Games-Based Learning : The Hot New Area of Learning

This month’s e-learning network meeting covered a very interesting topic – Serious Games [or, Games-based Learning].

As you know already, this is close to my heart [I see a smile there – oh yes, I am not high on fidelity if you start counting how many things are close to my heart]. Not just because I play NationStates, or spent hours playing Brian Lara’s Cricket. Nor it is because I so deeply loved my stint setting up Neighbourhood Learning Centres back in 1996, when I was so deeply committed to the idea of teaching kids to play SIMCITY. For me, I did learn a lot through sports – while playing cricket or watching it or reading about it [Have you read ‘Never Say Die’?] – team play, discipline, commitment, character and presentation.

The presentations were based on a survey, where 50 large corporations across Europe were surveyed on their perception/ acceptance of the idea of games-based learning. The findings are, of course, suitably vague – most people say it is an interesting concept, but not many people are putting money on it right away.

However, if you think about it, the idea is not at all new. As I said, my school teachers [at least some of them] always knew that playing cricket needs to be an essential part of the curriculum. Monopoly has taught millions about negotiation, and various games have been used – for many decades now – in the business schools. Did you play mock parliament? No, I didn’t go to a college which used the method, but have met people who went to colleges which did.

I am not even sure it is a new concept in corporate learning. As it is, corporate learning itself is an evolving discipline; with major changes happening all over [will write more about this later]. But, use of Management Games in Corporate Learning is a very old practise, and there are many innovations – motivational games, use of humour, team exercises – which dominated the bold and the beautiful arena of corporate learning.

What is new is the use of technology in creating these games, and evolution of a literature around this area. Also, the new interest in this area is generating new sets of analytic and metric tools to trace and measure effectiveness of such tools. There is also a lot of work being done on simulating real-life business scenarios, and data models based on real businesses.

It is an industry in its infancy. There are lots to be done. But, I do see new games emerging which will have real, experiential data models and life-like simulations real soon. These games will leverage the internet and adopt multi-player architecture. And, yes, once someone has already created these games, corporations will put in their money on this too.

Before I sign off on this, an example of game-based learning that I thought is very interesting – try http://www.food-force.com/ and play the game that WFP is using to make people aware of the challenges and the pay-offs of its various food assistance programmes in various parts of the world. Even if you thought of the UN as a convoluted bureaucracy, you will be surprised to see that they have at least taken the lead in games-based learning over the corporations.

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