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.

Coventry meets Italy in a location-based game

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-16-54-21We have been piloting a learning game co-design and production approach between teaching staff, students and researchers based on the holistic game-design approach, which has led to the development of a location-based game for learning basic Italian. The game, aptly called ImparAPP is still in the prototype stage, where it is currently being evaluated with our students at Coventry University.


Developed using the TaleBlazer authoring tool, the game allows students to learn Italian and discover Coventry city at the same time. A player will explore the city from point to point (on the map) searching for clues as part of the game quests, absorbing as much of the Italian language as possible through interactions, quizzes, videos and audio cues and use them to tackle the in-game challenges and ultimately progress the story of the game.  Any items collected will be stored in the inventory. The game dynamics are facilitated via engaging narrative and story as the players go through the locations that are triggered as they complete specific tasks/scenes.

If you would like to test the current prototype, please follow the instructions below:

  • Download Taleblazer app on:
  • Open the TaleBlazer app, click menu and insert the game code below for levels 1-4:
    • Game code for Level 1: gtvvwhj
    • Game code for Level 2: gpudhyb
    • Game code for Level 3: gkyyhge
    • Game code for Level 4: gihlmfd
  • NOTE: The prototype version will allow game locations to be clicked/tapped on as you progress with the story and tasks (quizzes, puzzles, etc.). If you are in Coventry, you can use the location-based functionality of the game.
  • If you are not in Coventry: Once you are in the ImparAPP game, please click on menu -> setting and switch Tap to Visit– pls see below:


Let us know what you think! If you are interested in participating in the study, please let me know.

Existing findings from the preliminary studies will be presented at the upcoming ECGBL conference. Please also see a reflection video from the subject experts (colleagues from the Languages Centre) below.

Big shout out to the team members: Billy Brick, Tiziana Celvi-Wilson, Tyrone Bellamy-Wood, Gaetan Van Leeuwan, Luca Morini and Koula Charitonos. And thanks to the STEP team at the MIT for their support.



Reblog: Why you shouldn’t always aim for perfection in game design

As an evangelist of a more hybrid approach to behaving in a digital age and learning, I naturally gravitate towards games such as ZombiesRun, Ingress and of course PokemonGo.

I am reblogging Jan’s post on Ingress versus PokemonGo as I agree that perfection in any experience design does not translate to better engagement and most importantly sustained engagement.

I’ve personally played both PokemonGo and Ingress. Ingress is a bit too complicated and the flow design is not as good as PokemonGo. The rough and ready PokemonGo with its simple mechanics is a winner.

And I can see how we can remix the same approach for learning games. Individual adventures with team elements naturally embedded within the narrative.


piclab.pngReading Time: 3minutes (ish)

Ever since Pokémon GO was released,on July 6th this year, all sorts of knowers have been ranting about the game’sinferiority to Ingress (the predecessor of the game from the same developer: Niantic) or it’s bad design in general. They claim that PoGO is lacking from so much of what makes Ingress a great game. They seemannoyed that the gamegets so much attention, while being so crappy in comparison. Quora user and Ingress playerMadhuja Chaudhari, expresses it like this:

“My vote goes for Ingress-
  • Majorly because you can work as a team- this game was made with community gaming in mind. Both the teams gather many times a year in live events- essentially large scale portal battles- organized by Niantic.
  • Not only it has a better look and feel, but also a great storyline.
  • Pokémon Go has too many bugs, server issues. It is also…

View original post 1,213 more words

Game Science in a Hybrid Learning Space

Slide1As mentioned in one of my blog posts, I’m working on a book idea around the power of gameful and playful learning as a response to the blurring of the boundaries between digital and physical contexts and spaces as well as between formal, informal and social settings. The idea was initially conceived mid 2014 and further developed in 2015. The initial idea has also inspired part of the development of the Beaconing project concept.  

This book will essentially explore existing work, trends and impact and implication in education. Existing projects I’m involved in  and leading will inform some of my thoughts and perspectives, including Beaconing, C4Rs, GameChangers, Starquest, Imparapp, etc. I have also spoken about some elements surrounding the topic in my various keynotes. My blog posts so far also give some flavour of some of the views and perspectives that will be further explored in the book.

The book proposal has been submitted to a publisher (Routledge) and has recently been approved and a contract is being sorted out as we speak. I will provide an update on the timeline and when the book will be expected. Watch this space!

