Virtual education

A computer game offering safety training on virtual building sites shows the future of learning.

The first-person shooter style White Card Game involves players identifying, controlling and reporting workplace hazards on a construction site without getting injured or causing the death of workmates. White Card certification is mandatory for all workers on construction sites.

The Game was recently runner up in the Australian Learning Impact Awards and has been shortlisted for the IMS Global Learning Impact Awards in San Diego, USA, in May.

Game creator Mark O'Rourke from Victoria University's Serious Games Group said research showed the lessons were as valid whether learnt in a virtual or real world environment.

"As long as students are actively engaged in the game they absorb the information as they would in real life," he said. "Of course the advantage of the game environment is they can learn by trial and error without anyone actually losing a hand or their life."

Mr O'Rourke said the active learning style suited the student cohort for this qualification, many of who have little or no secondary school experience.

"These students are often more visual than verbal, and are hands-on learners who prefer to learn by doing and by practising," he said. "Games are a medium that young learners are likely to be highly literate in and responsive to, even when disengaged with other social or learning structures."

He said trials had showed how effective it was in bringing potentially boring lessons to life.

"During research trials of the game there were animated peer to peer interactions among students and lively discussion with the teacher," he said. "This was in stark contrast to comments by one teacher who reported that it was not unusual to get students wandering out of the class, and not returning during break when work safety was delivered in a more traditional powerpoint presentation style."

Meanwhile the free Creative Commons licensed game has been downloaded nearly 300 times, often by training organisations that only need one download to use it for all their students.

"With the National Broadband Network roll out, customised responsive training can be delivered anywhere in Australia, reducing the need for people to move from where they live and work to gain qualifications," he said.

As well as working in the University's Serious Games Group, Mr O'Rourke is currently completing his PhD on the effectiveness of computer game-based training.

The project is a collaboration between Victoria University and Oztron Media funded by the National VET E-Learning Strategy.

Take a look at the White Card Game introductory video on YouTube.

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