Gamification and e-learning: Part 1

As someone who has played many video games over the years, I am excited, and often quite scared, about the prospect of ‘gamification’. While it is a fascinating medium with unique strengths it is also open to manipulation and exploitation.

Games can offer a level of engagement and personal immersion that is difficult to match in other media. For educational purposes it can also allow interaction with simulations or situations that students would otherwise have no interaction with.

Real lives 2010 (image from www.educationalsimulations.com)

One great example of this is ‘Extra Lives 2010’. An aesthetically lo-fi, but mechanically complex game that allows students to simulate a person’s randomly generated life story in another part of the world. For instance, when I played, it randomly assigned a male character growing up in an impoverished district in Brazil and used WHO statistics and other information to simulate that person and their family’s chances of contracting a disease and getting access to education and employment. It allows players to make choices about their life on a journey through childhood to adulthood while constantly fighting against a statistical simulation of struggle. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that can teach students about issues faced across different parts of the world and allows them to create their own unique stories and learning paths. Minecraft has also seen a huge push from Microsoft and the release of an education edition. These must always work in context however as not every subject or learning object will be supported by a gamified approach. It could also be seen as creating further disengagement in classrooms.

E-learning can also take the form of free online resources such as Khan Academy. While it provides freely accessible games and learning resources it is also a great example of user-metrics and achievements being used to keep students engaged and motivated, as shown in my own progress in the image above ! Extra Creditz, a YouTube channel that discusses the art and business of game development has a snappy video on the subject of e-learning in education.

Gamification also provides many possibilities for industry as gamification promises increased employee engagement and more detailed metrics on employee performance. However, such detailed information on individuals comes with a responsibility. I am a proponent of video games’ benefits, but recent years have also seen the growth of quite cynical business models which play on users’ reactions to reward schedules and can create a skinner box mentality. ‘Gamification’ sounds like quite a harmless word , but if exploitative practices end up being tied to the ‘rewards’ in professional or educational contexts it could easily be abused. While grading systems are already informing this to some degree, having students ‘winning’ in class while making sure others do not feel like they are ‘losing’ would be a difficult balance to find.

 

Interesting further reading:

http://www.enigmaticevents.com/blog/the-dangers-of-gamification/

http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/when-work-is-a-game-who-wins

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