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#IOLchat Report: Game-based Learning and Online Courses


Each week we meet via Twitter for #IOLchat to discuss current issues related to online learning. Participants include students, instructors, eLearning companies, schools, publishers, and instructional designers.

Learning games are gaining ground as a way for students to interact with each other and course content, especially in an online environment. These activities can be entertaining and engaging, as well as informative, but also present challenges in terms of design and delivery. This week we discussed gamification in online courses. Take a look at the advice, resources, and questions that emerged:

What is a learning "game"? How would you describe the concept to someone new to the idea?

  • Interactive in nature, promoting learning: engaging creativity and logic – cognition.
  • Has specific goals/objectives, player engagement, progress toward the goals, and a rewards system.
  • A way to present learning materials that "taps into the playfulness" of learners.
  • Can take place in many environments, such as simulations, interactions, and virtual labs.
  • Learning games "promote critical thinking and reflective thought processes in a fun way."
  • Learners, as players, engage in subject matter quests to attain knowledge and skills.
  • "Serious games" balance play with learning content, and demand learning achievement. Engagement is tied to learning in this way.
  • Gamification defined: adding game elements to a non-game event, such as turning a unit or whole course into a game. (Thanks, @betamiller!) 
  • Games could be used to achieve learning and/or to assess learning achievement.

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of implementing games in an online course?

  • Games can take away the "chore" of learning (such as in rote memorization tasks).
  • Games can make learning more approachable though the potential for them to be fun or entertaining may be a deterrent in education circles seeking more "academic" alternatives. Take a look at Removing the Stigma from Edutainment.
  • Learning games may play a role in changing the education as part of a larger cultural movement of education reform.
  • Different perspectives (students, instructors, administrators) may have different expectations for learning games – they need to be well-designed and effective.
  • The use of technology, such as that used in online games, may be expected by college students who experienced it at K-12 levels.
  • Any school or group implementing a game needs to do so in a way that responds to student learning, without loosing integrity of the instruction that needs to take place – don't add a game just because it might be fun, a learning goal/purpose is needed.
  • Understanding the intentionality of game development and levels of possible implementation for learning achievement is important.
  • Take a look at Kids and Video Games: Why Children Should Play More.

What are your requests for learning game designers? What would you and your class want/not want to see?

  • Work with content subject matter experts before moving forward with game development. Understand the subject and related learning objectives, then design around them.
  • Look at common core and state/subject standards when building games – these can help "ensure accurate targets" for learning.
  • A focus on creativity and curiosity is preferred over just adding "bells and whistles."
  • Who is designing learning games? Consider the skill sets and resources required ranging from gaming and technology to instructional design and subject matter expertise.

What are your recommendations for online instructors interested in implementing games with their courses?

  • Find a group of educators with similar interests and ask questions!
  • Research more about what a true learning game is and how it differs from learning activities and activities with game-like attributes (rewards, safe trial and error, leader boards, etc.)
  • Participate in the educational games you are considering – play them through on your own before adding to your course.
  • Consider games as potential for "non-graded options" in pre-developed courses.
  • Share your ideas for game-based lessons with other instructors who are interested in learning more. The GBL Lessons database is just one way to share and see what others are doing.
  • On a larger scale: consider games as an opportunity to develop effective learning options "to make sure online education is not replicating a broken system."

Thanks to @TamraExcell,  @Games4Language,  @betamiller,  @edC_blog,  @ODU_DL,  @DrBruceJ,  @NoodleEducation,  @PivotLearning,  @shrinkydink18, and @SalenaRabidoux for participating in the live event! Help us to continue the discussion by adding your thoughts via the comments area on this page.

For more from the most recent live session, take a look at the chat feed below. Our past chats can be found on the archives page.

Follow us (@OC_org) and plan to attend our next chat. We meet on Wednesdays from 12pm-1pm ET and look forward to hearing your perspective.

This week's read-aheads:

Can Gamification Boost Independent Learning? from MindShift

Games from Jane McGonigal

Educational Games from the Teaching and Learning Resources Wiki

Game-based Learning from NewMedia.org 

Training Games from The Thiagi Group

Integrating Game Design Principles into Instructional Design for e-Learning from Christy Tucker

This week's chat feed:

Image credit: Ian D, Flickr, CC-BY

March 21st, 2012 written by (learn more about our authors)

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