Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gaming with the Nine Events of eLearning

By Shelley A. Gable

I recently joined a project that involves designing a series of eLearning games to teach sales skills. The intent is for learners to learn entirely by doing, in the context of a fun game.

At one point, the training project team discussed how to include Gagne’s nine events of instruction in each game, or whether it was even necessary to do so. For me, pondering that question reinforced the brilliance of using game for learning – games address most of the instructional events inherently.

I’ll take you through my thought process so you can see if you agree...

--1-- Gain attention.
If your game presents a compelling (and entertaining) story and challenge, you’ll easily capture learners’ attention and maintain it.

--2-- Inform learners of objectives.
Every game has an objective, regardless of whether it’s designed for learning. If learners must apply instructional objectives to succeed in the game, then this is easily cared for.

--3-- Stimulate recall.
The context of the game likely provides this intuitively. For instance, even if you’re new to selling, chances are that you’ve been a customer in a buying situation. So, building a game with relatable scenarios can tap into tacit knowledge related to how customers feel and what they may expect in a variety of situations.

--4-- Present content.
There are lots of clever ways to do this in a game, depending on the type of game you create. You might offer relevant content (e.g., sales tips) within scenarios or within the various challenges throughout the game. To encourage experimentation and discovery, prompt learners to make decisions based on their instincts, and then present all content within the game’s feedback structure.

--5-- Provide learning guidance.
This could occur by providing learners with a way to obtain hints throughout the game. If they need to reference job aids on the job, prompt them to reference those same job aids to succeed in the game. Or, you could create individual challenges within the game that illustrate examples and non-examples of a skill or concept they must learn.

--6 and 7-- Elicit performance (practice) and provide feedback.
This is what a learning game is all about! Constant performance, practice, and application. Feedback comes in the form of consequences throughout the game, such as favorable outcomes or additional points for making good decisions during gameplay.

Admittedly, the final two instructional events – assess performance and enhance transfer to the job – will likely occur in aspects of the training initiative that are separate from the game itself. Perhaps the game would be followed up by a relevant knowledge or skill assessment, along with a plan for managers to reinforce learnings on the job.

Have you done this?

At this point, I’m too early in the project to share my own concrete example of how all this plays out. But if you’ve dabbled in learning games in eLearning, please share your experience! Would you agree that the nature of a learning game’s design inherently accomplishes most of these instructional events?


  1. Shelly, I'm looking for a company that can develop an e-learning program using gaming principles. Any suggestions...of course there has to be a delivery platform as well!

  2. Hi Martha! I'd highly recommend the company this blog belongs to: Integrated Learning Services. They have a very talented pool of designers and technical developers.

    Good luck with your project!

  3. Thanks, Shelley.

    Martha, we have created courses using the gaming principles Shelley outlined above. I am happy to talk through your project, if you like.

    We don't typically offer a hosted platform though; rather our projects are provided to the client as work-for-hire and delivered via the client's learning management system or other platform.

    If you are looking for a premium solution, I've always been impressed by Enspire Learning out of Austin.

    Hope this helps.


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