December, 2011

How Serious Games Help You Learn

Learning by doing is one of the oldest ways that businesses, agencies and organizations train new staff and those promoting into new areas of responsibility. The problem with this traditional type of training is that it takes a lot of time, costs a lot of money and there will always be real world errors and mistakes that occur.  A much better way to teach and learn new material is through simulations and serious games that cut teaching time, decrease cost and protect both the company and the learner from the stress of real world mistakes during training.

Although online game playing may be seen as a fun and engaging type of learning experience, it is actually a very effective way to teach any type of process or specific procedure. By enacting the procedure or process online in a virtual world, the brain learns what to do and in what sequence. This type of cognitive learning via simulations and 3D serious games is one of the hallmarks of various types of flight training for both military and commercial pilots. These types of serious games and immersive learning simulations provide both short term measurable changes in performance, as well as very long term improvement and sustainability of the learned behavior.

Through the use of a variety of different possible outcomes based on learner choices, there is also a very effective multiple pathway learning option. Dynamic learning, which is based on real time decision making and possible outcomes, is highly effective in decision making and policy setting type of practice. However, for more specific process and procedure learning objectives, the learning pathway is one way or linear – very sequential and structured. This type of learning is important in field work as well as in logistical and management functions that include accuracy, accountability and ethical practices. Both types of learning are easy achieved through the models provided with digital game-based learning as opposed to traditional lectures and discussions.

The old style of learning that included reading text, possibly watching a video or listening to a lecture on the subject doesn’t have the immersion factor that training simulations and 3D serious games easily provide. The learners are engaged in the process, having fun and using the types of gaming technology that they already associate with relaxation, social learning and role playing. Unlike online gaming, serious games have a more structured approach with specific learning outcomes and goals. In addition, the game is controlled by well defined rules under which the learner operates in the simulation. The simulation also follows set rules which mirror the responses that the learner will see in the real world based on the respective decisions they make in the game.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of serious games and learner comfort has to do with the lack of stress on the learner during the exercise. There is no fear of making a catastrophic mistake or saying the wrong thing to a customer or client. Within the virtual, yet also private, serious game setting the learner can experiment and try out different options for responses without any fear of embarrassment. Since learners get the opportunity to discover why a choice is better or less effective, learning is much more complete and well developed from a theoretical as well as practical aspect.