Anytime Anywhere learning with gameful Beaconing

Key to reducing the barriers of time and physical space in teaching and learning is to open up education in such a way that formal/informal learning contexts, and digital/physical experiences are blended. Exploiting current advances in digital technologies allow for learning processes to be better situated in a learner’s context, needs and surroundings, where many different forms of learning experience can be combined in working toward the desired learning outcomes.

To understand how digital and physical learning contexts could be exploited to enhance the learning experience of learners, there is a need to study students’ engagement with learning spaces, pedagogical (such as game-based learning, gamification for learning) techniques as well as technologies to understand learning dynamics in physical and digital environments, and the extension of learning beyond the limitation of a physical classroom by looking at relevant enabling technologies. It is thus important for educational institutions to evaluate and possibly re-design how formal spaces are used in teaching and learning and how digital platforms can help facilitate delivery, application and assessment of learning in informal context.

Advances in ubiquitous computing, mobile and location-based technologies open up opportunities for digitally-enabled learning to be facilitated in everyday spaces, increasing flexibility for learning experience to be made more engaging, contextualised and seamless. With game-based learning and gamification in mind, potentials include games or gamified activities taking place in the physical world, concurrently with the normal activities of learners’ everyday lives, where virtual actions may be the trigger for physical actions in the real world and vice versa. Example games with serious purposes that adopt such a pervasive approach include Zombies Run- an adventure location-based mobile game that advocates running, and Ingress- transforming local landmarks into game objects in a viral and global gaming, provides an avenue for teaching and learning to be made more playful and pervasive. 

Pervasive gaming is getting a lot of attention recently since PokemonGo marched on to the forefront of the mainstream. This opens up opportunities for technology-enabled pervasive play-learning to be embedded in education fostering an ecosystem where informal activities are recognised as an important extension to formal delivery and instructions. This will allow us to inject educational play in both formal/informal and digital/physical spaces and contexts.

1.1The Beaconing project is exploring this opportunity as a response to an increasing appetite for such an approach. In the process, we will investigate the crossings between pervasive gaming and gamification and how the digital connectedness will supersize the playful experience that may transform into the new “norm” in teaching and learning. We however need to be careful in terms of providing support to the teachers, who are at the forefront. The ability to reuse, adapt and/or create new pervasive play-lesson plan will hopefully expand and extend the impact of learning beyond the traditional classroom setup.

I will talk about the ideas that underpin the project and where we are so far at the coming Gamification World Congress. The project has also been nominated as a finalist for the GWC Best Education Project 2016 at the congress.

Digital games and older adults

quoteOne of my PhD students is carrying out a research on the perspectives of older people (age >=55) when it comes to interacting with digital games, focusing on gesture-based and mobile platforms. A paper on some of the findings were presented at the ECGBL 2016 conference recently. Some of the findings of her PhD (to be submitted March 2017) may also relevant for informing gamification design for older adults.

Paper title: The andragogical perspectives of Older Adults’s interaction with digital game technologies: Game-play on gesture and touch-based platforms

  • Authors: Suriati Khartini Jali, Sylvester Arnab
  • Abstract: Due to the engaging factor of gameplay afforded by digital game technologies, the application of games is becoming a popular medium in promoting and fostering serious outcomes in domains, such as education and health. For instance, social inclusion and healthy lifestyle can be motivated and stimulated through social interaction, cognitive exercises and physical activity afforded by digital game technology. Acknowledging the potential benefits of game-play, this paper explores digital gaming from the perspectives of a specific target group – older people above the age of 55. It is essential that users or players are captivated and engaged by a game before any serious purposes/activities can be imposed. The design of most games used for both entertainment and serious purposes however focuses on the general player population, and mostly targeting a much younger population currently engaging with digital gaming. The paper thus aims to specifically investigate the correlation between the challenges associated with older people, their existing engagement with digital gaming and other interactive technologies, the andragogical perspectives and existing game design attributes. A pilot study was carried out with 14 participants. Data was collected from their interactions with and experiences of digital gaming. Questionnaires and group discussions were utilised in order to collect their feedback and perspectives on the experience. The results of our study show that there are three key findings which are; 1) the interaction types and the experience provided by the game itself, 2) the game interaction styles which is supported by the platforms and 3) gameplay interaction and challenges associated to age-related changes. These findings should be considered when considering the interaction and experience of older people for digital game design.



Being hybrid in a digital age

I have shared various views and perspectives on how important it is to preserve the tangible relationship between our engagement with both digital and physical spaces and contexts. No one context is better than another and it all depends on what it is that we are trying to achieve in the learning process. How do we balance the different interactions towards a more seamless reflection of the learning process? Being exploratory and experiential is key to possibly enhancing this and foster a much deeper learning in the process.

Under the GameChangers programme (Coventry University), we are exploring different ways of addressing the need for a more hybrid approach to learning- the blended approach that offers a more seamless process; a less disconnected process.

At the recent ECGBL conference, we showcased two projects that are looking at ways of supporting a more live action and pervasive approach to learning built upon the importance of play in learning.

