#PlayingForReal in Helsinki


logoThe ErasmusPlus Playing For Real project is coming to an end (31 August 2016) and the meeting that is currently live in Helsinki is very reflective of what we have achieved and learned within the past 2 years. Gamification has been the main staple for the practice partners as the frontliners engaging with the unemployed adults. See also previous post.

NOTE: the website/online hub is still a work in progress and will be re-designed to include outcomes (downloadable resources, video testimonies, toolkits, etc.) from the project.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 12.49.49

Playing For Real levels CC BY-NC 4.0

Our first meeting was pretty amusing, with the word ‘gamification’ being rather foreign to most of the partners. Together with Oscar Garcia Panella from CookieBox, we had a great time talking about gamification, the science behind it and the practical potential of such an approach in capacity building.From the reflections at the meeting this week, the terms – ‘games’, ‘gamification’ and ‘play’ have been used interchangably, but essentially the Playing For Real project has produced a gamification (leveling up) programme with gameful and playful elements/activities within the stages. The seven step programme piloted in Barcelona (and deployed in the field by the practice partners) is as illusrated. The rationale for the levels was loosely based on the pre-pilot approach tested by the Italian practice partners. The toolbox (design tool, repositories of gameful/playful activities, gamification framework, etc.) to allow our approach to be adapted and adopted will be provided on the final version of the online hub –  by the end of August 2016.

We have also provided a quick and informal introduction to the project concept from the perspectives of three stakeholder types (the unemployed, social worker, local business) in the form of non-linear comics. The arts were developed by a Coventry University’s alumni. Click on the images below:

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I will write another post on the main steps in the leveling up approach, highlighting key lessons learnt from the project but overall, the experience has been positive with practice partners and target stakeholders feeling empowered and equipped to look at difficult situations and explore options and oppotunities in a different way- in a more gradual playful leveling up approach afforded by the Playing For Real gamification framework. Gamification has the benefits of structuring playful interventions in capacity building and this project is (as far as we know) leading the one in non-digital gamification for engaging unemployed adults.

Immersive narrative – a collaboration with colleagues at Coventry University


There are so many variables that influence human behaviours, attitudes, habits and actions, and understanding people as individuals is a complex process. Empathy is a very difficult “skill” to master especially when you put cultural aspects into the mix. Experience is key to incrementally developing this skill.

Assumptions can be made prior to meeting a new person (either client, patients, students, etc.), but perceptions can quickly change when meeting face-to-face. And the use of body language, vocal tone, micro expressions and other such auditory and visual signals can sub-consciously trigger responses in face-to-face meetings, collectively influencing the granularity of the conversation dynamic. 

Working with colleagues from the Health and Life Sciences, they emphasises that it is important to be able to understand how a client is feeling so that their patient journey is as smooth as possible. “Theory based models only give a vague insight into how a real-life scenario unfolds, and role-play can be time consuming in organizing, and also requires recurring costs“.

We have recently collaborated on a research project, which is called Immersive Narrative aiming to experiment on various approaches to help our students at Coventry University to explore the need for emphathy and deeper learning. Our ambition is to experiment  visual interpretation through 3D animation within a 360/VR environment, with characters, rigs and animations that can be re-purposed, without the need for employing actors or simulated patients.

The team member includes Sheila Leddington-Wright and Michelle Stanley from the Sports Therapy unit and Sean Graham from the Centre of Excellence in Learning (CELE).

The research question is: Would fidelity in character representations influence the level of engagement and enhance empathy and deeper understanding of learning scenarios?

Our objectives include:

  • Develop 3D character and scenario for proof of concept using Unity 3D based on Sports Therapy case studies.

3d-character-design-screnshot-1

  • Translate into the VR/360 environment

in-game-VR screenshot

The scenarios have been developed and the initial testings have also been carried out.

  • Randomised Control Trials – An RCT (n>45) consisting of a control group with 4 different interventions (a written script, audio dictation, traditional screen based animation, and an immersive VR animation) were carried out to evaluate the significance of a 3D character approach to storytelling. Analysis of findings will indicate any direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of learning resources developed within the University, and for the wider academic community.

The findings are still being analysed and the outcomes will be published in one of the SJR: Q1 or Q2 journals. But what we have observed so far is the potential of using a more immersive approach using off the shelf GoogleCardboard to help engage learners in learning scenarios. The next level up is to add a meta-narrative to encapsulate the different scenarios into a game-like adventure. Watch this space!

Article accepted for publication – Simulation and Gaming


The mapping of Learning Mechanics- Game Mechanics (LM-GM) has been explored to better understand the relationships between pedagogical constructs and game-play mechanics. The mapping has also been used to inform the design of a game and the trans-disciplinary approach employed is reflected in a paper published in the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) journal.

This post is about another perspective of the mapping inspired by the importance of self-directed learning being one of the key aims for the use of game-based techniques and technologies in learning. The use of game techniques can potentially enhance engagement, promoting agency and sustaining participation in a learning process.In the paper that has just been accepted for publication in the Simulation and Gaming journal, we are looking at the mapping of these two key elements under the lens of the self-determination theory.

Title: Learning mechanics and game mechanics under the perspective of self-determination theory to foster motivation in digital game based learning.

