This is another quest question that we were asked to ponder on in the 3d Game Lab workshop. I think schools from K-12 through college could easily adopt game mechanisms to support learning but often simply stop short of doing so. I am not sure why they do not take the extra step, but they do not. Perhaps it is the time they believe is involved, that is a common complaint. Here are some game design mechanics that schools could adopt when designing courses.
Choice – In many of the classes I have taken through my academic career, I have not been given a choice of the assignments to complete to earn a grade. In those rare cases where a choice has been given, it is often the choice to do less for a lesser grade. This is really not a choice because to do nothing, which is the choice, results in a lesser grade. In a game such as World of Warcraft, you are provided with multiple tasks to complete, and they will all help you advance your character in the game. You should also have multiple ways to demonstrate learning rather than the same old papers to write.
Failure – In games, if you fail a quest, you simply try again. You can try as many times as possible until you are successful. However, in school, you typically turn in an assignment and it is graded and recorded. In rare occasions, you get a chance for a rewrite which usually results in a higher than failing grade, but often never for the highest grade. Life is not like that, I have failed on many occasions at something new, and repeatedly until I got it right. Edison “failed” repeatedly before he got the lightbulb right.
Progress – Games do a great job of letting you know your progress as you advance. You know what is needed for the next level for basically everything. As I look at my advancement in the classes I have taken, I have been aware of where I stood throughout the class, except for the final grade that often was a surprise.
Feedback – Games are great at providing both positive and negative feedback. It is immediate and to the point. I have taken a number of classes where no feedback has been provided at all or the feedback has been so late, it did not provide assistance on subsequent assignments.
These are just a few items where I believe schools could learn from game developers. I personally would like to try these in a future class. My experience with the 3d Game Lab workshop has been positive, I hope to leverage this knowledge in the future.