Paper 1: ImparApp: Designing And Piloting A Game-Based Approach For Language Learning

  • Authors: Koula Charitonos, Luca Morini, Sylvester Arnab, Tiziana Cervi Wilson, Billy Brick, Tyrone Bellamy-Wood, Gaetan Van Leeuwen
  • Abstract: The paper gives an overview of the development, deployment and evaluation of ImparApp, a location-based game to support teaching and learning of Italian Language. It draws on a project currently developed at Coventry University, which examines pervasive approaches to learning and exploits game-based techniques in contextualising language learning in a more active, innovative and engaging way.

Paper 2: EscapED: A Framework for Creating Live-Action, Interactive Games for Higher/Further Education Learning and Soft Skills Development.

  • Authors: Samantha Clarke, Sylvester Arnab, Luca Morini , Oliver Wood, Kate Green, Alex Masters
  • Abstract: There is a rapid growing interest and demand globally, for developing and participating in live, team-based, interactive gaming experiences otherwise known as Escape Rooms. Traditionally designed to provide entertainment, Escape Rooms require its players to solve puzzles, complete tasks and work together efficiently in order to complete an overall goal such as solving a mystery or escaping the room itself. The structure of Escape Rooms and their overall growing popularity, equally amongst players of all ages and genders, indicates that the premise of interactive, live-action gaming can be adapted to develop engaging scenarios for game-based learning. The authors therefore present; EscapED, as a work in progress, case study and paradigm for creating educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Gaming Experiences aimed at staff and students in further/higher education institutions. A focus is drawn to designing and developing on-site experiences, to provide engaging alternatives for learning and soft skills development amongst higher education staff and students. A review of a prototype scenario, developed to support Coventry University staff at a teaching and learning training event is given, alongside participant’s general feedback and reactions to the overall experience and perceived educational value of EscapED. The EscapED framework is then discussed and offered as a tool to help foster a best practice approach to developing future Interactive Game-Based Learning Experiences (IGBLE). To conclude, the authors examine future needs and requirements for refining scenario design, development and iterative live-player testing, to ensure the EscapED Programme meets all educational and player engagement standards.

You can read more about the design process for a live action approach here.

These are just some of the work that we are doing. Interested to find out more?- do not hesitate to contact us.

Piloting a gamified platform with Sports Science

We have recently presented a paper that is looking at the perceived impact of competitive and collaborative environments on summative assessment. This study based its investigation on the StarQuest platform (, a social and gamified collaboration application hosting a private online environment for small groups of individuals to co-curate and share digital contents. The project was in collaboration with Playgen Ltd, who developed the platform.

The pilot was carried out with the Sports Science team, where the target participants were the second year undergraduate students (Sport Psychology, n=94), who enrolled on a module entitled “A Fundamental Approach to Motor Learning and Control”. The module was carried out by Mike Smith, Mike Duncan et al. for 11 weeks and the curriculum was delivered using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. Students were allocated to one of 20 tutorial groups, which consisted of approximately five students per group. There were five members of staff who acted as PBL facilitators and the curriculum was divided into four two-hour lectures, seven two-hour tutorials and three two-hour lab sessions. Problems were set from current issues in the world of sport and students had to prepare group and individual information related to providing a solution to the problem before the first tutorial.

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. The pilot demonstrates that teamwork skills can be scaffolded via StarQuest, and the mode the teams were impacted on their level of engagement and attainment in the learning process.

The academic achievement data suggests that the gamification of learning does not necessarily result in improved attainment for all students. It is clear that the marks for coursework 1 for those in the Collaborative condition were significantly lower when compared to those in the Control and Competitive conditions. Analysis of interaction data indicates that autonomy afforded within the control and collaborative modes encouraged learners to interact more with the system, whereby the competitive group interacted less (less liking and commenting on others’ posts) but competed more within the platform and possibly outside the platform judging from their coursework marks.

The study suggests that the motivational orientation of the learners (individually and collectively) influences the learning dynamics, and that the Competitive group outperformed those in the Collaborative group, which we propose is due to the Sport Psychology students being naturally competitive, in order to increase their level and position in relation to their peers. This suggests that the subject area being studied may attract a different type of student (e.g. Sport Psychology versus Art and Design), which consequently may have significant influence over whether a competitive or cooperative climate would be most advantageous in their learning and consequently summative assessment. Therefore, further investigations into the reasons for this anomaly are required.

The pilot also emphasises that the provision may prove to be more effective with level 1 students compared to other advanced levels, linking to the motivational conditions of learners (individually and collectively) that influence the learning dynamics and culture as they level up which has also been recommended when implementing PBL in to the curriculum. Many of the level 2 students this study had already been introduced to a systematic way of looking at the PBL pathway in the level 1 module ( and consequently had already established their own collaborative methods and channels of communication in the first year, e.g. using Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

Slide deck for the ECGBL 16 conference is as shared below. The slides summarise some of the key insights. The paper should be published in the proceedings soon.