Chances are the way you were taught subjects in school, is very different to how your parents were taught. Over the years, we’ve stepped away from traditional views on learning (sit and listen), to more engaging frameworks such as experiential learning. Experiential learning is learning by doing, where you gain knowledge and skills through hands-on experiences and then reflect on and apply what you’ve learned. Using serious games for experiential learning is great because you get the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment. And above all, it’s fun! So, players spend more time playing and learning, creating experiences and memories which can’t be offered by traditional learning. In this article, we’ll go over what experiential learning is, and how serious games can help you learn.
What is experiential learning?
Experiential learning is an educational approach that focusses on learning through experience. Experiential learning happens in cycles. First, you engage in a hands-on experience or activity. After this activity, you reflect on what happened, considering thoughts, feelings and observations. Next, you’re able to understand the overarching concept of your experience. In the final stage, you’re able to apply your newly learned concepts to new situations, testing your understanding and potentially modifying your approach.
Now, we’ve explained experiential learning in a very traditional way. So, let’s explain the paragraph you just read through experiential learning. Imagine you’re learning to ride a bike. You get on the bike, pedal and try not to fall. You may feel a mix of excitement and fear. You get off your bike and realize maintaining balance was quite difficult and not maintaining balance made you fall. You conclude balance is crucial to riding a bike and you need momentum to stay upright. You start to understand the concept of steering to control your bike. Next time you get on your bike, you apply your newfound understanding and things go smoother, until you’ve properly learned how to ride your bike. Was this easier to understand?
Benefits of serious games for experiential learning
Serious games are a great application of experiential learning. Experiential learning emphasizes active participation, reflection, and the application of knowledge in real-world situations. Serious games align well with these principles and provide unique advantages in experiential learning settings. Here are some examples of why serious games are beneficial in the context of experiential learning:
- Forming experiences.
Serious games require players to actively engage with the content, making decisions, and taking actions, providing learners with new experiences each time they play. For example, in the game ‘Coming Clean’, which teaches to distinguish fact from fiction, the player is involved in a murder mystery where they are the main suspect. The player needs to apply their information literacy skills to come clean and find out who the murderer is.
- Simulated practice.
Serious games can provide realistic simulations of situations or environments, allowing learners to experience scenarios they might encounter in their field of study or profession. Learners can make mistakes and experiment changing their approach risk-free. A good example of this is the award-winning game ‘Distress!’, which teaches nursing staff to recognize respiratory distress in patients and gives them the ability to try out different approaches to save the patient.
- Breaking down tasks.
Difficult tasks can be broken down into smaller pieces, enabling you to practice each individual step before you take on the full project.
Receiving direct feedback helps you reflect on your actions and decisions by showing you what went right and what needs improvement.
Serious games can be designed to adapt to the learner’s skill level, ensuring that the content remains challenging yet manageable, promoting experiential learning at a pace and level that suits the learner. This is demonstrated in the game ‘Rekenheld’ which teaches arithmetic and automatically adapts the exercises difficulty to the child’s current level.
Serious games are also a lot more fun than conventional learning. More traditional views may suggest learning doesn’t have to be fun. But the fun and engaging nature of serious games intrinsically motivates learners. This ultimately enhances knowledge retention and motivation for learning.
In summary, serious games provide a structured and immersive platform for learners to engage in experiential learning by simulating and interacting with various scenarios and challenges. Through decision-making, reflection, and skill development, learners acquire new experiences, contributing to their understanding and proficiency in a specific field or subject matter.