6 Points to keep in mind with game-based learning
With the list of benefits above that come with using good game-based learning, one should always keep these six points in mind when developing, choosing and/or implementing a game-based learning experience. Be it for corporates, higher education or even K-12 type education.
1. Emphasis on learning
It’s about the learning objective through a vehicle of fun. But it needs to remain challenging a true to its purpose. Whether that is to teach the reason behind the Fall of the Aztec empire or how to work as a team under pressure and manage a corporate crisis, it doesn’t matter, as long as that goal is achieved at the end.
2. Build communities
As I said earlier, people tend to not want to learn in a vacuum. Face-to-face, group-based, game-based learning is still one of the most effective ways of learning. We like learning from each other and therefore building a community is far easier. When it’s done online, you have a bit more work cut out for you, communities need to be seeded and nurtured, initially by the implementer. Hopefully to catch on and continue organically.
3. Communicate with the players
This may seem self-evident, but many people think that once they implement the experience, they can just sit back and watch it happen. Naturally, as a facilitator, you need to observe and take notes, that’s good pedagogy, but if it’s a game you need to also interact and ensure the experience keeps flowing. As any good Game Master in an RPG experience knows, the communication and interactions are what bring the game to life.
4. Reward appropriately
Here we’ve very much got the modern gamification line, points, badges, leader-boards, trophies are all fine to track progress, but they aren’t rewards. Make sure you reward your players with something meaningful, and that it is of intrinsic value.
5. Set a time period
Despite what many may believe in the world of education, business, storytelling; people do like and want closure. Every good thing must come to an end. Both within the high-paced world we live in, but also for the purpose of learning, it needs to be situated within a specific time-frame. Games with a narrative are perfect for this, as there is a beginning, middle, and end to every game and story. Free-form play is great for creative and internal expression, but it needs to move to a point to have any value in learning and the reflective process.
6. Metrics — success & failure
Games & play are great and learning while having some fun is also great. But you need to be able to measure the effectiveness of what you have been facilitating and what your participants have learned. Be sure to know what your objectives are from before you start and choose the correct metric models to measure how much of those objectives were achieved by the end of the experience.
Forms of Game-based Learning
Serious Play — Lego
One of the most popular game-based learning experiences currently, in the form of serious play, is the Lego: Serious Play (LSP) workshops. Possibly one of the reasons why it’s so popular at the moment is because of its ease and relatability among people of any age. Even if for some unfortunate reason you weren’t able to play with Lego when you were a child, it’s pretty easy to grasp the basic concept of clicking together various blocks.
To give some background to the LSP experience, let’s look at its purpose, as stated on Wikipedia: “To access and make knowledge, wisdom, and perspectives shared through model construction and storytelling. To facilitate a constructive dialogue (ideate, reflect, and strategize) about a given topic/ issue.” Having had the opportunity to speak to various LSP facilitators, this broadly fits what I’ve come to understand from the experience as well. It is essentially a physical vehicle to represent abstract ideas so that you yourself and those around can better grasp said the idea.
The physicality of it is also what makes the experience so appealing as a vehicle, it is by definition hands-on, and participants in the experience work as individuals or teams, but they are a group that is interacting. To once again borrow from Wikipedia for the sake of brevity: “Participants take on roles as an individual builder, storyteller, active listener, co-constructor of physical models and metaphorical meaning. Non-competitive. The physical constraints of the building system put emphasis on metaphors and meaning-making and take pressure off making something that resembles.” It’s a free-form exploration of metaphorical concepts in a group environment, and it puts the emphasis on participants needing to create their own stories, which embeds the learning far more effectively.
As it is a form of play, it is only a semi-structured experience, allowing the participants the freedom to explore their own ideas and in turn relate them to the rest of their group. Though not exclusive to, but the overall concept lends itself more towards organizational change experiences and determining internal drives and questions within individuals in a company.
Serious Games — the rise of the RPG
Traditionally the moniker of “serious games” has been attributed to video games that have a learning element to them. With the rise in popularity of concepts and workshops like that of Lego Serious Play and with the surge of RPG experience with a specific resurgence of games like Dungeons & Dragonsthat illustrate the use of RPG’s within education and business, the moniker could possibly be broadened to include non-digital game experiences as well. What can essentially be called live-action RPG experiences? Though this kind of LARP isn’t the dress up in a medieval costume and re-enact the battle of Agincourt kind. More the placing participants in an environment they recognize but are fundamentally unfamiliar with and allow them to use and practice skills that are relevant to the objective of the implementation of the experience.
The purpose therefore of such an RPG, or rather let’s call it an Alternate Reality Experience (ARE), can at times be fairly broad depending on the objectives of those facilitating or implementing it. But generally, it aims at increasing inter-personal interaction, improvising in unknown situations, reacting to unknown and unfamiliar situations and determining decisions/ judgment calls through spontaneous, fluid and volatile scenarios.
At its core, ARE’s are group-oriented, involving the participants actively, they themselves become storytellers within an overall narrative. It is essentially a non-competitive environment, which allows them to step outside of their comfort zones. Being non-competitive is not to say that there isn’t any agency, outcome or consequence. With a good facilitator or game master, the experience can be quite pressured.
As with similar role-playing experiences, there is a type of structure and framework to facilitate the experience. If you are familiar with role-play simulations, D&D or have interest in other models, one could relate to these types of frameworks. Beyond that basic structure, the experience becomes very open-ended, highly explorative, and this is all due to the fact that the participants have to deal with unknown paths and outcomes, as facilitated by the game master.
The reason I believe that these types of role-playing experiences are good and should be utilized more is that they are better for framing learning experiences through a narrative framework, that gets learning objectives and content across more effectively. While allowing participants a space to practice and improve necessary skillsets.