Game based learning, an engaging way to build knowledge and skills

  • 5 minutes read

I noticed that board games are very engaging for the players. Participating at friendly game nights I saw everybody was on board and having fun. We usually don’t even notice when five hours went by. The games we play are diverse and almost all manage to appeal to the interest of the whole bunch. The themes are not so relevant in adopting the game. Even if it’s The lords of Waterdeep, Villages of Valeria, Catan or Exploding kittens, we have the same amount of buy in. And that is because the game elements and mechanics that challenge and motivate us in playing are more important.

Some of the oldest examples of board games such as go or chess are good exercises in strategy. Even though the chess game seems quite simple, it’s proven it can help you think ahead and weight your choices. Also your brain will be challenged to exercise logic, develop pattern-recognition, make decisions, and test your memory. All these outcomes make this classic game really enjoyable and timeless.

The use of game based learning

Board games have been developed for educational purposes in diverse areas. For example, game based learning has been used in childhood education to build mathematical thinking skills. Also, in medicine practice an educational board game was designed and implemented for learning and teaching burn care (see more in references). Board games have been part of our education for a very long time. As game theory and the mechanics advance, opportunity for the meaningful application of board games for educational purposes is increased.

Board games bring a higher level of motivation for learning. But it is still disputed as to what elements or processes in games are most essential in motivating learners. It is difficult to build a game that not only is both fun and motivating, but also focuses on the intended learning goal.

Creating a learning game

When creating a game based learning experience, it is helpful to think of the game not as a collection of cards or a set of rules. It is rather the experience that comes from using them. Learning goals for educational board games can get very detailed.

Board games are an important tool to provide knowledge and also skill development for employees. They create an engaging and playful atmosphere to apply learning. Game elements, discussions, and problem solving with colleagues are vehicles for learning. Players are encouraged to think through and apply what they learn. It’s done with good questions, situations to consider and problems to solve.

For teaching change management skills, a board game learning experience can be made represent a specific scenario. As an example, some colleagues and I created a game for teams to understand a project management process and to gain the skills to implement it. It’s called Planetary Saga. First, players get into smaller teams and split roles and responsibilities. They receive situations they need to decide upon and create their own narrative thread. The objective is to save the people from their planet by taking the right decisions and earning more points. The activity acts as a metaphor for implementing a change process in their company. After getting through the game, they already have the experience on working together on a fake and fun project by applying the same process.

Games are ideal to accommodate different learning styles

Game based learning serves to organize information in a conceptual framework and to make it concrete. They provide analogies and metaphors to link new information. When played in teams, members learn together. For people who learn best from concrete situations, games transform abstract concepts. Also, the ones who need to begin with the big picture, are supported by the metaphors of the game.

We promote our game based training as engaging and fun. But games evoke more emotions than fun. I believe that what makes games fun is often the meaning we find in play. We consider we designed a meaningful game experience when we support all the learning objectives established. These will help players make the most of the experience. So, if you want to build skills and get a stronger team, consider playing a board game together. The closeness and open communication that will follow will be worth it.

References:

  • If You Want to Be More Strategic, Start by Playing Games – John Hall, www.inc.com, 2019
  • Board Game Design and Implementation for Specific Language Learning Goals – Erik Hawkinson, Seiki University Japan, The Asian Conference on Language Learning 2013
  • Games and Simulations for Learning: A Course Design Case study – Mary Dondlinger, 2015
  • Study An educational board game for learning and teaching burn care: A preliminary evaluation -Alexander Whittam, Whitney Chow
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