By Josh Yavelberg, PhD

 Over the past decade I have been experimenting with game-based learning (GBL) and gamification in my classrooms and learning designs. These are two different concepts, but both emphasize the power of games in education. I am also not interested in edutainment. Though learning should have an element of fun, I find that skill and knowledge development often take hard work, failure, and frustration. It is in the mechanics (gamification) of the learning design that we can encourage learners to push through these challenges toward successful outcomes. 

Sententia Gamification LogoLast week I attended the Sententia Gamification Level 3 Master Craftsman Certification retreat. This is actually my second time attending this training, but the first time attending it with a goal in mind. Last year’s class included some great talents for gamification and this year was no different. Sententia Gamification has a knack for pulling together a strong network of minds around the topic of games in education and training. This network has managed to stay together and grow, and I hope to assist with this growth as I become a certified trainer for the gamification program over the next couple of weeks. 

Last year I was asked to attend the level 3 retreat as an intern and came out with a bold concept for reinventing speaker training for the association which I was employed. While that vision has yet to be implemented, this year I went in with the desire to further develop the game/simulation concept that I have for the art history survey course. I guarantee that there will be more information forthcoming regarding this design, but for now I must digress from the specifics until the design moves to a formal prototype and testing.

What I do wish to speak about is the importance of gamification and game-based learning right now. It is a hot topic, gathering a lot of buzz and for good reason. Michael Sutton and Carlos Jorge just published an article, “Potential for radical change in Higher Education learning spaces after the pandemic” (2020) that delves into the importance of this topic given the current reliance on distant learning and the total lack of preparation by the education industry to manage online learning. In face-to-face classrooms, experiential learning rules as king over most many other teaching strategies, but in the digital world, the closest strategy that we have is game-based learning. So, while the education system adapts to distance education and the extended toolkit that digital media provides, perhaps there will be a paradigm shift in face-to-face learning that incorporates lessons learned from the virtual space. 

In an effort to contribute to the growing community of practice focused on the issues of games in education whether it be game-based learning, gamification, simulations, or serious games, I started a Zotero group to collectively share the research that is being developed in this field. I shared my body of research, but in doing so, I already found more books on Amazon that I would like to purchase that extend the growing body of literature in this area. Also, if your organization is interested to know more about the power of games to boost your learning outcomes, please feel free to reach out to us and we will be happy to help you develop a learning strategy that engages and grows your return on investment.