Recommended Research: Constructivism & Learning Technology

Last week, we had an awesome virtual class on how to implement an effective gamification strategy within a corporate learning environment!  Here is the recording and slideshare.

In class, we briefly touched on some learning theories and research related to constructivism and the effective use of technology, games and gamification within the overall learning environment.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently that relate to constructivism, and some of our attendees were interested in receiving a list of those resources.  Below are a few reading suggestions.

I’ll create more recommended reading lists, so follow me if this sort of thing is useful to you.  The next blog posts will probably be devoted to virtual and augmented reality resources.  (If you haven’t checked out the crazy cool VR features in Adobe Captivate 2019, please take a look!)  I will also post my own summaries of select articles over the next few weeks.

Please add your own suggested reading articles in the comments section!

Here are three introductory level readings that are great as starters:

A great explanation of what constructivism is, what helps us learn, and what learning truly is.

An in-depth look at the learning process from beginning to end, including how to use educational technology (and how not to use it), and the importance of social learning and collaboration.

An overview of the types of educational technology available for use in the learning environment, as well as a historical perspective of how that technology has evolved.

I just finished working my way through the below articles, many of which are referenced by the above chapters, and cross-referenced amongst each other:

  1. Shaffer, D. W., Squire, K., Halverson, R., & Gee, J. P. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 87, 104–111. Google Scholar
  2. Shuler, C. (2009). Pockets of potential: Using mobile technologies to promote children’s learning. New York, NY: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Google Scholar
  3. Thomas, M., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace. Google Scholar
  4. Van Eck, R. (2006). Digital game-based learning: It’s not just the digital natives who are restless. EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16–30. Google Scholar
  5. Vavoula, G., Sharples, M., Lonsdale, P., Rudman, P., & Meek, J. (2007). Learning bridges: Mobile technologies in education. Educational Technology, 47(3), 33–37. Google Scholar

More articles and article summaries coming soon.  Please follow my posts if you’d like to see more!

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Game-Based eLearning: Making GBL Effective Through Avatars And Immersive Stories

Good games have strong, avatar-based play and compelling storylines that keep players on tenterhooks throughout the experience. In my experience, I have found avatars and immersive stories work very well in eLearning games. In this article, I will share my understanding of this gamification solution.

How Do Avatars Work To Make Game-Based eLearning More Effective?

Most games these days have avatars, so you may ask—why talk about something that is so commonplace? My answer to this is that avatars are not exactly being used effectively, and there is a lot more to avatars than avatar selection and making it run around in the game. Let me explain.

Avatars In The Movies And Games

In the movie Avatar, directed by James Cameron, you may remember that the protagonist, Jake Sully, is excited to be in a new environment and with his new-found legs. When his consciousness gets transferred to his avatar body, Jake Sully starts running out and exploring the environment around him. On the new planet, he eats fresh fruits and finds the total experience enriching. When he comes to know of his mission, he is not perturbed and takes it up heroically. He learns a new language, falls in love with the local girl, Neytiri, and ends up fighting for their cause. In the end, he accomplishes the mission by fighting the evil overlords.

This movie is so like what an ideal game should be, full of challenges and opportunities to learn new things.

This movie is so like what an ideal game should be, full of challenges and opportunities to learn new things.

So, when we think of a gamification solution, are we incorporating the elements of immersive environments, interesting challenges, suitable rewards, and so on?

An avatar-based game will work only when the avatar has a front view (a camera view wherein the player can explore the environment) and not just a third person view. Of course, this is strictly my opinion based on the experience of building many game-based interventions.

Immersive Stories

Continuing with the movie Avatar, what we found was that it was a huge hit with the audiences—not just because of its grand scale, the VFX, the pre-release hype, and marketing. It was a blockbuster thanks to its strong core, i.e. a strong story which most directors miss these days. At the heart of any movie lies the story, and if the story or the plot is weak the audiences will reject it straight away.

Similarly, a gamification solution can be made interesting and effective if it is backed by a strong storyline. Many learning games that I have seen do not have any stories, yet they work to some extent. However, my experience has shown me that stories, when added to games, make for a compelling experience and learners enjoy game-based learning.

The great part about stories is the emotional connection. As learning strategists, we should remember to appeal not only to the brain but also the heart of the learners. Only when learners get emotionally connected to a game, they retain the learning better.

Some Design Ideas

Course 1

In this game, learners start the game by selecting an avatar of their choice. After selecting the avatar, we introduce the mission in the form of a story, wherein the learner must travel around the world and gather crucial information pertaining to the mission. The information is provided by different people along the path. As the learner travels around the path, there are challenges thrown, which the learner needs to solve. The learner is awarded points and rewards for solving the challenges correctly.

The game tests the learners on various levels and at the same time is fun, as it has an interesting story weaved around it. There is competition within the game, as the learner needs a competitive spark to move forward. The gamification solution in this context helped learners make the right decisions.


Course 2

In this game, the avatar is lost on an island. The inspiration for this game came from the Lara Croft Series of games. Lara Croft games engaged gamers on a very personal level. Also, for the first time, they introduce the central character as a girl who is charismatic, intelligent, and a warrior. I found the game Tomb Raider interesting and got inspired to create a game on an island. As learning games need to meet certain objectives and be more realistic, the challenges were tied into the context of real challenges that learners face in their day-to-day life, such as problem-solving, analyzing data or information, and making sound judgments. In the game, learners can navigate using maps and other objects. The story is neatly interwoven into the game, and the avatar meets various interesting characters during the game, which makes the game fun.



