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#disruptivebytes: Certification in Gamification

Author: Koula Charitonos   29th June 2016

The three speakers in the DMLL’s lunchtime session presented developments in the area of certification and games, and argued for a more meaningful use of technology

Undoubtedly games are increasingly gaining an important role as learning tools in contexts such as education and training. However, there is a need to balance the relationship between the game mechanics based in serious games genres, the array of competences that are to be certified and the game elements. Certification on gamification was the theme of the Disruptive Bytes session that the Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) at Coventry University hosted on Monday 27th June 2016. Invited speakers were António Coelho (University of Porto), Helen Routledge (Totem Learning) and Samantha Clarke (Coventry University).

Assistant Professor at University of Porto Antonio Coelho kicked-off the session and   warmed up the auditorium with a few photos of Porto! Antonio is also a senior researcher at INESC TEC, and as he explained their work is driven by “bringing academia, companies, public administration and society closer together”. Hence their portfolio of work related to Serious Games for Training is seen as serving this purpose, whilst is further promoting science-based innovation. Everyone today, he said, should provide evidence of specific competences, and should take part in training to develop and certify such competences. In this sense, in-game training is relevant to the industry because it can re-assure you that you are industry-ready. At the same time, he further said we need to explore “what is the relationship between game genres and competences for In-game Certification”. In his talk Antonio provided a set of guidelines for game designers to build specific games, not only for training, but also for the certification of competences. These guidelines are established on a triadic of components: Competencies / Mechanics / Play, following the approach of Casper Harteveld (Play / Meaning / Reality). Antonio framed this methodology by presenting two case studies: the first case study involved the development of a Tourist Guide Certification and the second study involves the development of a simulator (i.e. Icarus Maritime training simulator) that can help for example search and rescue teams to perform training for disaster and catastrophes. Finally he referred to future trends in in-games certification that will most likely include multimodal, multisensory virtual environments.

The next presenter was Helen Routledge from the award-winning company TOTEM Learning. Helen started her talk by referring to her view of game design which essentially is about “getting people to do stuff”. In the corporate sector, Helen said, learners “do the right stuff to accelerate their careers”, and she followed this by presenting a range of products from Totem Learning that have been built around specific skills frameworks to discuss how user behaviour in the games can be linked to evidence of competency. Drawing on three specific case studies, i.e. Welding Simulation, a Business Simulation and a Health and Safety simulation, she identified three key points related to in-game training: the first is ‘feedback-in-context’, which as Helen explained is currently based either on self-reflection or peer-review. Due to the unpredictability of these methods every time one plays the game the experience is different. For Helen the creation of a safe environment for learners where they could re-play/re-start the game and make different choices is important, also because “practice makes perfect”. The second point regarding in-game training is related to the provision of ‘real-time data analytics’, and the final one is related to a holistic approach to learning. Essentially she argued that game designers and developers should view game-based learning experience as a ‘journey’ and not as an experience in isolation from other things that the learner is doing. Helen finished her presentation by referring to their work with certification bodies such as City and Guilds to integrate Serious Games and teach business skills to young people attending vocational education.

The final speaker of this session was Samantha Clarke a researcher at the DMLL. Samantha started her talk with a provocative statement that “technology might not be good after all”. She talked about the tendency that is observed in most serious games and game-based learning applications to favour a fully digital approach in their style and delivery. Whilst these methods have many merits as Samantha admitted, at the same time digital games pose certain barriers for educational facilitators in terms of expertise in development methods, cost of unused technologies, and time taken to deploy. Being inspired by classic TV shows and board games, Samantha urged us to look at adopting a more traditional approach to game-based learning, and she used the innovative project ‘EscapED’ as an example of this approach. In EscapED she is exploring how to design interactive, live-action, game-based learning with an aim to encourage a greater support for facilitators to adopt game-based learning into their teaching practices, quickly and with less complications. Samantha concluded her talk by inviting the auditorium to consider how we can move towards more playful approaches to learning and design serious games that are digitally enhanced rather than digitally led.

For more information about the projects that are mentioned in this post please contact Antonio Coelho on acoelho@fe.up.pt; Helen Routledge on info@totemlearning.com and Samantha Clarke on samantha.clarke@coventry.ac.uk.

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