Cleaning House and Taking Stock: Past, Current, and Future Trends in L&D


This week’s #chat2lrn comes from crew member Andrea May, Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson based in Minneapolis

January is typically when we try to pause for a moment to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. We look at this journey not only from the perspective of individuals, but also from the perspective of our respective organizations and the entire L&D industry.

Depending on the exact nature of each person’s work in L&D, a year can see an instructional designer develop and deploy countless deliverables for use in instructor-led training, eLearning, blended learning, and online help systems. They may produce videos, quick reference materials, games, activities, test questions, exercises, animations, graphics, and a number of other items to support learning objectives.

For another instructional designer, a year can barely contain a detailed job/task analysis and curriculum recommendation for a highly technical job role in a heavy industrial situation. This designer may only produce a grand total of one deliverable by the end of the year and that deliverable can layout the work to be done for several years to come.
Most of us fall somewhere in between on this continuum with plenty of work to keep us busy, and little time to sit and really consider new ideas you have seen or read about, and how they might be used in your organization. Retiring old methods, software, processes, and materials also takes time away from development and the voids left by those items need to be filled with new ideas, new software, and new processes.

In the interest of helping this process along, #chat2lrn invites you to take an hour at 8am ET/10am CT/4pm GMT on Thursday, January 26 to join us to discuss the L&D trends that have seen better days and are on the way out, the trends and ideas that are currently working for us, and finally what we envision on the L&D horizon. We will clean house, take stock, and think about what will be filling the L&D shelves in years to come.

Does Game-Based Learning Work?

Today’s post is written by Anchal Manocha, #chat2lrn crew member and Founder of Design Storm ( Anchal has a background in psychology and is a new media expert. She is dedicated to helping organizations make learning fun and meaningful.

Game-based learning has been all the hype for the last two years. Requirements for game-based learning usually come in the form of:

  • We want people to collaborate more with each other. Can we add points for collaboration and reward them for it?
  • Not enough employees are interested in taking our learning offerings. Can we create game-based learning to increase enrolment?

As we know, game-based learning and gamification can resolve some of these issues. However, as the hype subsides, there are many voices that speak against it. What are the pitfalls of game-based learning that we should avoid?

  1. Content in the Garb of a Game

If we ask learners to “hit the football to answer the questions,” in one glance people can see the wolf in sheep’s clothing.  If we’re trying to push content by engulfing it in the skin of a game, we should be prepared to be disappointed.

Learning is in the very fabric of games. People enjoy games because slowly they learn to ace the system, to bend the rules, to work with other players, to resolve conflicts, to repeat their efforts till they’ve mastered the game and much more.

Games for learning should take advantage of these mechanics. Game design should facilitate interactions that lead learners to actually “use”, “explore” and “apply” the information or content we want them to learn.

There’s rarely room for presenting detailed explanations in a game. Learners should be the creators of their own meaning. Content should either emerge from play or it should be the context of play. It could be constructed by the player and formalized as the game progresses.

  1. Focusing Too Much on Extrinsic Rewards

We should ask ourselves: If I remove the external reward, does my solution still stand ground? Would people participate in the absence of rewards?

For example, playing a game of chess is its own reward. Through games, humans seek pleasure, mastery, competition, learning, collaboration, conflict, meaning, problem-solving etc. Incorporating this into our game-based learning solutions may bring out their true benefits.

Monetary rewards, relating results to performance or gamifying core work may, in fact, have a negative impact. This is because it takes away learners’ freedom to fail and try again.

  1. Creating Puzzles Instead of Games

Many times we fall into this trap. We end up with puzzles instead of games. So what’s the difference between the two?

Puzzles are something that people solve by themselves. The level of interpersonal interaction in solving a puzzle is low. Puzzles may be tests, while games are the learning environment.

As Eric Zimmerman, a game design theorist points out, a good game-based solution will include:

  1. Playfulness/fun
  2. Low stakes/Freedom to fail
  3. Gradual mastery and repetition
  4. Emergence of play, emotion, meaning, interaction and so on
  5. Winning and losing—usually an end to the game

Keeping the spirit of games alive, let’s keep learning!