Effective learning, no matter the medium, must start with one key component: a great design. Instructional designers live and breathe design… and know how to start any eLearning or training project on the right foot. As the industry continues to move towards game based learning as a preferred medium, many instructional designers are now becoming makeshift game designers in order to keep up. The skills have some overlap, yes… but games require a unique set of skills that take time to develop. Learning games are not an “add on” that can be developed in just a few hours towards the end of an eLearning project!

ExactTarget MobileConnect Guru used the Knowledge Guru game engine.

Think of the time you have spent building skills as an instructional designer, and assume game development will require a similar investment. When you need to ensure maximum knowledge transfer, a dependable, research based system of game mechanics will more reliably produce results than needing to create a fresh game design over, and over…and over again.

Many eLearning professionals somehow assume that games are “easy” to make and that they can sit down and put together a “fun activity” in just a few hours… but learning game development is far from simple. Games shift the focus away from simply “telling” — delivering the content without worrying about the learner. When games are correctly designed with the learner in mind, people don’t even realize they’re learning — yet are able to retain and apply the information they are acquiring.

We’ve been developing the mechanics of our Knowledge Guru™ learning game engine since 2010, and we are still tweaking them today. The game has been coded and designed by a team of developers working iteratively and collaboratively, and we even went so far as to patent the engine. It’s reliable, effective, and fast to produce a game with the Knowledge Guru game engine.

A Paycheck Away learning gameDon’t let anyone fool you: learning game engines are not the right solution for every situation. For example, our “A Paycheck Away” board game would not be nearly as effective at teaching the issues behind homelessness had we plugged the facts into the Knowledge Guru game engine. The Guru is best for rapid acquisition and retention of facts and information like jargon, industry terms, and product features. A more complex, nuanced scenario like understanding the issues of homelessness on an emotional level requires a little more “learning game” and a little less “gamification.”

Learning doesn’t just happen – it takes a lot of practice and repetition. That’s why most “click next” eLearning courses are not effective for anything beyond awareness level training. Learning and memorizing facts and product knowledge is hard work — and that’s where a game engine like Knowledge Guru shines. We plug our client’s content in to each game and the game engine does the heavy lifting. The results are tangible: the average contract value for ExactTarget’s MobileConnect product is 2x more than previous products after sales reps played MobileConnect Guru to increase their product knowledge.

Knowledge Guru game engineCreating a Knowledge Guru game may be more streamlined than a learning game designed from scratch, but don’t confuse the Guru with a rapid authoring tool. Rapid authoring tools may allow you to create simple activities (think Jeopardy in Lectora), while the Knowledge Guru comes with our team of instructional designers. This is one of the biggest value adds in the engine. Our IDs understand how people learn and work with clients to really capture what learners need to know. Customization is key when it comes to creating a game that actually produces results.

MobileConnect Guru users heaped all sorts of praise on the game. We heard things like, “I learned more by playing this game than any webinar, meeting or document I’ve encountered” – a pretty powerful statement. When you consider what motivates people, it’s no wonder learning games push knowledge acquisition to the next level.

In October 2012, we traveled to Las Vegas (for work – we promise!) for the annual DevLearn conference where we presented on everything you need to know about learning game engines. BLP President Sharon Boller and ExactTarget’s Scott Thomas presented our latest, most advanced version of the Knowledge Guru, on the Mobile Learning Stage at 10 am on Thursday, November 1.