Game Element: Feedback

One feature video games, board games and gamification have over traditional learning environments is the frequency and intensity of feedback. Feedback in games and in gamification is almost constant.

In a video game the player has real-time feedback on progress toward goal, amount of life or energy left, location, time remaining, how much “stuff” they have in inventory, and even how other players are doing. In fact, often a screen or a player will flash to indicate the players are in danger of being eliminated with the next wrong move. On a board game you can see where your piece is related to others, you know who is taking the next turn, and you can see how much progress is to be made with the roll of the dice and how close you and your opponents are to successfully finishing.

In game-based learning, you are provided score to know how well you are doing related to others, you can see how many points you’ve earned and you are provided information on your progress toward your final goal.

There are several types of feedback that can be valuable in gamification and the creation of game-based learning(or any type of learning design really).

One type of feedback often in games and gamification that helps with learning is conformational feedback. Conformational feedback is designed to indicate the degree of “rightness” or “wrongness” of a response, action, or activity. Feedback immediately informs the learner if she did the right thing, the wrong thing, or if it was somewhere in the middle but doesn’t tell the learner how to correct the action.

For example, If you are playing a video game as a spy and you enter a door and an alarm goes off and bad guys instantly become alert, you know you went in the wrong door. The feedback indicates that you should look for other options for entering the building such as the open window you passed on the way to the door. The feedback of the alarm is not providing specific instructions, it doesn’t indicate: you should do X instead of Y. Instead, the player suffers or rejoices in the consequences of the actions taken and then can decide what to do based on that feedback.

Another form of feedback provides guidance. This type of feedback guides the learner toward the correct instructional outcome—it is called corrective feedback. If the learner did the wrong thing, he or she will be prompted, guided, or pointed toward a more appropriate action or activity. Corrective feedback informs the learner that their response was incorrect and provides knowledge of the correct or desired response. It indicates the right answer for the learner.

In the case of corrective feedback, when you opened the door and the alarm went off, the game might flash a message “The alarm will alert the guards, next time look for an open window that you might have passed on the way toward the door.

Explanatory feedback is corrective but in addition to providing the correct answer, explanatory feedback also includes relevant information about why an answer is correct. Explanatory feedback explains the right answers. This type of feedback provides a rich explanation to the learner in hope that the explanation provided at the exact time of incorrectly acting or trying to recall information provides for effective encoding of the knowledge.

With explanatory feedback, upon opening the door and sounding the alarm, you might receive the message, “the alarm will alert the guards, next time look for an open window that you might have passed on the way toward the door. Often doors within military facilitates are alarmed, always look on the outside of a door for a possible indication that it is has an alarm such as a warning label, trip wire or nearby alarm bell.”

If it is possible to anticipate common mistakes a learner might make because of a misunderstanding of the content or confusion over certain concepts in the materials, then Diagnostic Feedback can be provided. Diagnostic feedback attempts to diagnosis why the incorrect response was chosen. It is designed to identify misconceptions by providing close distractors that are based on common mistakes learners tend to make and then corrects those common mistakes through the feedback.

With Diagnostic Feedback in our spy adventure, the game might inform the learner that, “yes” doors seem like a natural option of entry into a building, however, not all doors are good entry points into buildings, some are alarmed. In this case, you failed to observe signs indicating the door was alarmed. The signs are a small warning label and a nearby alarm bell.”

So next time you are thinking about creating an instructional game or gamification event, consider the type of feedback you want to provide to the learner.

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