I came across an interesting blog-post by veteran LucasArts and Telltale Games designer Dave Grossman describing how gaming’s limited appeal could come down to some very basic assumptions we make about the audience versus the actual thought processes of that audience. You can view the blog-post here.
While the post addresses issues pertaining to game design, I realized that a lot of what Dave says applies to Learning Design and Interaction Design as well. Here’s a brief summary of what I learnt.
- As learning designers, we often fail to engage the learners due to some very basic assumptions that we make about the audience versus the actual thought processes of that audience.
- We tend to take it for granted that a cursor appearing and disappearing is sufficient to let the learner know when they can or should interact with the content.
- Sometimes, learners want us to tell them what they should try.
- Most learners will investigate on-screen objects if they can think of a specific reason to do so, ignoring anything that is not obviously relevant to the problem at hand. The fact that clickable objects on the screen attempt to portray themselves as interesting by displaying text whenever you mouse over them probably won’t work as a lure.
- It is not uncommon in learning design to assume that the player will eventually explore all of the clickable items in an environment. Clearly, this is not a safe assumption. It is also not uncommon to attach vital information to these explorations. We do this at our own risk.
All the reasons above make it all the more important for us to communicate very clearly to the learner about what is it that the learner can do within the learning environment, and also what he should do. The clearer our instructions, the better learning experience we create. After all, we want the learners who take our courses to feel comfortable about exploring the learning environment that we present them with.
Most importantly, “Assume nothing. Nothing!”