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Game-based Learning in Higher Education: A Post-Pandemic Solution

For better and for worse, the pandemic has left its mark on the education system. COVID-19 has transformed the way we learn and teach in higher education. With virtual and hybrid learning becoming the norm, universities are looking for ways to keep students motivated to keep up with their courses in and out of lecture halls.

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That’s where game-based learning comes in. Game-based learning is not only effective in improving learning outcomes, but it also boosts students’ intrinsic motivation. Let’s discuss how educational games are a unique and effective post-pandemic solution for higher education! 

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“Urgent Optimism, Social Fabric, Blissful Productivity, and Epic Meaning”

In an article for Gonzaga University, author Justin Marquis Ph.D. uses Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk “Gaming Can Make a Better World” as a framework to explain how games based on significant real-world problems (for example, Foldit) have the ability to leverage an incredible amount of energy and passion to solve the world’s biggest problems. The four characteristics of gamers that McGonigal identifies – Urgent Optimism, Social Fabric, Blissful Productivity, and Epic Meaning – can be incorporated into higher education. Learn more about each of these characteristics in the recording of McGonigal’s talk below.

Through games designed to align students with real problems, learners will not only gain a sense of urgency to solve the problems they encounter, but also a sense of optimism. Games that provide the structure for focused social interactions and are aimed at solving problems extend beyond traditional campus boundaries. These benefits can transform higher education.

Playful pedagogy: Not just for K-12

A study conducted by the University of Colorado Denver counseling researcher Lisa Forbes found that higher education students are more engaged and motivated when they are taught using playful pedagogy rather than the traditional lecture-based method. Forbes included games and play, not always tied to the content of that day’s lesson, at the start of each class. Additionally, she provided many opportunities for students to role-play to practice their counseling skills, and designed competitions within class activities. 

The study found that students fostered a more meaningful relationship with instructors when play was introduced, and they saw more opportunities for growth while learning in a highly interactive environment. The hands-on nature of learning through play established a means for skill acquisition, and students were able to retain the content more effectively. The study suggests that play is underutilized and devalued in higher education, and that educators should reevaluate their understanding of using play in graduate courses.

Alison James, Professor Emeritus at the University of Winchester, also believes that play in higher education is highly important, especially in a pandemic/post-pandemic landscape. Learn more about why in the video below.

Game-based learning is often traditionally associated with elementary and middle school education. However, as studies and educators like Lisa Forbes and Alison James demonstrate, learning games can be effective in higher education as well. In fact, game-based learning is becoming more popular in higher education as educators look for innovative solutions to keep students engaged in a variety of subjects, from math and science to history and literature.

An effective post-pandemic solution

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced higher education institutions to rethink how they deliver education. With virtual learning becoming more prevalent, game-based learning can be a post-pandemic solution for higher education. Games can be played remotely, making them accessible to students regardless of their location. Additionally, games can be played asynchronously, allowing students to learn at their own pace. This flexibility can be beneficial for students of all backgrounds and interests. With its proven effectiveness in improving learning outcomes and its ability to make learning fun and engaging, learning games are a solution that higher education institutions should consider. Educational games can bring passion and optimism back into higher ed institutions – which is exactly what students need right now. 

Interested in creating your own learning game for higher education? We’re an educational game developer with 18 years of industry experience. We’ve created successful learning solutions for institutions such as Ross University, West Coast University, and more. Reach out to us and let’s get started!  

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