Serious Games and e-Learning

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What are different approaches to the development of e-learning solutions in the  emerging ‘serious games’ sector? What are their potential effectiveness and commercial sustainability? The article explains learning based on serious games that considers and contrasts the current practices of customised project based e-earning package development against emerging web 2.0 solutions based on end user empowerment and customisation. It also examines the implications for learning management systems (LMS) and some of the issues which will need to be addressed by emerging serious games.

Serious Games has only recently emerged as a result of a combination of the popularity and engaging qualities of computer games and the development of affordable broadband communications, wireless connectivity and 3D imaging and rendering technologies. Serious Games or Games Based Learning (GBL) leverage the power of computer games technologies and methodologies to captivate and engage end-users for a specific purpose such as to develop new knowledge and skills. Electronic games of all types have, from the beginning, helped to develop motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination, spatial awareness, memory and lateral thinking, but their use and evaluation for specific learning tasks is relatively new and are stimulating further research on their role in education. Serious Games can also enable learners to undertake tasks and experience situations which would otherwise be impossible and undesirable for cost, time, logistical and safety reasons. Flight simulators, business games, health and safety simulations and military exercises make good examples in this direction.

‘Games can engage, entertain and educate’

Serious Games offer learning experiences which engage the user and, through the use of compelling storylines, drama, characterisation and humour encourage learners to persist at learning tasks, experiment with new approaches and develop higher levels of cognitive thinking. Serious Games can also incorporate data tracking to support trainer assessment to high levels of detail and provide tools for self-assessment and analysis. Early “edutainment” applications of the quiz game, “Who want to be a millionaire?” genre were designed to teach facts but, except for primary education, have largely failed. Such applications were relatively easy to incorporate into LMS and be made SCORM compliant but the present and future generation serious games have much more complex learning objectives and present greater challenges to standards compliance and learning management systems.

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