The success of any gamification solution depends on how well it is laid out and whether it achieves the core objectives that are set out at the beginning. The objectives need to be tied to the business goal of performance improvement and positive online training ROI. Ultimately, GBL should be useful, and not just a fun ride.

At Tesseract Learning, our gamification experts constantly look for ways to build immersive courses using avatars and compelling stories.



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Demystifying Gamification vs Game based eLearning

An Overview Of Gamification And Game-Based eLearning

Although both gamification and game-based eLearning seek to increase learner engagement and effectiveness of the training, there are key differences that need to be understood. Understanding them will ensure that you adopt the appropriate strategy for your training program.

Basics Of Gamification And Game-Based eLearning

Based on my experience, I see gamification as a strategy that uses elements and mechanics usually found in games in designing learning solutions. For example, awarding badges on completion of assessments or providing a timer to a quiz question to add a challenge for the learner. Gamification makes the learning experience motivating and engaging for the learners.

Game-based eLearning, on the other hand, is the use of a full-fledged game to achieve specific learning objectives. For example, the game like Farmville can be used to teach the skills of resource planning and a game like “Ayiti Cost of Life” can be used to understand education and health in a more holistic manner. The learning content is integrated into the context of the game. Because learning through games is fun, the retention of the concepts is also higher.

Arsenal Of Gamification Versus Game-Based eLearning

Recognizing the different elements and tools used for gamification and in game-based eLearning will help you choose the right strategy.

So, you may ask, what exactly constitutes gamification?

Gamification Has The Following Elements

  • Scoring mechanism/badges/awards
    These reward learners for certain behaviors.
  • Levels
    Can be used to present learning in a staggered way, building upon previously presented concepts.
  • Leaderboards/Quests
    Allow learners to choose their own path and pace through the learning.

A car game with points, timer, rewards of certificates, phases, and so on—a screenshot of a sample course is shown below.

Game-Based eLearning Has The Following Elements

  • Rules of the game
    Can be used to set the context necessary to achieve the learning.
  • Storyline
    The background story that allows learners to associate with the game, the avatars of main players through which learners immerse themselves in the game, the visuals of the game attract and render the game realistic, and so on.
  • Levels
    A path that becomes progressively difficult.
  • Leaderboards/Quests
    Allow learners to choose their own path and pace through the learning.
  • Simulations
    Allow the learners to experience the learning.
  • Gaming experience
    Promotes critical thinking and problem-solving.

A game on food processing and the detailed processes that take place while preparing the processed food industry—a screenshot of a sample course is shown below.

While game-based eLearning does use many of the gamification strategies such as rewards, quests, level ups, and so on, it is not a given that gamification can be equated as game-based eLearning. I opine that a game-based eLearning must necessarily achieve its learning objectives through a game. Since not all learning objectives or subjects under consideration lend themselves to be deployed through a game, most often, you need to make do with gamification.

Strategic Decision, Gamification Or Game-Based eLearning?

Now comes the pertinent question. What should you choose among the two?

Game-based eLearning requires a lot more effort and time because the content must be designed to fit within the game elements. The rules of the game must be devised in such a way that the learners are made to learn but also have fun. The game should not be made too challenging or else the learner will give up and discontinue the learning. Not all games lend themselves to customization. Therefore, you need to choose the right game approach for the given content. Then, you need to consider the programming effort for the learning. So, choose game-based eLearning only when you are sure that it will get you the desired ROI.

For example, an induction program can be easily converted to a game-based experience by adding a story using an adventurous journey in an island type of setting. Here, the learners can select an avatar who is lost on an island and needs to find his or her way back by solving several puzzles that are placed on the island. Each area of the island can be tied to one department of the organization.

Since the induction program can be reused multiple times, your Return On Investment is high. Also, learning about the company through a game is novel and distinctive, which will make your new hires extremely proud of the company.

Gamification offers a better solution when you want to simply increase the fun element and engagement level of your training. By adding few game elements to the course, you can make the learner more participative, involved, and attuned to the concepts being presented. By providing level ups and awards, you keep the learners interested in continuing their learning. Adding gamification is possible across all Custom Learning. You should plan and decide which game elements will give you the most benefits and include them in your custom Learning.


Fun along with learning has always been highlighted. ‘All work and no play ensures that Jack stays a dull boy’ goes the saying. Today, the rising popularity of gamification and game-based eLearning only reinforces this fact. Learning must be made engaging and fun, and what’s better than adding elements of the game or making a new game? However, this is easier said than done…After all, games and game design require professionals who understand how the various elements of game and game mechanics work together. You need to turn to professionals who can guide you on when and which game to harness for your game-based eLearning; or to tell you why to use scoring to reward the learner when they finish a module of learning.

At Tesseract Learning, our ID strategists and creative designers will work with you to plan, strategize, develop, and deploy learning solutions using optimal gamification and game-based eLearning strategies.

For more information how we can work with you in implementing these interesting strategies, do write to me at

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Training: Designing Captivate-ing Games using JavaScript, Advanced Actions, and Variables

Topic: Designing Captivate-ing Games using JavaScript, Advanced Actions, and Variables Description: Did you know that you can create interactive games by using Adobe Captivate? Join Sreekanth Chakravarthy, Lead Learning Designer at IBM India, for an interesting session on how to create the classic Snakes and Ladders game by using JavaScript, custom effects and advanced actions […]