Finally – I have time to write a blog post about some of the wonderful stuff I’m immersed in at DevLearn 2010. Probably my favorite sessions today revolved around games in learning. Jerry Bush, the “game guy” for Cisco shared what Cisco is doing with learning games – and it’s really impressive. Check out some of their games here – the binary game has gone completely viral (1M players thus far) and if someone can make learning how to write binary code fun, then I am impressed!

Jerry did a great job correlating games to learning, pointing out that games mesh perfectly with the ARCS model for good learning:

  • A (Attention) – games are fun, loud, engaging. They capture learners’ attention.
  • R (Relevance) – a well-designed game will appeal to learners’ current interests and they will get the connection.
  • C (Confidence) – games help build confidence with levels and rewards earned helping to bolster learners’ confidence.
  • S (satisfaction) – learners find the rewards and the fun satisfying, making the learning experience satisfying to them. (And something they want to repeat again and again.)

Jerry pointed out that games can = learning because:

  • Simulation – allows experiential opportunities. In some games, learners can get fully immersed in teh environment.
  • Motivation – As stated in earlier reference to ARCS model, games are fun! Everyone feels like a winner. The competitive nature of the experience motivates players to keep playing and learning more.
  • Collaboration – Games can build in collaboration and cooperation as people work together to achieve high.
  • Assessment – The scoring nature of games makes it easy to assess progress and learning.
  • Likability factor: Surveys at Cisco show that 85% of employees like games – and want more of them. How many of us can say THAT about the e-courses we develop?

The games Jerry showcased (MindShare game, which can be purchased on Amazon.com) as well as Binary Game both clearly built competence in learners. Per Jerry, he’s building (or rather, hiring game developer to have them built) in Flash/XML. Most of the games he showed can be built for around $50K or less, excluding his time and the subject matter expert’s time. (In other words, $50K represents the vendor’s fees for building the game.)

My prediction is that we’re going to see more organizations getting comfortable with the idea of using games – and we’ll see employees who are highly receptive to them, much more so than to the typical e-course.Games take more creativity than a e-course with a Next button, but the payoffs in terms of actual learning and tranfer to the job can be very high.

Look for a game engine beta from BLP in Q1 of 2011. If you want to be a tester, let us know!

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