E-learning is emerging as one of the fastest organizational uses of the Internet as a supplementary or alternative mode for corporate training. However its effectiveness is questioned and most of e-learning courses and applications have been accused of being quite static, non-authentic and superficial, poorly designed, and thus non-motivating. Their philosophical assumption views learning as an isolated phenomenon, a static knowledge in a can that could be transmitted to the learners. In this chapter it is argued that many useful lessons for e-learning designers can be learned from game design and especially from the design of massive multi-player online games (MMOGs). A review on instructional quality of games and design elements of MMOGs is conducted under the perspective of adult learning, in order to identify, adapt, and propose design implications for e-learning design.
Games have long provided a structured environment for rich learning experiences. Besides some typical definitions, games can be defined in terms of their learning and/or instructional nature. For instance, Aldrich (2004) defines games as, “interactive and entertaining sources of play which can be used to learn a lesson”. It should be noted that games support the development of procedural rather than prescriptive knowledge: Learning activities such as observation, conversation, trial-and-error efforts are very common. Such practices help gamers while interacting with the game world to solve a task, reach a goal, and implement a certain strategy. Computer games can also facilitate adult learning in a great extent. Computer-based role-playing games can help adults explore skills, methods, and concepts rapidly within an engaging non-threatening environment ripe with experiential and behavioral learning components.
On the other hand e-learning technology and applications provide exciting possibilities for supporting students in educational settings (schools and universities) and adult learners, professionals, and employees in organizational settings seeking new training and learning innovations. Especially for the latter, e-learning is emerging as one of the fastest organizational uses of the Internet as a supplementary or alternative mode for corporate training. The problem is that much of its quality is questionable. Poor e-learning design and usability problems cause frustration and create many barriers in learners’ interaction with e-learning courses. Additionally the pedagogical foundations of most e-learning designs are not stable and e-learning courses—as the cornerstone of e-learning—fail to provide authentic learning environments. These problems are even harder in contexts such as business settings, organisations, and so forth, where adult professionals and employees interact with e-learning applications as part of corporate training and development initiatives. Adult learners need to feel responsible for their own learning and seek to find applicable knowledge that will help them out with their daily work activities and tasks.
The authors support that many useful lessons for e-learning designers can be learned from game design and especially from the design of massive multi-player online games (MMOGs). There is much research evidence that learning takes place in the immersive worlds of MMOGs, which are mostly based on problem-based and project-based learning assumptions (Lee, Eustace, Fellows, Bytheway, & Irving, 2005). New gamers of MMOGs are immersed into the socio-cultural practices of the community and master new skills through the interaction with “experts”.
In this chapter, the focus is to delineate the learning-instructional quality of games, especially the respective quality of MMOGs. As a consequence the objective is to explore what and how gamers learn within an MMOG setting that can be successfully transferred to different situations especially in the context of e-learning design. There is a growing interest and demand for designing immersive e-learning experiences, therefore it is critical to systematically extract the best design practices from MMOGs and adapt them for e-learning design.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Design Guidelines: Design guidelines are one of the most widely used design techniques. Guidelines have long been used to capture design knowledge and to help designers in using that knowledge when designing user interfaces (Dumas & Redish, 1993)
Adult Learning (Andragogy): Andragogy, thanks to the work of Malcolm Knowles (1980), has once again been accepted and widely-used term. Basically, it represents an educational philosophy, which is the anti-thesis of pedagogy. Whereas pedagogy is the instruction of a dependent personality (the child), andragogy is the for the instruction of a non-dependent personality (the adult). Adult learners are considered to have more experience, a greater need to be self-directing, and a greater interest in life-centered topics. Whereas children are more commonly referred to as “students” who are “taught”, adults are more commonly referred to as “learners” who are “facilitated.”
E-Learning: E-learning can be defined as the use of electronic technology and media to deliver, support, and enhance teaching and learning. A definition of e-learning which is more closely to corporate training is the following (Goodyear, 2000): “E-learning is the systematic use of networked multimedia computer technologies that can empower learners, improve learning, connect learners to other people (peers, instructors, experts, etc.) and resources supportive of their needs, and finally integrate learning with performance and individual with organisational goals”
MMOGs: Massive multi-player online games are highly graphical 3-D videogames played online, allowing individuals, through their self-created digital characters or “avatars”, to interact not only with the gaming software (the designed environment of the game and the computer-controlled characters within it) but with other players’ avatars as well
Objectivism: To the objectivists, “knowledge and truth exist outside the mind of the individual and are therefore objective” (Runes, 1962, pp. 217). “Learners are told about the world and are expected to replicate its content and structure in their thinking” ( [). The role of education in the objectivist view is therefore to help students learn about the real world. It is asserted that there is a particular body of knowledge that needs to be transmitted to a learner. Learning is thus viewed as the acquisition and accumulation of a finite set of skills and facts.]. Jonassen, 1991, 6
Constructivism: It is one of the two major epistemological beliefs in learning and educational research: The constructivist perspective describes learning as a change in meaning constructed from experience (Newby et al., 1996). Constructivists believe that “knowledge and truth are constructed by people and do not exist outside the human mind” (Duffy & Jonassen, 1991). This is radically different from what objectivism, which is the other dominant epistemological belief, conceives learning to be