Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Developing A Strategy for Game-Based Learning (#GBL)

EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) had published a paper about GAME-BASED LEARNING: DEVELOPING AN INSTITUTIONAL STRATEGY in last August. As the idea of gamification and game-based learning are gaining awareness in higher education, it provides a useful framework for overall policy consideration. It’s very different to use game thinking in one course and a system implementation.

Games have become a central component of our culture generally, and they have begun to assume a role in higher education, though typically only on a small scale. Several key trends will drive the adoption of such game-based learning in higher education over the coming years, including student expectations, new technologies, and new structures for recognizing learning and student achievement. This bulletin explores these topics and provides a framework for successful integration of game-based learning at postsecondary education institutions. The basis for the institutional framework is derived from the authors’ own experiences as well as a set of selected interviews with institutions pursuing game-based learning strategies.

Citation for this Work: Rhonda M. Epper, Anne Derryberry, and Sean Jackson. “Game-Based Learning: Developing an Institutional Strategy” (Research Bulletin). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, August 9, 2012, available from

The framework demonstrates the elements of game-based learning ecosystem implemented in institutions. Institutional commitment and support are important to scale some innovative pilot works. Also without a driving pedagogical rationale, the value of games will be trivialized in the eyes of faculty. Transition from discrete learning games to a game-based learning initiative should aim to utilize “game as data-rich artifact”. While multiuse game engine or platform, content management, IT infrastructure are all required.  For long term plan, the paper is a valuable reference.


WCET had ever launched a demonstration project, called Who’s Got Class?, as a fun, light-hearted experience to explore what it takes to launch a badge initiative, and to give all who participate a first-hand experience with badges and games for learning. The summary was shared in this presentation by Anne Derryberry. It’s an interesting experiment and observation, and its design could be an good example to get you started.

The Horizon Report for Higher Education just released has identified the time-to-adoption horizon for games and gamification is 2 – 3 years. Games and Gamification are effective tools for scaffolding concepts and simulating real world. Furthermore, educational gameplay has proven to increase soft skills in learners, such as critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork experience. Several examples in higher ed. practice from the report are interesting to learn: (links to NMC website for details)

At the IE Business School in Madrid, for example, students are learning the complexities of global economic policy through a game called “10 Downing Street” ( In this simulation, students take on the role of the British prime minister and work with key figures including Paul Krugman, Margaret Thatcher, and Milton Friedman to come to an agreement that will affect the well being of the national economy.

Purdue University has developed two mobile apps, Passport and Passport Profile (, that integrate the Mozilla Open Infrastructure software ( The badging system was adopted by Purdue in order to identify skills that are not represented by a student’s degree, and to provide educators with another outlet to recognize student accomplishment and concept mastery.

SimArchitect is a simulation game and social connection site for architects, developed by IBM Center For Advanced Learning. Players are issued a request for proposal by a fictitious client and must respond, conducting meetings with the client and team and then proposing a solution. IBM created a performance scorecard that evaluates the player’s communication with the client, architectural methods, and more.  (

The Historical Williamsburg Living Narrative project at the University of Florida is an effort to create an interactive fictional game in which the geography, culture, and characters of early Williamsburg, Virginia will be brought to life. Functional maps show the early architecture of historic buildings, and interactive scenarios with characters like George Washington and Patrick Henry allow students to participate in discussions of the times. (

The University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing has partnered with the Minnesota Hospital Association and a technology company, VitalSims, to develop web-based interactive games that engage nursing students with real-life scenarios. With initial versions of the game already completed, health care educators are looking forward to implementing these digital learning tools in 2013. (

The Global Social Problems, Local Action & Social Networks for Change project at St. Edward’s University positioned learners in the role of superheroes to tackle large-scale global social problems at local levels. (

At the Henry Madden Library at California State University, Fresno, students play a game that is built into Blackboard called HML-IQ to orient themselves with the available library resources and how to use them. Top scorers are awarded gift cards to the library’s coffee shop upon completing each level. The games were created with open source tools including Snagit. (

McGill University’s Open Orchestra simulation game uses high definition panoramic video and surround sound to provide musicians with the experience of playing in an orchestra or singing in an opera. (

A professor at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada is involved in a collaborative study that explores how “exergames” — or video games that require physical activity — improve the well being of teenagers afflicted with cerebral palsy. (

At the Fox School of Business at Temple University, a professor designed his social media innovation course as a quest in which students earn points for blogging and engaging in social media activities. They are awarded badges, and those that excel earn a place on the leader board. (

The University of Bahia’s Games and Education initiative, based in the Brazilian state of Bahia, supports collaborative, scholarly research along with publications about educational games. One of their missions is to aid in developing games that simulate teaching scenarios. (

The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington partnered with game developer Novel Inc. to take real, complex scenarios from major companies, including Starbucks and Nike, and turn them into enterprise simulation games. (

Actually starting in October of 2011, 750 students at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) school of Interactive Games and Media had started a pilot program Just Press Play adding gaming layer around the traditional pedagogical processes. Even the MOOC provider edX is a big proponent of gamification too. The learning environment in the MOOC can include a virtual laboratory with simulation capabilities and Lego-like design exploration. edX students can perform interactive exercises and get instant feedback.

You might find the mixed usages of gamification and game-based learning terms in all the above cases, although some are arguable regarding which term is more appropriate. We could follow all of them as an critical emerging trend leveraging the gaming mechanism as an effective learning design!! An institutional strategy is required to build an engaging learning environment and data-driven learning paths.


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8 Responses »


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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