eLearningWhat do you picture when you hear the word “eLearning”? Chances are everyone thinks of something slightly different, based on their personal experiences. I’d like to share my first impressions of it, from back before I’d ever heard of “eLearning.” This was years before I became an instructional designer, back when I was a kid.

Kid Meets Computer Games

The computer games I grew up with were fun. I don’t remember if I knew or cared that many of them were “educational.” That didn’t matter. Visits to my grade school’s computer lab were field trips. They let me go to places like the bottom of the ocean and alien planets to solve mysteries and save small, friendly creatures. It was like magic.
The year we got a single computer in the classroom was really exciting (it was only to be used during our designated play/ free time). My classmates and I started watching one another play, making suggestions, and waiting with bated breath to see if this would be the first time someone beat “the really hard part.”

Kid Learns from Computer Games

As the years passed, I eventually got access to “the family computer” at home too. Every summer I looked forward to the school’s yearly recommended game, never fully realizing that was how they got us to practice math, reading, and problem solving while school was out. I had a few other titles I’d received as presents too, mostly interactive storybooks. My parents didn’t need to hound me into “doing something useful” every now and again during summer break. I did it on my own, by playing those games.

Instructional Designer Reflects

Looking back, I now realize that I was raised with game-based learning. That’s where my brain goes when I hear “eLearning,” and I have fond memories of it. If a customer service agent has had to sit through dry lecture videos that were filmed ten years ago, which are now online, that may be their image of eLearning. If a sales person has to review a mandatory “death by narrated PowerPoint” course every year, and that’s their eLearning, there’s no wonder why some people don’t like it.

It’s wasn’t just the fantasy elements that made those educational games so much fun, though that’s what I noticed at the time. They had a number of key features that pique curiosity and promote engagement: storylines, clear goals, personalization, decision making, constructive feedback, exploration and discovery, steadily increasing difficulty, and more. Even if you or your association aren’t building “games” these are still essential components that can be used in other types of learning offerings.

The “Oldies But Goodies”

Here are some of the games I remember from “back in the day.”

Oregon Trail and its “sister” game Amazon Trail
JumpStart series
Reader Rabbit series
The ClueFinders series
Freddi Fish series
Math Blaster series
Treasure Cove!
• Various “animated storybooks”

Thanks for sticking with me through my flashback. What do you think of when you hear the word “eLearning?”

If you’d like to learn more about custom eLearning course creation from Digitec Interactive, visit our eLearning page.

If you’d like to read more about instructional design best practices, check out the rest of this author’s blogs.

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