What if our entire education system was based on games? Wouldn’t that be fun? Game-based learning and training is used already in aviation, healthcare and medical industry. Is it long that game-based learning is used regularly in India schools?
When do we learn? If the learning process used is dull, students will not be able to gain any information and skills which can help them in the real world scenario. Learning doesn’t mean rote memorisation, but the process through which you understand how to apply the skills and knowledge you have to solve real-life problems.
How do we progress in a game? Our mind observes and experiments with the new system in a series of trial and error. Gradually, we learn what we should do and what we should avoid. As our mind is trained, it deciphers how this new system works, and we are able to climb the levels in the game. Thus, all kinds of games are learning processes, be it casual gaming for pure fun such as playing World of Warcraft, or something serious such as an FAA-approved flight stimulator to train pilots.
(Read: Use of technology in education: Myth vs reality)
Since the population of urban game players is increasing all over the world, the implications of how the gaming structure can be used to train our minds cannot be ignored. Games designed specifically for the purpose of educating children can motivate self learning and problem-solving skills to a great extent.
India Today Education spoke to Beas Dev Ralhan, CEO & Co-founder, Next Education India Pvt. Ltd., a company which is working on game-based learning programmes that can change the way people learn, on the various ways game-based learning can transform the education process to give far better results.
The following are the main benefits of game-based learning and education:
1. Boosts motivation and self-learning
Perhaps the biggest problem that teachers face all over the world is keeping students interested and motivated in their studies. Without motivation, thousands of students, especially from rural or economically lower backgrounds drop out from school every year. But when education becomes game-based, it motivates the students to complete their tasks. This is the focal area that researchers in this field are working on.
“Boredom can kill a learner’s interest; they need motivation to carry on,” says Ralhan. “Gamification takes away the stress that is so typical of a classroom. Positive learning memories help retains concepts better,” he adds.
The reward system in games can be used very well from the education perspective. In game-based learning, you get to progress instantly as you learn and understand certain concepts and begin to apply them. There is a constant reward system as you work. “This process based on incentives keeps the learners motivated. Contrary to the deferred gratification obtained through end-term exams, games ensure instant gratification,” Ralhan says.
2. Gives you the choice of what to learn
A very important aspect of game-based education is that students can choose what they learn. If the children are MADE to play a certain game, it will have no learning benefits. “Research validates this point because when students can choose what they learn, they take up an active rather than a passive role in their own education. They ask more questions, solve problems faster, learn more effectively; in short, they push themselves harder because they choose what they learn,” explains Ralhan.
3. Develops non-cognitive skills
In traditional classroom settings, especially in India, not much attention is paid to building non-cognitive skills like patience, motivation, self-control and perseverance. However, for children to succeed in later life, these non-cognitive skills are just as important as intelligence.
“In multiplayer games catering to students from various schools, when students are allowed to select their school from those listed on the platform and participate in the activities as a representative of that school, it helps in building their communication and social skills,” says Ralhan, adding, “Such multi-player games are better suited to fulfill all these needs than a classroom.”
4. Brings out collective potential
Human beings are said to function better in a network; however, traditional learning processes rarely help us understand the benefits of collective learning and intelligence. Ralhan says, “Besides harnessing the wisdom of many, online games reduce the risk of communal grouping. This is a platform which could bring out more potential in a supposedly average individual than what others might even be aware of.”
“Online games foster development, interaction, collaboration and engagement of students, thereby promoting collective intelligence and developing social skills,” he adds.
5. Allows students to judge their own potential in a wider peer group
In game-based learning which is implemented amongst a vast audience, the students can understand where they stand among their peers from all over the world. Learners can challenge other learners on various subjects and topics, thus understanding their potential level as compared to other people from their own school, country or around the world.
“Without establishing the real-time development of learners, no gaming can ever be beneficial. With this process, the student would not just gain knowledge, which is abstract in itself, but also understand where he stands among his peers, which is more important in the practical world,” says Ralhan.
6. Highly benefits students with special learning needs
Special learning needs of struggling students can learn faster and more easily through game-based learning as it is adaptive to new learning techniques and technologies.
“Each learner has their own learning needs, and a one-size-fits-all kind of a teaching methodology cannot address the needs of every student. This is all the more true for students with dyslexia or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) whose cognition is perceived as different rather than weak,” says Ralhan.
7. Works as a replacement for skill development and relearning programmes
Today, we have advanced technologies available such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (AR) that can help train a person without the need for skill development programmes.
Beas Ralhan also speaks about the great potential of game-based learning in the relearning industry. In certain scenarios, where formal methods of training are not effective, game-based learning combined with other methodologies can show benefits.
“‘Serious gaming’ as a concept aims to achieve definite learning outcomes,” he says, “A game immerses a learner in the gaming environment, thereby ensuring a first-hand active learning.”
How to implement game-based education
“The aim of an educational institution should be all-round development of learners, and gaming is an important means of attaining that. However, we do need to be careful about the techniques we employ to facilitate gaming in school premises,” says Beas Ralhan.
Games cannot replace all kinds of learning
“Teaching using fun graphics, wherein concepts are hidden and can be learned, might work for students of class 1, but is not a realistic methodology for higher grades,” Ralhan explains.
For example, the background of a maths problem, hidden in the course of a story in a textbook or within a video module, might be a fun process, but ultimately, a student still has to solve the particular maths problem using certain mathematical techniques that do need to be learned. “The end result to aim for is learning a concept or gaining a skill. If gaming is just about having a fancy background, in no way can it motivate or benefit a kid,” he says.
Gamification can be used for home learning
Large scale game-based education is still too expensive a prospect for most Indian schools. However, Ralhan says, “Games implemented on a social learning platform can make a kid’s learning process at home more engaging.”
The CEO of Next Education spoke about LearnNext, a self-learning platform which has a point and level system. Here, students supplement their education by watching educational videos and taking part in discussions or question-answer session to go to higher levels.
“One of the primary aims of educators is to seamlessly integrate the classroom experience with the learning experience at home. Thanks to the many zero-cost games being developed in today’s world, game-based learning is helping students develop their social skills. There are a couple of games which are costly, but the advantages would far outweigh the costs,” says Ralhan.
Game-based learning is already being used in aviation, military and healthcare industries. As development cost decrease and more data is gathered on what works and what does not, can we expect game-based education to take over the world?