Turn Your Lesson into an Educational Simulation

Clark Quinn’s book Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games has implications for so much more than online learning. He provides a roadmap for designing immersive learning experiences across mediums. Clark, having a background in both education and game design, does an excellent job blending the vocabulary and theories of education and gaming. Along the way, he lays out eight elements that he considers important for an educational simulation.

  1. Theme – The simulation should involve a setting and context (neighborhood people working on a community garden, editors working on a newspaper, a family moving into the Old West, etc.).
  2. Goal – There should be a clear goal that can guide the student actions and it should be tied into the story (neighborhood people must choose where to plant the garden and what to plant, newspaper editors must get the articles read to publish by the evening deadline, family must gather proper supplies to survive a trip to the Old West, etc.)
  3. Challenge – If the goal is too easy or too overwhelming for your learners, then they will likely check out.
  4. Action-Domain Link – Students should be expected to make decisions (action) in the context of the story. A bad example cited by Quinn is creating a game where students have to solve a math problem and if they do, then they get to play a game. For a good simulation the game should be part of the simulation, not just a separate reward.
  5. Problem-learner Link – The problem or simulation should match the interests of the learner. You will want to keep in mind things like gender and age-level interests when creating or selecting an appropriate simulation.
  6. Active – The simulation should require the learner to take frequent actions…be given situations and then have to make frequent decisions. This keeps the learners engaged in an ongoing basis.
  7. Feedback – Related to action, a good simulation should give the leaner clear and quick feedback on decisions. This is where much of the learning takes place in simulations. As a learner makes a choice in the story/simulation, he or she should be able to see the consequences of the decision.
  8. Affect – There should be some emotion created in the simulation. Emotion is a powerful way to keep the attention of learners, and Quinn suggests that keeping things a bit unpredictable is a good way to add interest and emotion.

What would it look like to take one or more of your lessons and redesign the lesson(s) to include each of these elements?