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Games Based Learning in the E-Learning World

188636_monopoli.jpgOkay, I have a story to tell.  It’s one I’m not particularly proud of, but it’s mine nonetheless and I’m going to own it.

A few weeks ago my niece was begging me to play Monopoly with her.  You all know the game.  The seemingly never-end game made up of endless trips around the board and ill fated hopes that you can either hit it rich or go ahead and end the misery by landing on Boardwalk and handing everything you own to the player on your left.

My niece had never played before.  She’s old enough, 6th grade, but hadn’t been able to pin any of us down for a game.  Well, that Sunday she saw her chance and a weak victim in me.  I’ll admit, I have a hard time telling her no when the request involves nothing more than my time! Victorious she pulled out the board and we began setting things up.

What happened next is where things start to get murky.  As we set up the board my brother walked by, saw that I was playing and plopped down to join the game.  Then, as luck would have it,  my sister followed him into the room and within seconds my niece had more than she bargained for as all three of us squared up to the table.  Poor girl was thinking she had hit the Monopoly jackpot!

Now, let me stop here for a moment and offer a quick bit of insight.  As all of you who grew up with siblings (and played any form of board game, but especially Monopoly)  know, there is only one way to play this type of game with those with whom you share the closest genetics.

1020097_weve_got_a_winner.jpgYou cheat!

You cheat early and you cheat often and you do your best to sabotage them along the way. Yes, we are grown adults, but it took no more than two trips around the board for old habits to set back in.

I’ll make a long story short now and say that the game ended with my niece in tears and my brother holding a huge pile of money that he definitely did not get from any of us. (I warned them not to let him be banker!) My niece stomped off muttering that she was never playing anything with any of us again, and we all felt a strong sense of nostalgia mixed with a fair amount of guilt for picking on the kid.

But aside from all the family craziness (don’t judge, you’ve got it too!) I did notice one very interesting thing start to happen as we played our game.  Math is not my niece’s best subject, but once she figured out that we weren’t (always)  going to tell her the right answer when it came to how much she owed us or how much change she was supposed to get, she started to quickly work out the answer for herself.

Girl wanted to win!

Competition.  It’s a healthy motivator. One that is intrinsic in many people and one that offers a level of internal motivation that is difficult, at best, to replicate.  If you need a clear example of this, then look no further than my story of the day.  All of us love that kid to death. But none of us were willing to sit back and let her win with our siblings sitting beside us at the table!

1360662_chess_knights.jpgBuilding on this concept teachers, coaches and just about any other type of educator you can think of have been utilizing the spirit of competition within their lessons for as long as anyone can or cares to remember.  Why?  Because it works!

So, my question is this.  Why have we in the E-Learning world been so slow to capitalize on such an effective method that inherently pairs with our chosen medium?

Think about it.  With E-Learning we have more freedom to explore and manipulate content than any other platform in history. We can set goals, create milestones and change outcomes with nothing more than a click of the mouse.

Plus, an added benefit is that this approach walks hand in hand with many prominent adult learning theories. We have proven that adults must be motivated to learn.  They have to have that WIIFM, or “Whats in it for me?“, if they are going to spend the time and effort needed to master the material.  Using a game based approach, and capitalizing on their natural spirit of competition, has the potential to not only motivate your participants but also encourage them to learn faster and more effectively than their peers.

Now, before we all start envisioning our own special version of E-Learning battleship there is one point I want to make sure we keep in mind. Always remember that competition does not have to be with other people. If you are able to build the initiative appropriately, then your participants can compete with themselves and find the same level of satisfaction. Maybe they are working against a clock? Or maybe they have to reach certain key goals in order to advance forward? The strategies are truly endless, but the idea is the same. Either way, you appealing to their own internal drive to “win” and using that source of motivation to enhance both learning and interaction.

It’s a strategy we’ve used effectively with children for years!

So why not give it a try? I know I am!  In fact, I am going to pilot this new approach very soon and am excited to see what the results will look like.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

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