MMORPGs in Education: Reflection

The following is a summary of responses from an expert panel over three rounds of a Delphi study conducted as part of my doctoral dissertation. This is the fifth of six thematic summaries I plan to share on this blog.

In a final consensus check survey, the participating experts indicated a very high level of consensus with this summary:

Summary of Participant Responses
Theme 5
With the guidance of an educator and with dedicated, structured, and frequent debriefing time, MMORPGs might also offer an opportunity for students to reflect on their learning and problem-solving strategies. Educators might help students to realize the correlation between their in-game strategies and real world scenarios they might encounter. Something not unlike an after-action-review might be used for this purpose, but clear procedures for reflecting on skills such as the 21st century skills mentioned in the previous session are not well established in traditional education. Many existing techniques might be borrowed from other fields. New tools for capturing in-game experiences and representing them for later reflection may need to be developed as well.

Due to the potentially global nature of an MMORPG, they might also provide an opportunity for students and teachers to reflect on cultural differences of others playing the game. However, it might be difficult to reflect on real world cultural differences in an online game when many of those differences would not be apparent in the game-world and the players avatars. It may also be difficult for many teachers to facilitate reflections on cultural differences, particularly without exposure to different cultures themselves. Perhaps the most important lesson to be learned about culture is that people are more alike than different, and this can be learned in an online game environment as students engage in play with others from around the world and their cultural differences do not deter them from enjoying – and succeeding within – the game together.

Debriefing may reduce the scalability, increase the cost of implementation, increase the time required, and limit the independent use of an MMORPG for educational purposes, especially if conducted in a face-to-face format. However, such potential drawbacks do not outweigh the benefits of having students reflect on their game play. Without such explicit reflection activities the educational value of playing an MMORPG might largely be lost. To mitigate these concerns, though, games can be designed to scaffold reflection and to automate it to some extent. Even independent use of an MMORPG might include a report back to a teacher or peers.

The following are a selection of significant dissenting opinions and/or final comments that members of the expert panel made in response to this final summary:

“I’m concerned that this doesn’t mention the difficulty in having instructors who can provide the reflection guidance needed (in general, not just cultural).”

“Reflection is the most important part of any educational aspect of a game and I think you’ve captured it well. However, I do think that in-game reflection would be valuable because it would of necessity break into game play.”

I am interested in additional feedback from readers of this blog. What is your level of consensus with this summary? Are there any points you might want to elaborate on – or more importantly, disagree with? Please leave a comment.