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REN nyhetsbrev nr. 20, 2004

15. oktober 2004
1: Learning through games
2: Stor pan-Europeisk undersøkelse på e-læringskvalitet og -strategi
3: E-Learning Conference Held in Tokyo
4: Nytt og nyttig
5: På kalenderen
Vi vil også minne om vårt neste medlemsmøte 10. november. Dette møtet vil bli holdt I lokalene til Telenor på Fornebu og det er presentasjoner fra leverandører som er tema på dette møtet. Vi har invitert over 60 leverandører innen hele spekteret av e-læring til å holde korte presentasjoner og med mulighet til å ha en liten stand hele dagen. Dette er en god anledning til å bli bedre kjent med de leverandørene som er i det norske markedet.

1: Learning through games

Well, it was going to happen sooner or later, but finally I have an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite topics, learning through games.  Fair warning; I’ve been doing this for a long time so I’m quite opinionated. I’ve developed a framework where elements that contribute to learning align with elements that contribute to engagement, which leads me to believe that properly designed, such environments are both more engaging and more effective educationally (e.g.  ).  Fortunately, you don’t have to trust me…
Why games for learning?  Several reasons: learners are more engaged, and consequently may persist longer; we can create goal-oriented environments that provide more authentic practice, and most importantly, for more effective learning.  Yes, we get better results when learning is embedded in a story (e.g. research by Lepper & Cordova, as cited in  This is because learners are cognitively challenged, and are motivated and performing in context that is closer to how they will perform in the real world.  Our two learning goals ought to be retention, being able to apply the knowledge some time after we’ve had the learning experience, and transfer, where we apply the knowledge to all applicable situations, whether or not they appeared in the learning environment.  Games can facilitate both: providing sufficient practice and motivation to support retention, and making the practice environment sufficiently rich and contextualized to support transfer.
Marc Prensky has been responsible for broadly introducing the concept of game-based learning (e.g  Not, however, without some controversy; he has argued that the new generation has new capabilities and requires such learning environments. I don’t buy his premise about the new generation being fundamentally different (our wetware hasn’t changed, but I’m glad he’s promoting games for learning.  And he’s done some good things, such as a library of educational games (
Others have argued for this approach.  Roger Schank was out there early with his “goal-based scenarios” (  The whole site presents the longer argument (  Similarly, Clark Aldrich (the ‘other’ Clark), was the elearning analyst for Gartner, and came to believe so strongly that he left to form a company dedicated to this approach ( They’ve got one product out now, Virtual Leader.  Clark’s gone on to continue to tout the value of simulations (e.g. And Michael Allen’s Guide to e-Learning (, helps promote similar views, where he argues for learning that is ‘motivating’, ‘memorable’, and ‘meaningful’.  While his approach is not specific to games, it’s a very good introduction to addressing the conative factors, the intention and motivation about learning, in improving elearning.
What do I mean by games for learning?  I mean: where learners strive to achieve a meaningful goal in a setting that appeals to them, with challenge pitched at a level to maintain their interest without frustrating them, with a sensible interface, with variety and surprise, and most importantly with a carefully focused design to ensure that the decisions learners have to face are ones that require the cognitive skills we’re trying to develop.  What I mean are simulations with a story wrapped around to motivate exploration, and the challenge is ramped up into the zone where the experience feels like a game. 
What I *don’t* mean are glorified ‘drill and kill’ applications ( Unfortunately, many have mischaracterized the opportunity for games in this way (including Prensky).  Yes, you can put game-show wrappers on knowledge recitation requirement, and that’s probably better than not. But it’s not intrinsically important! I believe the real opportunities are in giving learners meaningful practice in *applying* knowledge, in contexts, making decisions towards achieving goals.  So, yes you can use such shells, but let’s focus on what’s important.
How do you design such an environment?  There’s an interesting discussion going on in ITFORUM (, one of the discussion lists I follow.  ITFORUM is populated largely with academics and university folk interested in using technology to support learning, so it’s advantage is that it can be quite theoretical, the disadvantage is that it often can ignore corporate applications.  ITFORUM’s format is to regularly have a position paper and a focused discussion for a week.  This week’s topic has been around a proposal for how to design such environments.  While there’s not enough justification for the elements on the presented design checklist, the list itself is pretty good if not completely comprehensive.
How do you build such an environment? While these could be so-called ‘branching scenarios’ (where you go to different questions depending on which answer you choose), I prefer an engine-driven scenario where a set of rules determine what situation comes up next for the learner.  One of the issues with such approaches has been cost; many times people have been burned by high multimedia production with low education design, or a very rich underlying model but again expensive to develop. I’ve been working with a company, however, to develop some mechanisms to make the approach more affordable (I told you I’ve been active in this space:  And Macromedia’s Flash ( as a ubiquitous and rich animation environment is programmable enough to deliver just such a solution.  Jonathan Kaye has written a nice article that’s ostensibly about programming product simulations, but the principles can be applied more broadly (, if you don’t mind getting a bit geeky.
The real trick is a change in thinking, from linear to systemic. This is an fundamental shift needed to really begin to improve elearning: we are not about designing content, we are about designing experiences!  I could go on and on (and have; I’ve a book on the topic coming out in May), but for now I’ll stop here.  Of course, those who are taking the trip to Boston will hear more. I look forward to meeting you, and getting your feedback!  Note that you don’t have to wait to meet me, you’re always welcome to send me feedback:

