Designing Engaging (and Relevant!) Practice Activities

Team Meeting
It’s Monday Morning. A team of Instructional Designers is having its morning project intake meeting.

Let’s dive in.

“Our client has a performance problem and needs our help!” says Anita, the team learning strategist.

“Who’s the client?” Hayley asks.

“The client is a software company called Marvel Software.” replies Anita.

“Ever since the sales team has extended its business to international clients, they’ve noticed that their code of conduct and business ethics aren’t being followed.

The room became abuzz with questions:

  • How do they know it’s happening?
  • What’s the damage?”
  • When is this happening?
  • “Why is it so hard to follow the code of ethics now than before?”
  • “Why does it matter?”

“Great questions!” Anita says, “Let’s find out.”

Tuesday, Mid-Morning

The team has gathered more information from key SMEs, employees, and stakeholders. They have solid answers to their initial questions.

“So, any initial thoughts on learning strategy?” Anita asks.

Team Meeting

“I know!” says Hayley. “How about a game?”

“We build a map, and on it are the different client locations: Britain, Korea, Australia, you know, all the new places they’re doing business now.”

Hayley continues, “The learner embarks upon a quest to unlock the “Code” document by going from one location to the next, each corresponding to a topic. At each location, the learner gets acquainted with information about the code.”

someone playing a digital game, screen reads "level up".

Kenji, another Instructional Designer, adds, “They’ll be presented with a quiz or a challenge that they’ll need to pass in order to move to the next location which will allow them to get the “key” to the next location. A super fun way to charge up the boring compliance!”

“Hmmm…some things about this idea work.” Anita says, “but remember, we want to resist the temptation to present and then quiz.  A game is fun, sure. But will it help solve the performance problem? Let’s keep brainstorming.”

Friday Afternoon

The team comes up with a strategy that ensures the activities presented in the training environment mimic activities that help people practice making the decisions that they make on the job. 

They ensured that the practice activities are contextual and directly relate to the performance problem. The approach is to helps learners “do” something different rather than “present information” and then “trick” or “test” them.

Let’s Analyze the Team’s Approach Further.

  1. Rather than a “map game board”, learners were given a mock schedule of Person using pen to write on tablet different conference call appointments with various clients throughout the day. Those challenges put the learner in the driver’s seat facing a specific, realistic challenge where compliance (“the rubber”) meets the road. This stimulates their real-life experiences because in real life sales reps were not traveling across the globe meeting clients and collecting points. In real life, they had conversations on Zoom.
  2. The feedback shows the consequences of the learner’s choice, for example; a formal complaint, a loss of a sale, a damaged relationship, or even a lawsuit.
  3. The “reward” for applying compliance and ethics in real life would lead to a satisfied customer, a deeper relationship, or a sale. This was simulated in the feedback.
  4. A generic policy document on a smartphone.Rather than withholding, and forcing learners to “unlock” it, the Code of Conduct document would be available at all times for learners to refer to before they made decisions, just like it would be on the job. They focused on making it relevant by including dialogues and situations that really happen, and were relatable, instead of attempting superficial ways of making compliance FUN and ENGAGING.

Questions for you, dear reader:

  • What do you think of the team’s strategy? 
  • It’s not a game, but would you consider this approach highly engaging?
  • How might job-related activities get the learner closer to reaching the performance outcome?


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