Game-Based Learning in Nursing Education

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Game-Based Learning in Nursing Education

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Characteristics of college students are continually changing. Today’s college students enjoy group activities, active learning, and are technologically savvy (Oblinger, 2003). Students use technology and media in almost every area of their lives and they expect it to be in their education as well (Lynch-Sauer, et al., 2011). Students also desire quick feedback and want a variety of interactive activities to help them learn (Boctor, 2013). Strategies that have long dominated nursing education, such as lectures, will no longer suffice for the new generation of college students (Boctor). One strategy for educating the current and future generations of students is game-based learning.

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Game-based Learning

Game-based learning is an instructional technique that allows students to use games to meet specific instructor-designed learning outcomes (EdTechReview dictionary, 2013). These games are not the entertaining family games that one might picture when thinking about games, but are educational games. Game-based learning involves a dynamic, experiential instructional methodology that incorporates play, teamwork, and communication (Beek, Boone, & Hubbard, 2014). Games allow students to actively engage in learning experiences while linking theoretical and practical knowledge (Strickland & Kaylor, 2016). They also provide an opportunity for students to learn the material in a different way, which benefits students with varied learning preferences (Strickland & Kaylor). Many games involve technology or media as well. There are numerous styles of games that can be utilized in higher education, such as simulations, physical games, card games, computer games, game show style games, virtual reality, and even gamification of classrooms. Although technically gamification is a separate entity – the incorporation of game characteristics such as badges, competitions, and points – it is included due to the fact that it involves incorporating games (or elements of games) into education (EdTechReview dictionary, 2013).

History of Game-based Learning in Nursing Education

Although games are not a widespread part of nursing education by any means, they are not a new idea. Educational games have been around for hundreds of years, and areas such as military, business, and social sciences have developed many educational games (Duke, 1986). Duke compiled a taxonomy of twenty-nine games and simulations that were described in the literature prior to 1986. These games included role play, team-based games, card games, and reflection and discussion-based games (Duke). Henry (1997) conducted a literature review of gaming in nursing education and argued that nursing education had not fully embraced the beneficial and appealing idea of incorporating games into nursing education. This argument is still being made today. Game-based learning has been shown to be effective in the education of nurses, yet has not been widely adopted (Henry). Given that these arguments were being made in 1997, and we are still at a similar place in the adoption process of games in nursing education twenty-one years later, there is an obvious need for promotion and dissemination of research results, benefits, and general information about this topic.

Importance of Game-based Learning in Nursing Education

The education of nursing students is largely experiential in nature. Students are immersed in clinical environments to get hands-on learning for a large portion of their classes. Games offer an engaging and enjoyable method of instruction, and do not have the level of risk that clinical experience and practice on real patients carries (McLeod, Hewitt, Gibbs, & Kristof, 2017). The environments created by using games are safe and focused on the student rather than the teacher (Boctor, 2013). Students are able to practice using critical thinking, decision making, and communication skills in a safe place (Johnsen, Fossum, Vivekananda-Schmidt, Fruhling, Slettebo, 2016). Games also help to attract and maintain student focus and contribute to meaningful learning experiences for students (Boctor). All of these factors create an ideal tool for use in higher education, specifically nursing education. It makes sense to integrate games and other active learning activities into nursing education.

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