11/12/2010 11:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Instead Of Tests, Video Games To Assess Student Learning

Video game naysayers, take note: beyond Mario and Bond, games might be helpful learning tools. Florida State University professor Valerie Shute believes that virtual realities are a helpful means of secretly assessing elusive skills like analysis, creativity and problem solving, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education.

According to Shute, video games can be used not only to impart complex information (like microeconomic principles or ecology) but to teach critical thinking skills, such as scientific inquiry and research. Games can be designed to gauge student understanding of specific concepts, and challenge them to work through demonstrated weaknesses. And they can be used to track students' progress and assess their thought processes.

Some universities have already begun to integrate virtual games into their classrooms. The Gainesville Sun reports that the University of Florida is offering an online course called "21st Century Skills in StarCraft," which requires student to play the real-time, multi-player online strategy game "StarCraft" for up to two hours per week. The course instructor, educational doctoral student Nate Poling, says that he uses the game like a textbook, and that the skills imparted -- strategy, risk management and efficient use of resources -- are useful outside of the classroom.

Shute believes that the implications of her research are far-reaching and that principles of stealth assessment can, and should, be used in elementary, high school and college courses. She said to the Chronicle, "A lot of important stuff happens when playing games. You're just doing. You're in the much could be done using games."

Do you think there is a place for virtual learning in the classroom? Have you been assigned to play a game in one of your classes? Let us know below.

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