How gamification is changing the education market

New learning techniques are turning education into play. Reece Webb explores the role that pro AV technology is playing in the gamification of the education market.

We all learn in different ways; visual learners, auditory, reading and writing or kinaesthetic, every human being has their own unique way of developing new knowledge and experiences. As we are all so unique, it should come as no surprise to any of you that some styles of teaching, be it the teaching environment or style of delivering information can lead to suboptimal results. To quote Pink Floyd, “Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone!” But how can learning be delivered in a way that engages students, encourages memory retention for learners and delivers an overall positive experience to both the learner and the teacher?

It may sound like a cliché, but the solution could involve converting learning into fun. This is no recent concept by any means in teaching circles. A study conducted by the University of Alicante and Universidad Nacional de Colombia reported that experiments involving the game-based learning platform Kahoot found that 88% of students involved in the study “have fun and learn” when playing Kahoot, providing a positive indicator of motivation. When asked if the gaming platform helped to reinforce what they learned in class, more than half (54%) of students agreed that the teaching technique helped them.

Most interestingly of all, the study highlighted that 88% of students involved had demonstrated a preference for a teaching methodology that uses theoretical explanations combined with Kahoots and practical exercises.

To quote the same study, the researchers define gamification as methods that adapt the mechanics of games to educational environments for the improvement of the teaching learning process. This is gamification.

If you take a walk around trade shows today, pro-AV technology manufacturers are shouting from the rooftops about the capabilities of their technology. The level of interaction and immersion that can be harnessed today offers the education market a new opportunity, to turn pro-AV products into tools of gamification.

“Gamification has always been here,” says Tom Houston, CEO of immersive training specialist Immersonal. “We all know intuitively that if you give someone a challenge and give them a score to hit, then people genuinely respond well to that, it’s human nature.

“What we’re starting to see now is a realisation that the technology isn’t so much a training medium, but a practice and assessment medium; that’s an important distinction to make. We used to specialise in VR training and learning, but we offer traditional learning experiences and put it into practice through gaming. Once you get your head around that, the concept of gamification becomes very obvious. If you are asking people to test themselves on something they have learned, you have to keep score and have a gamification aspect, otherwise nobody remembers it.”

Paul Wilson, business manager, Epson, adds: “Everything is digital, instant and colourful. [Gamification] seems like a fairly recent concept over the past 10 years to make lessons more fun. There are people with different learning styles who can happily learn from a book or lecture, but others learn more through doing [kinaesthetic learning], associating facts to activities. You wouldn’t want to have a school where every class is just a game but [gamification] can be used as a method in the toolbox, suited to specific individuals or topics. Technology is essential to bringing that on to the screen.”

Future thinking

Education is always evolving. While the gamification of the education market is clearly an emerging opportunity, the rise of a new generation of learners has the power to change the way that students learn forever. The learners of today are not just digital natives anymore, but gaming natives who have grown up with interactive content from smart phones all the way up to immersive online gaming. Not only does this create a stark difference to the way that students entertain themselves today, but also in the way that they engage with the wider world around them.

The question remains as to whether gamification is just a passing fancy. While studies exist to show the impact that gamification can have on learners in certain scenarios, there are still many uncertainties when it comes to adoption of gamification technology, accessibility of price point and the results that end users experience after making that investment.

“Gamification is here to stay,” says Frank Trossen, director, global business development – education, PPDS. “After a few years, it has become clear to me that gamification isn’t going anywhere, but it is still in an early stage. Everybody in the market, including publishers, are looking for the right methods and content to offer real value. Gamification is not only there to offer games, but also there to build a tool for lessons where students can be motivated in a different way. The challenge for us is to make this happen and to bring all of the pieces of the puzzle together to offer this real value.

“The way is clear. Gamification will become much bigger in time, but we need to translate the technology into real value. If it’s just gaming then it will be fun for the students, but it’s not enhancing the quality of the lessons, so we need to be sensitive about how this technology is integrated into lessons. We are talking to many creatives who are thinking about these solutions. At the end of the day, every element of gamification is connected and brought together in the end, so we need to offer easy access to learning providers.”

Steve Grubbs, CEO of education software provider VictoryXR, says: “Instruction is always evolving. From writing in the dirt thousands of years ago through to blackboards, video, tablets and computers today. Immersive learning is the next generation of delivering instruction and every single student in the world will be engaging in immersive learning in ten years’ time. If education institutions want to attract the Fortnite generation, then they need to meet the Fortnite generation where they’re at, and that’s in synchronous, multiplayer online worlds.”

Choose your character

A number of technologies are playing key roles in the gamification of education. Explore some of the key tech categories that are shaking up education through gaming.

