Gaming to Promote Education
The benefits of experiential learning are hardly breaking news; simulations have been used for years in specialized training situations. As the video game industry matures, it penetrates ever-widening age groups with each passing year. Eventually high-profile organizations are discovering the advantage of training their members or employees–through custom-made video games. These games provide the player with an enjoyable learning experience–which maximizes learning and retention–and it allows the organization to customize their message into a finely honed learning tool.
Here are 11 examples of video games in organizations:
1) The United States Army asked WILL Interactive, Inc. to develop a game that would combine education with entertainment using real-life experiences reported by soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The result was “Outside the Wire,” an intensely realistic simulation designed to teach junior officers how to stay cool when making difficult decisions–when soldiers’ lives are on the line. Scenarios are presented that illustrate the importance of trust, leadership, experience, and communication when out in the field. The goal is to maximize leadership and decision-making. It achieved those goals, and won the “Best Workforce Training Solution” of 2008, according to the Software & Information Industry Association.
2) Volvo Car UK, along with FIMTRAC Training, developed a series of 3-D games named “Knowledge Drive.” Distributed to its dealerships, the simulation trained its employees–rookies and veterans alike–on essential car dealing skills, such as brand values, sales, trades, and credit. Using virtual customers, the game teaches the player how to properly address the needs of various customers–all in a realistic, 3-D environment, complete with offices, furniture and, of course, cars. Not only does “Knowledge Drive” teach Volvo employees, it gives them universal, consistent training–across multiple geographies.
3) Sun Microsystems, teaming up with Enspire Learning, developed two games intended to attract younger generations of potential employees, all the while educating them on the company. The first of two games was dubbed “Rise of the Shadow Specters,” a platform puzzle game where the player tries to reach the goal, while dodging the evil Shadow Specters. The other, “Dawn of the Shadow Specters,” was designed as more of a story-based simulation, to potentially satisfy older players–or those who simply don’t like fast-paced games. Both games were deemed huge successes, and were instrumental in attracting job applicants.
4) Miller Brewing Company developed “Tips on Tap,” a simulation designed to teach an adult player about proper serving techniques and positive customer service. Aside from teaching its players how to interact with customers, “Tips on Tap” even contains a mini-game called “Score Your Pour.” It explains how to get a proper head of foam from a poured drink. The program uses an algorithm that realistically determines the amount of head on the beer, depending on how the player situates the mug. The player can try different techniques by varying their tap usage, glass angle, and distance of the glass below the tap. The game then gives the player a score based on the amount of head, and the amount spilled, of course.
5) The Cisco Learning Network developed a video game aimed at teaching binary–a system used by computer programmers around the world–to Cisco’s own networking professionals. In the game, a number appears in the bottom right corner, and the player has to toggle the correct sequence of 1s and 0s until they create the binary form of the provided number. The player is timed, so as a player gets better, they can try to beat their previous high score. The goal was to help the players–Cisco employees–recognize patterns in the system of binary code. Today, the Cisco Binary Game is available to the public online, further displaying Cisco’s commitment to learning through simulation.
6) Accenture, a global management consulting and outsourcing company, teamed up with BTS, a leader in global business simulations, to develop a video game tool designed for their senior managers. Through various simulations and practice environments, Accenture was able to instruct Its key employees–through a game–about business strategy, standardization, and operations. In short, they brought their people up to speed on complex issues using a video game! This not only increased employee interest in learning about their company, it also unified the company’s training across the board.
7) Philips Healthcare brought in Harbinger to develop a simulation intended to pave the way for interactive, game-based training in the healthcare industry. The result was called “Clinical Challenge,” a unique learning experience that combines on-the-job training with interactive gaming. The program handled subjects such as x-ray, MRI, and anatomy, and was delivered through entertaining formats such as game shows, board games, and puzzles. And that’s just a few. The “Challenge” provided Philips Healthcare with a foundation for future game-based learning programs.
8) John Jay College of Criminal Justice teamed up with Kognito to create “Meeting Officer Roberts,” a story-based program. It was designed to allow the player–a Criminal Justice student–to role-play difficult situations that often occur on the job. It met a number of objectives, from building communication skills to developing emotional intuition. “Meeting Officer Roberts” is a example of a psychological game which requires the player to participate in realistic conversations and scenarios. The goal is to teach Criminal Justice students how to handle difficult interpersonal conflicts and to work toward a positive resolution.
9) RPG Enterprises is a leader of technology, retail, and entertainment based in India. RPG was looking for a way to replace their old way to induct employees into the company, because it had been criticized as monotonous and uninspiring. The result was “e-Induction,” a formal yet entertaining way to teach their new employees about the company’s history, its unifying vision, and the interrelationships of their various roles within the company. The game received vastly positive feedback, fostering a feeling of camaraderie–all while delivering critical instructions to its new recruits.
10) Ufi Ltd., a UK-based leader in online learning, created a three-dimensional training game that plunges the player into the typical day at the workplace. Specifically targeted toward those looking to return to the workforce, “Virtual Workplace” allows the player to visualize him/herself in the work environment, offering guidance on common workplace behavior. It can potentially give an unemployed person the visualization they need to succeed on the job. Later, the pilot for this program would be credited for inciting discussion on the role of simulations in workforce training in the UK.
