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Education – anything but a game?

May 29, 2012

I know I am running a little late on this topic and a lot of things has been already reported by others.  Nevertheless here is my contribution to the issue “Game-based learning”. The  Horizon Report 2012 assumes that game-based learning and learning analytics see widespread adoptions and growing interest within higher education of  game-based learning  within the next two to three years. The NMC (New Media Consortium) state:

“Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate into the curriculum, and have long been an option in many higher education institutions; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning. Once educational gaming providers can match the volume and quality of their consumer-driven counterparts, games will garner more attention.”


Pro – What speaks for game-based learning?

According to the Horizon Report 2012 game-based learning offers the following advantages:

  • more engaging learning experiences for students.
  • engage students, because they are motivated to do better, get to the next level, and succeed
  • Students may have the feeling of working toward a goal with the possibility of attaining spectacular successes
  • Students gain a fresh perspective on material and can potentially engage them in that content in more complex and nuanced ways
  • layer social issues or problems with game play
  • improving important skills, such as collaboration, teamwork, communication and/or public speaking, creativity, digital literacy and media making as well as critical thinking, problem solving, leadership and discovery, also risk assessment and risk taking.
  • an ideal method of assessing student knowledge comprehension,
  • ability of games to provide immediate performance feedback to the players
  • players/learners readily connect with learning material when doing so will help them achieve personally meaningful goals

In an interview that  I had to conduct as part of my H807 MAODE course from the Open University I spoke to the didactic and vice managing director from the VCRP about game-based learning, in particular about experimental role-play respectively role-playing simulation game (Plan-Rollenspiele). Very interesting and the VCRP offers not only role-playing simulation games, but also Online rally’s and Online Seminar’s. You might want to visit the website from the VCRP and have a look at the courses offered.

Here are some advantages of the role-playing simulation:

  • role-playing simulation games originates from a realistic scenario that arises from the participant’s context
  • the game is authentic, introduces a new elearning element and design principle, enhances skills like cooperation, communication, problem-solving and decision-making, active learning and facilitates new perspectives which is in accordance with the Horizon report

However, my interview partner also took a critical stance.  Games in education do not appeal everyone or the underlying circumstances simply do not correspond.  Oblinger (2006) states for example that games and play influence our learning in early childhood, but game-based learning is not necessarily part of higher education (HE), although students in HE continue to play games. Here are some reasons that might give some explanations.

Contra – Obstacles of game-based learning

  • games are not appropriate for higher education
  • education and learning is not a game but ‘hard work’
  • Technology does not always lend itself to be game friendly. Will the game be played on a mobile device or on a computer (desktop or laptop)?
  • Some content is not appropriate for gaming
  • it takes to much effort and time to design a game and not every educator is willing to take the immense effort needed designing a pedagogically well designed game.
  • teacher education still lacks to prepare teacher for elearning scenarios, not to talk about game-based learning
  • how to assess educational games and how to examine if students achieved the intended skills?
  • participants/learners often underestimate the value of game-based learning itself

Well, the list of advantages is pretty convincing, students who effortless learn for school as well as their future job . Will that be the future of education – anything but a game? That would be indeed a compelling vision, content learners who enjoy learning.

According to the small survey conducted during the video conference last week only 50% who participated on the survey think that digital learning-games are an appropriate didactic mean, 43% are not sure about it, and about 7% decline games. However, only 24% of the participants deployed games in their teaching (see blog entry).

I wasn’t able to participate on the last video conference but I would belong to the 50% who think that game-based learning can be a valuable educational mean. Yet, it cannot be the only mean/method to use in our teaching, but just one among many other methods. However, designing pedagogically sound games takes a lot of time and effort and the reluctance of educators is somehow understandable, especially when adequate training and provision of resources (e.g. staff allocated time to design games) are lacking. Helpful would be to apply a team-based approach, but that seems in some faculties still a foreign word, at least in my experience. Thus, it will be interesting to see if the NMC prognosis will become true or if there is just an initial hype that subside after a while.

Here some links about game-based learning

Jessica Trybus (2012) “Game-Based Learning: What it is, Why it Works, and Where it’s Going”, New Media Institute. Available from:–what-it-is-why-it-works-and-where-its-going.html (accessed 29.05.2012).

The article focus on the advantages of game-based learning.

Mike Shumake (2012) Game-based Learning: A Paradigm Shifting Opportunity For Innovation, Getting smar blog. Available from: (accessed 29.05.2012).

An interesting quote from the Mike Shumake: “It’s not about the technology; it’s about the game.” How true 😉

Julie Brink (2012) “Game-Based Learning for the Corporate World”, Training blog. Available from: (accessed 29.05.2012).


Oblinger, D. (2006) Games and Learning Educause Quaterly, [online] vol. 29, no. 3, 2006. Available from: (accessed 12 April 2010).

From → #OPCO12

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