Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why Instructional Designers Should Play Games?


This post is written by Rupa Rajagopalan

Has it happened with you that you saw a movie and wondered how the director visualized the amazing scenes?

Has it also happened that you checked out an e-learning course and wondered how the Instructional Designer thought of the visuals, animations and interactivities?

Well, it has happened with me an umpteen number of times. I just keep thinking what gets into people’s heads that they think so creatively.

Designing E-learning course just like movie making requires lot of creativity and innovation. An Instructional Designer has to visualize every screen of an e-learning course and get the graphic designers and programmers in the team to implement it exactly the way he/she visualized.

Doesn’t this remind you of a movie director, who visualizes every scene of a movie and gets his actors to enact it exactly the way he visualized?

The Instructional Designer has to work with the available content, strategize and present the content in such a way that it appears new and interests the learners.

The movie director has to work with common themes and strategize to present the theme in such a fashion that it appears new and interesting to the audience.

Now both the Instructional Designer and the Movie Director have to be really good at visualizing. This is critical both to the movie and the e-learning course.

What do you think a movie director does to improve his visualization skills?

Watch a lot of movies, read novels, etc.

Now what do Instructional Designers to do work on their visualization skills?

Check out other e-learning courses and what else?

Apart from checking out and analyzing e-learning courses, an Instructional Designer must also play a lot of games.

Most people think playing games is a waste of time. But then it is not true for an Instructional Designer at least.

Just as in a game, visuals and interactivities are crucial to an e-learning course too.

So here I list the three reasons why Instructional Designers should play games

Three Reasons Why Instructional Designers Should Play Games

Reason 1: Games have loads of visual strategies

I seriously believe games give you lot of visual strategies much more than any other sources. If you keep playing games, you get an opportunity to see different visual designs and then when you get to design e-learning courses you can use similar ideas.

For example the other day I had gone to Subway and I really hated the sandwich the chef out there made. I thought he was not trained. He did not know the combination of sauces that would make the sandwich taste good.

And then I thought of this as a business case for e-learning. Suppose Subway management decides to go for an e-learning course for all chefs in Subway. Let’s say the management wants something visually appealing, something interactive and engaging.

I could just visualize the following:

Virtual customers, virtual kitchen and virtual ingredients. Customers order a customized sandwich. The chefs drag and drop the ingredients on the sandwich in the right combination depending on customer requirements. For every correct sandwich they gain points. For every wrong sandwich they lose points. The chefs' objective is to gain maximum points by making right sandwiches.

If it is a low budget course, you can use just images and simple animations. If budget is not a constraint, this can be a simulation.

Now this strategy is inspired by games as follows:


You could use this strategy when learners have to learn something by rote.

The bottom line is to identify good strategies while playing games and use in e-learning.

Reason 2: Games show ways in which you can encourage audience participation

Most games require mouse clicks or pressing arrow keys. But then it doesn’t get monotonous because the context and objective of the game is different every time. In the given context the whole act of clicking and pressing gets very interesting and exciting. When you play games you get to know how to use existing interactivity models in different contexts and for different purposes.

For example in the game called Dreams, you simply click to find the differences between the two images as shown below:


The interactivity model used above is simple and basic, yet the objective and context of the game makes the play interesting.

Likewise in the game below, you just have to mouse over the faces that show up. The challenge of the game is to mouse over maximum faces that show up within a time limit.


As you start playing the game you get addicted to it.

The bottom line is when you play games you get to know how to innovate on existing interactivity models.

Reason 3: Games show ways in which you can engage the audience

People love playing games and they get so engrossed that they forget time. Games can just engage anyone and everyone. So what is it in a game that engages people?

The answer is simple. It is the challenge in the game that engages audience. People want to badly reach the objective of the game and this sustains their interest.

I guess e-learning courses must also have this element of challenge which will engage the learners during the learning process and games will give you ideas on how to make your e-learning courses challenging.

With this I end my post here and leave it open for discussion

Please check out some online games here and let me know what you think:

Big Fish Games

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Flashback of First Year of eCube


The first post on eCube was written on 10 Feb 2007 and we approach completing the first year of eCube. And end of a calendar year is always a good time to reflect on the year gone by. So here's a flashback of activity on eCube in 2008, and well, close to its first year of inception.

Started off as an experiment to use Web 2.0 tools for collaborative learning by reflecting on our experiences, eCube has in the last 11 months or so has had 86 posts by 20 authors attracting 175 comments. This blog has managed to clock more than 11,000 views in about 6,000 visits.

