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Reaching Millennials Through Virtual Gamification

When I mention EMS Games. What comes to mind? Do you picture yourself in the late 1980s playing ambulance driving games where you scored points by transporting patients to the hospital? Or do you think about games such as Emergency: The Paramedic Simulator, which was very much an animated comic book where you would choose a skill then turn to page 73 to see if it worked?

Today I think about millennial paramedic students and how they learn. The digital age has created a learning environment where people feel more comfortable multitasking, are tired of voiced over PowerPoint presentations and reading articles followed by a competency test. How many times have you skipped to the end of a self-directed learning module to take the test knowing you will pass? Did you stop to consider what you actually learned from doing that? Were there tidbits of information in the course that you may have picked up if you had followed along but since you already felt confident you knew the information you skipped to “prove competence or to just get your certification?”

The American Psychological Association article references a “study by Dalton State College psychology professor Christy Price, EdD, which suggests that millennials want more variety in class (August/September 2009 The Teaching Professor). “This is a culture that has been inundated with multimedia and they’re all huge multitaskers, so to just sit and listen to a talking head is often not engaging enough for them,” (Novotney, 2010, para. 4).

What can we, as educators, do to engage the millennial learners under our domain? I believe we must adapt to the types of learners we are teaching, not to the type of learner we are.

We all know the VARK model, Visual, Auditory, Read/write, Kinesthetic. In a perfect world students would learn using one mode. But this isn’t a perfect world and the way the next generation learns and retains the information differently. “Research shows that millennial students prefer a less formal learning environment that allows them to interact informally with the professor and fellow students.” (Novotney, 2010, para. 8). So, how can we become less formal when we are stuck with a brick and mortar classroom setting with ridged times and dates?

The answer: live online learning in small blocks of time with gaming styled learning activities to engage more, enhance retention, and provide the learner the opportunity to discuss and interact in a protected environment.

“Active learning approaches — such as the use of student response systems and collaborative learning — are associated with greater academic achievement, though this isn’t necessarily millennial-specific, Meyers says. For example, a 2007 study examined the use of an electronic audience response system, in which students use handheld “iclickers” to respond to questions during a class lecture or discussion.” (Novotney, 2010, para. 12).

What this tells me is more engaged learners not only share information, but also are more active participants, resulting in improved learning. Consider then Virtual Patient Care Scenarios created in a gamer format with reality-based dispatching, treatment, post call round ups that let staff not only see what, when, how the student performs, but also proof of competency for certain call types. As technology continues to double every 18 months, we will see more learning move towards virtual online, which we, as educators, need to embrace now to engage our learners.

Scott F. McConnell is Vice President of EMS Education for OnCourse Learning and one of the Founders of Distance CME. Since its inception in 2010, more than 10,000 learners worldwide have relied on Distance CME to recertify their credentials. Scott is a true believer in sharing not only his perspectives and experiences but also those of other providers in educational settings.

Novotney, A. (2010, March 2010). Engaging the millennial learner.

OnCourse Learning

Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell, RN, CEN, PHRN, NRP, is the co-founder of Distance CME by OnCourse Learning and an EMS instructor.

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