Learn to Game or Game to Learn?


Michael Bodekaer – CEO and co-founder of Labster


When the world shifted to remote learning, many got their first chance to experience digital learning tools. And generally, teachers, students, and parents liked them. Whilst this might come as a surprise to those who are not yet familiar with the impact of gamified education technologies, it bears remembering just how much we humans are drawn to play.

The disposition to play

There is much to be said for the stimulation and engagement that comes with video games and how this can be appropriated into an effective learning setting. Indeed, gamified 3D learning in a virtual lab simulation combined with engaging storytelling and an incentivising grading system creates a level of engagement that can’t be achieved through traditional classroom methods.

A major part of this development comes down to the fact that as humans, we have a disposition to play. Based on this natural inclination, students who are presented with a game-like classroom setting are more likely to be interested and throw themselves into the learning experience. Studies on the topic have proven that learner-content interaction is the strongest determinant that affects students’ satisfaction and learning outcomes. So, if content is the priority, should we not align it with the interests of the student? If we dismantle the idea of schooling as a rigid system of learning far removed from genuine interest and enjoyment, we unlock a new future in education.

Moving beyond textbook-based learning

Take labs for example; the typical lab works with tools including pencils, stop watches and pendulums.

Yet, how can that compete with the excitement of a video game in the minds of learners? You can’t change the gravity in a classroom, but you can in a virtual one. The answer is obvious: the lab must

be adapted to the metier of the video game. Instead of imagining how much slower a box would  fall in the moon’s gravity, we can use online science simulations to show it. What’s more, as a society we have consistently adhered to the mistaken notion that play can’t be serious. The traditional, textbook-based learning experience often fails those who are inspired by a more creative and immersive environment. Indeed, neuro-diverse students and students with disabilities, in particular, can benefit from online learning as they are presented with a more flexible and approachable curriculum.

Accessibility in this regard allows an individual student to work at their own pace and provides a more equitable learning space in a system that has often rewarded the traditional and able learner. This development in education comes at a particularly poignant time for society as we anticipate the metaverse and its various virtual offerings.

Gamifying education in the metaverse

 As the metaverse becomes a reality, it is vital that we consider how education can provide a richer learning experience for both student and teacher. The traditional tools and learning systems worked well for a dedicated subset of students. Yet, one of the most exciting reasons for education to transition into the metaverse is to improve accessibility. The development of the metaverse comes hand in hand with the trend of major tech conglomerates acquiring long standing gaming platforms, with the likes of Microsoft and Tencent making monumental offers for gaming platforms in the past year.

This appears to be in anticipation of gaming platforms being a vital technology for a functioning metaverse, when the time comes. Having said that, if we consider the metaverse to be something beyond the typical connotations associated with video games, we begin to see opportunity for a genuine and purpose-built technology that capitalises on the intersection of education and technology.

Indeed, we have already seen research projects using fundamental gaming principles to apply people’s love of puzzles to crowdsource much-needed computation to find a cure for cancer – so we know it’s effective. Education needs to catch up; by bringing the worlds of education and gaming together, we can make it more accessible, practical, engaging, interactive and relevant to a broader group of learners.

The gamification of education can elevate learning with immersive experiences, such as virtual science experiments, that bend the laws of the physical world and expose new ways of teaching and learning skills with unlimited potential. We have the potential to unravel the traditions that have confined education for as long as we’ve known. Learning in the metaverse and gamified education tools can be a force for good, as it advances the quality of education and makes it an accessible space. The way major companies utilise the metaverse technology will speak volumes of their intentions and ambitions for society. Now we have the opportunity to contribute to real change, particularly for something as fundamental as education, and make a difference to the learning experience of so many students and teachers.