Games can help students to playfully learn certain subjects. While playing, students are animated to experience a bulb effect and to expand their concepts. In the middle ages, noblemen learned strategies of war by playing "Chess". Friedrich Schiller discussed play as a force of humankind, which helps people rise above their instincts (Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education of Man, 1794). Schiller states that "for, to speak out once for all, man only plays when in the full meaning of the word he is a man, and he is only completely a man when he plays". During the civil war "American Kriegsspiel" was played. "Kindergarten" from the early 19th century was based on learning through play.
Educational institutions need to motivate their students. "In these new approaches, educational games can play a very important role, when it is known by everyone that youngest generations spend hours on the computer, playing and interacting with other players ... With educational online games it is possible to add fun in learning, which appeals student to learn difficult and boring contents. Educational online games using has been largely studied and applied on the last years, however, e-learning environments using continues an opened topic, especially to the way how these games can be used by students" .
Serious online games can be effective and useful elements of higher education . Hence, higher education institutions need to implement game-based learning. However, not many of the institutions made use of this method yet . "Serious games can enable learners to undertake tasks and experience situations which would have otherwise been impossible, undesirable for cost, time, logistical and safety reasons” .
The combination of audiovisual media used in computer games "enhances the absorption of information in the learner's memory" and can be seen as a success factor of serious computer games in educational scenarios [5, 6]. This has been found to considerably improve the process of learning . The challenge is, that different learners have variable "preferential learning styles". This is why a (serious) game will not automatically guarantee success. However, it seems that the visual medium of serious games has a positive effect .
In a study performed at Coventry University, lecturers revealed the main benefits of current teaching methods: they provide simplicity, structured learning and flexibility. On the other hand, they are more focused on lectures and seminars which do not necessarily involve the students. Hence it is very difficult to estimate the students learning success. In addition, students may not listen, respond or be interested at all. "In this respect, learning via computer games may help to eliminate a large number of these problems due to students being able to become part of the learning process and taking an active, rather than a passive role in interactions. The result is that the students become more interested in what they are doing and enjoy the learning process, which in turn will result in them taking newly obtained knowledge away with them" .
There are following different categories for Serious Games available :
- Edutainment quiz games
- Single player task-based simulations with decision trees
- Single player role playing simulations in persistent virtual scenarios
- Multi-Player task based simulations (non-persistent)
- Multi-Player role playing simulations in persistent virtual worlds.
Elizabeth N. Treher discusses the beliefs and myths about learning. She argues, that "hands-on and heads-on learning works best. Either alone seems not sufficient, but designed board games may be an effective way to provide this combination. Board games provide hands-on and heads-on skill and knowledge development for people of all ages on all subjects". They create an engaging atmosphere and also provide a playful and competitive environment. They focus on content and reincorce and apply learning. "Game elements, discussions, and problem solving with fellow team members about the content are vehicles for learning. Subtle redundancy to reinforce learning and insure retention should be incorporated into the game design. Good questions, problems to solve, and situations to consider allow players to think through and apply what they learn" .
Advantages of games used as a teaching method:
- The game helps to organize information in a conceptual framework.
- The board itself provides a visual metaphor to help connecting existing knowledge and also linking new information.
- The game provides transformation of abstract concepts.
- Players can learn together.
- They build up communication and relationship skills.
- The power of collaboration becomes apparent.
- Sustainicum Business Game (Prof. Rupert J. Baumgartner)
- The Tower of Babylon (Prof. Dennis Meadows)
Give the participants an opportunity to experience in an abstract simulation the tradeoff between investing fixed resources into measures that raise short-term output and putting them into measures that raise long-term stability of the system.
- Photosynthesis and Cellular Respiration Ball Games (DI Konrad Kaufmann)
www.sustainicum.at/en/modules/view/151.Acting-out-Photosynthesis-as-a-Ball-Game and www.sustainicum.at/en/modules/view/185.Acting-Out-Cellular-Respiration-as-a-Ball-Game
By acting out photosynthesis as a ball game, the energy and material flows of photosynthesis are made apparent. Balls or fruits of various sizes and colors represent the atoms and molecules that the participants, according to the basic equation of photosynthesis, gather or “absorb,” separate, and piece together again in new connections. Emphasis is placed on conveying the stoichiometric relations correctly, thereby increasing the actability of the exercise.
- ENSIGA– ecological footprint (Dr. Christoph Klebel)
The simulation game "ENSIGA-footprint" by Christoph Klebel illustrates the subjects of the ecological footprint and allows the players to learn the anthropogenic causes and consequences of shrinking biotic resources.
- Fisher Game (Mag. Christian Kozina)
Those who get a hands-on experience of the effects of time delays in complex systems and the 'Tragedy of the commons', will gain a better understandig thereof than those who just study the theory. The fisher game is well suited to gain these experiences.
- Fun Stuff (Center for Sustainability)
The Center for Sustainability (C4S) at Aquinas College promotes principles and practices that restore the environment, foster economic prosperity, and build vibrant and healthy communities. Established in 2005 as a community resource, C4S has been building networks and partnerships between local businesses, students and faculty to support learning for sustainability.