Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gamification & VLE's:

Example of a medical Virtual Learning Environment
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) have become a new favourite buzz word to describe the next  and most exciting innovation in learning,; and over the past year when discussing learning or training of any sort,  and the term “Gamification” has emerged as the best way of describing the nature of a VLE.  

VLE’s utilize simulations and Gamification to greatly increase a learner’s engagement, motivation and focus through a more immersive experience. The technology simulates real life situations customized for specific workplace environments and allows learners who are already familiar with the technology, i.e., student population, to easily navigate the learning experience. 

Gamification, while a new term in the learning vernacular, is really a tested and true approach that leverages new technologies. Using a VLE provides an opportunity for more interactive teaching. It is important to note that Gamification is not the same as games which are intended for fun and leisure but uses the best game elements and applies them to a learning situation. Typical customization say for a healthcare scenario might be to allow the learner to select their gender, ethnic makeup and persona as an avatar in the VLE. They can then navigate the simulation as a doctor or nurse, for example, and engage in the functions and activities consistent with that role. They can dialogue with patients, engage in interprofessional consultations, review medical records & test results and perform actual medical procedures. The student maintains constant feedback on their progress through the interaction. Teachers and administrators also have access to comprehensive interactive data. Such simulations can be embedded in the typical E-Learning environment or they can also work as a stand-alone teaching opportunity.  

VLE’s offer a cost-effective way to create a practice environment that can supplement expensive classroom or workplace training for developing complex skills. As with other more traditional E-Learning strategies, learners work through scenarios in a self-paced manner and are also able to complete additional learning assignments and testing.

Ycommunicate is now engaged in planning several pilot projects for health care that utilize a virtual learning environment  for self-paced and blended learning situations. Experiential learning using Virtual Learning Environments represents the future of online E-Learning. Let’s take a quick look at a short list of the Pros and Cons.

The Pros
  •  From a production point of view, the simulation environment remains completely within your control – this reduces demands on people, locations and intellectual property rights
  • The learner is afforded more familiar control over the interactive environment
  • The leaner has a better feedback mechanism in the dashboard display- allowing better comprehension ad real-time corrective actions to affect outcomes
  • Age, gender and ethnic minorities are much easier to include as interactive components
  • Learners can share their experiences with others or even compete depending on the scenario
  • VLE's will minimize the cost of in-classroom teaching and be more consistent in its learning outcomes

The Cons
  • Gamification of learning comes with a cost. The additional production required for a more comprehensive experience will drive up development costs
  • The initial level of involvement by professionals is more intense in curriculum development at the outset
  • Skill sets required  by the production companies is significant 
  • The time required for production increases significantly
Having said all that, the strengths of Gamification will increase learning capacity significantly as we seek to absorb more and more information in the delivery of increasingly complex roles.  Strong project management and a clear commitment to defining goals and expectation will be critical in the success of ANY Virtual Learning Environment and Gamification in learning. 

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