Monday, April 25

Nested Feedback: Designing Learning Experiences for Generations for Gamers

One of the interesting parts of creating educational simulations is the role of nested feedback. At any given point, a learner should be getting feedback on short, medium, and long-term actions, all simultaneously.

This thinking is very foreign to traditional instructional designers, but very familiar to anyone who builds or uses computer games.

I like to think of feedback at intervals of Turn 1, Turn 3, and Turn 9. Turn 1 feedback happens after every turn. Turn 3 feedback reflects on the execution of simple strategies and ability to build capacity; we see the results of multiple tactics. Turn 9 gets to the biggest ideas of success or failure.

Here is a breakdown, focusing on specifics.

Turn 1 Feedback is around:
*Do I understand my options at any given moment?
*Can I map an action that I want to do/ would do in real life to the screen/ virtual world?
*Do I know if I did something really wrong (not always possible)?
*Do I know if I did something really right (not always possible)?

Turn 1 Feedback meets these learning objectives:
+Use of simple process
+Understanding options/tactics

Turn 1 Feedback Uses:
- Voices
- Graphics

Turn 3 Feedback is around (depending on the learning objectives/content/genre):
*Can I influence/ optimize one (primary systems) variable?
*Do I know if I am on the right track?
*Do I know if I have blown any chance of success?
*Do I know where I am losing ground/ need to triage?
*Do I know if I am doing something rather wrong?
*Do I know if I am doing something rather right?
*Do I know what my long-term goal is?
*How does what I do maximize some part of the system?
*How do I traverse some part of the map?
*How do I build some part?
*How do I get some critical competency/ tool?
*How do I control some territory,?
*How do I build some important personal relationships
*Given my strategy, am I executing against it?

Turn 3 Feedback meets these learning objectives:
+How actions impact a System
+Executing complicated process

Turn 3 Feedback Uses:
- Triggers at milestones reached
- Onscreen graphs and maps

Turn 9 Feedback is around (depending on the learning objectives/content/genre):
*Did I win?
*Can I optimize/ influence many (primary systems) variables
*Did I build what I wanted to build?
*Did I get to where I wanted to go?
*What does victory actually look like?
*Do I understand the trade-offs in my victory?

Turn 9 Feedback meets these learning objectives:
+Understanding Systems
+Use of Time
+Execution of Complex Strategy

Turn 9 Feedback uses:
- After action reviews
- Complex charts and graphs
- Multiple analyses of plays
- Advice for future plays
- Scores
- Consequences of actions taken

When learners first engage the sim, they are focused on Turn 1 Feedback. But after a few iterations, either replaying or continuing on to advanced levels, the learners increasingly focus on Turn 9 Feedback.

One necessity of building these nested feedback cycles is that we have to spend a lot more time thinking about failure than thinking about success. Our increasing challenge is how to help learners recognize, and then avoid, failure. This also gets to a concept of level design, again familiar to gamers and foreign to traditional instructional designers.

The bad news is that this is obviously a lot of work. The good news is that it produces formal learning experiences that teach much more, in much less time, in a format that meets the needs of the next generation of learners.


Clark Aldrich said...

Given that we still have schools and universities...

Given that most managers are stunningly unprepared for their promotions and we all pay for it...

Given that the most valued skills are still hunted and gathered, not developed...

I would say yes, there is a need.

Anonymous said...

Well, you certainly need to learn how to access all this information, sort through it for the piece you really need, and then apply it to your current need. Let’s keep in mind that information is only valuable when one has the knowledge as to how and when to apply it. My two cents.

Anonymous said...

I would argue that the easy availability of information today has actually made the need for learning even more urgent. You need to be at your smartest and most sceptical when you're surfing thr net. It can kill you. Literally. To give you an example: you can get information on the best way to kill yourself on the Internet. You better have your wits about you when you surf.

You don't have to be so smart if you're living in a society where information is frozen. If you have ever spoken to people who live in villages in third world countries where nothing changes for generations, you will be amazed at the stupidity of people but they know what they need to survive and it's not learning.