Feb 27 2013

Does Gaming Have a (Valuable) Place on College Campuses?

Video games bring new life to learning materials.

There is a case to be made for the gamification of learning on campus, but is there a place for Xbox and Playstation? Opinions differ, but a company called Brainworth is building an online education platform within a video game. According to the company, video games are the best way to teach students how to program video games of the future:

“One-on-one education is so much better than classroom based learning, but we don’t have 7 billion people to tutor the other 7 billion on the planet,” the company’s campaign page reads. “We turned to the best one-on-one experience available – video games – and we’re using them to make education much more efficient and enjoyable.”

Through game mechanics and social psychology, Brainworth is able to keep students engaged, sharing, and learning. Each HTML5 web-game produced by Brainworth will be equivalent to a 13 week university course, according to the company, and will teach players to develop games through playing them.

Read Brainworth Takes to Kickstarter to Fund Video Game-Based Higher Education on PandoDaily.

Video Games on Campus

Some universities, such as Penn State, are already blending video-game learning into their curriculum. They created the Educational Gaming Commons within their central technology unit. The team works with professors to integrate gaming into the classroom and manages a gaming lab, stocked with HDTVs, gaming PCs, and Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Wii consoles. Students as well as professors appreciate this unique resource and the innovative ideas coming from the lab:

Some professors choose to teach with games that many students already know and love. Two professors from the School of Music, Ann Clements and Tom Cody, have worked with EGC (Educational Gaming Commons) staff to use the pop-cultural hit "Guitar Hero World Tour" to teach music instruction in Music 112 (Intro to Guitar Techniques). The online interactive game "Second Life" has also been used as a way to teach a range of topics, from Spanish language skills to information security.

But, games aren’t meant to replace real life. Rather, the situations that games simulate prepare students for situations they might encounter in the workplace.

“I don’t ever view games as a replacement for traditional teaching techniques,” [EGC project manager Chris] Stubbs explained, “we think of games as a tool in a toolbox. It’s something you have the opportunity to use.”

Read Gaming unlocks a new style of learning at Penn State on Penn State News.

Are Video Games a Substitute for Textbooks?

It may seem like a no-brainer to teach video-game programmers with video games, but the possibilities extend far beyond this niche. Many professors are finding value in digital learning materials, such as video and interactive e-books. Video games bring digital learning to a whole new level:

At some point, engineering professor Brianno Coller realized he didn't like slogging through dry math problems as an instructor any more than he had as a student. So he thought about what could liven things up -- animation! interactivity! -- and it hit him: video games.

He designed one, and now his third-year students at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb build virtual race cars, complete with roaring engines and screeching tires, that must maneuver an increasingly challenging course. Along the way, they're exposed to computational math, a basic building block of engineering.

"I use games to, in some sense, throw away the textbook," says Coller, 42, who played Lunar Lander and other video games as a kid. "My philosophy is that learning can be a burdensome chore or it can be an interesting journey."

Read Video games hit higher level of U.S. education on USA Today.

How do you think video games can be integrated into learning? Let us know in the Comments section.


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