I am not an academic neither an (E)Learning expert or creative designer, so I understand I find myself at risk of being criticized by experts in the field. I am a generalist and I know what excellence looks like. Working in education for the last 12 years, I have seen many shifts, many trends, many pioneers but many more slow adopters. I will address some observations and above all some pitfalls that I have experienced myself. For those who wish to praise, criticize, question or debate, please send your comments to me via your latest VR appliance.
We still face some ambiguity between knowing and really understanding what blended and online learning means for an educational institute and what elements and techniques makes a good online program. The potential impact online education has on learning outcomes is tenfold, for example:
Validation of examinations
The positioning of the school
The role of the teacher or online facilitator
Overall, what and when is an online or blended approach good, great, better or complimentary for a traditional institute?
These questions and challenges in the educational landscape are not so new; Covid-19 has just accelerated our game. A situation in which some faculty members must feel a “game over” scenario threatening unless they embrace personal development and change.
Active learning techniques trump traditional
One of the most important shifts is that we believe there is a need to move from a traditional teaching approach to a constructivist role. We have been moving away from information transformation and traditional acquisition-models, to engage students by enforcing critical thinking, problem- or project -solving, collaboration and self-directed learning.
In environments where this approach is respected, students benefit from an active learning experience and have the ability to create relevant connections between study content (knowledge and skills) and the real world (application and creation). These learning environments request educators to explore new tools that match the learning materials and to think critically if assignments are inherent to real-life scenarios. In class, but above all in online education, it seems that virtual reality and gamification techniques are able to comprehend this need.
Why gamification in education works
VR originates from the game industry and, in general, game environments are supportive in empowering the learner, problem-solving and understanding complex situations (Gee, 2015). VR and games help to enhance the student’s motivation and engagement, even without having the presence of an educator. Ouch, will avatars replace teachers?
I do not think it will be that drastic. However, we need to acknowledge that within a virtual world, users understand, create, analyze and recognize information better and quicker. Due to this immersion, the memorization and evaluation of information is more stimulated. It also helps to apply information in a new context and to create new relevant connections with other theories and settings (Connectivism theory, Bush, 2006).
Immersion in “real life situations” stimulates the feeling of being “present”. Inherent, through VR or realistic games, students can participate in test environments on a smaller scale and learn by doing, which is not always possible in traditional class environments. Overall, it helps that with the use of reality games or VR settings, our emotional multi sensors are stimulated (see, hear, feel, smell) which have a positive impact on the overall learning experience. (Bohil, et al. 2011).
Gamification and VR also benefits the relationship to ongoing movements in education. It enhances Social learning, as VR and games allow multiple students to communicate and engage with each other. It is very much suitable for distance learning, as it allows bridging between educators and learners, and between learners and other learners. It allows a seamless integration of formal and informal learningthrough play. In addition, when data collecting is supported, it offers an instant possibility to monitor brain activity directly via imagining and direct recording. Data, which in turn help withmeasuring direct-learning outcomes and which will give us better insights in how actual learning takes place (Bohil, et al. 2011).
Implementing gamification and VR in education: what does it take?
These developments in our learning environments and inherent the use of technology like gamification and VR do require a tremendous shift in the role of teachers in classic institutes.
First, it requires confidence and a mindset shift. As students work through complex scenarios, they need mentoring, coaching and facilitation much more than you think. Regardless the level of your course, it is no longer enough to just rely on the delivery of content.
Educators should question their own game-readiness and enhance their own skills within this field. This does not mean that teachers need to become game developers. However, some form of understanding of how story-lines in games can assist with the (re)formatting of study content, with problem-solving, - social, - group- learning, and how it could add new methods to measure learning outcomes, are a mandate if you want to increase your number of virtual lives remaining in the real-life world of online education.