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Games in learning: dispelling the myths

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This week’s post comes from Andrew Joly (Director of Strategic Design), who is based in LEO’s Sheffield office.

In this blog post, we look at the myths surrounding games in learning, and at some common misconceptions about the design and application of games for learning.

To get the full picture, join LEO and Preloaded’s webinar on Thursday, May 5th at 3pm BST to explore how games have become a cornerstone of effective and mature learning strategies.

Games, are they new?

Within the context of learning, digital games have been a sub-set of learning strategies for more than 10 years. However, it is only recently that a wave of consoles, virtual platforms, and overall increased affordability in production techniques, has seen a vast surge in gaming across a broad spectrum of demographics. As the games industry has grown in size and matured in structure, it has enabled manufacturers to reduce production costs of hardware and software, in addition to fortifying domestic markets and expanding into emerging ones.

The utilisation of games in learning has matured alongside the entertainment industry’s mass-market consumer products and, with this evolution, educational games and gamification in learning have moved into a variety of formats that have become more accessible than ever before.

Gamified, is this a ‘thing’?

Currently, gamification is THE thing. Gamification, as a design strategy, is built on the correlation between good games design and good learning design. The mechanisms used in games for informing and challenging players are in turn powerful design strategies for engaging learning transformation. As an example, objective-based challenge, collaboration (multiplayer/teamwork), and level progression are all actively used in games, as they are in good learning design.

Games have an innate ability to break down adoption barriers of players through the perception of a task being pleasurable as opposed to laborious. As documented in Preloaded’s guide on using games in learning blends, by lifting these dynamics from games and applying them to a learning environment the results can be profound.

Are games too fun?

‘Too’ fun? No. There are many different ways games with purpose can deliver learning outcomes – even the ones that appear to be more fun than overtly learning focused, are in fact adopting strategies like ‘learning by stealth’ – delivering important learning while we are engaged in what feels like fun gameplay, in an environment in which we feel confident, entertained and engaged. The learner does not consciously recognise that they are being educated, they simply perceive themselves to be completing an objective or challenge. The ultimate aim of the exercise is designed to gain total focus from the learner so that the learning outcomes are maximised.

Are games just for Millennials?

As a generation, Millennials have evolved with the technology and are perfectly positioned to learn and develop with technology, as they continue to build and define the application of today’s technological advancements. This would lead one to think that Millennials surely make up the biggest demographic of gamers, however, research has shown that the largest demographic is women aged 18+, with the average age being 43. This is an intriguing insight as it suggests that gaming transcends generations and that the evolution of mobile gaming has enabled, what was a previously small demographic, to embrace gaming and become a key user group.

In the context of technology and learning, games have been around for a while now. Although many still consider gaming strategies as a ‘nice to have’ addition to a learning programme, they have evolved into a key aspect of comprehensive learning strategies. Register for LEO and Preloaded’s webinar on Thursday, May 5th at 3pm GMT to explore how games have become a cornerstone of effective and mature learning strategies.
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