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Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction

ISBN: 978-0-470-59657-9
144 pages
October 2009, Jossey-Bass
Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction (0470596570) cover image


Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning

Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds

Strategies for Online Instruction

Clark Aldrich

Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds

The infusion of games, simulations, and virtual worlds into online learning can be a transforming experience for both the instructor and the student. This practical guide, written by education game expert Clark Aldrich, shows faculty members and instructional designers how to identify opportunities for building games, simulations, and virtual environments into the curriculum; how to successfully incorporate these interactive environments to enhance student learning; and how to measure the learning outcomes. It also discusses how to build institutional support for using and financing more complex simulations. The book includes frameworks, tips, case studies and other real examples, and resources.

Praise for Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds

"Clark Aldrich provides powerful insights into the dynamic arena of games, simulations, and virtual worlds in a simultaneously entertaining and serious manner as only he can. If you are involved with educating anyone, from your own children to classrooms full of students, you need to devour this book."
— Karl Kapp, assistant director, Institute for Interactive Technologies, Bloomsburg University

"At a time when the technologies for e-learning are evolving faster than most people can follow, Aldrich successfully bridges the perceptual gap between virtual worlds, digital games, and educational simulations, and provides educators with all they really need to use this technology to enhance and enrich their e-learning experiences."
— Katrin Becker, instructor, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Mount Royal College, and adjunct professor of education, University of Calgary

"I consider this a must-read for anyone engaged in or contemplating using these tools in their classrooms or designing their own tools."
— Rick Van Sant, professor of learning and technology, Ferris State University

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Table of Contents


Part I: What Are Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds, and Why Should I Care?

Chapter 1: Understanding Highly Interactive Virtual Environments

Do Highly Interactive Virtual Environments Work Better?

The “Why”.

Clarifying What We Mean by Highly Interactive Virtual Environments.

Chapter 2: Embracing Interactivity.

Interactivity Levels 0 through 6.

Interactivity Levels and Leadership Models.

Chapter 3: Sims: A New Model of Content.

Simulation Elements.

Game Elements.

Pedagogical Elements.

Tasks and Levels.

Genres of Stand-Alone Sims.

Four Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 4: Highly Interactive Content from the Students' and the Instructor's Perspective.

Different Culture, Different Rules.

Learning to Love Frustration and Anticipate Resolution.

How Well Does the Instructor Have to Know the Sim?

Part II: Choosing and Using a Highly Interactive Virtual Environment.

Chapter 5: Identifying The Right Approach for the Right Need.

Why Use Distance Learning Programs at All?

When to Use Highly Interactive Content.

Costs Associated with HIVEs.

Chapter 6: Doing the Prep Work.

Connect with Other Interested Professionals.

Access the Content.

Infrastructure Selection Criteria.

Content Selection Criteria

Self-Paced/Single Player, Asynchronous, or Synchronous.


Conclusion: Might Second Life Be the Interface to (Other) Sims?

Chapter 7: Integrating and Piloting.

Technical Support for Students.

Chunking Content.


Conclusion: The Need for Front Loading.

Chapter 8: A Brief Example of a Simulation Deployment.

Peter Shea's Sim for Writing.

Students as Real-Time Evaluators of Sims?

Chapter 9: The Processes of Using a HIVE and the Role of Coaching.

The Setup.

On Ramp: From Real Life to Simulation.

Teaching the Interface.

First Public Simulation Play.

Putting Together Groups for Multiplayer or Team-Based Sims.

Coaching during the Student Use.

After Action Reviews.

Off Ramp: From Simulation Back to Real Life.

Into the Breach.

Chapter 10: Creating Evaluation Strategies.

Why Not Measure Experience with a Multiple-Choice Test?

Assessment Strategies.

Assessment Techniques for Grading Student Performance.


Part III: Other Considerations.

Chapter 11: Selling Interactive Environments Internally—Getting Buy In from Administrators, Department Heads, Colleagues, Parents, and even Students.

Building Support for HIVEs.

What Does Success Look Like for You?

Epilogue: The New Attraction of Distance Learning.



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Author Information

The Author

Clark Aldrich, a popular conference speaker, columnist, and analyst, is the designer and implementer of educational simulations including SimuLearn's vLeader 2007, a virtual leadership e-learning platform. He is the author of two award-winning books, Simulations and the Future of Learning and Learning by Doing, as well as The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games, all from Pfeiffer.

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“What I like most is that Aldrich does not oversimplify. Using (online) games etc. for learning is not easy, but can be very rewarding. This new book is highly recommended for anyone who wants to give it a go. It is a very helpful and practical guide for teachers and instructors.”
Igor Mayer, associate professor in Public Administration/Gaming-Simulation,

Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands “Clark Aldrich is to simulations what Elvis Presley is to rock and roll, and this book is his ‘Hound Dog.’”
Daniel M. Siegel, Course Director for Game Strategies and Motivation, Full Sail University

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