Why “Chutes and Ladders” is a Better Learning Game than “Jeopardy” or “Trivial Pursuit”

Who was the 17th president of the United States?  Knowing the answer (Andrew Johnson) doesn’t prove I can do anything, I’m just spouting off a piece of trivia.  But when my 2½-year-old son spins the Chutes and Ladders spinner and moves his game piece the correct number of spaces, he has proven that he can apply the concept of numbers.

Gamification is a hot topic in instructional design circles these days.  While the concept goes beyond any single training component, I’d like to focus on how the design of several popular board games can be applied to accomplish various levels of learning.

Game

Bloom’s Taxonomy Level

Design basics

Application for training

Trivial Pursuit; Jeopardy Knowledge Games like Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy test the ability of someone to recall facts – nothing less and nothing more. This can be a fun way to review concepts that simply need to be memorized – steps to a process or answers to frequently asked customer service questions.  But if the goal of your training is to build or assess your learners’ skills,   you might want to choose a different game upon which to model your activities.
Chutes & Ladders Comprehension/   Application Teachers can use this game to assess whether children can demonstrate the ability to count accurately.  Speech therapists can use the game to determine if a child can pronounce the “sp” letter blend  (“It’s my turn to spin!”).  Children don’t care about any of that, they just demonstrate all of those skills because the game is fun. Chutes and Ladders has a very simple design: advance along a path by completing one simple task (spinning a spinner, then counting).  In the training room, this can be replicated by giving small groups a game board and requiring they complete a simple task (greet someone on the phone, balance a line item in a budget, etc.).  A correct answer allows them to advance, an incorrect answer and they slide down the chute.
Monopoly Analysis There comes a time in every Monopoly player’s life when they’ve had to decide whether to mortgage their property in order to buy something else that may or may not produce a good return (maybe the B&O Railroad).  It’s risky, but it could come with rewards.  And that’s how Parker Bros. has built analytical skills in children for decades. Instead of purchasing properties, Monopoly concepts can be used to train purchasing managers or others in charge of budgeting for how and when to build their inventory.
Battleship Synthesis After a few minutes of calling random coordinates, Battleship veterans begin to methodically locate and sink their opponent’s armada.  This is a game that requires players to begin with trial and error, and quickly learn from their mistakes and put together a strategy. Allen Interactions has perfected this philosophy in eLearning: throw a learner into the experience (whether or not he knows much about the topic) and let him take some guesses, receive feedback and begin to make progressively better choices.
Clue Evaluation Well, you know you didn’t do it.  Perhaps it was sweet old Mrs. Peacock in the study using a candlestick.  Clue forces players to make recommendations based upon the best information available to them.  And you can’t get reckless, because if you make an accusation, then look in the secret envelope and find out you’re wrong, you are immediately out of the game. Clue offers a tailor-made blueprint for an interactive case study in which learners proceed through an activity, getting pieces of information along the way.  This can be used in teambuilding where different learners get different pieces of information and they need to work together in order to make sense out of all the information.  It can also be used in training on problem-solving, conflict resolution or coaching skills.

Tell us about your inspiration for training games or just about your favorite game from childhood!

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