Empower Instructors within GBL

 This post is the last in a five-part series from simCEO. It was originally entitled Empower instructors to guide meaningful learning experiences and reposted with permission.

One of the fastest-growing segments of the education industry is Games & Simulations  with a compounded annual growth rate of 37% predicted through to 2020.1 It has the potential to provide a faster and more engaging way to learn traditional content and skills. But we’re missing a huge opportunity if we are only using games and simulations as a faster way to run the wrong race (recall of content). Games and simulations have the power to transform the type of learning our students experience.

Advocates of Games-Based Learning (GBL) know this. And, we’re beginning to see an evolution. Instead of fun ways to practice multiplication tables, GBL developers are working with educators to create environments where students, design, create, analyze information, tinker, develop models, test hypotheses, and take action based on evidence.  Many GBL environments are integrating collaboration, competition, or a socially networked audience for student learning.

These different environments for learning lead to a deeper learning. These environments tap into constructivist models, allowing students to develop and test their own understanding. Many tap into social learning, allowing students to learn from and with one another.

Early forays into GBL created linear, progressional, engaging environments to learn, practice, and assess skills. These are still needed. However, the new GBL environments provide a context for learning that simply was not possible without their existence.  They are transformational.

The Challenge: Shifting the Role of the Instructor

How will teachers customize and interact within this GBL environment to target student interests and needs?

One of the major challenges in developing these new GBL environments is the evolution of empowering instructors. These environments are open-ended by their very nature. They allow a greater degree of customizing and decision-making by the instructor to identify and target the particular skills needed for this (group of) student(s).  If we want students to construct their own meaning in relevant environments, then instructors will have a greater role. They cannot simply “click play” and let the students do their thing.  Instructors need to play a larger role in shaping the environment and evaluating the students’ actions. Either directly or indirectly, instructors are interacting with their students within the GBL environment.

These environments operate with an important baseline assumption: Instructors (not game-designers) are the experts in knowing what their students need; they need to be able to shape the learning environment that is created.

We are two educators at the core. Empowering instructors is something we believe with all our heart, but it comes with it’s own challenges – ones that we haven’t fully solved.

We founded our company with the belief that learning in schools must to be naturally engaging and mirror the skills of the real-world to promote intrinsic student motivation. We believe learning experiences should have as many of the following unique elements to prepare our students for tomorrow.

  1. Students who move beyond recall and produce solutions with content.
  2. Social Learning: Learning from and with one another.
  3. Contextual Learning: Authentic roles & goals
  4.  Students as creators and dynamic evaluators.
  5. Empower instructors to guide meaningful learning experiences. (THIS ARTICLE)

At simCEO, we believe we have a model that addresses this challenge, and highlights how GBL can change learning by offering students engaging real-life experiences.

The simple premise allows students to create companies to form an online stock market. Within this environment, each student has two roles with a distinct goal.

  1. Create and manage a successful company by ending with a high share price.
  2. Maximizing an investment portfolio of $10,000 within this market by identifying how dynamic news will affect various companies.

As news is shared, the environment changes, and students have to analyze and potentially take action to apply their learning.  As a student takes actions (adjusting her company’s business plan or buying/selling shares), the simulation itself (company’s strategies and share prices) dynamically changes.  It’s an environment where the instructor has the option to customize in the following ways:

  • determining/specifying the elements needed for the student business plans
  • sharing news articles
  • adding announcements to alter the environment.
  • adjusting share prices

We believe simCEO is a good example of the new model of GBL that students need. But thus far, we have not been successful in helping all instructors see themselves within this role. These are challenges we have to overcome.

  1. We’ve seen our fair share of confused instructors who are expecting a “click and play” experience with little or no instructor interaction.  
  2. Once instructors understand their interactive role, how can we enable this interaction and customization in a time-efficient and effective way?
  3. How can we provide more options to instructors to choose? Can we use the cloud to leverage the expertise of our existing 1500 instructors? How can we structure a shared repository of instructor-created learning objects (assignments, environments, news articles, etc.) to help scaffold new instructors into this model of learning with more options?

We certainly do not have it figured out, but we’re working on it.

It will take creative solutions to leverage the real power of these open-ended GBL environments. It’s a journey – one that our students need us to take. We believe we’re at the beginning of something special, and we’re always on the lookout for partners who share our passion.

If you can help us solve this, reach out. We’d love to hear from you.

This article is our last in 5-part series.

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