Hybrid and Virtual Educational Simulation Games (vESGs) for the Remote Learning Era: Design and Implementation of The GlobalEd vESG

Hybrid and Virtual Educational Simulation Games (vESGs) for the Remote Learning Era: Design and Implementation of The GlobalEd vESG

Jeremy Riel (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA) and Kimberly A. Lawless (Pennsylvania State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9235-9.ch004
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Virtual educational simulation games (vESGs) promote unique combinations of learning interactions and affordances to create environments with which students can engage to effectively learn about complex phenomena and processes in multiple domains. Using the GlobalEd vESG as an example case throughout the chapter, the authors discuss (1) the key functions and experiences that vESGs provide to learners; (2) the types of valuable student interactions that can be expected when playing a vESG and strategies for maximizing these interactions for learning; (3) strategies for teacher implementation and adaptation of vESGs, as well as professional development programs to support their use of vESGs in classrooms; and (4) observed benefits of using vESGs as evidenced from over a decade of implementation of the GlobalEd vESG in authentic classroom settings.
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Virtual simulations and digital games have repeatedly demonstrated promising results in providing engaging opportunities for students to learn complex information in an authentic way (D’Angelo et al., 2014; Hertel & Mills, 2002; Rutten et al., 2012). From modeling real-world phenomena to simulating the complexities of dynamic social interactions, simulations and games set the stage for robust environments and learning contexts for learning about certain concepts and processes that are difficult to learn from conventional textbook-and-lecture methods (Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017).

In particular, virtual educational simulation games (vESGs) that are playable at a distance with multiple players and classrooms have emerged as a valuable educational tool in the post-COVID-19 landscape for educators who may need to move to remote or distance learning at a moment’s notice. The ability to conduct robust educational exercises regardless of physical distance has great promise in promoting student growth, strong development of critical skills, and the ability to problem-solve and interact in complex domains (Gredler, 2013).

However, vESGs and other digital multiplayer games have not yet become mainstream educational tools in K-12 and college classrooms. Perhaps because of their novelty or because of the perceived lack of seriousness for learning purposes in formal classroom settings, vESGS and digital games as a whole remain to be widely accepted as a viable alternative educational mode (Kebritchi, 2010; Kenny & Gunter, 2011). Another setback toward adoption is the unique set of challenges that are often faced by teachers new to implementing games and simulations, as teachers’ roles substantially change from lecturer to guide when playing live role-playing and simulation games with their classes. Because of a game-like model to learning, teachers, school administrators, policy makers, and parents alike may also not necessarily feel comfortable with the idea of education via game play in formal classrooms, despite years of research that points to the value of rich learning via play (Arnab et al., 2012). When deciding to implement a game, teachers often also require substantial professional development to implement games in a way that maximizes learning benefits for the students (Ketelhut & Schifter, 2011). To this end, much work remains to be done to promote the design rationale, learning benefits, and implementation strategies of vESGs to promote their increased use in K-12 and higher education settings.

vESGs do not simply mirror traditional classroom learning but instead provide a transformative learning experience in digital spaces. By taking advantage of the unique functionalities of networked communications technologies, social networking software, artificial intelligence applications, and data analytics, vESGs can connect students in new ways with each other to maximize the benefits of social play despite geographic boundaries or even restrictions of face-to-face contact in the post-pandemic world. Thus, a primary purpose of vESGs is to provide a unique learning experience that leverages the ability for computers modeling of complex social phenomena while maintaining an open-ended playing experience for students so that they may interact with each other and drive the play in the vESG based on their interests and collaborative development of understanding of the concepts under study (De Frietas, 2006; Gibson, 2011; Wronowski et al., 2020).

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