love scenario-based learning. It’s one of the reasons that I’ve been working (on and off) on an archaeology-based learning game (e.g., here and here), though the day job has kept me somewhat more busy than last year. It’s one of the reasons that I was really interested when a colleague posted this as an example of an interactive learning game. Click on the image to the right to explore the original scenario produced by Cathy Moore.
This is a great example of scenario-based learning, but it’s also one that in the “gaming community” one would call “on rails.” Why is that important? Well, read on.
"ON RAILS" LEARNING?
Okay. Let’s point to the elephant in the room. Why “on rails?”
In the gaming community, “on rails” reflects a situation whereby you present choices to the individual, but ultimately those choices aren’t really reflected in the game itself. So, say you present the gamer to go north and south, but when they make a choice you “turn the map upside down.” Whether they go north or south, they’re going to go to the next scene of the story—the goblin king is always going to be the next point that they get to no matter what they chose to do.
This is a story “on rails.” Regardless of how many options you have, you’re going to be heading in a certain direction.
But… When we’re dealing with most learning scenarios, your options are going to be limited. If you’ve got a whole bunch of financial backing, those options are less limited, but if you’re the average ID you’re going to find that perhaps “on rails” is about the best that you can do in your budget. (Remember: Cheap, Quick, or Good. You can have any two, but not all three.)
So how does linear, “on rails” learning become interesting? Simply, it’s an option that allows you to offer self-directed learning in finite situations. Further, it’s also not exclusive of interesting game elements like avatars that wold further individualise the experience.
GOING "OFF THE RAILS"
Going “Off the Rails” is hard to do. Why? You either have to open the “world” (scenario) so that it reacts to everything that the learner (player!) wants to do, or you have to understand that those “rails” can be a great way of exploring a given narrative framework?
I’m afraid that I’m going to have to reduce this down to not having the budget to involve complex AI heuristics. Ergo, how can I use rails-based learning to make learner experience in the course the center thing?