Seeing learning through the lens of venue

“Your non-responsive learning product will probably result in non-responsive learners” – Richard Feynman


In the ‘Art of Game Design’, Chapter 3, the fantastic Jesse Schell talks about ‘the lens of venue’

He posits that game designers often overfocus on the ‘device’ on which gamers play           (playstation, smartphone, PC) instead of focusing on a more important variable, the venue.

The venue is the place  where we actually play the game (the bus, the living room, the desk) . The venue exerts a great influence on the gaming experience we have. Games that  are successful in different venues present very different characteristics.

I believe taking the venue into consideration is also crucial for the design of learning experiences.  

Let’s look at learning through the lens of venue.


The workbench is a place where do serious work, like a desk. It is a “front-leaning” place, and the games that work well on this venue are usually long and intense, like ‘The World of Warcraft’

In my learning experience, high focus, highly visual learning activities that require intense keyboard and mouse activity (and probably two screens) are well suited for the desk. MS Excel or graphic design tutorials ring a bell.

My guess is that, if the learning task is ‘too relaxed’ for the desk, the person will choose to do something more ‘work-like’… after all, she is at the desk…and probably at an office, pretending to work.

MY TAKE: As a  designer of learning experiences, take advantage of the time learners spend on the workbench for high focus, keyboard and mouse intensive  tasks.


Ok, let’s move on to the venue of the hearth.



According to Schell, the hearth is the place where we have, as humans , historically tended fire. The living room is the classic example: a relaxed, yet noisy and sociable place. In the realm of games, those who succeed are either locally multiplayer or  fun to watch (think of Nintendo’s WII)

I suspect that university or corporate  cafeterias and campus lawns present similar characteristics.  The learning experiences that are suitable for such sociable places are NOT those that will make the learner look like a friendless geek.

MY TAKE: There is tremendous opportunity for designers to create mobile learning experiences for ‘hearth-like places’. Such experiences must be either fun to play together or fun to watch, like a Jeopardy game, perhaps?


The reading nook is the place where we sit  down and read. Tablet PC’s brought about new opportunities  for  game designers , and the same is of course true for designers of learning experiences.

The kind of games that work well on the reading nook are relaxed, much like reading a book.

MY TAKE: Take advantage of the moments when your learner is in his favorite couch to propose longer reading activities that  require significant focus. 



Gaming experiences that work well everywhere are interruptible and have simple stories. The book is the classic  learning device that is suited fot being used anywhere, as are Sudokus and word puzzles. The Kindle app for  smartphone is a strong competitor, but I believe online video Moocs are not, especially with current bandwidth constraints.

MY TAKE : Interruptible learning experiences, delivered in small chunks will succeed in charming the learner-on-the-go. Such ‘everywhere’ learning  experiences should be low bandwidth-friendly (text or audio only) and ANTICIPATE the offline moments the student will experience.


And you? What kind of learning do you enjoy doing on the workbench, on the reading nook or everywhere? Can you think of learning experiences that are successful in the hearth? 




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