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AI and Gamification: The Future of E-learning

Education and learning through e-learning has gained great momentum, especially during this pandemic period. From online MOOCs to webinars to certificate courses, the future of e-learning already looks quite positive. An axiomatic reason for the scope of growth of the e-learning industry is its unconventional approach to imparting education.

On exploring the concept of teaching developed by Maria Montessori, it is evident that effective learning depends on the holistic approach which combines cognitive, physical, social, and emotional methods instead of boring standardized curriculum, rote learning, and an overall structural rigidity of course structure. With changing times, the approach towards education has also changed. Students and professionals alike have started exploring unconventional, interactive skill enhancing platforms that provide not only quality education but also an assurance of helping develop cutting edge skill sets.

However, each e-learning platform has a different approach. The success of e-learning and online courses depends on a cognitive approach, and there needs to be a fine balance between instruction and entertainment. The Government of India has introduced the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 which lays emphasis on cognitive approach to learning. It encourages the effective use of ICT-based infrastructure in schools and colleges, as well as encouragement of vocational training for adults. The policy also mentions the emergence and future of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 3D/7D Virtual Reality.

From teaching kids as young as 3 to providing online coaching classes to students preparing for medical and engineering entrance examination, the future of e-learning in India looks quite bright. However, most of these platforms are replicating exactly what happens in a live classroom. This is burdening kids even more than ever because now they are expected to spend 7 hours in school and then at least 5 hours studying online on such platforms. Taking a cue again from the education method developed by Maria Montessori, the approach to online learning should be interesting, simulating, engaging and should encourage learners to think out of the box. MOOCs generally become tiring if recorded in a monotonous way. In fact, even live learning classes should have some element of engagement, motivation, curiosity, and competitiveness, otherwise it is just as boring as a regular classroom lecture.

An interesting “game-changer” is gamification, a term coined in 2003. Gamification involves learning through interactive simulations and games. It encourages curiosity and competitiveness and keeps the user/ student/ learner engaged, focused, and motivated to excel and win. Another evident advantage of gamification is the option of retrying and receiving immediate feedback. According to a study by Ambient Insight, game-based learning reached approximately USD 2404.12 million in 2018 as opposed to USD 1739.55 million in 2013. Gamification has the potential to enhance online learning experience and if developed and utilized effectively, it can help improve user engagement with the application of game mechanics.

E-learning has already gained popularity due to better presentation, effective recall of information and better interaction, and if clubbed with gamification, it has the potential of making the learning experience stress-free as well. However, some factors should be kept in mind while developing gamification-based courses, namely, identifying the learning objectives, ease of playing, level of interaction, providing effective feedback and customized presentation of challenge based on the learner’s level.

Imagine taking a course on say, Newton’s laws of motion, and after going through the initial MOOCs and reading material, the next step is to play an interactive AI based game on the first law of motion. Suppose this game has 2 levels, and the first level is a short game of football, and if you manage to score 10 goals, you are now required to play the second level, where you need to play further to score another 10 goals. What do you learn? This may get boring after a point because the concept of the first law of motion is already clear from scoring the first few goals.

Take another scenario where this game is made more interesting with the use of AI. Now, say this game not only depends on you playing the game backed by AI but also makes you play it better using your HI, i.e., human intelligence, a factor that should not be ignored while developing any AI based game. So, here, let’s say, to understand Newton’s first law, you need to launch a rocket into space, and this game would probably strike a better balance between learning and entertainment, and encourage AI and HI.

Deep learning and AI may be explored by e-learning platforms for better cognitive assistance to learners involving a balanced art of persuasion and positive manipulation. Here, it is pertinent to find a balance and draw a suitable line between game, learning, manipulation, and indoctrination.

AI should assist HI, not manipulate, or influence the learner, lest it could be an experience straight out of science fictions where robots take over humans! Deep learning AI may be explored based on domain specific language (DSL) approach, i.e., the modeling language by which domain developers and professionals may interpret and develop models using coding and intuition. An important factor to be considered may be the use of reusable formulations which can be used to define algorithms with high-end language specifications.

One issue, however, may be the failure of enhancing an individual learner’s talent based on personal preference. Say, in the course on Newton’s laws of motion, the deep learning AI based game limits the learner’s football moves or doesn’t allow the learner to launch the rocket as per his idea, talent or understanding, because of probable limitations of information and data in deep learning, this could at once take away the very essence and idea behind creating and developing game-based learning in the first place.

Another idea to make gamification and AI an effective tool for education in the years to come can be to make users choose the approach they wish to take to learn a particular course. For example, if I wish to study criminal psychology, I may be given the option of either choosing MOOC/ live classes, or interactive recorded MOOCs, or perhaps MOOCs with interactive games; my list of choices could add up to any permutation and combination. If you remember watching the interactive Netflix movie Black Mirror, you were given the option of choosing as many approaches as possible to enjoying the movie, there was no right or wrong to your choices. Even the climax was different with every new choice. This approach may be adopted in the long run to make e-learning more efficient, effective, interesting, interactive, and encouraging.

Another idea for effective gamification-based e-learning can be the use of enhanced 3D/7D/AR/VR technology. Of course, this will lead to a steep rise in the costs of such courses, so e-learning companies may consider tying up with organizations, institutions, and universities to make the experience less expensive than what may be estimated prima facie.

Taking everything into consideration, AI and gamification are the future of successful e-learning and edu-tech.




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