Do you need Games in your eLearning Mix? Upside Learning's White Paper on Digital Game-based Learning

March 2009

Conventional eLearning is based on behavioral and cognitive models of learning which were developed during the 1960s and 70s. For today’s generation, however, with its growing percentage of gamers, these methodologies fail to grip. Their expectations have been molded by the Internet, the World Wide Web, and digital games, and their associated technologies. They want sophisticated media, involvement, and interaction.

Upside Learning’s white paper recommends the use of games to interest this learning audience. Games, by far the most engaging of all interactive media forms, can provide the impetus and motivation for young learners who wouldn’t enjoy the typical ‘page–turner’ courses.

Most training includes factual, conceptual, or rule–based content, and the paper suggests converting such content into small Casual Games. These are designed to be played repeatedly, are not very complicated, and are relatively inexpensive to build. They can prove to be an excellent choice for organizations experimenting with DGBL (digital game-based learning).

While the author recommends casual games as an essential learning component for a gamer audience, he stresses the importance of first determining what type of gamers they are, and what (learning) purpose the games would serve. A Concept Game, for example, provides an opportunity to identify attributes of a concept. Typically, these games are presented as multiple-choice exercises or identification games. Declarative Knowledge and Labeling Games help teach declarative knowledge through repeated attempts. Information that needs to be committed to memory gets reinforced as the player aims at a higher score or continually endeavors to beat an opponent. What’s more - these games do not need elaborate realistic graphics and immersive interaction to be effective! Aligned closely with simulations, Rule Knowledge Games facilitate learners in recognizing and remembering rules associated with rule systems.

While conventional eLearning is closely tied to media development, game development has closer ties to software development. Though the same fundamental instructional design approaches are applied to develop both, the delivery media differ significantly. Games steer more towards software development because of the complexities inherent in their development. The author has highlighted significant considerations to reflect upon from the development perspective like the costs involved, or even the time frames required for the design, as well as the ever-changing training needs that link directly to the shelf-life of a course.

The white paper concludes that games are valuable learning tools that will appeal to a growing young audience who views the world differently.

Click here to download a copy of the white paper.