This is a one-across-the-world summary from ten (yep, count’em 10) different publishes reports, each of which are attempting to help readers and evaluators decide just how to leverage what most training professionals think is the next major addition to the training toolkit — that of Gaming and game-like training into the curriculum. So, without much more fanfare, here are my selections from these studies. Feel free to comment back on this blog about these quotes, or if you just enjoy taking part in some dialogue on this topic.
“What Research Has to Say (Thus Far) About Designing Computer Games for Learning” – J.D. Fletcher, IDA et al
If computer games are intended to enhance performance on tasks at work or in school, i.e., are intended to transfer, it is vital to identify the cognitive processes they require. Evidence has been found of transfer from games to targeted task performance (Gopher, Weil, & Bareket; 1994; Fery & Poserre, 2001; Subrahmanyam & Greenfield 1994; Okagaki & Frensch; 1996; Moreno & Mayer, 2004, 2005; Mayer, Mautone, & Prothero, 2002). However, the extent of game playing may matter. Greenfield, Brannon and Lohr (1994) found that longterm practice with a video game improved spatial performance, but that shortterm practice did not.
“Using Computer Games and Simulations for Instruction:A Research Review” – J.D. Fletcher, IDA et al
Results suggest that games and simulations improve a variety of cognitive capabilities. Furthermore, there is evidence for positive transfer fromactivities required by games and simulations to real world task performance.This transfer appears to depend much more on similarities between cognitiveand attention processes than on physical similarities….It is clear that there is more enthusiasm about the opportunities for learning provided by computer games and simulations than there is for conducting empirical studies investigating whether these opportunities are actually realized….Finally, these results reemphasize the importance of a team approach in designing games. In addition to including individuals with expertise in game design, cognitive task analysis, and ISD, it is also important for developers to be familiar with emerging research results about the effects of games and simulations.
“A review of scholarship on assessing experiential learning effectiveness” – Jerry Gosen et al
Assessing outcomes in learning environments is very important, and we believe it is possible to successfully assess experiential learning environments. Outside of a very few studies, however, this has not yet been consistently accomplished.
Less optimistically and more pragmatically, the most reasonable approach to using any experiential method is whether or not it appears to be efficacious in the environment designed by the instructor and at the same time provides a usable way to assess student learning. Even if we do not adhere to the strictest standards, users need reasonably objective ways to assess student participation in experiential learning environments. These assessments should be free from social desirability problems, relate to agreed-on learning objectives, and provide means for individual assessments of participants. Constructing large test banks among other things would be appropriate. Such tests should provide reasonably varied and validated items, with at least face validity, and be arranged topically or by generally agreed-to learning objectives. Such tools would permit users to assess game impact on each participant in relation to instructor-defined intentions. This would allow for ease of use in constructing parallel forms for use in pretesting and posttesting by instructors. A major fieldwide effort should be undertaken to collect data on test administration so we could develop profiles for specific simulations and exercises. If the data suggest a given simulation or exercise does what it purports to do, that would be a good enough beginning for now. We need to develop standards of reasonableness.
“Literature Review in Games and Learning” – John Kirriemuir et al
Teachers and parentsrecognised that games play can supportvaluable skill development, such as:
• strategic thinking
• application of numbers
• negotiating skills
• group decision-making
Digital games are clearly an important part of most young people’s lives today. Recent figures suggest that nearly 70% of children play computer games every week, and mobile games play is increasingly common, with 68% of children playing games on their phone every week (Facer 2001).
Central to the argument about what video games offer to learning is Gee’s assertion that semiotic domains are shared by groups of people, described as ‘affinity groups’, sharing knowledge, skills, tools and resources to form complex systems of interrelated parts. Within an affinity group, learners gain resources from fellow members that equip them to solve problems within, and perhaps outside of, the specific domain – and this is evidence of ‘active learning’.
What is key to most research into games and learning outside school, then, is a sense that playing computer games is encouraging young people to learn indifferent ways from those often in evidence, or explicitly valued, in the school setting.
“From Gaming to Training: A Review of Studies on Fidelity, Immersion, Presence, and Buy-in and Their Effects onTransfer in PC-Based Simulations and Games” – Amy Alexander et al.
• Gaming technology is often designed for distributed use over the internet or local area network. Thus, military trainees worldwide can use this technology to simultaneously play required training scenarios.
• Gaming technology often provides trainers with control over the scenarios, as do lightweight simulators.
• Like simulators, games have the capacity to emulate the real world, and so provide opportunities to train with some realism, but out of harms way.
• Both game technology and lightweight simulations can be implemented in a low-cost manner and allow for wide usability and private development.
The objective of training using games and simulators, of course, is to achieve greater positive transfer than slower, more costly, or more dangerous training methods, often relying on real-world technologies.
In a military education setting (Woodman, personal correspondence), two groups of military officers participated in a training exercise in two virtual environments in which aspects of command and control were to be practiced. The first was a realistic WWII-era military environment, while the second environment was based on the modern military. While the underlying training goals and design were the same, participants argued that the WWII environment was not adequate for training because it did not correspond to their experience. Assuming that the resource capabilities and communications apparatus were exact analogs between the two conditions, the identity of the enemy and the characteristics of the avatar uniforms should have no bearing on training impact. Still, these characteristics were important to the participants, and these seemingly small details could prove to be big impediments to training.
Based on our literature review, there is high potential for lightweight simulations, particularly those based on MMPG technology, to be effective mechanisms for military training because they can replicate the critical realworld elements. This is especially true for training the cognitive skills required for tasks, the coordination and communication among team members, and the strategic aspects of many tasks.
“THE EFFECTIVENESS OF INSTRUCTIONAL GAMES: LITERATURE REVIEW AND DISCUSSION” – Robert T. Hays
Instructors should view instructional games as adjuncts and aids to help support instructional objectives. Learners should be provided with debriefing and feedback that clearly explains how their experiences with the game help them meet these instructional objectives.
“Games in Schools” – Paul Pivec & Maja Pivec
This report summarizes the available literature in the field of game-based learning and specifically how it relates to teaching in the classroom…For the purpose of this report, 42 major studies in the field of Game-Based Learning (GBL) over the past 20 years were reviewed….These reports cite publications such as Menn (1993), who argues that only 50% of what is watched is learnt, 90% of what is experienced is mastered, and Prensky (2006), who suggests that students will soon be teaching themselves. Levy and Murnane (2004) suggests that although schools focus on topics such as math and literacy, soft skills like communication, collaboration, and problem solving are not taught and these are skills that industry requires. Klopfer (2008) advocates education games as a method for teaching soft skills by allowing the students to experience learning through role-play and games. This teaching methodology is known as constructivism and Game-Based Learning is situated in the constructivist arena. One of the main barriers to the introduction of video games into the curriculum is the ability of the teacher to integrate the game into the topic. Egenfeldt-Nielsen (2006) concludes that the role of the teacher is crucial in achieving the learning outcomes from GBL, be it declarative or affective.
“Classification of learning outcomes: evidence from the computer games literature” – Harold F. O’Neil et al
While effectiveness of game environments can be documented in terms of intensity and longevity of engagement (participants voting with their money or time), as well as the commercial success of the games, there is much less solid information about what outcomes are systematically achieved by the use of individual and multiplayer games to train participants in acquiring knowledge and skills.
In terms of goals, however, games and simulations differ. With games, once a goal is achieved, it cannot be repeated without intentionally reverting to a prior game state or restarting the game, that is, the flow of a game must be purposefully interrupted. In a game comprising multiple goals, achievement of one goal results in commencement of work toward the next goal or set of goals. Therefore, with games, the goal structure is linear. In contrast, simulations have non-linear goal structures. With simulations, the goal is to achieve a desired output state or simply to examine output states, based on the manipulation of input variables. Once the goal is achieved, the player can continually make modifications to the input variables, examining their effect on the output. Therefore, because this process can be repeated as often as desired, the goal structure of a simulation is non-linear. Our position is that games themselves are not sufficient for learning, but there areelements in games that can be activated within an instructional context that mayenhance the learning process (Garris et al., 2002). In other words, outcomes areaffected by the instructional strategies employed (Wolfe, 1997).
“The Claims of Games: A Comprehensive Review and Directions for Future Research” – Punya Mishra et al
Educational games have become the lightning rod for learning and preparing a future skilled workforce. Both the people, who argue against and for games agree that learning is possible, but what is learned is another issue….We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of existing research as well as point to areas for future research. In particular, we draw attention to the lack of attention paid to the demands of subject matter and argue for a greater emphasis on the development of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) in the design of learning games.
New York Times reporter, Thompson (2006) noted that games are a force in society for making people personally become experienced about issues that demands their attention, but he also questions if it trivializes important causes. In his interview of games proponents such as Henry Jenkins and Ben Sawyer, they warn against claims because research in game-based studies are so fragmented, though some good results have been documented. Games may afford a lot claims for learning that have been argued, however, empirical studies in authentic settings needs to be done so that these claims are validated. Like Squire (2002), Williams (2004), the review by Mitchell & Savill-Smith (2004) and Jenkins (Thompson, 2006) indicates, more and better research is needed in game-based learning….Without appropriate research and methods, games for learning will not advance because there would be no way to assess the effectiveness for learning and preparing students for innovative jobs of value.