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Game-based Learning in VET Schools: A Learning Architecture for Educators in Vocational Education

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Abstract and Figures

The importance of games or game elements in the context of learning (game based learning) has been proven in various studies. Current meta-studies on the effectiveness of GBL show significant effects on learning by integrating games in the classroom (Sailer et.al. 2020, Zainuddina et.al. 2020), particularly in the fields of motivation, cognition, engagement and social interaction. These can be found at all levels and in all types of schools - including vocational schools. Here, individual and collaborative game scenarios can be used to simulate situations and tasks of everyday work life or typical professional situations as well as to promote 21th Centurie skills (Quian & Clark 2016). However, school-based vocational training practice draws a different picture.. Game-based learning is not very widespread in vocational schools. Qualification and awareness-raising measures are required for vocational school teachers, with which the modes of action and design recommendations for game elements in the classroom are demonstrated and contextualized. The EU project GATE:VET addresses this goal. In GATE:VET, different European institutions from the field of research and vocational training are developing a learning architecture to increase gamification readiness for vocational school teachers. Gamification readiness is understood as a concept that goes beyond competencies and addresses the individual willingness to engage in certain activities (e.g. using gamification in teaching). Vocational school teachers are ready to use game scenarios and ideas in everyday teaching if they recognize these as a valuable resource for teaching and can transfer these into their own teaching concepts. They change roles and self perception in learning process and accept failure in the game as a resource for individual and social learning. The Gate: VET learning architecture consists of three different components which are interconnected: • Online knowledge base: A wiki serves as a knowledge base and contains a rich collection of basic terms as well as game ideas and best practices ("Glossary" and "Educational Sheets"). The wiki can be continuously developed by the community to ensure the sustainability of the project results. • Mobile learning system: A mobile learning system in the form of an app serves as an entry into the learning journey of teachers. Here, gamified learning nuggets (e.g. mini games, quizzes, puzzles) about GBL are delivered to the teachers according to the principle of micro learning. • Training-of-trainers: A gamified workshop for teachers (i.e. multipliers) has been developed to enable teachers to use GBL in the classroom. The workshop is set up as a gamified parcour and supports the teachers in developing game sequences and in using the wiki and app to this extent. The project uses existing content and components for the development of the learning system. However, its special feature is the game-based learning content and methods. On the one hand, game ideas enrich the individual learning systems and content and become the interface between them, i.e. enable the transition from the digital environment to reality.
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GAME-BASED LEARNING IN VET SCHOOLS: A LEARNING
ARCHITECTURE FOR EDUCATORS IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
Maik Arnold1, Bettina North2, Helge Fischer3, Josefin Müller4, Madeleine Diab5
1University of Applied Sciences Dresden (Germany)
2,5Akademie für berufliche Bildung (Germany)
3,4University of Applied Sciences Dresden (Germany)
The purpose of this paper is to explore the ways in which VET teachers can be supported to
successfully integrate game-based learning into vocational education and training. After the
presentation of the findings from a systematic analysis of research literature, a unique learning
architecture for VET educators is introduced as a conceptual basis for the implementation of the
GATE:VET project, representing a practical use case to systematically develop VET teachers’ skills
and competencies.
Keywords: game-based learning, learning architecture, research project, VET schools, vocational
education and training
1 INTRODUCTION
Games are an integral part of human culture from the early days of our life [1], encouraging people to
interact with each other and with their surroundings to discover new perspectives, to enhance their
personality, and to reflect on one’s own strengths and weaknesses. A game opens up a surreal
context and reality that is more or less protected from negative consequences in real life. As
components in educational contexts, games have been proven effective in supporting, for example,
problem-based learning in formal education at different levels [2], [3]. Furthermore, current meta-
studies on the effectiveness of game-based learning (GBL) show significant effects on learning
through integrating games in the classroom [4], [5]. Game-based learning has a beneficial impact on
the motivation to learn, can generate flow and counteract negative learning experiences [6], [7].
Failure while playing as part of the learning process is accepted as "part of the game", provides
motivation for new attempts and does not necessarily lead to frustration. At the cognitive level, games
can prevent overload and promote transfer between theory and practice through the situational and
narrative embedding of information or support different learning styles and learning paths through
adaptivity [4], [8]. Through targeted emotional control, GBL extends the scope of cognitive resources
and increases the engagement of learners in the learning process [9], [10]. On the socio-cultural level,
GBL promotes the social inclusion of learners and collaborative learning processes, including in
informal contexts, such as Communities of Practice [11]. GBL goes beyond the learning of specific
skills to the learning of transversal skills, also referred to as 21st-century skills [12].
