Stage 1 – the “handmade” stage

Thirty years ago, each computer game was created individually “by hand.” Programmers would build every component of a game from scratch. Each game had to be built again for each type of computer. A game designed for an Atari computer had to be rebuilt for an Apple computer.

In education in the past, each school had to develop and find resources for the online component of their courses. This was often done by individual teachers, and the materials were often placed in an online repository for access by students. In the early days, these materials were on a shared network drive. This then evolved into a shared online area, such as a file repository or a web page. However, each teacher or organization had to build their own web pages and the navigational links between them.

Stage 2 – a more systematic approach

In the 1980s “gaming engines” started to appear. These were programs such as Gamemaker, Pinball Construction Set and Adventure Construction Set. These provided core components of a game and the “intelligence” behind the game. Thus, a user could focus on the design, implementation and marketing of a game rather than the “nuts and bolts” – the time consuming computer coding.

In education, the equivalent is the development of Online Learning Environments (such as Learning Management Systems) that take care of many aspects of delivering learning materials in an online environment. These environments provide structure and navigation to online courses, and provide a range of other useful tools such as quizzes, chat and discussion areas, “dropboxes” for students to submit files (assignments), etc.

This stage also opened access to a wealth of online resources from commercial and free providers. Teachers no longer had to make most of the resources for their courses. YouTube alone has become a wonderful resource for educators (and there are many, many more sources of resources).

For many educators this is their current location.

Personalization at this stage takes time and effort. Many online learning environments allow personalization through features such as the easy creation of quizzes and other assessment/feedback activities, conditional release, creation of groups of students who share common levels of understanding, multiple paths for learning resources, etc.

For example, all students might study a small part of a topic and then take a quiz. Those who score above a “pass” grade (60 percent?) could continue to the next learning resource; those who score less than 60 percent could be diverted to some alternative learning materials that provide the information in an alternative format.

If the teacher is particularly keen (and has a lot of time), feedback and navigation to an alternative learning resource could be provided for each question that was answered incorrectly.

This is obviously a time consuming process, and is not the ideal solution…yet this is where many people currently find themselves.