Nearly 60 years ago, JA Canada gave Canadian students a taste of experiential learning by introducing our Company Program. It was innovative and exciting. Today, JA Canada offers 15 programs to 250,000 students across the country and continues to bring innovative and exciting learning experiences. A key part of this is through the introduction of digital content and game-based learning, as well as through the gamification of our online content. This approach was validated by a Boston Consultancy Group (BCG) study completed in February of 2015, which recommended among other things that JA “emphasize ‘blended’ learning with technology serving as the catalyst of the vision”. By incorporating this validated approach, JA is applying educational methods deeply rooted in a strong foundation of research, best practices, and modern trends.
As part of the first phase of our JA Excelerate initiative, we’ve added digital elements to three of our most popular programs including Economics for Success, Dollars with Sense, and Our Business World, with digital elements soon to be integrated into the refreshed A Business of Our Own. The program enhancements started out as digital slideshows, and have quickly evolved to videos and interactive HTML activities. The reasoning is simple: Today’s students have grown up in the digital space. Rather than asking them to go back to the pen-and-paper age, JA Canada is going to where they already are. Feedback from teachers and volunteers around these initiatives has been very positive, particularly in regards to student interest in the programs.
Great content is important, but great content doesn’t guarantee engagement. And while school has external motivators such as mandatory attendance and grades, we need to give students reasons to engage with our content for their own benefit. That’s where gamification – the concept of inserting elements of gameplay into non-game situations – helps out. For instance, granting “experience points” for engaging with content, giving rewards for accumulating points, and offering clever designations or titles are concepts from the gaming world that serve to motivate users to use platforms frequently and build a merit-based community. It is an emerging practice in education, and has shown promising results in terms of learner engagement.
These two concepts, game-based learning and gamification, will ensure that JA continues to deliver engaging and impactful programs in the future.
National Program Manager, JA Canada
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