Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Practicalities of Implementing Game-Based Learning

The following post by Marie Jasinski is reported here with Marie's agreement.

Marie wanted to make the point that her focus in this comment is on the issues involved in creating and utilising game-based learning. Her main point is that "the practicalities are more of a challenge than the promises - it IS a hard slog!"

Marie has made a major contribution to LearnScope and the Australian Flexible Learning Leaders Program over a number of years. Her interest is in " interactive strategies for training, research and performance improvement contexts for both face-to-face and online environments".

Marie's website is well worth a visit:

Here is her comment on the EdNA Groups 2006 Networks Community Forum - discussion on e-learning games:

" I'd like to make a comment about some practicalities of implementating digital game-based learning in the vocational education and training sector. This is from a professional development perspective and from triumphs and challenges of using digital games since 1998. These include email games, role-play simulations, and 'mini' flash games.

Implementing digital game-based learning can be a hard slog and the more complex the game type, the harder it is. This is because as you move up the scale from mini games to complex games, different stakeholders become involved and they can influence the outcomes as their perspective can be quite different.

Here are some of the complexities I have experienced and I'd be keen to hear if anyone has had similar types of experiences:

- IT services are critical allies: If there are firewalls, or access blocks placed on words like "games", or narrow mindsets regarding IT rules and regulations, there's a lot of groundwork to do to build good relationships, educate the IT gatekeepers etc. This can be time consuming and not always productive. One of biggest games can be getting access to the games in the first place!

- Cost: "How much does it cost?" is one of the first queries regarding games, especially from managers who hold purse strings. It takes a fairly enlightened manager to see game-based learning as an investment rather than a cost.
The added complexity here is that there are many games and tools available for little or no cost. They may be 'mini' games, but they are also a great introduction as these types of games can be easily integrated into existing e-learning programs.Here are a couple of examples of free or low cost games I've cobbled together for Hospitality and Bakery and Health Care.

- Competition: A great selling point for games is "engagement". With the rise of Web2 and social software and other methodologies like digital storytelling, interactive fiction etc, there are many engaging alternatives to games. It's interesting to note the rise of digital storytelling as a learning tool rather than a learning product. Have a look at Marvin which is moving ahead in leaps and bounds.

- Marketing: One of the most engaging and immersive e-learning experiences for me are web-based role play simulations. I never really understood what engagement was until I started role playing! This points to style preference. Role plays are not strictly games, but would meet all the "engagement" criteria. They are text-based so perhaps not as seductive as many of the games on show here, but the more emergent process, the "empty space design" requires high doses of imagination. The investment is in the design and facilitation - they are time rich - but they are reusable and easily adaptable. For example, one of the roleplays we designed in 2000 on sexual harrasment, has been facilitated over 20 times and every time its different. Other text based games like Game of Games on goal setting are very engaging as are Thiagi's award winning interactive storytelling. Yet these text based narrative games don't get the same press, though are excellent methodologies in a training setting. I suspect there is room for a more rounded representation of different game types.

- Complex and mini games: I've discovered the hard way that 'mini-games' are so easily dismissed (and if you promote them you can be too). Yet the starting point for many practitioners into game-based learning is through 'mini' games. I facilitate workshops on the use of mini games like powerpoint games and flash games and also digital games that can be played in the face-to-face settings, and experience first hand the benefit they have in complementing either class-based or e-learning programs. They are especially effective if they are used as learning tools rather than learning products (learners as designers). A great way to encourage learners to engage with dull but need to know content. There's a lot of promotion about complex games promoting higher order learning. No argument there. But let's not forget that a lot of learning in VTE is lower order learning. There's a lot of facts, procedures etc that people do have to come to grips with and ANYTHING that helps increase fluency must be a benefit. Just think compliance training!

- Games designers and game users: As a games user, it can be quite daunting working with game designers with high tech everything including the language! Especially if you are not really interested in the technology, but in what it can offer! Games designers are often vendors - they want to sell their products. It can be a big investment to buy a game, so the free trial periods are so important. However, the service and the conversations and the human component is really what gives confidence. In my experience Kevin and his team have been very generous in providing an excellent service and this is much appreciated. It's OK to ask dumb questions. I think the master of generosity is Thiagi.

BTW, if anyone is trialling the business game, here is a usability template that may help you focus and would provide excellent feedback to Kevin and the team."


Post a Comment

<< Home