Game-based learning in the workforce – personal response to article

I’ve been thinking about game-based learning quite a bit.  A classmate of mine posted this article and it has definitely got me thinking.

The article under review is Marjo Johne’s “Making a game of work“, from the Globe and Mail (May 13, 2011). Full link:

Basically, the article discusses the use of video games for training purposes.  It advocates it for multiple reasons, some of which I find very problematic or one-sided.  I make explicit connections to teaching, as I think my considerations apply to both corporate and public schooling agendas.  I’ll get right into it.

A person from an e-learning firm states, “Well-designed games surpass all other modes of instruction…The reason for this is that no self-discipline is required by the learner to stick to the training. Rather, the learner engages with the content in a way that triggers the brain’s reward centres.”  I find the sole promotion that “learning is easyvery problematic. Are we trying to raise impressionable learners who can only learn if engaged in a very flashy, fun, entertaining way?  What about making learning itself fun?

The article also discusses immediate feedback as a key benefit to this game-based learning: “Most game-based training systems are designed to give workers immediate feedback on their performance, either by letting them know what they did correctly and why it was the right thing to do, or explaining why they failed and providing the right answer.” Formative assessment is helpful for both teaching and learning, in the classroom or the workplace.  I don’t know why some people think there needs to be a set time to assess and assist students or workers – at report card time, after a project is handed in, when yearly evaluations are due, on training day.  Can’t teachers or supervisors take a few minutes to observe and immediately comment on their students/workers’ skills and performance?  This can also help teachers/trainers refine and adapt their lessons/training.

Page two of the article states “Game-based training makes learning the ropes less stressful for new employees, or for workers who are being retrained for new duties, because they can make mistakes without the risk of being embarrassed in front of colleagues or worrying about real-life consequences.”  As a teacher… I find it problematic that some companies, training educators, or even teachers do not take the time to establish a collaborative and inclusive training/work environment.  Rather, they isolate workers by getting them to do these simulations.  They miss out on critical dialogue that can help their workers with comprehending/engaging with training information, as well as establishing a peer-supportive work culture.

The article also discusses how it is cheaper than traditional forms of training.  Are we simply trying to be cost-effective?  This is an interesting dimension to training/education – but I won’t get into this in depth (let’s save the issues about money, funding, and spending for another post).

I’m not saying I disagree with game-based learning. I’m still fairly open to the idea.  But for sure, I know that I do not like the idea of only using game-based learning/training.  It can be one possible activity or tool, but for me, I would never make it the primary mode.

Thoughts? Comments? Send off a blog comment or Tweet me!

[If you’re interested, here is the link to my Twitter colleague’s post on game-based learning: ]

2 thoughts on “Game-based learning in the workforce – personal response to article

  1. I liked your comment. I read an even more disturbing article on using games in everyday life. I’ll try to dig it up and post it within a few days. I’ll let you know when it’s up. I might have to change my required reading list to include Aldous Huxley since it appears that is the road people want to take us down. I especially liked when you said, “As a teacher… I find it problematic that some companies, training educators, or even teachers do not take the time to establish a collaborative and inclusive training/work environment.” Well said. What do games do that interactions with people can’t do? They seem to necessarily bribe people to be effective, which ultimately becomes ineffective. They also seem, to me, to suppress autonomy, but I could see other people saying that they are intrinsically motivating

  2. Thanks for the reply, Patrick.
    You and I both agree that we don’t necessarily need technology for better teaching. You mention this in your rant post: …I am very sorry I have yet to post a response that (still trying to wrap my head around all of it).

    Especially in environments where face-to-face is available, I’d use technology as PART of my program, not the primary mode of learning. There’s something very powerful about in-person dialogue and interactions. I don’t know what game-based learning offers aside of isolating the process. It doesn’t even individualize it or provide this autonomy that you mention, as games offer pre-set solutions, “how-to’s” for winning/losing, predetermined strategies.

    We should try to make in-person learning intrinsically motivating and stimulating. If a game takes the place of a real person, a real educator… I think that’s a terrible disservice to all.

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