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Teaching in schools, college and universities could be enhanced with the use of ‘cheap and simple’ educational games as part of the curriculum, according to researchers at the University of Leicester and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Rather than mimicking the style of big budget games, Alex Moseley, an Educational Designer at University of Leicester and Nicola Whitton, Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University, believe that teachers in primary, secondary, further and higher education can integrate 'games for learning' into their teaching using simple purpose-built games, and gaming techniques, without great expense.
They have recently edited Using Games to Enhance Learning and Teaching. This new handbook introduces teachers and lecturers to the approach and provides them with the theory and tools to create their own game-based approaches.
Mr Moseley said: “The use of games in higher education learning is a relatively new research area, with very little literature on the small pockets of use around the UK and internationally.
“The main focus in the past decade has been on high-end simulation games, which try to match video-game standards with educational content, with mixed results. My work and that of my co-author Nicola Whitton at Manchester Metropolitan University has focussed on designing games around pedagogical needs, using simpler and cheaper media.
“Our research and practice has focussed around 'games for learning' which can be used in education with adult or young adult learners, and designed/run by lecturers and tutors without big budgets or specialist designers/programmers.”
In 2007, Mr Moseley developed a four-week online game, the Great History Conundrum, with the University’s School of Historical Studies to increase engagement with key research skills. The game sees the students take on the role of historical researchers: uncovering clues across campus and the wider city, in the depths of the library or in online journals or newspapers, to solve a series of puzzles and gain points which propel them up a leaderboard.
The module has run for four years, and student engagement and the quality of their work has increased each year with minor tweaks to the game design.
Dr Whitton has also been involved in research and game design for learning for many years, leading several project in the field, including the implementation of marketing games, development of multi-user online games to teach collaboration skills, the use of Alternate Reality Games for learning, learning through game-building, and the design of games for older adults. She said: “There is enormous potential for games to be active learning environments, to engage students, and to create the spirit of play, exploration and discovery that is key to effective learning.”
Mr Moseley continued: “Although often seen to improve engagement amongst students, games-based aspects such as competition or fun can also be demotivating and seen as 'not serious enough' for secondary or tertiary education.
“The handbook provides an unbiased grounding in the benefits and hazards of games-based learning and guides the reader through the steps and approaches needed to design and integrate games-based learning into the curriculum so that it has the maximum benefit to the learner.”
‘Using Games to Enhance Learning and Teaching’ edited by Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley is out now, published by Routledge. Tips and advice are provided throughout the book by ten 'experts' in the field of games design, interviewed by the authors, including Richard Bartle, who designed the first Multi-User-Dungeon (MUD) in the 1970s, and Jesse Schell, who is a leading figure in modern game design.