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Four reasons to use serious games, simulations and virtual worlds for education and training

It’s easy to get carried away when it comes to serious games, simulations and virtual world technologies, but like all tools there are situations when they are and aren’t useful.

Serious games, simulations and virtual worlds are best used when traditional, real world learning methods are one or more of the following;

  1. expensive
  2. dangerous
  3. logistically impossible
  4. boring

Let’s examine each of these points.

1.  Expensive

With the cost of real world materials going up, and the cost of digital content going down, cost is increasingly a good reason to use serious games and simulations.

One of the best and oldest examples of this is flight simulators.  With planes and fuel costing a small fortune, airlines have for many years now used simulators to train pilots.

The biotechnology simulations we have developed for Monash University and BioCSL are another example – the equipment and materials used in creating these drugs can cost millions of dollars.  By simulating these activities students and workers can get experience of these processes at a small fraction of the cost.

2.  Dangerous

After the aviation industry, the military is the second largest user of simulation and serious game technologies.  Soldiers can train for a wide variety of battle scenarios without the risk of harm to themselves or others.

Likewise our nursing simulations allow students to practice procedures such as the administration of an IV fluid without putting real patients at risk.

Our electrotechnology simulation allows students to practice installing an electrical service in a new residence without the risk of electric shock.

Learning by making mistakes can be very powerful, but in dangerous situations is often only possible with simulation or serious game technologies.

3. Logistically impossible

The third largest use of simulations and serious game technologies is in health.  Virtual patients(both physical and digital) allow students to practice a wide range of procedures which would otherwise be impossible to co-ordinate in the real world.

Our Vplay product allows GPs to practice cultural skills with a range of patients, once again learning from mistakes.  Likewise our pharmacy simulators allow students to practice making medicine in a sterile environment, something they do not have access to in the real world.

4.  Boring

Our occupational health and safety serious game, the Whitecard Game, targets young school leavers who are just starting an apprenticeship and need to learn about workplace hazards.

It’s important that this content is presented in an engaging fashion, as many of these young people do not respond well to traditional learning.   Engaging students in this manner can ensure that when they do set foot on a worksite they know what hazards to look out for.

Learner engagement is often viewed as simply making things easier for the student – but this is very important when you are considering issues like safety.

Another way we use serious games and simulations to engage learners is by putting information into context.  Our business simulations created for University of Melbourne take traditionally dry topics and wrap them in an engaging story line, engaging students and allowing them to learn through play and experience rather than simply memorising facts.

When shouldn’t I use serious games and simulations?

Your use case should match at least a few of the reasons given above.

If you find the opposite is true – perhaps these technologies are not the right solution.

For example, let’s look at the potential for a ‘how to tie your shoelace’ simulation;

  • It’s not expensive to do in the real world.  It’s free or very cheap.
  • It is not a dangerous activity.
  • It’s logistically very easy.  Shoes and laces are common and accessible.
  • It’s not something that can be made more exciting by using digital technologies – in fact doing it in the real world is much more tactile and enjoyable.

Consider your audience

Another thing to consider is your learners.  If they are not comfortable using these types of technologies then you may like to either reconsider using serious games and simulations, or factor this into your design.

For younger cohorts where we know most learners will be gamers and quite tech savvy, we often design more game like simulations which allow users to navigate the digital environment themselves.  If we were dealing with an audience with a different skill set, for example retired builders, we would consider simplifying the user interface and making navigation more automated.

In conclusion

Serious games, simulations and virtual worlds all have their uses, and most organisations should be using them a lot more for education and training.   However as with all tools, it’s best not to get too carried away by the shiny things, and to really consider the best way you can achieve your desired learning outcomes.

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Utilizing Virtual and Personal Learning Environments for Optimal Learning

Co-written with my long term and valued colleague Dr. Stefan Schutt from Victoria University, our chapter Eight Years of Utilizing Virtual Worlds for Education: A View from the Trenches is the first chapter in the book Utilizing Virtual and Personal Learning Environments for Optimal Learning – now available through IGI Global.

The chapter discusses our experiences since 2006 deploying virtual worlds for training within secondary and special schools, vocational education, higher education, private industry and the community sector, as well as the factors involved – including technological change, organisational politics, pedagogical fashions, changes in policy and funding environments, and the human aspects of working with teachers and students.

If you are interested in reading the chapter please let me know, or it is available from the IGI Global online bookstore or online database(use code LIB25 for a 25% discount).

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vPlay- Virtual Patient / Client / Customer Creation Software

We are very excited to announce a new product we have been developing, vPlay.

vPlay allows for the creation of virtual patient scenarios and is the result of ten years of work in this area.

Branched interactions can be created with an animated character and two different ‘game like’ measures.

Educators and learning designers can edit and adjust interactions using an online administration system.

The initial patient pictured below has been developed by VMA to increase the cultural awareness of GPs.

For a demo of vPlay – contact us today.