The short summary of what the book will explore is as follows (all copyrighted 2015):

Games Science in a Hybrid Learning Space

Sylvester Arnab

Disruptive Media Learning Lab

Coventry University, UK

Games Science in A hybrid Learning Space will explore the potential, implication and impact of game-based approaches and interventions in response to the opportunities, requirements and challenges motivated by the blurring of the boundaries between digital and physical as well as formal and informal (including non-formal) learning spaces and contexts. Recognition of informal learning as an extension to formal methods is an important means for promoting ‘lifelong learning for all’ and, subsequently, for reshaping learning to better match the needs of the 21st century knowledge economies and open societies. The book will build upon the concept of a hybrid learning space that aims to reduce the barriers of time and physical space in teaching and learning practices, fostering seamless, sustained and measurable learning participation and outcomes beyond the barriers of formal education and physical learning contexts. The focus on a gamified approach is inspired by the increasing use of games concepts, techniques and technology to inject more fun into everyday spaces and contexts, and the evidence of increased engagement, enhanced experience and improved learning outcomes afforded by the approach.

Games Science in A hybrid Learning Space will delve deeper into the concept of, the opportunities afforded and challenges posed by a hybrid learning space, and how the science of games and the act of gameplay can better foster and scaffold teaching and learning experience and outcomes. The book will specifically focus on the crossings of pervasive technologies, gaming and gamification. Research and development of pervasive gaming is catalysed by the proliferation of more cost-effective, robust and mobile technology, providing opportunities for context-aware educational resources to be supported and delivered within a playful context. This in turn provides the mechanism for proactive discovery and learning, offering real benefits for teaching: they enable active pedagogy through physical and contextual immersion of learners, “in situ” information while practicing within authentic context. Existing findings (such as Schmitz, et al., 2013[1]) provide evidence that the appropriate use of context information within pervasive approach directs the use and presentation of content within a game and thus influences learning effects and motivation of individual players.

Based on original research, Games Science in A Hybrid Learning Space will also establish trans-disciplinary and holistic considerations for further conceptual and empirical investigation into this topic, with the dual goals of a better understanding of the role of a pervasive game-based approach in a blended environment, and of the possible structural and cultural transformation of formal education and life-long learning. The book will conclude with a future outlook on pervasiveness in teaching and learning practices, the enabling technologies and the impact they would have in future education and lifelong learning. This book is an essential guide for researchers, designers, teachers, learners and practitioners, who want to better understand the relationship between games and learning that merges digital and physical experiences and blends formal and informal instructions.

[1] Schmitz, B., Klemke, R., & Specht, M. (2013). A Learning Outcome-Oriented Approach towards Classifying Pervasive Games for Learning using Game Design Patterns and Contextual Information. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL), 5(4), 59-71

Quick video of #BeaconingEU Kick Off 19th January

1.1The Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL), Coventry University hosted the BEACONING project kick off meeting from 19-20th January as described in my previous post, where 26 attendees representing 15 partners from 9 different countries came together for the first time to define a shared vision for the project over the next three years. The day and a half meeting covered many topics all delivered in a unique and interactive way to pave the way this ground breaking project set to change mind-sets and create new models and practices of teaching and learning.

The video is a quick overview of the kick off day. It was a shame that we didnt get to video all partners. The official project video is to come!

BEACONING stands for ‘Breaking Educational Barriers with Contextualised, Pervasive and Gameful Learning’ and will be focusing on ‘anytime anywhere’ learning by gamified techniques and technologies, framed under the Problem-Based Learning approach. The project is co-funded by the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 687676.

The official website will be up and running soon –

Follow us on Twitter – @BeaconingEU 

Hashtag – #BeaconingEU

Borderless learner: A super learner in a hybrid learning space


Thinking about the topic for my TEDx talk today. 23rd January is not long to go. I have been exploring Experience Design (EX) and Gamification a lot this year and the impact on the future of formal education. So it is only natural for me to focus my talk on being a super learner, the designer of our own educational Hero’s Journey.

The tentative outline is as follows:

The increasing use of games in non-entertainment contexts is transforming everyday lives and most importantly injecting more fun in everyday contexts. This talk will explore the science of games and how education can be an adventure, especially in a hybrid space, where the boundaries between digital and physical contexts and spaces are blurring. Digital and physical experiences are merging in a big way with the advancement of social platforms, mobile technology, wearable devices and the Internet of Things, opening up opportunities for ordinary spaces to be transformed into highly contextualised, purposeful, seamless and ubiquitous playgrounds. As a learner in an information-saturated, fast-pacing and highly connected environment, how can we be a game player, a game changer and a super learner within a learning community that is more global and social. Are we moving towards a borderless, hybrid and gamified educational ecosystem? Learning is a pervasive process and should not be restricted. This talk will touch on the Horizon 2020 Beaconing project that is exploring ‘Anytime Anywhere’ learning to emphasise the EU Commission’s invested interest in pervasive learning and gamification. The talk will also emphasise on the Game Changers programme, where Game design thinking is key to creative problem solving opening up opportunities for learners to design their own learning experience. The gamification of learning will be so pervasive that we will not even realise that we are already in the system; a system that connects mind space, digital existence and physical experience. Should we only be a player or also as the co-designer of the experience? It is time to exploit ‘Games Science’, turning learning into a game; a journey without borders – a journey where anything is “achievable”. Be a learner, a designer of your learning experience, a journey towards mastery.

