How Michigan State University Advancement Implemented Game Based Learning as Part of Remote Training

In this webinar, we welcome the Michigan State University Advancement training and education team to talk about how they're using game-based training for remote training.

Our guest presenters included:

Adeline Gordon, a learning designer and instructor who’s been with Michigan State University Advancement for nearly 8 years. Adeline has a master of arts in technology and education from the University of Michigan, and prior to working with MSU was an instructional designer in the private sector.

Laura Fenger, a training specialist at Michigan State University Advancement. Laura has been with the advancement team for almost 2 years and is a recovering middle school teacher and proud Spartan. 

Jessica VanElls, a business analyst with Michigan State University Advancement. Jessica is working on a master's degree in data science and is a proud third-generation Spartan. 

Michigan State University Advancement uses both The Training Arcade® and Arcades™ from ELB Learning

  • The Training Arcade is for people to build their own games. 
  • Arcades is a gamified hub where the games can be housed in addition to other learning materials.

Michigan State University Advancement, also called UA, is responsible for fundraising and for alumni, donor, and friend engagement. UA has more than 300 staff members across the university, based both centrally and in more than 30 fundraising units. The mission of the University Advancement Training Services program is to provide new and current employees with a highly progressive training program.

The original plan for this project was to provide lunch and learns, maybe some presentations at various department meetings, and to include weekly articles before each instructor-led training to provide tips and tricks and finally, a few microlearning videos. 

But, of course, due to covid restrictions, UA had to reevaluate the training program and find a new way to engage with learners while they worked remotely.

Over the last few years, University Advancement has gone through many technology updates, which meant a lot of research, design, and development of new training to help staff use the new platforms.

The goal with this project was for staff to be able to go on as business as usual, using the new platforms, once each phase of their onboarding was complete.


This project was really extensive and required UA to create a lot of training while the new platform and tools were still under construction.

After careful consideration, Adeline, Jessica, and Laura decided to develop a training program that would introduce the content in multiple phases. Each phase would have a theme with various characters who would be used throughout the entire project within the games and content.

Phase One

During the first phase, they released a series of short teaser videos. These were very fun, but rough-cut videos. They were optional for staff to watch but provided insight as to what to expect in the next phase.

Phase Two

The pre-onboarding phase is where they used The Training Arcade. MSU UA created 15 journeys over 10 weeks, where users had access to quick reference guides, microlearning videos, and optional games and assessments.

This phase was by far the biggest project and provided a lot of training for their staff.

During this phase, the team created an asynchronous learning opportunity that would provide all end-users the freedom to manage their own learning schedule. UA’s fundraisers and engagement officers are on the road often, so the Journey feature within Arcades provided a clear-cut learning path that included a series of checkpoints, and helped them guide them through a particular topic or series of topics.

The pre onboarding program was designed to provide repeated exposure to the content, delivered in a layered curriculum over a series of weeks. Each week the content provided would build upon the previous session to help expand their knowledge base.

It was important for the UA team to try and make it fun.

“We felt that game-based learning helped our staff learn the new content, and then apply what they have learned in a practice environment while still having fun and competing with their colleagues. We felt that using the games with each journey as a form of assessment allowed us to create and monitor our layered curriculum a lot closer.”

UA has created 170 games so far!

“Our learners felt that the daily incentives were a nice motivator to log into the Arcades. So we continue to create optional post-onboarding  learning opportunities well, still using The Training Arcade because we want them to still have fun.”

By utilizing the Journeys feature in Arcades, they were able to ensure that users saw the content in the correct order. The user would open the document, watch the video and then play the game. This meant they were better prepared to answer the questions that came up during the games each week.

“As I loaded the new Journeys, I used the timer feature to set them as live at 8 am on Monday mornings. This was helpful because they just automatically went live. I didn't have to try to remember to do it first thing Monday morning when I'm not terribly awake, and I also used the timer to remove games or journeys once the time was over. The automatic feature was really helpful,” said Laura.  

Another nice thing is you can list a featured game or 2 at the top to draw the user's attention to them. 

Which games did University Advancement use?

Laura Fenger explains which games they used, and for what purpose:

Trivia was helpful with learning new terminology and basic navigation, and I was able to have each game directly connected to the microlearning video and the quick reference guides.

Trivia was a quick game to create, which allowed me to set up a game last minute whenever it was needed, and I found that by removing the time limits I could include questions that would require the user to search for information with the CRM and then answer a question about it, and this allowed me to use the trivia game for more than just testing basic facts.

Jeopardy!® and Wheel of Fortune® also helped with the new terminology and basic navigation, but because they're well-known games users tended to see them as more fun than the basic trivia game.

Wheel of Fortune was often mentioned as a favorite. Users found it more fun than some of the other games. It also was a newer addition to our Arcade, because it came out after we had started,. They liked the changeup, which indicates that it is a good idea to use different games to keep the interest level up.

The Sort It game was useful when learners needed to differentiate between concepts and terms within the CRM, because it required both analysis and synthesis of the contact.

The Scenarios game came into play once the staff was able to access the test environment. We use the scenarios to give them real-world experience, using the new CRM as they practiced what they had learned.

What’s great about Scenarios is that it allows you to guide the user through an independent learning process. The game structure can be set up to ask easier questions, progressing to harder ones, or you can divide the content into sections based on the questions. This allows you to help the user navigate the content in a way that they’ll create the most connections between those pieces of information and the training.

Scenarios were an excellent way to provide teaching as well as assessment in one game, and it also allows for review of a topic easily. If users select the wrong answer, I can send them to a review slide and then loop them back to the original question for another shot at it.

The MSU Advancement team noted that their staff would often go back and replay the game multiple times. 

To learn more about how the Advancement team collected learner data and used that to make iterative adjustments to training, watch the webinar recording below:


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