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There is something fascinating going on at Boise State University and specifically the Department of Educational Technology. Let me introduce you to 3D GameLab, arguably an actual example demonstrating the evolution of today’s antiquated learning management system. The brainchild of Lisa Dawley and Chris Haskell, 3D GameLab is an online game-based learning environment facilitated by what are known as quests. What are quests, you ask? Quests are individual learning components such as short videos, diagrams, activities, text, audio, etc., that (when combined together) can make up the learning requirements of a traditional class. Students, however, have choice in what quests they want to gobble up. Imagine students having a say in what aspects of a topic like cellular biology or World War II history they are interested in that can make up the pedagogy of the overarching learning outcome of a traditional course. The students are in charge of constructing their road; the teacher provides as many interlocking bricks as is necessary for the students to build their own meandering path to reach the destination. Students can rank, rate, comment and provide feedback on each of the quests for others to view as well. As an added bonus, dependent on the learner, those quests can be accomplished in isolation, cooperatively or competitively within the friendly game environment. As the learner completes each quest, he or she is not awarded a percentage or letter grade, but experience points instead. These points need to add up to the total point requirement for course completion. And yes, in-game badges and awards are a big part of the environment as well. The project, although conceived by Dawley and Haskell, seems to be intellectual property of Boise State University and through research it completed, a go-to-market business model looks to be in discussion. There is a closed beta under way and thus far, teacher feedback is positive and perhaps glowing. In a comment titled, “I don’t want to go back, ever” Poison Shirt (a teacher in the beta) remarked:
Students are moving beyond the standard curriculum to delve into new material, because they have choice, control and self-motivation to keep going. I am spending lots of my time creating new quests to stay ahead of them than I ever anticipated I would have to. This is a good problem to have.
Could it be that 3D GameLab has cracked the bottleneck code? Is learning only found in an LMS or classroom? Or can it be portrayed and conducted in a manner such as the 3D GameLab initiative? Quoted in Converge Magazine, Haskell stated:
“We do a pretty rotten job at the university level of demonstrating a variety of teaching techniques. [It’s] kind of a way of deconstructing education and making it available to people in a new way.”
I believe Haskell and Dawley have developed something I’ve been seeking for the past few years. Chunks or small nuggets of learning, available in many different formats, able to be pieced together at the user’s discretion, backed by collaborative-based social learning concepts through a gaming engine could well be the future of learning. Maybe it already is. They would be wise to put together a strong group of advisers to help them through the next few years as I see 3D GameLab making a strong and successful foray into the corporate learning world. It will be one project to watch in the coming months.
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