Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Common Platform for Several Interactions: Good Idea?

For several years, I have been speaking at the eLearning Guild conferences and online forums on the topic of interactive learning. It is fascinating to see how training professionals' understanding of interactivity has evolved over the years. From the old days of minimal interactivity-literacy, we have come a long way, and now the question on everyone's mind is "interactive courses - of course yes, but how?"

In answering the "how" question, one interesting trend that has gained momentum is a common platform approach for interactivity development, which cuts costs, saves time and enhances effectiveness of online courses. Click here to see a synopsis of my upcoming talk on the common platform approach to interactivity development at DevLearn 2009 conference at The Fairmont in San Jose.

And of course, I welcome your ideas, suggestions, comments and questions ahead of the talk, so we can have a good interactive discussion.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Computer-based Games in Classrooms: Leveraging the Instructor

Game-based learning is gaining wide acceptance in corporate and academic e-learning. The use of games in classrooms, however, is still limited and follows traditional game formats.

One reason for the lack of momentum in classroom game usage could be the dependence of traditional classroom games on the instructor for successful facilitation.

Computer-based games, on the other hand, are designed primarily for self-paced e-learning, and largely leave out the instructor when used in a classroom. This means the instructor can neither control the flow of the game nor monitor the learning outcomes directly. Nor can the instructor leverage group dynamics, because mostly the games are played singly.

Is it possible to combine the best of both the worlds? Is it possible to use computer-based games in a classroom in such a way that the instructor has a meaningful role in their facilitation, control and monitoring?

Fortunately, the answer is yes. A new paradigm which makes this leap forward for classroom instruction is called Facilitated Group Activities.

Facilitated Group Activities are computer-based templates that are implemented using platforms such as Flash and PowerPoint. An instructor can quickly and easily create and facilitate custom activities such as games using these templates.

Using this approach is a two step process. In the first step, the instructor customizes the game template and includes it in the presentation slide. In the second step, while presenting, the instructor uses facilitation tools to configure groups, rotate turns, time the learners, score them and so forth - while the class plays the game.

Advantages of games conducted as facilitated group activities over other approaches are easy to see.

  1. Ability for teachers to customize games by themselves
  2. Ease of controlling the game flow
  3. Preservation of group dynamics while the class is together
  4. Leveraging the instructor's presence
  5. Monitoring learners while they are playing the game

As an example, consider Bingo, the popular party game. This game can be easily adapted to learning use, to generate excitement as participants answer questions to win a house. A sure hit with all audiences, this is a great game format that ensures reinforcement of knowledge conveyed, and particulary works great as an energizer in the later part of your class session.

Let us see how the Bingo game works. Before the class begins, the instructor inputs several questions in the game and saves it. Once in the classroom, the game allows the instructor to form competing groups of students, and rotate turns among them to answer questions within a fixed time limit, in an attempt to win a house. The instructor has the ability to look up correct answers, provide helpful hints and mark right or wrong answers. The game maintains a score for each group and ends with a cool animation celebrating the winner.

What are the applications of this approach? Where do you think you could use this approach? Do you think there will be additional advantages if learners can use clicking devices to participate in such games?