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Gamification Grows as Teaching Tool for Online and Traditional Education

Gamification Grows as Teaching Tool for Online and Traditional Education

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, Online Learning Tips

Gamification for education and training purposes is not exactly a new pedagogical tool. Gamification uses game design techniques to engage learners with content either in the traditional classroom or integrated into an online learning experience.

More and more educational institutions and corporate training programs are realizing the benefits of gamification.

In fact, Markets and Markets, a research organization that tracks emerging growth opportunities, estimates that the global gamification market will grow from $1.65 billion in 2015 to $11.10 billion by 2020.

Kentaro Toyama, an associate professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan, writes in The Chronical of Higher Education that several courses in his department have been gamified. “Assignments are called adventures, battles, and quests. Each activity earns experience points — a hundred thousand at a time — and students’ grades depend on their final scores.”

Gamified Classes Offer Students More Choices of Assignments to Complete

These gamified classes differ from traditional courses in that students have more choices in the assignments they complete. “They can work at a flexible pace; and some assignments can be resubmitted until their maximum scores are reached,” Toyama explained.

Arguably, traditional college education is “already gamified with its grade-point averages, peer competition, and elective courses, but as we sit on the cusp of a potential revolution, it’s also worth considering what we stand to lose,” he writes.

The question isn’t whether good instructors can apply gamification to teach even better. That certainly does happen. Toyama wonders “whether there might be such a thing as too much gamification.”

In other words, are we forsaking tried-and-true, age-old instructional techniques for learning by machine simply because today’s students were reared on games, hobbies and even books that they find on a computer screen?

Marc Prensky is an internationally known thought leader, speaker, game designer and consultant in education and learning. He insists that today’s students have not just changed incrementally from those of the past. They are among the pioneer generation to grow up with this new technology.

“They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age,” according to Prensky. “Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.”

What should we call these “new” students of today? Prensky asks. The most useful designation he has found for them is Digital Natives. “Our students today are all ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.”

To Digital Natives, traditional school instruction “often feels pretty much as if we’ve brought in a population of heavily accented, unintelligible foreigners to lecture them. They often can’t understand what the immigrants are saying. What does ‘dial’ a number mean, anyway?” he asks somewhat rhetorically.

“We need to invent Digital Native methodologies for all subjects, at all levels, using our students to guide us,” Prensky insists.

Proponents of gamified instruction say the tool is one way to bridge the “language gap” and broaden quality instruction not just in Computer Sciences, but in a variety of disciplines.

A study by the Computer Science Department at Winston Salem State University appears to bear out the proponents’ belief.

The study found that one emerging trend was the growing number of subject areas of gamification applications. “While Computer Science/IT educators (and in particular Game Programming instructors) were early adopters of gamification, there is an evident shift towards a wider scope of its application, including arts, humanity and business education.”

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