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.

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