Designing Stories and Games for Digital Learning

stories and games for digital learning

E-Learning Games Examples and Designing Stories for Digital Learning

It was the elearning Network’s annual conference this week (11 November 2015) in London. The theme for the day….

Beyond ‘click next’ learning: digital learning solutions come of age.

Learning professionals from all sectors gathered to be inspired about new ways to develop digital learning. After two keynote speeches, the day was organised into three strands of sessions.

  • Strategy and Tactics
  • Tools and Systems
  • Design Methods

Here are the key points I took away from two of the design method sessions I attended about designing stories and games for digital learning.

1. Digital Storytelling for E-Learning

Led by Maureen Murphy, of Aurion Learning, this session started by asking what kinds of stories we come across every day. Examples include…rhymes, fables, telling a story about what we did or about something that happened.

Storytelling toolkit

When it comes to digital learning, the following approaches can be used to tell a story (referred to as,  the storytelling toolkit):

  • Anecdotes – informal examples to help fuel a story
  • Case studies – focus on specific learning point in a real situation
  • Scenario Based – guided learning which require learner to make decisions or take actions
  • Drama – a story which focuses on emotion and has an organisational narrative
  • Personal stories – these allow learners to connect with and apply what they learn from someone else’s view point

Storytelling tips

When creating the actual story, the following tips were shared:

  • Keep the story short and punchy; get straight to the heart of what you want to convey
  • Maximum 2-3 minutes in length with remaining learning built around the story
  • Use audio with images for maximum impact
  • Stories need to have focused learning points – no extra fluff
  • Ensure the story has a start, middle and ending
  • The ending can be open, closed or looped

Aurion have created a free tool for designing stories. See

The was a very informative session, delivered with strong passion for storytelling. I for one will be exploring the storee tool.

2. The Role of Games in Digital Learning

With the rise in demand for games in learning, I was keen to attend this session, led by Kate Nicholls, Creative Director of Sponge.

Kate started the session by saying people like to play. As children we learn through play. But as we get older that sense of play is lost…especially in the workplace.

When using games for digital learning, Kate advised that the best use of games in learning is when there are real risks and consequences involved or when skills and behaviour need to be practised in a safe environment.

Key features of games

  • Challenges
  • Rewards for progression
  • Visual engagement through graphic-led design
  • Stories
  • Having different levels to give learners level of mastery
  • Give players (or learners) full autonomy

Thinking like a games designer

The key point for me from this session is that designing games requires a shift in thinking from designing other types of digital learning content.

  1. Design for challenges – not learning objectives
  2. Set the scene with images – not words
  3. Focus on designing intuition – not instruction
  4. Make the whole game experience interactive – not including interaction at intervals as is the case with elearning courses
  5. Games are about experience learning – not reading it.

The best games designed have no words. Players are drawn in to game through a highly visual experience and intuitively explore all aspects.

Using games in learning is a growing trend. However, it’s important to ensure that games are used for the right reasons in learning, not because they’re in fashion and we think they should be used.

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