In the vocational education and training (VET) sector, individual and collaborative game scenarios can
be used to simulate situations and tasks of everyday work life or typical professional situations. While
the beneficial effects of GBL have been extensively studied, teachers and trainers often remain
reluctant to implement GBL approaches in formal educational settings for technical, institutional and
organisational reasons, such as difficulties in finding suitable games for teaching or the lack of
guidelines on how to use games for teaching [13]. These findings are consistent with the results of the
needs analysis conducted at the beginning of the authors’ current project GATE:VET GAmification in
TEaching at VET schools, which is presented in this paper and focuses on the question of how
teachers can be qualified to successfully integrate GBL in vocational educational. After the
presentation of findings from a systematic analysis of research literature, the development of a
learning architecture for VET educators will be described. This architecture provides a conceptual
basis for the implementation of the GATE:VET project as a practical use case to systematically
develop VET teachers’ skills and competencies in the field of GBL. The insights gleaned from the
literature review and the experiences gained in the project confirm the importance of implementing
GBL in VET in a broader and institutionalised learning environment.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Method, Sample, Procedure
In our literature review, we primarily focused on an analysis of research studies that allow for the
evaluation of the multidimensional relationships between GBL, gamification and its effectiveness as
well as learning environments (LE) in formal education, especially with regard to VET and higher
education (HE). Our review followed, but not exclusively, the meta-analytical procedure suggested by
Snyder [14], including the (a) collection of studies, (b) coding of characteristics depending on the
purpose of the study, used methods, number of respondents, key findings, target groups and types of
effects on GBL. By and large, meta-analyses and systematic reviews were primarily included in our
material. Furthermore, our analysis provides information on the state-of-the-art research concerning
the effectiveness and application of GBL in VET and HE teaching environments. To identify pertinent
studies, we applied the following step-by-step approach:
1. Electronic/web searches were performed on the following databases: Dissertation and
Theses, Education Full Text, academia.edu, and researchegate.net.
2. Additionally, web searches were conducted using the Google Scholar search engine.
3. Searches were conducted using specific terms/keywords with possible combinations, such as
analysis, education, effects, GBL and teaching, games in the classroom, gamification, impact
effectiveness, instructors, learning environments, learning outcomes, meta-analysis, students,
systematic review, teachers, vocational education and learning (VET).
4. The results from step 3 led to a first collection of 22 papers.
5. These papers were then analysed in detail using the abovementioned keywords.
6. In a further step, the papers were structured and meticulously analysed in terms of methods,
key findings, target groups, and type of effects. A short summary of each paper was prepared.
7. In the final step, a condensed version of these findings was created (see Appendix).
2.2 Findings
As shown in the table in the appendix, the purpose of these studies varies according to the impact of
games on the human affective, cognitive, and behavioural faculties such as learners’ skills training,
learning achievement, motivation, engagement, collaboration and retention in education. Methods
employed include an equal amount of qualitative-explorative and quantitative-experimental research
designs. Additionally, many studies also rely on systematic literature reviews. The actual number of
participants in the research studies examined depends on the aforementioned research design and
varies from 7 (case-study-based research) to 617 (experimental research). Due to the limitations of
this paper, we can only summarise the most intriguing findings: Games are primarily used in learning
environments to foster competition, participation and opportunities and predict a decisive outcome in
educational settings. Games and game elements help to enhance learners’ “21st Century skills” such
as cooperation, communication, critical thinking and creativity [15], their motivation and performances.
In the studies examined, teachers, instructors, curriculum designers, tutors, and students from
primary/secondary school, (technical) vocational and higher education were involved as target groups.
Most of the research focused on measuring the effects of games on learning outcomes, engagement,
motivation, social and immersion-oriented affordances, knowledge retention and skill acquisition.
In school-based VET practice, GBL is not very widespread. Measures are needed to improve the skills
and awareness of VET teachers, to demonstrate and contextualise the impact of and design
recommendations for game elements in the classroom.
