What Do Students Gain When Playing Online Educational Learning Games?

A new study by the Oxford Internet Institute says that playing educational games and apps help students with both the core and supplementary elements of learning.

What Do Students Gain When Playing Online Educational Learning Games?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve fantasized about playing with a virtual world version of myself. I’d pull my worn mask on my head while I pretend to do homework. My favorite time of the year is after class, when I escape into “the world,” and play around with the technology that helps me do all the homework I couldn’t after school.

I’ve longed to play with virtual reality, so I started reading about the technology that I’d like to use. I was thrilled to find the goggles that will allow me to drop in and out of the world that I created, so that I can visit myself in a second world, without the limitations of a laptop or phone. This would be the technology that enabled me to drop in and out of my digital characters and interact with them, as if I were in my living room.

What I realized though, is that for all my excitement over that technology, I will need to choose which world to play in. If I play in a virtual world, that will be my first experience with the products of this online education technology that is helping millions of students go to college, graduate and get a job. That means that if I chose to play in the virtual world of Legoland, I will be using a product created by an organization. I will be learning about virtual reality with a product that has been created by the for-profit sector. I know that virtual reality isn’t the same as education. I know that there is nothing wrong with using the products created for the corporations, or the firms. But at what point are these products setting the course, when they are impacting our education system?

Many people have asked me what the deal is between the for-profit education providers, the individual video game companies and the federal government. One example I have given of the disconnect between the education providers, the game creators and the government is the company Blackboard. Last year, a complaint was filed against it by a seven-year-old female student in North Carolina. She alleges that Blackboard ordered her to sit down and shut up, which was in violation of her constitutional rights. That complaint was thrown out by a federal district court that ruled the violation against her constitutional rights was not a material issue because of the way Blackboard communicates with students. This seemingly pro-privacy decision has been overturned and is being appealed. If it were to be upheld, not only would Blackboard be targeted by a student for violating her constitutional rights, but the company could lose its operating license.

In addition to the questionable corporations, there are also unanswered questions about the Government Educational Loan Program. Just this year, a Justice Department report claimed to find that the lender for the GED program, Prime Learning Group, operated a loan scheme that potentially caused tens of thousands of Americans to pay too much money for tuition. Since enrollment in for-profit education is largely fueled by the Federal government, does the program make sense for the Federal government to be using the money to fund these companies? How does the Federal government know what percentage of Federal student loan borrowers actually complete the program? These questions can only be answered if we have accurate data on the loan borrowers, and the loans they actually have. Until we can have these answers, my hope and fantasy in all this, is that students will be involved in decision-making about the education technology. They should be able to have a voice in how the technology is created, and what the education is teaching them.

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