I recently attended a panel discussion on the exciting trend of game-based learning at DeVry University’s Fremont campus.

Dr. Rod Berger, President and CEO of MindRocket Media Group, kicked off the discussion by asking panelists to define game-based learning, its role in higher education, and challenges that it faces.

Gamification Analyst Karl Kapp acknowledged that game-based learning has a lot of misunderstandings. There is a perception that play and work should never mix. Yet the reality is that work is play, and play is a type of game. Games can teach work, strategic thinking, and creativity.”

Jim Kiggens, Director of Engaged Learning Technology at DeVry, added that “a well designed game is an elegant learning system with multiple smaller systems and enterprises.”

Andre Thomas, CEO of Triseum and creator of the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University, debunked the idea that “just because it is a game, doesn’t mean it is easy. In games you have to fully master a level before you can move forward to the next level. This is a solid metric for testing an understanding of a subject matter.”

The panelists agreed that gaming provides a lot of metrics and big data information on how students learn. For example, information on the number of attempts/clicks/lives it takes a student to master a level allows teachers to determine how to best support astudent in person. While lectures are a passive and didactic form of learning, games demand interaction, creativity, and concentration.

The panelists also agreed that the best form of learning (the apprenticeship and master model) is not scalable. Thus, businesses can use game-based learning to teach employees skills in sales, customer service, and business operations. Game-based learning provides individualized attention, teaches teamwork, and allows for struggle and the freedom to fail. The ability to fail quickly allows people to learn from mistakes.

Additionally, game-based learning flips the traditional lecture model and encourages students to learn outside of the classroom by playing games and coming together to make sense of the topic in class as a group.

When asked how engaging, interesting, and informative learning games can be created, Kiggins replied, “a good game is all about the storytelling. The compelling nature of games is not about the technology.” When a game works as a low-tech board game, it will translate digitally. The reverse, however, is not always true.

My most important takeaway from this panel is that playing is a crucial part of learning. I’m going to make it my daily mission to play more.