Tutorials, competence and what we can learn. Part 2.

Time to follow up with part 2 of this series, you may remember from the last post there are three key psychological reasons people play games:

The first of these needs is a need for competence – that is a desire to seek out control or to feel mastery over a situation. People like to feel successful, and we like to feel like we’re growing and progressing in our knowledge and accomplishments.

Our second psychological need is autonomy: the desire to feel independent or have a certain amount of control over our actions.

The final psychological human need is relatedness. We like to feel like we matter to others, and we like to feel like we are making a significant contribution to society.

Today I want to look at how we can work with competence to engage learners with the ARCS model. John Keller's theory is one that I use every time I am faced with a new project, I feel as though in the current era of L&D this is one of the strongest approaches you can take to designing relevant and modern content.


If we look at tutorial missions/levels for games (the introduction for how to play the game) they have changed dramatically over recent years. Previously tutorial levels used to be pretty boring and just a prerequisite for when you could hop into the action. Companies like Nintendo were often criticised that they 'babied' their players too much through openings to games. Tutorial levels were still incredible important in arming the player with the skills they needed to advance and play the rest of the game unhindered. However in most modern games tutorials are cleverly blended into the opening scenes of a game. You complete actions, learn the skills needed to play and immerse yourself in the story all without deviating from what seems like jumping straight into the action.

Can we say the same about introductions to e-learning courses?

Using Keller's ARCS model we may be able to offer some change to that approach by considering three of the four areas, ARC.


We need to grab the learners attention, right from the start. The learner needs to feel as though they are moving straight into the action and the thick of things. Just because we're placing the learner into a situation that may feel overwhelming does not mean they will not have the support to move through it. Think back to the video game tutorials we've just discussed, the emphasis is getting the player immersed in the story from the beginning.

A good example of this in e-learning is throwing the learner straight into a scenario, this opens the course with some drama and a situation to deal with. Discovering the navigation and course objectives are something that can be implemented to this opening.


The learner needs to feel as though the content is relevant. The same logic applies with a video game. As a player I want to know why I'm here, what I'm doing and why the situations unfolding should matter to me. In e-learning great care should be taken to introduce - as part of our opening scenes why the content is relevant.

Keller puts great emphasis on his A & R aspects of his theory and with good reason. If we establish an introduction to the course that grabs the learner's attention and tells them why this is relevant to them the last aspects of the theory (confidence and satisfaction) become a lot easier to incorporate.


Now that the learner has started the course by diving into the action, you've got their attention. You've also explained why the situation at hand is important to them and they have a sense of what they are going to explore later on. Confidence in e-learning isn't too far away from games, there needs to be a mix of difficulty but with clear instruction. I prefer to focus on design for instructional purposes allowing clear iconography accompanied by limited text to give the learner the information they need to move through the course. I took this approach from gaming where instruction is given up front to the player and is then removed, this gives a sense of confidence and autonomy when it comes to advancement. Of course prompting is offered where it is required and sometimes a reference page is available. Difficulty is trickier to implement but a general rule of thumb is think carefully about scenarios responses or answers to knowledge checks, these should not be a case of discounting the three ridiculous answers to find the correct option. Creating answers that genuinely provoke thought and reasoning is just as important as creating the question.

That was a small glance at the world of tutorials in video games, looking at how we begin to build competence and how we can translate that to learning. I hope it gave you some food for thought, next time I want to explore gaming stories to show the power of narrative when it comes to building learning experiences.

#elearning #LearningDesign #LearningTheory #Learning #instructionaldesign #gamefuldesign #ID #gamification #elearning

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