Powering the Global Education Conversation: About edCircuit

Game-Based Learning

Altering the Educator’s Perception

The broader implications of gaming are becoming prevalent in many sectors today. In education, there is a growing interest in the ways game mechanics can inform pedagogy to make learning more authentic and engaging.

Karl Kapp, a longtime industry leader in the world of gaming and education, recently spoke with me about the state of the union in gaming and the steps necessary to alter the perception of game-based learning in the eyes of educators.

Our conversation follows a panel I moderated in which I was intrigued by Karl’s insightful points. The event, titled “Game-based Learning in Higher Ed: Interactive technology drives new ways of learning,” took place at the DeVry University Freemont Campus in Freemont, California and was hosted by Adtalem Global Education.

The panel included Karl Kapp, Gamification Analyst and Professor at Bloomsburg University; André Thomas, the founder of LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University and CEO of Triseum; and Jim Kiggens, the Director of Engage Learning Technology at Adtalem Global Education, whom I previously interviewed as well.


Dr. Berger:  Karl, a couple of weeks ago we had the privilege of spending time out in California as part of the Adtalem Global Education panel on an event around game-based learning. You were part of quite a stellar panel and discussion. For me, it was just nice to play part in facilitating some of that conversation. Let’s just start with that.

What surprised you in that conversation? What was uplifting to you? What solidified some of your perspective?

I think that when you have thought leaders like yourself ─ and we’ll talk about your new book and your LinkedIn course ─ you can be zoned in on all the elements that you’re doing. To rub shoulders with the other Karl Kapps of the world can be a good thing for advancing ideas that you may or may not know inside your own mind.

Karl Kapp: Absolutely. The exciting for me from that event was the different perspectives. You had André, whose perspective was “Hey, I’ve got this company. I’m creating learning games. I’m out there trying to prophesize about learning games to colleges.” Then, we had Adtalem that was actually doing some learning games and implementing them.

It was really great to both confirm a lot of what I’ve been thinking about games and what I’ve discovered in the research, and also learn new ways or techniques that they’re trying to use get into the courses and trying to get people to use. To be with people who are pushing the envelope in game-based learning was really exciting.

DB: Do you think that there’s a need to beef up on the knowledge for those who develop and innovate around games so they understand the culture where they’re trying to disperse their games? So that there is awareness?

A topic that came up in that discussion in San Francisco was “How do we help folks understand that it does take money to build incredible and immersive learning experiences through games? It takes the collaboration of curriculum providers and creators.”

There are a lot of people at the table and we get so excited about the technology that we miss a very key component. Where are you on that?

KK: When you think about educating people on using games for learning, people tend to follow the same educational path and have the paradigms that they grew up with.

A lot of people grew up with lecture-based learning from kindergarten all the way up to college and beyond. Our job as innovators trying to push game-based learning is to remember that it’s not just about the game. It’s about the culture. It’s about how to implement it into a system. It’s about making sure that the instructors are comfortable with it. It’s making sure that parents are comfortable with it. It’s making sure that even the learners are comfortable with it. Just because you’re a millennial, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to love learning from games.

DB: It’s not in their DNAs specifically.

KK: So we have to say, “Look, here’s what you’re going to learn when you encounter this game. Here’s why game-based learning is important. Here are some things and some value that you can do.”

And the other important thing to think about is that, a lot of times, people see a game like Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune and they say, “I know what learning games are all about. It’s pretty simple. Just ask questions and you get points.”

To move the needle, you need games that really engage the learner at higher levels than just recalling knowledge. We need them to make critical and important decisions in that game environment. I think that part of the problem is that people say, “Yes, I know what a game is. It’s Jeopardy.”

But that’s not really what it can be. That’s one element, but what it can be is so much bigger. And our job is to educate lots of people ─ administrators, faculty members, students, parents. The whole ecosystem needs to be moved in a direction more toward understanding and appreciating game-based learning.

DB: Karl, tell me if you agree with this. If we look at education, the real drivers are often the publishers of the materials in which we all experience education, be it K-12 or higher ed.

Do we need to bring to the table the publishers with game-based learning creators and innovators to have something that is a little bit more than a five-yard gain in a football game?

If we’re going to proliferate the market with materials that demonstrate and illustrate the benefits of an engaging style of learning ─ game-based learning ─ do we need to leverage their market share in that way?

We know that behind closed doors they’re looking to be relevant as well, because we’re not in a paper-based society anymore.

KK: I think you’ve got two options. One option is to usurp the publishers and try to do an end around. It’s interesting that if look at that panel, there weren’t publishers involved.

So Adtalem is doing its own thing. André is doing his own thing with his company, trying to find publishers but not really working with them. I think if we really look at it, there’s this disruptive opportunity to go around publishers.

Having said that, getting into schools is a large mountain to climb. And the publishers have already done it. They’re in schools. They’ve got the textbooks. They’ve got the relationships. They’ve got the resources.

So it would be ideal if they would take the baton of game-based learning seriously and really put that forth as a way to get that concept into more and more schools, more and more areas, more and more relationships.

A little bit in the defense of the publishers, they’re selling what sells, right? So, textbooks still sell. Online learning modules don’t sell. So they’re going to keep up with those until they find something else. And that’s why there’s this disruptive path. At least get them to wake up and say, “Oh my goodness, you’re right. We need to also publish games for learning and here’s how we can do that.”

I think there’s a two-pronged approach to that happening. If you can get publishers in a room and talk to them and get them on board to understand the value, it could work really well.

