E-learning with web 2.0


- ► category - Complex multiplayer games, like virtual worlds, have much in common with web 2.0, given that they facilitate multimodal interaction and collaboration across the internet. Complex multiplayer gaming is also gradually migrating to mobile devices, and sometimes makes use of augmented reality formats which blend the virtual and the real.

-what - Gaming is currently an important focus within the field of e-learning. There's been a lot of discussion of the educational potential of gaming environments, where learning takes place within the context of the pursuit of in-game goals.

Much of the discussion revolves around what Marc Prensky calls 'complex games' as opposed to more trivial 'mini games' (with the latter being more suited to behaviourist web 1.0 approaches). The 2011 Horizon Report lists three types of educational games:

  • non-digital games
  • non-collaborative digital games
  • collaborative digital games

The second category, which overlaps with Prensky's 'mini games', may have some motivational benefits. It's worth noting that gamified activities and tasks are becoming more sophisticated and more engaging, often in the form of educational apps such as Type:Rider (or here for Apple devices) or Device 6, which arguably sit somewhere between the second and third categories.

The third category, which overlaps to some extent with Prensky's 'complex games', is the area of greatest contemporary interest. It often involves what are known as massively multiplayer online games (MMO[G]s) or massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). These gaming environments often have a similar appearance to virtual worlds, but incorporate game-oriented goals. For further general and technical information, see the Wikipedia article on MMOs. For a useful attempt to differentiate various terms (metaverse, MMO, MMORPG, MOO, MUD, etc) which are used to refer to virtual worlds and games, see the Terra Nova VW Taxonomy post.

There is also scope for developing students' computational thinking and coding skills as they become involved in designing their own games. For a list of some appropriate game design platforms for students, see Common Sense Education's 3 Great Game Design Tools for Summer Learning.

-where -

Some useful simulation-based games for maths and science include Contraption Maker , Kerbal Space Program, Portal 2, and Universe Sandbox; some of these allow students to create puzzles for each other. Epistory is a vocabulary-based English game. In fact, some MMOs can be viewed as very sophisticated sims, where participants interact with other players and where decisions are not limited to preset options. Examples include Human Age (about the ages of humanity) or Sunday League (football management). It's necessary to register to participate in these MMOs and there may sometimes be costs attached. Harvard University's River City Project is a good example of an environment designed with specific curriculum objectives in mind, while PowerUp is designed to teach students about clean energy. It's also possible for teachers and students to examine the archives of public serious games like Superstruct or World Without Oil.

Contemporary commercial MMOs are seen by many educators as having considerable potential for promoting task-based learning, collaborative problem-solving, negotiation of meaning, and multimodal communication. Minecraft, a virtual environment where everything is made from cubes, is often used with younger learners; some of the learning benefits are outlined on the Minecraft in Education page on the Minecraft Wiki. World of Warcraft may be used by older learners, for whom it offers considerable educational potential.

It's also worth exploring the possibilities offered by machinima movies, which can be easily produced by students in gaming environments or virtual worlds.

Pervasive games, which are played on mobile devices and make use of augmented reality technology, leverage the real world as a gaming environment. There is great potential here for situated, immersive, embodied learning. The best-known of today's pervasive games is probably Google's Ingress.

- ► more - For academic and journalistic references about gaming, see the E-learning references page. You'll also find current information in the E-learning tag cloud.

Credits: The image above right, which shows a gaming interface, is available under a Creative Commons licence from Viktor Hertz's photostream on Flickr; the original can be found here. I owe the PowerUp link to Nik Peachey.

Contact: There's no such thing as a finished wiki. Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress and there will be changes from time to time in organisation, content and links. However, don't let that stop you from contacting me at any time with comments, suggestions or questions.