The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: A book review by Bob Morris

Gamification of LearningThe Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook: Ideas into Practice
Karl Kapp, Lucas Blair, and Rich Mesch, Co-Editors
John Wiley & Sons (2014)

Essential principles by which to design, develop, and create interactive, high-impact learning experiences

In Chapters 1-12, the three co-editors – Karl Kapp, Lucas Blair, and Rich Mesch – offer brilliant explanations of (a) why it is so important to focus on gaming, (b) “Basic Elements,” and (c) “Design Considerations” that must be addressed. This material also creates a context, a frame of reference, for what is then provided by eleven contributors in the chapters that follow. I was also very impressed by the quality of mini-case studies in Chapters 16-22. Essential principles of gamification are brought to life in real-world situations. With regard to definition of key terms, there are three: games, gamification, and simulation. The co-editors lump all three in a single term, “interactive learning event” or ILE.

Some of the most valuable material is provided by the contributors. Three address generic issues; the other eight focus on the aforementioned mini-case studies.

o Jim Kiggens, “Managing the Process” (Pages 141-176)
o Helmut Doll, “Technology Tools” (273-285)
o Kevin Thorn, Storytelling” (287-301)
o Sharon Boller, The Knowledge Guru” (305-318)
o Robert Bell, “MPE” (Managing People Essentials) 319-331
o Robert Gadd, “Mobile Cricket U” (333-345)
o Bryan Austin, “Serious Game: Learning to Negotiate” (347-357)
o Mohit Garg, “Structural Gamification for On-Boarding Employees” (359-369)
o Kevin R. Glover, “Medical Simulation” (371-389)
o Andrew Hughes, “Financial Based Learning” (391-398)
o Anders Gronstedt, “Sales Training Game: An Avaya Case” (399-404)

It is important to keep in mind that this is a fieldbook. The co-editors provide worksheets, examples, samples, tables, and instructions that can help readers create their own ILEs. “This book can be used as a primer or introductory text to introduce the topic of designing instructional games, gamification, and simulation, but it is primarily designed as a practical fieldbook to help teams in the midst of creating games, gamification, and simulation projects. It is the companion to the bestselling book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-Based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education.”

I commend Kapp, Blair, and Mesch on their skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include “Chapter Questions” that serve as a head’s up, “Questions to Ponder,” “Ensuring Success,” and “Key Takeaways” as well as 27 “Tables” and two “Exhibits.” These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later. I always recommend highlighting of key passages (there are hundreds) and, especially with this book, keeping a notebook near at hand to record comments, questions, page references, and doodles.

Those who are thinking about or now preparing for a career in game design as well as those who have only recently embarked on one will find this book and its companion volume (the aforementioned The Gamification of Learning and Instruction) of incalculable value but I think there is a much more larger constituency to which I also recommend it highly: designers of self-directed learning curricula. Another constituency consists of those who are now developing programs based on MOOCs (i.e. massive open online courses). The success of all formal and informal education depends almost entirely on the nature and extent of a student’s engagement. If there is a better approach than an ILE to achieve it, I would very much like to know about it.

Given the current state of public school education in the United States, there is so much that staff and faculty members can learn from this book. That said, I am deeply grateful to Karl Kapp, Lucas Blair, Rich Mesch, and their colleagues for what I have learned from them.

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