It reminds me a little of the pharmaceutical industry, where a lot of pharmaceutical companies no longer research for drugs. They buy these startups and then they integrate the startup into the organization. I think that would be a smart move by the publishers.

DB: Let’s talk a little bit about the content. I think for people who aren’t knee-deep in it or experts in the field, their question is always around the rigor and relevance of a game. And if we’re talking about publishers and content, give us the ten-thousand-foot view on where we are in integrating in the education field into the components of a game beyond the technology or the UI or the UX?

KK: One of the interesting things is that the gold standard of instruction is this classroom lecture thing. We know from a lot of research that classroom lecture doesn’t work. In fact, the amount of time people spend in problem solving and lectures is less than five percent. It’s pretty scary what we use as the gold standard.

Having said that, games ─ if they’re designed correctly ─ can help you with lots of different things.

Certainly, knowledge is one thing but we can get into problem solving. We can get into critical thinking with games. We can get into trading off of resources. We can get in adaptive learning, the freedom to fail, the understanding of alternative methods of coming to your end goal. There are a lot of different instructional values of games beyond just content.

Content is really important but we live in a world where we don’t need to memorize anything. We get that with Google. We can look up anything that we want to.

So what’s really critical now is critical thinking. Is it real news or is it fake news? We need to be able to understand, “I only have so much time in a day or so many resources. What am I going to do?” And games allow you to explore those types of avenues as they’re related to the content.

For example, Adtalem’s doing something with a crime scene investigation. In order for a student to go to a crime scene ─ that’s not really done very much. It’s not comfortable. But you can do a virtual crime scene and you can log the evidence. You can look for clues. You can talk to certain people.

So all those kinds of experiences that you can take to your actual situation, then, and that experience translates into actually using that knowledge in other areas.

So you don’t have to just be constricted to knowledge. You can get to higher levels of thinking. And if we think of what colleges need to do in the future to remain relevant, they need to provide learners with really rich experiences so that when they go into the field and they can hit the ground right away. They can’t say, “Yes, theoretically, in class, we discussed how you would handle a crime scene.” They could say, “Look, I was at a crime scene, a virtual one, and here’s what we did.”

I think that really provides the element of authenticity that’s often lacking in some educational experience.

DB:  You’ve got your new book that just came out. You’ve got a new course up on LinkedIn Learning. Talk about how you think ─ we’re making you a bit of a forecaster here. But how is the audience?

The people who are going to be picking up your book today, the people who are going to be signing up for your course, how have they changed and how has the change in your mind in the audience impacted the way in which you share your own knowledge?

KK:  That’s a really great question. When I first started talking about games and gamification for learning over a decade ago, the questions were “Do games work? Is this really a good way to teach? Do people really learn this way?”

And what’s happened over the years was people were no longer asking does-it-work questions but “How do I make it work?”

We’ve seen lots of research about games compared to classrooms but what we really need to talk about is “When a game really works well for learning, what makes it work? Why is it so effective? And how do we integrate it into our instructional design?”

The book and the course on LinkedIn Learning really are about “how to.” How do you make this work? How do you make it happen? We know it will work. We know it can happen.

But when you really look at how to make a higher-level game work or even taking a commercial game like Pandemic or Sim City and using that in a classroom to help students understand tradeoffs and resource management. All that kind of stuff really can be valuable.

And so, what has changed is the thinking away from “It doesn’t work” to “How do I make it work effectively and how do I integrate it into my teaching?”

DB: You always make me think, Karl. I appreciate that. Let’s let the audience know where they can find your book and your course.

KK:  The book is available on Amazon. Go on Amazon and search for Play to Learn by Karl Kapp. And if you go to LinkedIn Learning or Lynda.com and search for Gamification of Learning or Gamification for Interactive Learning ─ I have two gamification courses on there. One just came out. This is Level 2 so you have Level 1 then you reach Level 2.

Those are some good places. You can see me on my website at karlkapp.com or at Twitter @kkapp. Follow me there. I love to have people follow me.

About Karl Kapp

Karl Kapp, Gamification, is an analyst, published author and assistant director and faculty member at Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies (IIT).

Karl M. Kapp, EdD, is a scholar, writer, and expert on the convergence of games, learning, and technology. Karl received his doctorate of education in instructional design at the University of Pittsburgh, and is an award-winning professor of instructional technology at Bloomsburg University, in Bloomsburg, PA. Karl consults with learning technology companies and advises Fortune 500 companies on the use of gamification and game-based strategies for transferring knowledge to employees.

Karl has consulted with public and private organizations and has worked internationally on several serious games and gamification projects. He was co-principal investigator on two National Science Foundation grants and is a board member of several start-up companies. Karl has written six books, including the best-selling learning book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction and its accompanying how-to book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Theory into Practice.

As a grant writer, Karl has written grants worth millions of dollars, acting as both an individual lead grant writer and as part of a collaborative writing team working together to create a winning submission. He’s secured funding from Federal agencies, state agencies, universities, foundations and corporations.

Karl has been interviewed for, and published articles in, Training, ATD’s T&D, Knowledge Management, Distance Learning, PharmaVOICE, Forbes Online, Mashable, Huffington Post and has appeared on television and radio programs concerning his work with learning, technology, and game-based design. He blogs at the popular Kapp Notes website and is a frequent international keynote speaker, workshop leader, moderator, and consultant. He has been called a “Rock Star” of elearning by eLearn Magazine.

Follow Karl Kapp on Twitter

This article was originally published in the Huffington Post

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