11) Rasmussen College uses its own internal department of education specialists, graphic designers, sound and video designers, and multimedia programmers to create numerous interactive learning exercises. In one example, Medical Administration capstone students navigate a simulated hospital environment, in which they play the role of a consultant trying to discover issues and problems facing this hospital–and then develop plans to address these issues.
In a more traditional frame, Rasmussen also uses interactive learning to set up exercises through which students can check their understanding of the reading material by answering questions online, giving them the chance to verify their comprehension before being judged on a quiz or exam. As a result of these exercises, Rasmussen has seen more engagement from students. They are allowed to “dig in,” instead of being passive users of the material. With students more engaged, they’ve seen better results from students overall.
By using different learning modalities, Rasmussen endeavors to give students the opportunity to choose the way in which they learn best–whether it’s through reading, visual tools, or interactive learning.
The residential and online multimedia technologies degree in digital design and animation from Rasmussen College will give you the opportunity to learn skills related to game design.
Images courtesy of their respective owners.
Interview with Steven Wettergren
By Shawn Kamesch
Steven Wettergren, Director of Online Course Development at Rasmussen College, answered a few questions about how Rasmussen has integrated interactive learning into their curricula.
Q: First off, what are a few examples of how Rasmussen uses interactive learning?
A: One thing that I don’t want to allude to is that we are a game-based learning system. Rather, we look to leverage interactivity in order to allow students to do more than simply read information in a book or on a webpage. We want to also give students the opportunity to apply the skills that they learn in a simulation. We create a learning environment where they can practice their knowledge–in a format where they can make mistakes and learn from them.
For example, in the Medical Administration capstone, students are placed into a simulated hospital environment, where they play the role of a consultant trying to discover issues and problems facing this hospital, and then develop plans to address these issues. They have the chance to meet the CEO of the virtual hospital, meet various staff members, visit departments, obtain documentation, all in a virtual environment. This way, students can dig deep into the issues and find the problem behind it, and then find a solution address those issues. From a learning perspective, it’s not “how do you solve this problem?” Rather, it’s “what’s causing this problem and how do you solve it?” This makes the situation much closer to real life.
We also use interactive learning to simulate experiences that otherwise would have to take place in a classroom. In many Criminal Justice courses, you’ll see a lot of crime scene analysis. We’ll use multimedia pieces that simulate types of analysis that experts at a crime scene would do, such as fingerprint analysis, blood spatter analysis, and shoe print analysis.
Finally, we also use interactive learning simply as a way to enforce learning, in a more traditional interactive fashion. We often give small, interactive exercises as a follow-up to the reading material, to ensure they have learned the lessons. This gives students the chance to measure themselves and their knowledge, before having to go ahead and be judged in an exam or a quiz.
Q: There’s a lot of work done behind the scenes to make these programs work correctly. What work has been required upfront to plan these programs out?
A: The team of people creating the courses for Rasmussen has a variety of backgrounds. The design team has expertise on how to best teach using technology, looking for new ways to use technology in order to teach and explain concepts. They are idea generators. They also use graphic designers, sound and video design, multimedia programming, etc. These staff members have different areas of expertise, allowing us to leverage different skill sets.
Q: What changes in a curriculum when you switch to this kind of learning?
A: The biggest change is not so much a change in the curriculum, because the curriculum is the same. You have the same goals, the same expectations. What changes is the student experience, and the teacher’s approach to how students learn the material.
So in the case of the virtual hospital, students have to be more proactive in their learning. They work with what’s given them in the simulation, and evaluate what’s happening in the hospital. This way, students take it to a higher level of thought than many traditional learning methods.
The other thing is that different people learn by different means. Some people learn best by reading, and others learn visually. Others learn best through interactive means. Offering different modalities allows our students to learn the material in the way that they learn best.
Q: So, what results have you seen in the past with this interactive learning material?
A: One thing quickly noticed is that the course becomes more entertaining and engaging for the students. They get to dig in, rather than only being passive users of the material. Being more engaged with the material leads to better student results overall. They perform better and understand the material at a higher level.
Q: You touched on this topic earlier, but why do you think it’s such a successful way to instruct people?
A: This takes it back to the learning style of each person. Having the ability to approach the material in the way that a student learns best, it makes it the best learning experience possible for that student.
Q: Let’s change directions. What impact do you think interactive learning will have on the education industry?
A: I think it’s changing the industry dramatically. Even ten years ago, online learning was still something only done in the corporate world, and it hadn’t yet been brought into the academic world. There were some small schools using online reading material, with maybe a chat function.
Now it’s immersive and engaging. Soon, I could see that engagement and immersion expanding in conjunction with new Web 2.0 technologies, making it a more collaborative environment. The end result would be a combination of interactions and simulations in an environment that allows people to communicate instantaneously. You see it in Second Life, but I can see that expanding to a much broader scale.
Q: That takes me to my final question. What do you see as the future of interactive learning?
A: I see it as becoming a merging of technology and community. You see it starting already with Second Life. But how and when and where people take the courses is really going to expand. In just a few years, people won’t always be sitting behind a desktop. Instead, they’ll be learning on their handheld device or mobile phone, or using a gaming console to access their courses online. You will see three things colliding as one: anytime, anywhere education; community-based aspects in a Web 2.0 world; and people being immersed in a simulated environment.