How would some define video games that existed some time ago? They were viewed as something that children played with and parents frowned upon, considering this as unproductive activity. The latter still holds true—and the acceptance of games as an effective tool for learning amongst parents is slow to come. But the appeal adults have for games at present and their ever-growing popularity is definitely recognized. The popularity of games like Farmville, Angry Birds, and Mafia Wars are substantial proof to this and the capability of video games to engage the adults.
So apart from the entertainment value, what makes games or game mechanics a good enough tool to be used for learning? Gabe Zichermann, Entrepreneur and Author, points out in his talk that today’s games are no more about a mere hand-and-eye coordination, but also make the player strategize, manage the character, and voice and text chat. Basically, it leads them to display extraordinary multi-tasking skills. Research has shown that such activities actually help the brain increase in grey matter.
So a medium that is powerful enough to excite, engage, and evolve the end user must be put to use when it comes to learning. And that’s why educators are turning to ‘gamification’ of learning. Gamification is the use of game mechanics, like awarding learners with virtual rewards for progress made by them. These rewards may be in the form of virtual currencies, rewards, scores, or a chance to play another level. These techniques help in engaging the learners more effectively as compared to the traditional classroom learning. Think of these phrases you might have heard before, “How many ribbons have you collected?” or “Too bad, you got many black sheep thrown at you.” To me, they sound like indicators of the interest levels of end users in game mechanics.
Gaming giant, Zynga, creators of FarmVille, invested in Grockit, an online test preparation service that gamifies test practice for students. That goes on to prove the seriousness with which gamification is being taken even though it is in its learning curve. At Serious Games Expo in Lyon, France, a number of French organizations showcased training content developed by them using gamification techniques. One such example is right here in the initial 2 minutes of this video.
Sure there are debates about the extent to which we can we rely on gamification for learning, but it is certainly evident that it holds lot of promise for the eLearning world, and is something to watch out for.