Learn by doing: Example of using games to teach software

In my last post, I talked about how I believe that appealing to multiple learning styles is the key to creating valuable instructional content.

Obviously, one of the best ways to learn how to do a new (or frequently forgotten) task is to just do it. Office Labs, a group here at Microsoft, has embraced this concept with their "Ribbon Hero" game. Ribbon Hero is a free, downloadable add-in for PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. Each one features a series of challenges that ask the "player" to complete basic Office tasks in order to score points. You can learn more about Ribbon Hero on the Ribbon Hero download page, at the Office Labs website.

Or, if you prefer, you can watch Doug talk about it in this video:

Office Casual: How to play the game of Office Ribbon Hero

Download Ribbon Hero 

So, what do you think, technical communicators? Would you define this as "documentation"? Do you think that this approach will help people learn how to use software? Let's hear your thoughts.

Eric S.

Comments (2)
  1. mike says:

    This is fun. Nothing like bringing out the competitiveness in someone to get them to do something.

    It’s certainly a learning device, and seems to be in the genre of tutorials — documentation that you’d go to once or twice to become familiar with a technology. The neat twist of turning it into a game has a number of advantages over traditional tutorials — it’s interactive in a different sort of way (there’s much less sense that you’re just following someone else’s steps); it encourages you, via scoring, to go all the way through; and of course it’s play-ful.

    But I wonder whether this is documentation I’d turn to if I was looking for a specific procedure — "I remember that in that game there was a way to …". The procedures are organized and quick to find, and they’re also pretty quick to get through (esp. if you use the hints). I’d probably still prefer a straightforward set of written steps (allowing as how in cases like these, what I’m usually looking for is where in the UI I find the right commands). But it’s conceivable that this could be multi-use documentation. And as noted, it’s pretty fun, at least those of us with a low amusement threshold. 🙂

    PS I note that at least in one instance (pasting with merged formatting) they just link to the actual docs.

  2. Eric S says:

    Yes, it certainly doesn’t feel like learning when you’re trying to beat the other guy’s high score. 😉

    You make a good point – that this approach to documentation doesn’t fulfill the same needs as specific procedures. I don’t believe that something like this will replace our written, procedural documentation (at least, not anytime soon), but hopefully it will inspire users to explore their software on their own.

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