Using edutainment to engage your staff

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Date: 10 February 2020

An employee is highly engaged playing an educational game on his work computer.

As a concept, edutainment is a simple one. As the portmanteau suggests, it simply refers to a combination of education and entertainment. By fusing these two concepts, the idea is that people will both want to learn and have higher rates of retention.

Applicable to both adults and children, this is a concept rooted in established psychological theory.

Development of a concept

While such concepts have been around for thousands of years on some level, most often displayed by the games used to teach children basic coordination, recently they have become much more pronounced. For both initial and advanced levels of education, edutainment has seen massive growth and, for any company involved in teaching, this could prove a worthwhile pursuit.

The most successful of these are programmes that include direct interaction. As American philosopher John Dewey espoused, a hands-on approach makes a student much more likely to adapt and learn. For an example of this, consider the robotics classes for kids offered by Tekkie Uni.

By combining direct programming theory with visible mechanical action, the children who engage in these courses can draw a direct line between cause and effect, consolidating and solidifying theory into practice.

Though most people are aware of and have experienced this technology at some point in their lives, we often underestimate its importance, and just how far it has come in contemporary teaching culture. It was through the advent and ubiquity of the home computer that this form of teaching first rose from basic activity to established industry, with some companies like The Learning Company basing their entire structure on teaching a wide range of skills to children and young adults.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some of the most popular of these early edutainment programmes were those that taught basic computer skills. Typing programmes like Mario Teaches Typing and Typing of the Dead made their way in an age when basic computer skills had to be directly learned, rather than be absorbed through sociocultural technical osmosis.

The early success of these systems would cause a period of oversaturation and market bloat, eventually leading to partial collapse and then settling of the formerly immense arm of the industry.

​​​​​In time, it would be the rise of the smartphone which would breathe new life into this market. Everything within this new mobile medium has been seemingly tailormade for the edutainment format, leading to industry development which far exceeded anything that came before.

Smartphones can be taken anywhere, making them perfect for on-demand lessons, they are fast, leading to efficient learning opportunities, and, finally, they and their games were competitively much cheaper than their desktop counterparts. Together, these elements significantly have lowered barriers to access.

Edutainment today

New edutainment games on mobile and tablet were and are still developed on a mass scale because of these different ingredients, reaching a place as a powerful and viable tool in children's learning alongside more traditional methods. For adults, such offerings are rarer, yet those which do exist still tend to be among the most popular of their specific education sectors.

For example, consider language acquisition apps such as Duolingo. Designed to help teenagers and adults learn a second language, these apps adopt overarching systems of gamification to create a more engaging experience. With dozens of options for different languages and learning rates, the customisability of newer systems, in some ways, can rival that of in-person education.

In these forms of edutainment, players gain experience, level up and unlock additional courses and bonuses. All on the way to picking up useful skills, these payoffs act as a form of encouragement which can be far more effective than a simple learning/testing environment.

So why is edutainment suddenly seeing such rapid growth? A lot of this is due to the increases in flexibility and efficiency born from the digital age.

The other side comes from improvements within the development infrastructure. Building edutainment systems is a complex process, and one which is not easily viable when dealing with physical data and goods. However, new digital tools and increased industry expertise removes many of these barriers, and this has led to edutainment's continual expansion to where it exists today.

Developing your own systems

Creating larger or retail forms of edutainment might be untenable for the first attempt by a small business, but simple systems are still useful for many businesses in terms of teaching policy and general skills. Gamification for teaching is a useful tool in this regard, especially if positive results are reinforced with payouts like bonuses or work privileges.

On the lowest level, creation tools such as GameMaker can help even the uninitiated take a few steps into developing their own edutainment systems. From here, once you have a basic understanding that of the system you wish to implement, professional developers can offer a way forward with reasonable prices.

A good edutainment system can be useful for years, and even be easily updated by staff and management as needed.

If creating greater levels of retention and involvement is an issue your business has struggled with, then consider some form of edutainment as a solution. It’s simpler and cheaper then you might think, and the payoffs can be enormous.

Copyright 2020. Article was written by Steph Joseph

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