Top 5 viewed posts/pages on eCube have been:

1. Directory of elearning companies in India - eCube

2. The second Working/Learning blog carnival - Manish Mohan

3. Gagne's Events of Instruction - Some Thoughts and Views - Taruna Goel

4. Design- Human Centered Design vs Activity Centered Design? - Anamika Biswas

5. Instructional Design: Two Questions - Sandipan Ray

I also want to mention Login Vs. Log In. While this is at close 6th place, Login vs. Log In appeared in many search results. There are a lot of people searching for the correct usage of Login, Log In, Logon and Log On. This post is at close 6th place.

Authors who contributed with most posts on eCube are:

1. Manish Mohan

2. Taruna Goel

3. Anamika Biswas

4. Sonali Malik

5. Anjalie Choudhary, Rupa Rajagopalan and Viplav Baxi

Some posts also attracted fair amount of conversation in the form of comments. Top 5 posts with most comments were:

1. Gagne's Events of Instruction - Some Thoughts and Views - Taruna Goel

2. Instructional Design: Two questions - Sandipan

3. Do We Need Instructional Designers for Technology Content Projects? - Manish Mohan

4. Do Instructional Design Training Programs in India Need a Revamp? - Rupa Rajagopalan

5. Design- Human Centered Design vs Activity Centered Design? - Anamika Biswas

6. What would you like to do better as a Learning Professional? - Sonali Malik

Google Analytics provides the following statistics:



The eCube community also thrived on Facebook (153 members) and LinkedIn (181 members at last count and growing).

Friday, January 9, 2009

Quick Tips to Create Software Product Tutorials


This post is written by Rupa Rajagopalan

A software product tutorial essentially helps users work with the features of the product. So it is mandatory that tutorials have concise and precise tasks and steps to work with the product. Most importantly software product tutorials must be help users achieve something by using the product.

Things you must do before you begin

#1 Explore the product and its features thoroughly

#2 Try working with the product features yourself

When you must start writing product tutorials

#1 When you know everything that you need to know about the product

#2 When you know the product and understand why users must use the product

#3 When you are very sure of the features, the tasks that you can do with the features and the steps for each of the tasks

Quick Tips to Create Software Product Tutorials

Tip 1

Create end to end software product tutorials.For example here is a tutorial that teaches you to create realistic water reflection using Photoshop. As you can see this tutorial helps you achieve something using Photoshop and that is why this tutorial is an end to end tutorial.

Tip 2

Always start with a brief description about the feature and add details such as why users must use the feature. For example in this tutorial on MS Word, there is a short audio text which mentions how the track changes feature is useful when you revise and make changes to a document and when that document has to be used by many others.

Tip 3

List what you are going to cover in the tutorial at the outset. This must cover all the tasks that one can do with the product feature. For example in this tutorial on MS Word, all the tasks that one can do using the Track Changes feature have been listed as learning objectives in the first page.

Tip 4

Disclose the end result of the tutorial. For example in this tutorial that helps you create your first PowerPoint presentation, it will be a good idea to show a complete presentation at the outset and guide the learners to create that specific presentation. This way the users would find the tutorial object oriented.

A good example is this photoshop tutorial which shows you in the begninning the photo effect you can create following the steps in the tutorial.

So the user is very clear about what he/she is going to achieve by taking the tutorial.

Tip 5

List the tasks in a logical order. The sequence of tasks must lead users to the end result. For example the logical order of some of the the tasks to create a PowerPoint presentation are:

  • Create a New Slide
  • Change the Layout of the Slide
  • Add Text
  • Add Images
  • Insert Slide Notes
  • Add Animations

Here the order of the tasks are very important.

Tip 6

Write precise instructions. For example Click on the word and choose Copy from the context menu is not a precise instruction. What the writer meant was Select the word, right-click and choose Copy from the context menu.

Tip 7

Make sure you write the button or tab names exactly the way it appears in the product. I have spent hours searching for buttons and tabs suggested by tutorials and which I could not find in the product.

Tip 8

Make sure you write the steps for each task logically and correctly. For example to the steps to create a new presentation in PowerPoint are:

  1. Select File -> New from the Main Menu.
  2. In the New Presentation Task Pane , choose Blank Presentation.

Tip 9

After you write the tutorial, follow the instructions you have written and execute the tutorial. This will help you identify the errors.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

eLearning Events Calendar


Tom King has put together a Google Calendar for elearning events for the year. Tom is a technical advisor, consultant and presenter on corporate elearning and elearning specifications/standards.

View the elearning events calendar here.


Suggested Reading


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