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Games-Based Learning – Tomorrow’s Training Today?


Terry Hurley, managing director of ITI Techmedia, looks at the growth of games-based learning.

Games-based learning isn’t a new concept. For years, the military and aerospace industries have used video game style simulations to train soldiers and pilots, where real-world environments or locations may be unavailable or dangerous. While there are differences between military simulations and games-based learning, the concept and rationale are essentially the same.

Games-based learning motivates and engages learners in a more creative manner than traditional classroom-based learning. Games can even be personalised to ensure the user is taught the relevant learning skills suited to them.

Today, approximately 70% of European companies now use some form of multimedia in their training, and researchers expect that to increase to 80% in the next couple of years.

Games-based learning currently accounts for a small percentage of the overall e-learning market, but given the increasing interest in this field it is predicted that the market will grow rapidly. Research commissioned by ITI Techmedia estimates that the European market for games-based learning in 2005 was approximately $20 million, and is expected to rise over the next ten years to approximately $125 million.

Applicable industries
Games-based learning can deliver effective training in many sectors, including:

  • Healthcare: The healthcare sector relies on ongoing training of staff at all levels. Games-based learning provides a cost-effective way to train a highly dispersed workforce, in a safe environment to practice life-or-death procedures. A recent example of this is teaching nurses how to deal with the risks of the hospital superbug, MRSA.

  • Corporate: Globally, companies have developed games-based learning applications for everything from professional and management skills to health and safety, customer service and office ethics.
  • Education: There are multiple opportunities to use games-based learning within all levels of education, from initial teacher training to staff and professional development, distance learning and to supplement in-classroom teaching.

  • Defence: Recreating real-world environments is challenging, costly and even dangerous. Digital games-based learning is used to train over 2.4 million men and women in the US services with commercial games and interactive movies being adapted for military training.

  • Emergency Services: Co-operation, collaboration and communication skills are vital to effective incident management. Games-based learning can provide simulations for core skills such as strategic command.

  • Training companies: Popular applications being used include employee development, IT skills, team-building, vocational development and health and safety.

  • Health and safety: With games-based learning, employees can learn risk awareness and safe working practices without being exposed to any physical risks such as off-shore oil rigs or hazardous factories.
  • Games-based learning in action
    Games-based learning has been developed and used to help many industries. One example is the British Army Royal Logistic Corps (RLC), which needed a programme to give troops the same experiences as live operations without having to go into the field. A solution was developed by QinetiQ, a leading defence and security company, who prepared the Joint Convoy Operations Virtual Environment (JCOVE). JCOVE is used to allow the troops to practice tactics, techniques and procedures for road convoy operations in a realistic and accurate synthetic environment.

    Technology & design
    ITI Techmedia has been looking at the games-based learning market opportunity since 2003 and reports that developments in the market since then have been notable.

    To date, a lot of games-based learning content has been created using existing games engines or even existing games modified for training purposes. However, to make games-based learning most effective ITI Techmedia believes it must include the following features that cannot be derived from a traditional games engine:

  • Provision for a learning event facilitator – to manage, monitor and modify the learning experience in real-time.

  • Player profiling – adapt the learning event according to the information held in the player profile.
    In-game assessment – a simple user interface that allows in-game assessment to be defined by subject matter experts.

  • Templates for customisation – customise the learning experience to individual needs.

  • Terry Hurley, Managing Director of ITI Techmedia, and his team believe that the critical challenge to the growth of this market is technological. An easy-to-use content creation platform provides the key to games-based learning becoming a mainstream training tool. ITI Techmedia invested £1.9m in a two-year research & development programme to develop an authoring platform that simplifies the process of developing games-based learning content for training and educational purposes. It recently announced a commercial licence agreement for its games-based learning intellectual property, which allows TPLD (Team Play Learning Dynamics – to utilise the resulting new technology. The technology is also available for licensing to other parties.


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