Playing and studying are not incompatible activities. A team of researchers from Madrid's Complutense University (UCM) looks to integrating virtual graphic adventures into online education platforms and analyzes the educational and technological aspects that they should have to promote expansion.
"Video games in virtual educational environments are a complement to traditional teaching for the student", Pablo Moreno-Ger, lead author of the study and member of the e-UCM educational technologies research group, led by Baltasar Fernández Manjón in UCM's Software Engineering and Artificial Intelligence Department, tells SINC.
According to research, the graphical adventure genre (e-Adventure) is the most flexible, covering the greatest number of subjects or areas of knowledge, and the one that, possibly, "works best in the area of education". In these games, a wide variety of problems must be resolved through a story line designed to aid in the learning process.
The Spanish researchers believe that including video games in the online education platforms is the best way to achieve mass, economic distribution of this tool, the educational effectiveness of which is now rarely a topic of debate in the academic field.
However, widespread use of video games in these environments must still overcome certain educational and technical difficulties. According to the authors, an educational video game must be designed with three key elements in mind: the possibility for evaluation, adaptability and ease of integration.
According to this research, "teachers must be able to determine the progress of students playing at home, how they interact with the game, how they perform". The problem is that it is not possible to completely track all of the actions taken by the students during the game, since that would hinder follow-up, nor limit the evaluation to one or a few actions. The idea, says the researcher, "is to identify the points that are relevant from an educational point of view".
The technology must also enable the video game to be adapted to the specific educational needs of each student. "The machine needs to be taken advantage of so that the game is not static, rather it varies depending on the student's profile", explains Moreno-Ger, who also indicates that video games are "the ideal medium for adaptation; much richer than web pages".
The final important element in designing educational video games is standardization; that is, "packaging the content so that it can move from one platform to another, launching it without problems", the experts explain. This characteristic must also make the technical difficulties as transparent as possible, enabling the teacher to concentrate solely on preparing the content.
- Morenoger et al. Educational game design for online education. Computers in Human Behavior, 2008; 24 (6): 2530 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2008.03.012
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