, I may have made my night elf a few inches taller, but other than that, I didn’t make many changes to the default. Because I didn’t care. And when Skyrim gave me the option of changing my bosmer’s nose, I wanted to throw my controller at the TV. Because I just didn’t care. It’s great that these games want to give me a measure of control over my character, but figuring out that stupid nose was keeping me from killing dragons. And isn’t that why I started playing Skyrim in the first place? My time, even my leisure time, is valuable, and I’d rather spend it getting to the object of the game, not getting bogged down in the prep-work and the house-keeping.

Our learners’ time is precious, too. Even more so, because every minute they spend in a training event is a minute they care not on the phones, not in a sales call, not contributing to the company’s bottom line. So we have to make every minute count and eliminate fluff.

  • Does your elearning have a classic “How to Navigate This Course” page? Why? I would argue that through the application of some principles of user experience and user interface design, you could make the interface intuitive enough to eliminate the page.
  • How about an objectives page? We all love the “tell, tell, tell” model: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. But does the learner really need a listing of the Gagne’ five part objectives on which you based your course? No. They need the WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? Eliminate the objectives list, and tell the learner how the course benefits them. Then the learner will know they’ve jumped right in to the learning, instead of trying to figure out how to skip your objectives slide.
  • Is your performance support buried inside your elearning (or stored on the LMS)? Not only does that kill one of the central tenents of performance support (“at the time of need”), it adds a registration layer to accessing the material, which wastes time. If you don’t have a performance support system that feeds content to users, find a central, easy to access repository to store your in-house job aids, like the intranet or a SharePoint site.
  • What about instructor-led training? For a lengthy class that will take a full day, or meeting for multiple sessions over a few weeks, it makes sense to get to know your classmates. You will probably have small group tasks to do together, and these classes are often used to foster networking. But for a 2 hour session? Nix the intros.

Finally, make sure everything you are keeping has real, demonstrable value to the learner. Keep tying the lessons back to the WIIFM, and show the learner what they need to know to do their job better. Cut through the background content and the theory. Your learner doesn’t have time for all that.

They’ve got dragons to slay.

Posted in gaming, learning

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