3 GATE:VET – A LEARNING ARCHITECTURE FOR VET EDUCATORS
3.1 Objectives, Target Groups and Consortium
The EU project GATE:VET - using GAmification in TEaching at VET schools - takes into consideration
the findings of the literature review. The overall goals of the project are to increase the gamification
readiness among VET teachers and to build up a Community for GBL in VET. The projects’ main
purpose is to develop an understanding of GBL and to provide a qualification and communication
platform that facilitates the use of games and game elements in VET. Furthermore, it aims to expand
the methodological repertoire of teachers by giving them the opportunity to enrich their lessons with
game concepts. The project's target group is primarily VET teachers, but generally, teachers from all
types of schools can benefit from what the project has to offer, especially in terms of its community-
building activities and long-term outcomes. The consortium consists of European VET institutions, a
technology and two HE partners: Akademie für berufliche Bildung (Germany), VET provider and
project leader; University of Applied Sciences Dresden (Germany), conceptual partner; VUC
Storstrøm (Denmark), adult education provider; Department of English Language of the Colegiul
National Nicu Gane (Romania), secondary education provider; School of Computing, Electronics and
Mathematics of Coventry University (United Kingdom), conceptual partner; Manzavision (France), a
technology company specialising in developing digital and immersive learning experiences.
As part of the GATE:VET project, a learning architecture is being developed to increase gamification
readiness among VET teachers. Gamification readiness is understood as a concept that goes beyond
competence-based approaches which address the individual willingness to engage in certain activities
(e.g. using gamification and GBL elements in teaching) [16], [17]. It is assumed that vocational school
teachers are more likely to use game scenarios and ideas in everyday teaching if they recognise these
didactic elements as a valuable and integral resource for their own teaching practice. Beyond
gamification readiness, teachers’ awareness needs to be raised with regard to various aspects: their
changing roles, their critical reflection and self-perception in the learning process as well as their
acceptance that failure in games can be a resource for individual and social learning [18].
As shown in figure 1, the underlying learning architecture in the project presented here consists of
three different components - online knowledge base (OKB); mobile learning system (MLS) and
training-of-trainers curriculum (ToT) - which are interconnected and their application in the GATE:VET
project is described in detail in the next section.
Figure 1: Structure of GATE:VET Learning Architecture (author’s own illustration)
3.2 Requirements for and Content of the Learning Architecture
The first step in the process of implementing the three-dimensional framework into GATE:VET was to
identify the requirements for the communication platform in workshops, which also included interviews
with 18 teachers from (vocational) schools [19]. Respondents were interviewed about their
understanding of GBL and on how an online platform for teachers could support the implementation of
GBL in their teaching practice. They expressed a positive attitude towards GBL and acknowledged its
positive effects, but associated quite different goals and functions with GBL. Accordingly, the desired
use of and strategy for such a platform varied widely. The majority of respondents mentioned that an
easy access to games and indications on the implementation strategy would be crucial for the learning
and teaching success [19]. The learning architecture should also be modular and flexible and thus
enable individual in-depth exploration of topics. It should allow a problem-based approach and the
content should be based on the specifics of VET schools and their subjects.
GATE:VET tries to overcome barriers to various forms of access by providing easy access to teaching
resources and presents examples for successful GBL ideas in their individual teaching context(s):
While the OKB and MLS provide various game elements, best practices and instructions on GBL for
teachers; the ToT plays a key role for teachers to learn how to use the provided resources and to
develop their own ideas and approaches on GBL.
During the course of the project, the partnering institutions will establish a rich and diverse collection of
GBL resources and implementation strategies, which will then become the basis for all components of
the learning architecture. This content collection will mainly consist of:
GBL basics from theory and practice as well as game ideas (‘best practices’);
GBL terminology (‘glossary’) and guidelines for tools;
best practices (‘educational sheets’) in the wiki and app.
For the optimal use of both platforms, the educational sheets within the MLS contain links to the OKB.
The wiki entries usually provide more content and links to the more theoretical glossary entries, which
introduce users to GBL terminology and enhance their understanding of GBL. In the following
sections, all components of the GATE:VET learning architecture are described in detail.
3.3 The Online Knowledge Base (OKB)
One component of the learning architecture is an Online Knowledge Base in a wiki format. The wiki is
suited for entries with more details and allows the community to continuously develop and extend the
content basis. Users can contribute by creating their own entries and/or editing existing content. They
can also add comments or questions to existing entries. These functions are aimed at enabling peer
learning and the exchange of ideas between education practitioners. The linkages between the
glossary and the educational sheets facilitate the simultaneous learning of GBL theory and practice.
Wiki entries can contain images, file attachments and links to related internal as well as relevant
external content.
3.4 The Mobile Learning System (MLS)
A gamified mobile application is the second component of the learning architecture (see fig. 2). Based
on a micro learning approach and organised as a toolbox, the MLS contains short articles that provide
micro versions of the wiki’s glossary as well as educational sheet entries. Furthermore, the MLS offers
mini-games, flashcards and quizzes, which provide training opportunities for the advancement of GBL
skills and stimulate user interest. These varied activities require minimal time commitment and have a
great capacity to engage users. Gamified elements of the MLS include a leader board, figuring points,
badges and awards, which help users keep track of their progress. Users are reminded to complete
activities and explore contents with push notifications. Users can navigate the app in a variety of ways;
they can simply explore content through a search tool or follow a more guided approach via the
curriculum. In addition, there is a rating tool and a bookmark tool to organise and explore app
contents. The mobile app will be available for Android, iOS and as WebGL via a web browser.