2: Stor pan-Europeisk undersøkelse på e-læringskvalitet og -strategi

Organisasjonen European Quality Observatory (EQO) er en organisasjon som jobber med et rammeverk for kvalitetssikring innenfor e-læring. Dette er en organisasjon som jobber fra et europeisk ståsted og er støttet av den Europeisk Kommisjonen. EQO utfører akkurat i disse dager en stor pan-europeisk undersøkelsen på e-læringskvalitet og -strategi. Dette skal være den mest omfattende undersøkelsen i Europa og har som mål å svare på hvordan e-læring kan forbedres for individuelle organiasjoner, såvel som for land og Europa generelt. For mer informasjon om EQO eller den omtalte undersøkelsen se følgende linker: http:/ og

3: E-Learning Conference Held in Tokyo

Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT) hosted a conference made on Japan e-Learning Industries Association last month, which was registered by a total by 1,177 visitors.  At the conference, over 470 research topics were discussed.
Mrs Atsuko Toyama, Minister of Education (Japan), delivered an opening remark, specially emphasized on easing any interfering regulations against the development of Japan’s e-learning industry.  She also presented some key-issues that Ministry has been so far alert to including “solid way of education,” “education to fully control IT systems,” and “fruitful contents.”

Following the opening remarks by Japan’s minister, a guest speaker from the United States, Marilyn Piper (HP), K-12 Representative, made a speech.  She reported on how K12 schools in the U.S. are struggling to adopt ICT systems in their educational programs. Some were successful, some were not.  In the year K12 schools first adopted IT systems in 1996, she took an initiative to make real-time electronic communications with some friend schools in Germany and Australia that used to be communicated with regular postal mails.  Ms Piper commented, “I still remember the faces of the children when they communicated through electronic systems for the first time.  And ever since that happened, every children had started making a habit to check the emails first thing in the morning.  That was a memorable scenery for me.  I was so moved.” (English translation of Japanese-translated English)

Piper also commented two important matters when constructing the ICT platforms in school. One is “to base the learning programs on ‘project’ style,” and second point is “to let more children join the programs.”  One reason for these points are: “Rather than a conventional, one-way teaching using a material written on the textbook, children usually feel more fun if you create a virtual projects where many children can participate just as they were playing the roles in the real world.   Another reason Piper noted was that, by making the materials project-base, students can possibly learning something extra that also work in other occasions.

Article is based on Mainichi Interactive News

E-Learning Conference – Discusses Method of e-Learning

One of the presented agenda, “What are the success models of e-Learning?” had been vigorously participated by representatives from
both academia and industries.  Some universities already introduced e-Learning case study topics within this theme.

Nagaoka University of Technology reported a case in which the university implemented an e-learning course that used a video streaming of an actual class.  However, such attempt was not successful, according the NUT, said, “Many students found the program helpful, because they wished to choose favorite instructors for certain subjects.”  NUT, accepting this result, next considered an LMS (Learning Management Systems)-based solutions.  “We are also trying to make the whole system more efficient by reducing the costs at the same time maximizing the activities and the number of registrations.  So, we only assign one personnel for handling the technical matters, who should have other jobs.”

Another university in southern region, University of Tokushima, reported, “We are sure that we must have a lot of problems, since we have just started e-Learning platforms, but we cannot exactly identified such problems yet.”  As the first step, U. of Tokushima began creating video contents that can be streamed on e-Learning system, but the university could hardly secure the teachers who might be willing to be feature in the videos.  For some reason, teachers are reluctant to be videoed.  “So, we have only to ask them one after another, time after time just persistently.”

On the other hand, one of Japan’s top private universities, Waseda University, which has an e-learning-dedicated department called “e-School,” commented, “It took us five years to mature our LMS system like today.  We had been particularly stressed on how we could extend the distance geographically between the learners and the school.”  Today, Waseda U. hires seven camera experts to create video contents.  “We are quite in a good shape when it comes to our e-Learning programs.  Currently, we are maintaining a graduation rate 70 to 80 percent.”

Hiroshima University showed an example from a different angle.  Some of the professors who do not necessarily have an academic level of skills as educators have devised out a system that they could be evaluated through the network by other professors who have trainings in educations.  That way, the professors at Hiroshima U. has been improving themselves in teaching.

Article based on Mainichi Interactive News on September 28 (


4: Nytt og nyttig

Students with Disabilities and IT Environments in Japanese Higher Education  This article introduces one of the major activities of National Institute of Multimedia Education (NIME), part of Ministry of Education (Japan), that is destined to help disables receive higher educations.  The article is originally written in 2002, but it summarizes the primary issues of the country’s disables who are suffering from difficulty to achieve college course work, and associated statistics.  It also shows how the government in Japan recognizes this as a national issue, and tries to ramify the situations in order to realize an ideal educational environment for handicapped people to be more proactive.

5: På kalenderen

Høstslepp på Mintra 21. oktober kl. 17.00 – Kom, se og bli inspirert!
Et uformelt faglig arrangement for alle som er interessert i e-læring.

REN medlemsmøte 10. november hos Telenor på Fornebu. En dag med leverandørpresentasjoner. Vi har sendt ut over 50 invitasjoner til e-læringsbedrifter i Norge om å komme og fortelle og vise noe av det de kan. Påmelding til
ePortfolio: Transforming individual and organizational learning.  Konferanse La Rochelle, Franrike 28. og 29. oktober 2004. De er også interesert i mulige foredragsholdere. Konferansensens språk er engelsk.

For mere informasjon ta kontakt med:

Veslemøy Barnes
Project Coordinator
Research and Educational Network (REN)
Innovation Norway
20 California Street 6th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111-4833
Tel: +1 415 986 0770
Fax: +1 415 986 7875