Authors: Jean-Nicolas Proulx1, Margarida Romero1, Sylvester Arnab2

1 Université Laval, Québec, Canada

Jean-Nicolas.Proulx.1@ulaval.ca, Margarida.Romero@fse.ulaval.ca

2 Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, UK

s.arnab@coventry.ac.uk

Abstract: Using digital games for educational purposes has been associated with higher levels of motivation among learners of different educational levels. However, the underlying psychological factors involved in digital game based learning (DGBL) have been rarely analyzed considering the self-determination theory (SDT, Ryan & Deci, 2000b); the relation of SDT with the flow experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) has neither been evaluated in the context of DGBL. Evaluating DGBL under the perspective of SDT can improve the study of motivational factors in DGBL. In this paper, we aim to introduce the LMGM-SDT theoretical framework, where the use of DGBL is analyzed through the Learning Mechanics and Game Mechanics mapping model (LM-GM, Arnab et al., 2015) and its relation with the components of the SDT. The implications for the use of DGBL in order to promote learners’ motivation are also discussed.

Keywords: Digital game based learning, motivation, self-determination theory, learning mechanic, game mechanics, LM-GM, SDT, flow.

There is also another paper that is currently under proof with BJET, which has expanded on the LM-GM mapping in order to understand the key relationships between the granularity of a learning process with game-play based on the development of a game aiming to foster inquiry-based teaching and learning. Will blog about this later.

Social and gamified platform for co-curation – paper accepted. #gamification


A research paper has just been accepted for presentation and publication at the upcoming 10th European Conference on Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2016). The paper is based on a pilot at Coventry University on the use of a social and gamified platform for team working. 

Competition And Collaboration Using A Social And Gamified Online Learning Platform 

 Sylvester Arnab1, Roy Bhakta2, Sarah Kate Merry1, Mike Smith3, Kam Star4, Michael Duncan3

1Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, UK 

2Institute of Education, University of Worcester, UK 

3Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, UK 

4Playgen Ltd., UK 

 Abstract: Gamification is defined as the use of game techniques in a non-game context and has demonstrated potential impact in a wide range of subjects. Informed by the design and processes of digital gaming, gamification often exploits competition to motivate, personified by points, badges and leader boards. Success, however, seems to go beyond these basic features and rely on a concrete acknowledgement of the motivational model of the user, taking into account concepts such as situational relevance and situated motivational affordance, which can be framed under competition and/or collaboration. This paper investigates the impact of competitive and collaborative environments on summative assessment. This study bases its investigation on the StarQuest platform (http://starquest.eu/), a social and gamified collaboration application hosting a private online environment for small groups of individuals to co-curate and share digital contents. Participants were second year undergraduate students (Sport Psychology, n=94), who enrolled on a module entitled “A Fundamental Approach to Motor Learning and Control”. The module ran for 11 weeks and the curriculum was delivered using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. The results highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses of implementing a gamified online platform for team working, which will inform future design, development and deployment of gamified and learning platforms. 

 Keywords: Gamification, game-based learning, collaboration, competition, blended learning 

What is your story?


Screenshot 2016-05-06 18.57.38Understanding abstract concepts can be a bit tricky if they are not relatable. Personalising narratives around a topic or a subject contextualised the relevance and the applicability of the topic. Identifying with the potential of visual learning to help foster a more creative approach to interpreting abstract topics and concepts, we recently explored the use of images to provide cues and act as muses based on the concept of Experience Design – mapping three key elements: People, Context and Activities. Please see the infographic.

fundamentals-of-experience-design-stephenpa

As described in my previous post: “Personal interpretation of a concept or a topic is key to our knowledge development. By looking at a topic in different perspectives, collectively we can build this knowledge base- a base of personalised context and understanding. Story-telling and narratives have been key in our history from the oral accounts of events, written scrolls to printed books to highly animated and interactive medias.” Arnab S (2016)

Screenshot 2016-05-06 19.24.21Aiming to explore the power of creativity and personal experiences, we designed and developed a physical card-based game to facilitate this process. It is aptly named “What is your story?” – and it was developed under the Game Changers programme. This card-based approach allows you to create your own rules but the fundamental mechanics are:

  1. Choose the theme of your game
  2. All players draw one card from each element deck (People/Context/Activities)
  3. Using your cards as prompts, create a story or narrative concept based on the three key elements.
  4. May the best story wins!

Screenshot 2016-05-06 19.27.08To test the cards, we recently  ran a workshop at the DMLL Expo (see storify here) using the cards and we added additional rules:

  1. We provided poker chips/tokens to each player
  2. To encourage peer-review and rating, each player passed a token to the one they feel has the best story in that round
  3. The one with the most tokens was the winner of that round.
  4. The game was continued with different themes.

The main aim was to introduce a playful way to get learners to look at complex concepts in a more relax way. This approach can be used as part of an induction into a course to encourage learners to build narratives around their understanding. More rules can be added to the game-play. For instance based onExperience  Design, you can add more layers to the three elements, meaning you can explore the narratives around multiple cards from the different element decks.

Based on the feedback and requests for cards to be used in the existing practices of the participants (n=36), there is a great potential for the approach and we have ordered more card decks for use at the university.

FullSizeRenderWe will also run a similar workshop at the Revolutionary Learning Conference in NYC in August 2016. Released under CC By-NC 4.0, the cards can be reused, repurposed and remixed to suit the different learning outcomes. The next step is to provide a downloadable templates. We are also looking into using this to help students to create narratives around the cross-connection between the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) topics.

Some of the twitter feeds on the workshop at the DMLL Expo: