Media and Learning 2011

The impact of games and media-rich simulations on learning

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What makes gaming successful in a learning context? Join the debate as our panelists try to answer the following questions:

- Is it correct to expect the same type of learning outcome from a digital game as from a more traditional learning activity?

- What's the best way to assess learning impact from a digital game?

Moderator: Lizzy Bleumers, IBBT-SMIT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium


Steven Malliet

This discussion space is all about the impact that games and media-rich simulations can have on learning. Join the discussion to answer the following questions:

  • Is it correct to expect the same type of learning outcome from a digital game as from a more traditional learning activity?
  • What's the best way to assess learning impact from a digital game?
Lizzy Bleumers

Part of the complexity is that there is a wide variety of approaches to assess impact. This includes variation in terms of data collection (survey, experiments, …), how learning itself is understood (behaviorist, constructivist, situated), when to assess, level of assessment (micro-, meso-, macro), who does the assessment (peers and/or instructors). Can we somehow get to a systematic overview of these assessment practices, identify best practices, standard approaches that can be adopted across projects? Do you know of resources trying to provide such an overview?


Unfortunately, from my perspective, we have to assess learning two different ways. We do have to assess real, actual learning (short and long term recall, transfer across context, novel construction of new ideas, etc) to get an idea of how actually effective games are at teaching. However, in the world in which we live, we also have to assess using the tools of traditional, didactic teaching such as standardized testing or increase in GPA, since it's these traditional methods that games will be compared against (and largely compared against unfavorably, I would think).

Lizzy Bleumers

With this panel now over, I would like to thank again all the participants. With Joannes Verbeke not able to make it (due to unexpected circumstances), we had to improvise a bit and held a more open discussion on game-based learning. Many relevant elements were raised that deserve further elaboration. Hence, I thought it would be useful to briefly summarize them here.
The discussion started with thinking about what it is about a game that makes it suitable for learning. Several characteristics were mentioned such as: they can present engaging narrative and visuals, they put the learner in the role of an actor that needs to make decisions which affect the outcome of the game, they allow us to fail without strong repercussions, …
The discussion then moved more in the direction of issues related to using games and media-rich simulations in the classroom. Here, it was pointed out that awareness of the many digital tools that are out there and being able to select appropriate tools presents a great challenge. However, other factors were also referred to such as the time frame of a class period, ICT expertise, didactic know-how, … A need expressed by teachers to know how to combine the use of digital tools with traditional assessment, which Brian Grey refers to above, is another pertinent illustration. It led to the provocative question: Should game play take place in the classroom?
Something that was emphasized was that games might not be the solution for all. Some learners may simply not be fundamentally interested in games. The point was raised that it might be better to allow students to decide which resources they would find meaningful to use in the context of learning goals.
Finally, it was considered how involving students and those supporting them in game making holds an added value: they are encouraged to reflect on how to create a logical system and on how their peers/learners will deal with the game (system). Relatedly, involving students and teachers in the creation of a game concept intended for them might help make it more suitable for their context of use.
Overlooking the whole discussion, a returning theme appeared to be that we need to also look at learning as a process, rather than a set of outcomes. This poses its own challenge to impact assessment. The gathering of learning analytics as it is done in the Eedu game present an approach to addressing this.

Mathy Vanbuel

On this page I found an interesting article on the prosocial learning effects of video games.

14 - 15 November 2011 Flemish Ministry of Education Headquarters, Brussels
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