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There are few things that LMS courses could learn from games design and defeat the cursed scroll of deathly dullness – but hey ‘nice graphic on the header there dude’ kind of activity screams quality does it not.  Many LMS courses are there to  suit the teacher, the organisation and occasionally the content, not the student. They must battle bravely to overcome crap design, suspect teaching knowledge, ill-thought out assessment demands and use of tools defined by that knowledge and their willingness to learn how to use them. The LMS might be a pillar of technological-wonderment, hey, we’ve put dogs in space, so why not dump content and questions in locked box and call it teaching.

From personal experience of being in LMS course as a student – here are my top 5 things reasons I’d would rather play the Xbox

Faux-teachers: A teacher is someone you can see and hear. It’s a real person, who knows you. Not some distant auto-bot who can’t differentiate learning. It’s not actually teaching unless there is some element of live interaction. It’s a game of hide and seek over IRC. If you see the teacher mostly answering queries about the course – its both bad teaching and bad course design. I am amazed how often this is mistaken with teaching. Even a vending machine has options. We see forums with questions such as “Can I just clarify what you mean by” or “in the assessment, where it says” type questions. This is just bad design and encourages students to focus on that, not learning – a feeling that is often reinforced though bitter experience where sooner or later, box-ticking begins, as it’s like getting blood out of an LMS.

Compare this with a game-world, there’s always someone there to teach you. There’s an automatic differentiation though the games design which is solved socially so you don’t waste time.

Difficulty Settings: A course should have easy, medium and hard settings. Let students choose. This means thinking about how learning actually works – or at least reading what critical pedagogy is and it rejects the idea of the computer as a tutor hands-down.

Games let you do the same thing at different settings, this lets you get some success and makes you work hard towards the harder setting. Even if you don’t play hard – you at least know what it looks like. LMS courses almost never do this. Its just one setting – Confusing.

Level Editing: Students should be able to earn the right to edit levels of the course, especially in large courses where there’s little teaching and lots of cat herding. For example: creating new forums or new tasks to use to teach each other – especially where there’s almost no teaching evident in the first place. Making a quiz is more useful than taking one (madness I know).

All good games allow the game to be modded by the players in order to make it better. Learn how to do this with your LMS

No Flash Drives and Lock-ins. An LMS isn’t a flash drive. Adding a file, then asking a question about the file isn’t teaching or learning. Is just downloading and asking a question. From day one, students need to create their own identity online and manage it. This is above and beyond an ePorfolio – this is a life portfolio – and that means explaining why.

Games just don’t act as a totalitarian state, and expect players will create affinity content.

Attempts to gamify an LMS – result in all sorts of really bad leader boards and token collecting.

However, if you understand game mechanics, the MS can be really useful as it is – without it. If that’s not obvious, then don’t even utter the word game and think hard and long whether you should be designing courses at all.

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