Figure 2: Examples of the Mobile Learning System (Screenshot from the App)
3.5 The Training-of-Trainers Curriculum (ToT)
To enable teachers to use GBL in the classroom, the ToT is being developed. Herewith, a series of
gamified activities will be implemented to guide the user to explore, test and apply the knowledge
presented in the OKB and MLS. Educators learn about GBL by doing GBL. In addition to glossary
terms and educational sheets, micro-learning units created in the MLS complement the content and
the way the curriculum is delivered. In the training, teachers also learn how to use both platforms and
adapt the examples for their teaching practice. In addition, this approach will be implemented as a
blended learning programme in the form of a workshop over a number of days. Further, the curriculum
is also mapped as a learning path in the MLS, which links different learning activities and knowledge
modules in an effective way; thus, giving the user the possibility to carry out an online version of the
curriculum autonomously via the app.
3.6 Evaluation, Transfer and Sustainability
One of the goals of GATE:VET is to build an online community that facilitates peer learning and
knowledge transfer on the topics of GBL and gamification in VET. The project’s wiki functions as the
basis of the GATE:VET community and is more than just a database; the platform aims at enabling
peer-to-peer learning, promoting collaborative processes and supporting the creativity of its users. The
ongoing operation and improvement of the open platform is ensured by the constant process of
creating and modifying content. The content is disseminated to VET teachers in Europe through a
series of multiplier events as well as social media (e.g. Facebook® and Pinterest®). Through this,
future members of the community will be reached and recruited.
4 CONCLUSIONS
The aim of this paper was to explore the ways in which teachers can be supported to successfully
integrate GBL into vocational education and training. After the presentation of findings from a
systematic analysis of research literature, a unique learning architecture for VET educators has been
introduced as a conceptual basis for the implementation of the GATE:VET project, representing a
practical use case to systematically develop VET teachers’ skills and competencies. It is important to
note that the use and application of game scenarios in everyday teaching is highly dependent on a
variety of other factors that were not explored due to the limitations of this paper. Especially structural
and institutional requirements can often be “barriers to learning” such as a “lack of access, lack of
training, disruptions, cheating, or access to inappropriate information on the Internet” [20]. As is well
known, a teaching concept will only be effective and successful if teachers’ attitude is shaped by an
openness to change, willingness to cooperate and readiness to use available resources. These and
other factors are of paramount importance for future research to better understand the process of the
effective and successful implementation of GBL in different teaching and learning environments: the
dimensions of didactics, technology, economy, organisation and culture [21]. The project GATE:VET
presented in the course of this paper provides a low-threshold approach to game-based learning in
vocational education and training.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
With the support of the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.
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... However, due to the industry's emphasis on practical skills and hands-on training, online learning was not a favourable choice for the VET instructor (Arnold et al., 2021;Yeap et al., 2021). The UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre (2020) reported that one-third of all respondents in 126 countries did not use e-learning, another third used it occasionally, 17% used it regularly, and only 11% used it very often. ...
... Dimitra et al. (2020) identified seven main types of GBL approaches implemented in education: (i) memory games, (ii) simulation games, (iii) interactives, (iv) quiz games, (v) puzzles, (vi) strategy games and (vii) reality testing games. There is a body of research that has focused extensively on the overall impacts of GBL, including improved motivation, engagement, satisfaction and academic achievement among vocational education students (Arnold et al., 2021;Balakrishnan Nair, 2021;Oliveira et al., 2021;Roodt & Ryklief, 2019). However, GBL is not widely used in vocational institutions' practice (Arnold et al., 2021), and measures are required to enhance the skills and knowledge of VET instructors, illustrate and contextualise the influence of game components in the classroom, and make suggestions for game features. ...
... There is a body of research that has focused extensively on the overall impacts of GBL, including improved motivation, engagement, satisfaction and academic achievement among vocational education students (Arnold et al., 2021;Balakrishnan Nair, 2021;Oliveira et al., 2021;Roodt & Ryklief, 2019). However, GBL is not widely used in vocational institutions' practice (Arnold et al., 2021), and measures are required to enhance the skills and knowledge of VET instructors, illustrate and contextualise the influence of game components in the classroom, and make suggestions for game features. ...
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