Display and engage

Interactive flat panels are no stranger in the world of education. This technology made inroads into the education sector as a successor to the traditional chalkboard and noninteractive projection system. For education end users, this is already a familiar technology which has seen simpler forms of gamification employed through simple app-based educational games. As the concept of gamification matures, these interactive web-based platforms offer a flexible and scalable way to bring the concept into the classroom.

Frank Trossen, director, global business development – education at Philips displays provider PPDS, says: “It’s easy to combine an interactive large format display with a camera to show virtual reality content. This is something that is doable now with existing technology with the right kind of VR software that students can use. “Our displays are built on the Android platform, making it easy to add extra programs and software to build upon what our displays can offer. All new applications can be sideloaded into PPDS displays, making them futureproof. If schools invest into regular large format displays now, they can be sure that their displays will be ready for new gamification trends or topics, including cloud-based content. “Interactive displays are one important piece of the puzzle,” adds Trossen. “It only works if we have the right software, additional equipment [cameras, VR etc.] but interactive displays are an essential part of the ecosystem. There are numerous software developers who are already thinking big. There are lots of providers who are coming together which will eventually form an ecosystem [for gamification.]”

Project and play  

Different kinds of technology have their advantages, tailored to the individual needs of the lesson or the learner. The technology is as diverse as teaching styles, offering different levels of interaction or immersion based on the requirements of users. One of these core technologies is projection, offering learners a way to interact with content without the risk of damage or harm to property and other learners.

Paul Wilson, business manager at Epson, says: “We see high brightness installation projectors used in larger spaces, such as halls and gyms, where they can be paired with third party sensors and software to create really engaging educational gaming on big screens and surfaces. This allows you to get multiple people involved, because if you are gamifying a lesson and only one person can take part, you have up to 30 students sat watching that are unengaged. If you can get a few students involved, or even the whole class, you can turn the experience into a competition while keeping everybody’s attention. “Projection lends itself to this in that regard as you can project onto a wall or a non-interactive board and you can throw things at it and smack it as much as you want, whereas less-robust technologies would not be able to withstand more heated activities. You need something that can stand up to a bit of a battering!”

Use your headset

Virtual reality has found a natural home for itself in the world of gamification: originally designed for immersive gaming, VR headsets have found a profitable niche in the training and education market. Tom Houston, CEO of immersive training specialist Immersonal, says: “There are characteristics around VR that few people realise, and there are a lot of things that happen in a VR experience. When you put a VR headset on, your brain tends to become a sponge for knowledge and it becomes more effective as a learning medium, not just because you’re doing something in a fun, practical way, but because of how your brain is operating. In mathematics for example, you can teach abstract concepts and enter a VR setup where learners are required to interact with blocks; they will remember that process and it’s a unique thing that only VR can do.

“That said, VR isn’t always appropriate for everything and there has been a trend where everybody is doing VR for the sake of it. We walk away from more opportunities than we actually take; if it’s easier to achieve what the end user wants on a screen or a laptop, then VR becomes redundant. There have been a lot of end users that put the technology before the methodology, who think that putting a topic into VR makes it better, but this isn’t always true. I believe that VR will become one aspect of a blended learning approach.”

Enter the metaverse 

Blurring the line between an interactive experience and a gaming experience, the metaverse offers new opportunities for gamification entrepreneurs to educate and entertain at the same time. One method is ‘explorative learning’ where users are immersed in a virtual journey, solving educational problems as they journey through an immersive, fantasy space. Steve Grubbs, CEO of education software provider VictoryXR, explains: “We create digital twins of learning spaces [from the real world] utilising gaming engines like Unity. We have a cadaver lab, but instead of it being a game, it’s a replication of the human body that allows you to stand around the cadaver with your instructor. The instructor can pull out an organ and hand it to a student, where it can be expanded and stepped inside to learn about the ventricles and cavities. Is it gamification? Or is it creating a metaverse to learn in?

 “When students learn history with our platform, students can experience history [in a metaverse environment]. We include conversational AI avatars so that you can have a conversation with historical figures, answering questions as you go. We rebuild things from the real world in the metaverse world. You can be educated anytime, anywhere and play in a synchronous manner with other students. “We built a frog dissection experience in 2017 which gets more use today than it ever has. We work with curriculum specialists for our content, but it’s gamers who build the experience. Gamers love to build in fun things such as a radio that can change in the experience, you can throw the floppy frog at the wall and recall it to the start with one button, the gamers have a lot of fun creating these entertaining and educational environments.” With companies like VictoryXR in the game we can safely say “no frogs were harmed in the making of this lesson”.

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