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EduTech Showcase at AOGP

Today Paul Staubli and I joined Obvious Choice and Brightcookie at Adelaide To Outback GP Training to present a range of innovative educational technologies to representatives from many GP training organisations from around Australia.

We ran two stations – the first focused on virtual reality featuring a couple of GearVR headsets, and the second looked at our work with virtual worlds and patients.

It was great to spend a day with such an intelligent and curious group of people.

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Support Directory

Oztron is proud to be a partner in a new website for all Australians requiring support, Support Directory.

Launched at the ‘Our Choice Expo’ of the Geelong ‘Having a Say’ disability conference, Support Directory is Australia’s leading directory for disability and aged care support services.

SupportDirectory (www.SupportDirectory.com.au) is Australia’s brand new free online services directory for locating Australian health, disability and home support services making it easier for people to find the support they want to live at their best.

The directory was launched at the recent ‘Our Choice Expo’ of the Geelong ‘Having a Say’ disability conference.

SupportDirectory’s Paul Staubli stated that the ‘Our Choice Expo’ of the Geelong ‘Having a Say’ disability conference was chosen to launch SupportDirectory in order to give people confidence that old models of support funding are being replaced with new models providing real choice. Now they will have the tools they need to exercise that choice.

“We believe it’s the start of a new era of opportunity, choice and control for the people in our communities who need support,” continued Staubli, “and it’s a new world of challenge and competition for the agencies which have to join the revolution to stay relevant in a consumer-directed marketplace.”

  • SupportDirectory provides accurate, up-to-date information and a level playing field for all users:
  • it’s built to the latest access and usability standards with special features to assist older people and those living with a disability;
  • use of the site is entirely free of charge for the public and for all supplier listings;
  • the search function prioritises verified (personally checked) listings to ensure accurate and up-to-date information;
  • listings highlight organisations with current certifications for specialised services;
  • there are no hidden priority search functions – SupportDirectory presents all available search results by either alphabetical order or proximity of location.

“For years the old funding models have taken money out of the pockets of our most disadvantaged people to pay agency overheads without meeting people’s fundamental right to choice and control,” states Staubli. “Consumer-directed care is going to revolutionise support funding and spending in this country, but people have a right to choice now and we have the technology and the will to make a difference, today.”

The directory enables all Australians to find something better, whether they require personal care or support for living independently, aids and equipment for injury or disability, assisted transport and opportunities for activities and leisure, products and services for personal fitness and well-being, or information on advocacy, management of supports, or government and charitable support programs.

For more information, visit http://supportdirectory.com.au/

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Deep Dive @ Digital Aquarium – Swinburne University

Date: Tuesday, 25th November
Time: 1.30pm – 2.30pm

Description from the site;
Serious games and simulation can provide an experience of environments where it is not possible or practical to physically be present. In this month’s Deep Dive Innovation Event, Dale Linegar from Oztron Media will showcase examples of projects he has been involved in with other universities and conduct an interactive workshop on how games and simulation can be incorporated in learning and teaching.

Learn more

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Bluetour – Augmented Reality Tours Made Easy

Over the past few months we have been developing a product called Bluetour which creates self-guided tours using both GPS and Bluetooth technologies.

Bluetour is ideal for self-guided tours of all types including;

  • Nature trails
  • Tourist trails
  • City tours
  • Historical tours
  • Parks & garden tours
  • Zoo tours
  • Driving tours
  • Global tours

 

Bluetour allows users to experience the real world enhanced by digital media.

For more information visit http://bluetour.com.au/ or contact us.

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Photos from I/ITSEC

Orange County Convention Centre Orlando – home of I/ITSEC

Orange County Convention Centre Orlando - home of I/ITSEC

Orange County Convention Centre Orlando – home of I/ITSEC

Dale at the Whitecard Game stand

Dale at the Whitecard Game stand

Dale at the Whitecard Game stand

Students at the Whitecard Game stand

Students at the Whitecard Game stand

Students at the Whitecard Game stand

Old solutions

Old solutions

Old solutions

New solutions

New solutions

New solutions

Vision Station

Vision Station

Vision Station

Warfighters Corner

Warfighters Corner

Warfighters Corner

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Whitecard Game receives IMS Global Learning Consortium 2013 Learning Impact Award

On May 16th,  The Whitecard Game, a collaboration between Oztron and Victoria University, funded by the National VET E-Learning Strategy, was awarded the bronze prize in the IMS Global Learning Consortium 2013 Learning Impact Awards in San Diego, USA.

This award recognises almost 5 years of collaboration and hard work with the team at Victoria University – including Mark O’Rourke, Dr Stefan Schutt, Daniel Bonnici, Justin Maddy, Mark Courtney, and Jason Gould.

We are currently trialling the follow-up serious game, which builds on the Whitecard game and looks at sustainable work practices on demolition sites.

Article in The Australian
IMS Announcement
The Whitecard Game Site