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University Game Labs Emerging to Enhance Community Learning

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How students are learning at university game labs

To think, there are still people who say gaming isn’t good for education; try saying that to universities with game labs.

Gamification is a powerful tool that can make the educational experience not only more fun, but more effective as well. Because of the increasing number of successful game labs, more universities are looking to tap into the power of games to reap the rewards from social and interactive learning.

The joy of gamification is that it isn’t specific to one subject, class size, or grade level – it’s seen anywhere from young kids to college students and everyone can benefit from it. This belief is shown through World of Classcraft as the game is a simple outline that can be applied to any age level or subject. It’s up to the teachers to decide how and when a game is used.

Dr. Karen Schrier at Marist College mentions the importance and potential of a game lab in an educational setting: “Students across many disciplines would benefit from creating, designing, and participating in the lab.”

Schrier continues:

“A game lab could serve as a model for a hands-on, problem-based, and meaningful approach to learning. The lab itself could become a community of practice that helps students learn not just the technical skills of game creation, but how to act as part of a team of people. It could serve to motivate students to consider how their work is not just valuable to their learning, but could have value outside the classroom and the school, and can impact others around the world.”

Different institutions have their own methods and reasons for combining gaming with education. Over at EdTech, Jacquelyn Bengfort reports on a few ways that some colleges are using games and gamification to enhance learning.

At Pennsylvania State University Education Gaming Commons (EGC), project manager Chris Stubbs plans to broaden the use of gaming in colleges. “We build educational games from scratch around specific learning objectives; we’ll help faculty use commercial games; we do research around games” Stubbs says. The EGC is now adding game elements to the classroom in an effort to gamify the learning experience even more.

The Virtual Xperience Lab at Indiana University analyzes how people learn from games and then uses that research in educational-game-design courses, says VX Lab Founder Bob Appelman.

At the Games Research Lab at Teachers College, Columbia University, professor John Black is looking to apply game-based learning to primary- and secondary-school levels. The Engagement Game Lab at Emerson College in Boston is looking to develop game experiences meant to make it easier to promote civic involvement, says lab director Eric Gordon.

Game labs can be beneficial for any field. “I would argue that any field or discipline could benefit from a game lab.” says Schrier. “Games are, by nature, extremely multidisciplinary. Creating games involves artists, engineers, scientists, educators, writers, humanists, and designers.” Arguments like this could aid an educational institute to receive funding – it would be helpful for more than just technology-related majors.

Whether a game lab is only meant to make games, or to serve as a community for students across multiple fields and ages, gaming and gamification has potential to impact the future of education. What are your thoughts on this? How do you think educational institutions could use a game lab? Do you have any examples you’d like to share?

title image via Nic McPhee.

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