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Can Gaming Skills Help Your Online Student?

I must admit that I am not a big fan of video games.  When I think of video games, I only envision my 15-year-old son sitting on the couch for hours at a time, headset on, barking strategy to his friends using terms I don’t recognize. He stares intently at the television, clicking endlessly on the game pad, a device that seems comparable to equipment used in a NASA space shuttle control room.

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While I would prefer to permanently power down the console, I began thinking, “What if I took a different approach? What if I attempted to find the positive in Fortnite and other video games?”

I pondered how I could turn my lack of enthusiasm with video gaming into a when-given-lemons-make-lemonade situation.  After considering video gaming from a different perspective, I realized that gamers are learning skills that can transfer into their daily lives and, specifically, into their online learning approach. 

Practice: Most gamers don’t simply pick up a controller and become an instant expert.  It takes practice to master the skills for each game, just as it does to become a proficient online learner. It’s not easy learning how to write a geometric proof in an online learning environment, for example, but continued practice will help to hone that skill.  Students can practice what they are learning by working through the examples in the lessons and taking advantage of extra practice questions when they are provided. They should also make a habit of using the review materials.

Uninterrupted Attention: As a parent of a gamer, I’ve been accused (not falsely) of missing a key concept of gaming: games cannot be paused.  Although Donkey Kong on Nintendo 64 could be paused via the Start button, games such as Fortnite cannot (and apparently should not) be paused.  My son will give 100% of his attention to the current battle, not realizing that the smoke alarm is screeching 5 feet away or that I’ve called him 82 times to come to dinner. 

This uninterrupted attention is ideal for online learning. Students need the ability to focus for concentrated periods of time. They must be able to ignore at-home distractions in order to absorb as much of the content as possible. (I would, however, consider it to be in the student’s best interest to also pay close attention to the smoke alarm and to a parent’s bellow.)

Problem Solving: I’ve seen my son problem solve routinely with video games.  He and his friends may strategize on the best ways to collect equipment or to survive inside the game. He may research online to learn how to correct a technical issue with the console. 

In these scenarios, the gamers define the problem and then determine the best way to resolve the issue. This type of problem-solving skill is essential in an online learning environment. For example, if an online student does not understand the material in Biology class, that student must use problem-solving skills to determine the best way to be successful. Will rereading the course materials help them to better understand the content? Should they email the teacher with questions? Would it be in their best interest to attend the teacher’s office hours for one-on-one guidance?

Learning from Mistakes: On more than one occasion, I’ve heard my son comment about the failure of a particular approach in a game and then suggest an alternative idea. The same holds true for online learning.  Students make mistakes. Not all approaches to learning are successful. The key, however, is for students to learn from those mistakes.  If reading through the chapter wasn’t enough preparation for a unit exam, online students must be able to determine how to change their strategy to achieve different results. As the parent of an online student, it is important to guide your child toward different approaches until they are able to make these determinations on their own.

While I would still prefer that my son play a game of pickup basketball outside, I do see that gamers are learning valuable life skills. Although I now appreciate the benefits of gaming, I may continue to orchestrate the occasional, localized (our house only) Internet outage.

I would love to hear your thoughts on additional ways that online students can benefit from the skills they learn from gaming. Please add your comments below.

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Jodie Banyas has taught high school business and math courses with Lincoln Learning Solutions for 10 years and has previous experience with IBM Finance.  Jodie enjoys spending her free time with her family, traveling, reading, and walking her dog.

Topics: elearning, edtech, online learning, gaming