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Five reasons educational games are great learning tools

With ‘Games with Purpose’ experts Preloaded joining the LTG portfolio this week, we’re taking a look at why the right sort of gameplay is brilliant as part of your e-learning programme. We’re not talking about those awful Hangman spelling tests you get in schools. Nor are we trying to disguise Grand Theft Auto as a meaningful learning experience. What we’re talking about is something your learners actively want to engage with which also meets your learning objectives. Here are just five reasons why educational games are great for learning.

Greater depth

When playing a game you are constantly managing variables. If you decide you want to be really thorough and do a task slowly, you will have less time to complete the rest of the game, which will impact your overall performance.

Each variable within a game needs to be constantly reprioritised in order for a player to continue through the game. While it might take a number of attempts to complete a level or task, going through this process brings a greater depth of understanding of how performance indicators (such as points or time) relate to each other. For example, our LTG partners LINE worked with Volvo Cars to develop a Sales Management Simulation. This took real world KPIs into an online dealership setting, helping managers understand how each decision they make impacts the profitability of their dealership.

Engagement

Games are an input-led experience. You are in control of the outcome, and choosing to ignore what is asked of you will lead to failure. To complete tasks and continue through a game’s narrative, you require new skills and understanding, making you a better player.

You may get stuck on a particularly annoying level of Angry Birds, but the game will stand still until you learn how to overcome the challenge. Players can repeat a challenge until they are confident enough in their ability to progress. Players are constantly building new layers of knowledge to improve their performance.

Simulate/ rehearse

Much in the same way that we repeat a game of Tetris to get the highest possible score, rehearsing the same scenario increases our level of skill. In the Army, personnel in a high-risk battle situation can’t afford to be carrying out tasks for the first time. Simulating a scenario as many times as a player needs limits the chances of getting it wrong when it counts. Games are a safe environment in which every possibility can be explored without any real-world risks.

Informality

Trying to convey particularly dull subject matter to learners can be difficult, so the opportunity to use your own device while at home to interact with an educational game makes for a relaxed learning environment. Epic created a solution to develop the numeracy skills of soldiers in the British Army, which was deployed on the Nintendo DS.  The use of a familiar, informal gaming device takes learning away from the classroom, letting new recruits improve their numeracy skills in a way that is relevant to their role and skill level.

The value of good production

Your learning course might be based on the best ideas and theory, but scrimping on the graphics, using cheesy stock images and including little interactivity won’t get staff engaged. Invest in a well-produced educational game and your audience will react to the level of thought, effort and creativity that has gone into their training.

It’s the same as choosing to buy a product or watch a film; you’re much more likely to want a product that is well advertised, nicely laid out and engaging. Getting this right can align your learners’ thinking and be the foundation of change.