In our class discussion with Tandem Learning CEO Koreen Olbrish, I was especially drawn to her design strategies. In immersive learning, the designer recreates authentic experiences and allows people to practice new skills within an environment that mirrors the world in which they work. Koreen described three design strategies that guide her work:
1. Start with a learning or performance goal. While immersive learning should be fun, there needs to be an expectation that something will be learned and then applied on the job. Testing is typically not done with a traditional knowledge test, but with an understanding of how the learners would be evaluated in real life, such as reaching sales goals, bringing projects in on time within budget, meeting call time standards, etc.
2. Create the opportunity for authentic practice in a mirror world. A story line and characters are developed that will create an engaging experience that will support learning of the needed skills and sufficient practice.
3. A visual look and feel is designed and implemented that will feel like real life. For this, Koreen does extensive observation of the details in the workplace so the learning experience can reflect reality and seem real to the participants.
It struck me that, while Koreen uses gaming as a vehicle to immersive learning, these concepts should be used to better design any learning program. I believe that assessment of skill application is a much better indicator of learning than tests, and rarely use a traditional multiple choice type test to assess skills. I have also learned that the designer must understand the nuances of an organization’s specific culture, strategies and systems to deliver a truly effective program; examples and case studies that work in a manufacturing plant will feel “off” for a non-profit association, for example. And visual appeal isn’t only important in games. Consistently organized materials created with an eye to graphic design principles can go a long way to help build engagement and credibility.