Training and Education Used to Be a Lonely Sport
Following the social turmoil of the late 1960s, educators began to discover that their students were simply not responding to traditional methods of learning. There was a growing lack of engagement. The children’s minds were drifting. As television seemed to grab the attention of young people, educators wondered if the classroom could be made more relevant if it were entertaining. Some teachers began to use entertainment—games, films or TV shows—designed to be educational. In 1973 a new term was coined for this method of teaching—“edutainment.”
Today, edutainment is a much-talked-about concept in the IT training industry for a number of reasons. In e-learning, for example, the student is only one click away from leaving a session. Organizations making large investments in e-learning for their employees want learners engaged and not drifting off. A more entertaining and involving e-learning environment may keep learners tuned in throughout the course.
Training organizations and two- and four-year educational institutions want to keep classrooms filled. Making classes more fun and engaging might prove to be the competitive edge to improve enrollment and stimulate word-of-mouth referral.
For the individual learner, sitting down in front of a monitor or going to class isn’t that appealing, especially if the student is holding down a full-time job. Our days are busier and more challenging than ever. Our after-work lives are equally hectic. As lifelong learners interested in furthering our careers, we do take on training. But it is not easy. Some fun would make learning more attractive.
It’s clear that in the future edutainment is going to play an ever larger role in IT training strategies. The truly interesting emerging trend, and one not widely recognized as yet, is that training is going to take on a much more realistic face because of edutainment. The entertainment aspect—the appeal—will come out of our being immersed as members of a team engaged in scenarios or complex missions.
The Role of Simulation in Edutainment
Commercial flight simulation training has been around for a long time. The model for this type of simulation has been, until recently, one pilot or flight crew to a simulator. Today, the Air Force is coupling simulators so that groups of pilots and flight crews can practice squadron tactics in real time. The army is reportedly using simulation software that allows individuals within squads to interact in realistic settings and missions. The medical industry uses simulation software to link doctors in joint consultations, diagnoses and procedures.
The multi-individual aspect of these simulations can be far more engrossing and instructive than a single-person simulation. Just look at what’s happening in the computer gaming industry to see that this is the trend. People love multi-player simulations—they are entertaining, and they are strong instructional tools.
Couple the appeal of multi-player simulation with the fact that IT professionals work in teams to solve problems, and we identify an important future direction for IT edutainment. Team simulations, whether through a computer network or an in-class lab, allow us to safely make mistakes and then learn from the experience. They help us build the soft skills needed in teamwork. These skills include clear communication, good listening, effective problem-solving and altruism—doing what is right for the group and the mission, not focusing on what’s in it for us. Training and education that accurately simulates the reality of the IT team environment will be effective, meaningful, engrossing and fun.
I want to make it clear that simulation is not limited to e-learning. Scenario training in classes and labs is as valid as any software-based experience. The key is not the particular medium, but our immersion in a realistic setting where the team has a clear mission and each person makes a strong contribution.
Team-based scenario training will not replace traditional instruction or e-learning. Team scenarios will someday augment our learning opportunities. Training and education used to be a lonely sport of learner and material. Times are changing. There is a growing realization that edutainment in IT training can come from teams engaged in challenging missions.
John Venator is president and CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the largest global trade association supporting the IT industry. CompTIA has 9,600 corporate members and 10,500 individual professional members.