Designing an Effective Instructional Design Strategy – Learning from Gaming

Whenever I get free time, I play online games. Yesterday I had a tough time figuring out how to play the game called Hamsterflight . I read through the instructions to play the game for nearly ten minutes. Yet was not able to follow the instructions.

Probably I was too bored to read anything at that time or was just in a hurry to get into the game. The game was also not very user friendly for me to play it without any guidance.

I have always enjoyed playing most games at Yahoo. Try playing games like Cake Mania

At the outset the games have a tutorial on how to play the game. The tutorial is highly interactive as in you actually use the game controls and play a trial version of the game. You have instruction texts which guides you through the steps to play the game.

Most games are story based and set clear cut goals. The logic is the same in all the games. However the visual representation makes each game unique.

Now you must be wondering why am I talking about all this. What has all these go to do with Instructional Design Strategy ?

Well, I have always got inspired by the visual strategies used in games and find them suitable for e-learning courses too.

When you are designing a web based or CD based course, you need to understand the online reading behaviour of people. Findings prove that people actually do not read on the web or on their computer. They actually scan. Check out this interesting finding here : How Users Read on the Web. When people actually dont read for a long time on the web or PC, there is no point giving them a text driven online course.

At the same time you cannot design a course with high level graphic design as in the games at Yahoo. You need to design a strategy that needs to have less text, more visual aspects, more interactivity and that has less development time consumption. For this you need to sharpen your visualization skills.

So here in the post I shall give you a instructional strategy based on the sample Needs Analysis and Audience Analysis done in my previous posts.


  • The strategy given here is just an example and has been inspired by the game: The Waitress.
  • Images have been taken from sources on the web. The images are just indicators and do not actually reflect the strategies.

Before we get started let’s recollect the objective of the course to be developed.


To develop a highly interactive and interesting course for waiters to get a thorough knowledge of Blackford dishes, their ingredients and cooking process served in the restaurant.

Macro Strategy

Tip : When you design the Instructional Strategy , decide upon the overall treatment of the course first. Write down in detail the theme/setting of the course.

Here since the course has to help waiters fulfill the daily tasks , it’s good to choose a task based approach. A task based approach indicates lots of scenarios, examples and activities.

The setting of the course would be a restaurant. You can find a sample image below.


To grab the attention of the learners, the course will have a Talking Head – a character that would guide learners through the course. At the outset the Talking Head would welcome the learners to the course and inform the learning objectives or what would be taught in the course.


Micro Strategy

Tip: After you decide upon the Macro Strategy for the course, you need to write down in detail how you propose to present each module of the course.

Always think in terms of visual presentation with minimal text.

First module – Introduction to Blackford Dishes and Ingredients used

The Talking Head will inform learners of an activity. Learners will be given 30 minutes to complete the activity.

The learners will be shown the picture of Blackford dishes in a sequence. The list of ingredients will appear in the sidebar. The learners will have to drag and drop the right ingredients into the dish. At the end of the activity the learners would receive the score. Next the learners would be introduced to each Blackford dish with the list of ingredient. Images and simple animation would be used.


Second Module – Introduction to the Cooking Process of Blackford Dishes

The Talking Head will appreciate learners for learning the dishes and the ingredients. Further he will announce another activity. Here again learners will be given 30 minutes.

The learners will be shown the pictures of Blackford dishes in a sequence. The steps to cook each dish will appear in the sidebar. The learners will have to order the steps in the right order. At the end of the activity the learners would receive the score. Next the learners would be introduced to each Blackford dish with the cooking process of each dish. Images and simple animation would be used.

Third Module – Assessment

Tip: Provide a chance for the learners to test what they have learnt in the form of assessments or activities

The talking head will announce that the training is over and the learners must get ready to perform tasks on job.

Here a simulation will be used. Simple animation will be used to show a live restaurant with customers. Learners will be given instructions to perform the activity.

The activity would go on as follows:

Every time a question mark blinks over a customer, the learner has to click on the customer.

The customer will place the order. The image of the dish will be shown.

The next slide would have a setting of a kitchen. Images of dishes will be displayed. The learner will have to choose the right dish based on the customer request. Then the learner will have to drag and drop the right ingredients and sequence the cooking process. The time given for this task would be 10 minutes for each customer request. Failure to complete the task would mean loss of customer. The learner would gain money points for satifying each customer request.

At the end of the course the talking head would display a certificate saying the learner has completed the course successfully or has failed to clear the course.


Simple buttons will be used to help learns scroll forward and backward. Demos on how to use the course will be given. Interactivity in the course would require simple clicks and drags and drops. Demonstration for this will be provided.

So here ends the sample instructional design strategy for a course.

I have tried to give you a picture of how I visualized an e-learning course.

When you visualize, jot down all your ideas on paper. In your Analysis and Design document, write down the Macro and Micro strategies in a detailed fashion. It doesn’t matter if you are not able to express your ideas in writing in the right way. The written document will atleast help the you, the graphic designers and the client get an idea how the course is going to look like.

If there are media constraints, the graphic designers will let you know and you can think of an alternative strategy. The client will also tell you if he/she is not OK with the strategy designed for the course. Finally, make sure you get a sign off on the Analysis and Design document. After you start storyboarding the strategy cannot/must not be changed.

Hope the information provided in the post was useful. Please drop in your comments/suggestions for sure.


One Response

  1. I really liked the idea of taking inspiration from visual strategies in online games to develop ID modules.

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