Book Image

Creating E-Learning Games with Unity

By : David Horachek
Book Image

Creating E-Learning Games with Unity

By: David Horachek

Overview of this book

Table of Contents (17 chapters)
Creating E-Learning Games with Unity
About the Author
About the Reviewers

Understanding e-learning

Broadly speaking, e-learning is the use of digital technology to facilitate learning. This could include Internet servers and web browsers to deliver course material online in an asynchronous way. It could include the use of embedded videos in an application that a user can review at his or her leisure in bite-sized chunks. For our purposes in this book, we will focus on the gamification of learning and the use of multimedia and game software to deliver our specific learning outcomes.

The reasons that gamification works in e-learning are varied and are supported by both traditional pedagogy and neurobiology. We list, in no particular order, some of the most compelling reasons as follows:

  • Immersion: Games that are immersive to the player naturally activate more meaningful learning pathways in the brain. This is because the brain stores and consolidates different types of information in different regions of the brain, based on their relevance. By tying in a strong cinematic experience to the delivery of learning outcomes, you can recruit these systems in the user's brain to learn and retain the material you want to deliver.

    • But how do we make our games immersive? From the body of knowledge in movie, TV, and consumer game development, there are many design features we could borrow. However, to pick two important ones, we know that good character development and camera work are large contributors to the immersion level of a story.

    • Character development occurs when the view or opinion of the main character changes in the eye of the player. This happens naturally in a story when the main character participates in a journey that changes or evolves his or her world view, stature, or status. This evolution almost always happens as a result of a problem that occurs in the story. We will borrow from this principle as we plan the obstacles for our player to overcome.

    • Cinematic camera work helps encourage immersion because the more interesting and dramatic the view of the world that the player experiences, the more actively does the player engage with the story, and hence the learning outcomes by association.

    • Along with cinematic camera work, we must be sure to balance the playability of the game. Ironically, it is often the case that the more playable the game camera is, the less cinematic it is!

  • Spatial learning: It is worth giving spatial learning a special mention despite its close association to immersion as a modality of learning. It is known that a specific area of the brain stores the mental map of where things are in your surroundings. Games that have a spatial navigation component to them naturally will recruit this part of the brain to facilitate learning.

  • Active learning: Instruction is passive and learning is active! Playing games that require levels of thought beyond passive observation are naturally more conducive to learning and retention. By using games that have challenges and puzzles, we force the player to participate in higher order thinking while manipulating the subject matter of the learning outcomes.

  • Reinforcement and conditioning: Psychologists and learning professionals know that, for a given scenario, positive reinforcement of good behavior increases the likelihood of eliciting the same good behavior the next time that scenario presents itself. Traditional game designers know this lesson very well, as they reward the player both quantitatively (with points and items and power-ups and in-game related collectibles). They also reward the player qualitatively by inducing visceral reactions that feel good. These include being rewarded with on-screen particle effects, visually appealing cut scenes, explosions, sound effects, on screen animation, and so on. Slot machine developers know this lesson well as they play sounds and animations that elicit a feel-good response and reward payouts that condition the player to engage in the positive behavior of playing the game.

  • Emotional attachment: Games that build an emotional attachment in their players are more likely to garner active play and attention from their users. This results in higher retention of the learning objectives. But how do you engineer attachment into a design? One way is the use of avatars. It turns out that, as the player controls a character in the game, guides his or her actions, customizes his or her appearance, and otherwise invests time and energy in it, he or she may build an attachment to the avatar as it can become an extension of the player's self.

  • Cognitive flow: Have you ever participated in a task and lost track of time? Psychologists call this the state of flow, and it is known that in this heightened state of engagement, the brain is working at its best and learning potential is increased. We try and encourage the player to enter a state of flow in e-learning games by providing an immersive experience as well by asking the player to complete tasks that are challenging, interesting, and in scenarios with just enough emotional pressure or excitation to keep it interesting.

  • Safe practice environment: Video games and real-time simulations are good training vehicles because they are inherently safe. The player can practice a skill inside a game without any risk of bodily harm by repeating it in a virtual environment; this enables the player to experience freedom from physical repercussions and encourages exploration and active learning.

An astute reader may ask "What is the difference between e-learning games and consumer games?". This is a good question, which we would answer with "the learning outcomes themselves". A consumer game aims to teach the player how to play the game, how to master the mechanics, how to navigate the levels, and so on. An e-learning game uses the same design principles as consumer games, with the primary goal of achieving retention of the learning outcomes.