I will talk more about my thoughts on the power of Experience Design (EX) in my next blog post, reserved for the new year!

Work-Life-Play blend – visiting fellowship in America

I was awarded a Research Collaboration Fellowship that has allowed me to engage with researchers and practitioners within the area of games science. Games Science can be defined as a field under which, applied games approaches, such as serious games and gamification can be framed- techniques that are underpinned by pedagogical, motivational and psychological theories and practices.

11893746_10155948261885581_2507363162176057191_oThe visit was divided into two 3-week periods. The first three weeks in May were filled with great discussions, drafting of research ideas, article writing, book proposal outlining and bid writing. The visit has further strengthened the development of a key research focus related to pervasive gaming and learning, which has also seen pervasive games being developed and piloted at Coventry University (al11838613_10155948262205581_6484854061139757191_oso follow our intern/developer Tyrone’s weekly blogs on his experience building the prototypes), and a holistic model being established to help inform gamified learning design. This model is currently being refined to further address both technology and non-technology perspectives, which will also include views on both digital and analogue technologies.

The second three weeks started with exciting news about the recently submitted EU Horizon 2020 grant bids. Two bids are successful so far (bids submitted to the ICT-20-2015 and ICT-10-2015 calls). The success of these bids further substantiate the importance and relevance of my key research focus on pervasive games, gamification design and context-aware technologies, and their potential to impact learning, cross-subject teaching and community building. Furthermore, I will also chair a special track on Pervasive Gaming for Learning at the up and coming ECGBL 2015 conference in Norway.

boston 1

Casper, Sebastian and yours truly on a lunch discussion session

I had the opportunity to engage with peers at Northeastern University and the MIT Boston, such as Assoc. Prof. Dr. Magy Seif El-Nasr, Dr. Seth CooperDr. Casper Harteveld and Dr. Sebastian Deterding of the Game Design group at Northeastern, and Scot Osterweil, Dr. Phillip Tan and Dr Judith Perry of the STEP/Education Arcade group at the MIT.

An article on ‘An Inquiry into Gamification Services: Practices, Experiences and Insights’ co-authored with Casper has recently been accepted for the IGBC 2015 conference and an article on a trans-disciplinary game design and development model is currently under peer-review (the British Journal of Educational Technology). I’m also working on a grant concept note with Magy on games and emotions, which will target the Leverhulme Trust. Seth gave an interesting talk on the use of games and gamification techniques in solving scientific problems at the DMLL’s #DisruptiveBytes afternoon session via Google Hangout.


Seth at his NE office ready to broadcast

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 10.05.47

Live from DMLL

Engagement with the STEP group at the MIT has led to an authoring tool for pervasive games (TaleBlazer) being trialled at the DMLL for developing pervasive game prototypes for supporting language learning. These prototypes will be piloted at Coventry University to evaluate the potential and impact of pervasive games and gamification in higher education. I also gave a talk at the MIT’s GameLab/EducationArcade lunchtime seminar on the research and development work we are doing at the DMLL related to pervasive and gamified learning.

Ross and Ilena of IoP

Ross and Ilena of IoP

Took a scenic train route to New York from Boston and had the opportunity to visit the Institute of Play there. Ross Flatt and Ilena Parker (bios) kindly hosted me one morning, where we talked and discussed about our shared interest in the use of game design thinking in teaching and learning, especially within the context of co-designing and co-creation of lesson plans and contents. Future collaborations and partnerships will be further explored towards the end of the year and our immediate focus is to see if they can be included as associate partners in one of our grant bids.

fab 1The visit also coincided with the FabLab festival in Boston, which was very fortunate. Spent one afternoon being a “student” again- gamified approach to teaching and learning programming and electronics.

All in all, it has been a great experience, and the activities during the visit also align with Coventry University’s Applied Research and Internationalisation Strategy. I’m looking forward to further exploring partnership developments with colleagues and peers in the USA, aiming for excellence in research with impact. Thanks to Coventry University for the Research Collaboration Fellowship that has enabled me to explore opportunities across the pond and to focus on my personal research, publications and grant bids whilst abroad!