The Future of eLearning is Games


According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), more than half of Americans play video games, even if they do not describe themselves as gamers. With most of the country playing games for entertainment, there has been more research into the application of games for education (edutainment) and the research is in: Games are the future of eLearning.

In fact, according to Pew Research, 53% of organizations will be utilizing some form or combination of game-based learning as part of their learning management strategies by 2020. And top companies like Microsoft and Google have been using it for years.

Game-based learning involves players being fully immersed in the learning objectives via the world of the game. The game world becomes a laboratory for experiential learning. And because of this, learners can be safely immersed in environments and scenarios that would be difficult to replicate in a classroom. For example, some firefighters and departments are using simulators in conjuncture with other methods of training to more effectively train in scenarios such as chemical fires and ship fires.

As research into serious games becomes more widely available and the science strengthened, we’re seeing trends. Most notably that learners who were trained in a game-based environment, such as a simulator or role-playing scenario, not only learned faster but retained more than those trained using more traditional methods alone, including classroom-based learning. On average, those who learned in a game-based environment actually learned and retained 34% more material than their counterparts who participated in strictly traditional learning environments.

One of the reasons for this is shortened feedback loops. In a game environment, learners make decisions, just as they do in the real world, but feedback is instantaneous. They can quickly see the consequences or rewards of their choices and this taps into the brain’s reward pathways and accelerates learning new skills and behaviors to achieve the desired results.

Game-based learning also appeals to our innate need for control. Rather than learners having to sit through a classroom lesson when and where they are told, learners in game-based learning environments get to experience a sense of control over their actions and environment. They can even go mobile. This greater sense of control leads to more engagement.

And speaking of engagement, in game-based learning, engagement is quantifiable in real-time. Facilitators no longer must wait on survey results or rely on gut instinct about engagement. In a game-based scenario, facilitators can track and measure engagement intervals, where learners are struggling and excelling to optimize the learning experience and yield maximum results.

Whether used on its own or as part of a larger strategy, there’s one thing that’s clear: serious games are clearly a win, and they are the future of organizational training.

Ashley Christman is the CEO and Co-Founder of SacTown Interactive. When not creating games, she can be found playing them (with a strong preference for simulator type games) with her husband or running after a toddler with uncanny speed. She is also a founding board member for Sprite Tech Labs, a non-profit whose aim is to encourage the next generation of game developers with a STEAM-based curriculum.

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