A Practical Example of an Instructional Alternate Reality Game (iARG) January 12, 2008Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: AlternateRealityGames, ARGs, Design, eLearning, I-ARGS, IARGS, InstructionalAlternateRealityGames, PeopleSoft, Simulations
When you go to an industry conference, it’s fun to get excited and re-energized about your field. You often learn about new technologies, see great examples, and hear fresh ideas. The unfortunate reality is that you may only get to implement a very small percentage of this new stuff when you get back to work after the conference. At DevLearn 2007, I became really excited at the idea of instructional alternate reality games (iARGs). These games seem to take engagement to the next level; people live the experience, rather than just taking part in a mundane training activity. After DevLearn, I went back to work and tried for weeks to figure out ways to use iARGs. I just couldn’t think of a realistic scenario where they could work for us. Fortunately, the light bulb turned on this week.
I’ve written before about our upcoming PeopleSoft upgrade at work. It’s coming in the next few months, and it’s going to be a BIG project; we’re essentially upgrading the entire software platform for our whole organization. Our training department has been brainstorming ways to tackle this project. We came up with a new concept this week to draw in our users and keep their excitement level up, and holy cow, I think we may have stumbled upon our first instructional alternate reality game!
Here’s what we’ve got so far: We know we will be creating a large number of self-paced eLearning courses to deliver the material to the learners. Each of these courses will take approximately 30 minutes and will consist mainly of Captivate (and maybe Assima) simulations that show the learner how to complete a task, allow them to try the task, and then assess their ability to complete the task (show me, let me try, test me). Now, here’s the fun part: It looks like we’re going to wrap a contest/game around the whole experience. It’ll be called Crack the Code, and we’ll market this internally to our employees. We’re presenting them with a challenge: Once training begins, we will leave clues throughout our eLearning courses that the learners must track. We’ll come up with a standard icon that represents a clue (for now, let’s just says it’s a gold star). Whenever they see a gold star during training, they’ll know that they should investigate it to find a clue. (Of course, this clue could directly be linked to a learning objective or a key point in the learning.) We will build a companion web site where learners can go and "store" their clues. Each clue may be a single word, a phrase, or a number (we haven’t quite figured out the exact specifics of this part). On the companion web site, we will have a large image that slowly reveals itself to users based on the number of clues they find over a series of weeks; the ultimate objective of the game will be to figure out this image and crack the code. For example, the final image may be a simple cipher message or word scramble that must be solved. The first person to solve the puzzle will receive a big prize, perhaps $500 or $1000. We will also have weekly or monthly raffles for anybody who has recovered a gold star – so it’s a good incentive for them to stay on their toes throughout the training. We will probably keep a leader board that shows all top-ranked employees and how many clues they’ve recovered, too.
So far, what I’ve described is online-only, which wouldn’t qualify as an ARG. Here’s where it gets fun: Our company has hundreds of offices across the United States. We’ve discussed the idea of making gold star clues (ex. print a clue on gold construction paper and then laminate it) and then sending the clues to our office managers across the country. The managers would plant these clues throughout their offices where employees would stumble upon them. Employees would then go to the companion web site and enter their newly-found gold star clue. We’ve also talked about hiding gold stars throughout our company’s intranet site, and I’m sure we’ll come up with more ideas along these lines
Sure, this may not be as truly immersive as some high-end ARGs, but I believe this is a good start. Our employees will be on the lookout for clues, they’ll be more motivated to complete their training, and their attention-level should be heightened. And they may have a little fun along the way, too.