A holistic approach to designing gamified and pervasive learning

I’m starting to think about the different projects that I’m going to be working on this year. My perspective on gamification and experience design has definitely set the tone for my research, development and practice in 2016. I will also be developing the holistic and modular approach in gameful learning design further, and adopt and adapt it in the various projects, programmes and initiatives.

For instance, the BEACONING project, which will be kicked off this month will adopt the modular approach to ensure that the expected ubiquitous and gameful solution is built on strong scientific, pedagogical and technological foundation towards ensuring feasibility, uptake and sustainability. Existing platforms, tools and technologies developed by the partners will be key building blocks for the integrated BEACONING platform. The key layers as illustrated below, which help structure the design and development considerations as well as the components of the BEACONING platform. This model has been adapted and modified slightly to include Experience Design (EX) and the key attributes to be considered under the learning context.

holistic model

S Arnab CC BY NC 4.0

Layer 1 Learning Context: The first layer is vital in ensuring the learning objectives and pedagogic perspectives inform the mechanics and dynamics of the intended learning process and activities that will be developed. The lesson plan, curriculum, co-curriculum, non- and in-formal learning, and learners’ needs (including accessibility) will help determine the anchor points, which are the important milestones set for the learning activities and the relevant assessment measures.

Layer 2 Learning Dynamics: Building on top of layer 1, this layer will help map out lesson plans with associated learning objectives/anchors (what skills to apply, what knowledge to assess), which will inform the content and the context of learning including associations of objectives and topics covered in the general education curriculum and structured around the identified anchor points. This layer will consider learners’ motivational model, learners-teachers-parents dynamics and pervasive contexts of play (e.g. digital and physical spaces, formal, non-formal and informal). The monitoring and validation dynamics (formal – informal) will be defined in this phase to ensure that learning and progress are continuously recorded and assessed. Learners need to be able to “identify, document, assess and certify/validate all forms of learning in order to use this learning for advancing their career and for further education and training”[1].

Layer 3 Gameful design: The gameful design layer aims to map the learning mechanics and dynamics with game mechanics and dynamics[2] to inform the design of intended experience (EX), user experience (UX) and pervasive engagement. Lesson plans will be gamified. The overarching ‘gamification’ will drive a lesson plan (linking formal, non and informal activities) represented by ‘missions’ and ‘quests’ associated to the discretised lesson plan.  Strong and engaging narratives wrapping around the lesson plan will be designed based on the motivational model, needs and local contexts of the beneficiaries, and the location of play. A variety of narratives, mechanics and aesthetics will be defined and act as the interface between the learning objects and the learners.

Layer 4 Enabling technologies: The gamified lesson plan in previous layers will inform the standard-driven specification, integration and implementation of enabling technologies for interfaces, media, analytics, communications and storage, including data security and access. Existing platforms, tools and applications will inform the building blocks of the BEACONING solution.

The project will also be informed by an existing work in trans-disciplinary game-based intervention approach, which will structure the production process.

[1] http://www.cedefop.europa.eu/en/events-and-projects/projects/validation-non-formal-and-informal-learning

[2] Arnab S., Lim T., Carvalho M. B., Bellotti F., de Freitas S., Louchart S., Suttie N., Berta R., De Gloria A. (2014) Mapping Learning and Game Mechanics for Serious Games Analysis, British Journal of Educational Technology.

Copyright S Arnab 2016

CC BY NC 4.0

An article on a trans-disciplinary methodological model accepted for publication

Early this year I briefly wrote about exploring a trans-disciplinary perspective with regards to game-based intervention design and development. ‘Intervention’ brings a game-based approach closer to the stakeholders in real operational environment and it is important to include an intervention mapping approach in the design and development of a game-based (software) solution.

This perspective emphasises on a need to set a strong context for the proposed intervention. In my post on a more holistic approach, technology should not be the (only) main driving factor, but together (collectively) with the strategy for achieving and measuring impact in whatever domain the technological solutions are going to be applied, they will be able to inform the iterative and incremental design and development process through to the subsequent evaluations of the intervention.

Abstract of the paper to be published in the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET):

Towards a trans-disciplinary methodology for a game-based intervention development process

Sylvester Arnab and Samantha Clarke


The application of game-based learning adds play into educational and instructional contexts. Even though there is a lacking of standard methodologies or formulaic frameworks to better inform game-based intervention development, there exist scientific and empirical studies that can serve as benchmarks for establishing the scientific validity in terms of the efficacy of using games to achieve serious outcomes. The development of these games does not normally follow a specific set of guidelines, which limits replication. There is a need to reflect on such a multi-disciplinary process and infuse knowledge from relevant disciplines towards developing a unity of considerations and approaches beyond the disciplinary perspectives. An infused and trans-disciplinary methodological framework could serve as a guideline to inform the development process of a game-based approach. With these perspectives, this paper aims to provide an example of how relevant theories and frameworks can be adopted collectively in order to inform a development process. Based on a digital game intervention aiming to support the delivery of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in the UK, this paper reflects on the trans-disciplinary considerations, informed by frameworks such as the Four-Dimensional Framework (4DF), the Intervention Mapping (IM) approach, Mechanics Dynamics Aesthetics model (MDA) and Learning Mechanics-Game Mechanics (LM-GM) mapping. IM when infused with the game design considerations of 4DF provides a more procedural perspective to game-based intervention development, collectively reflecting a participatory development approach. This subsequently provides the basis upon which other theoretical and methodological frameworks can be embedded, such as the MDA and the LM-GM models in order to marry the pedagogical aspects with the entertainment attributes of gameplay. These components when integrated may formulate a trans-disciplinary model that can be adopted and adapted by other researchers, designers and developers.

Keywords: serious games, game design, trans-disciplinary, game-based learning, game development life cycle

Note: Paper has just been accepted and is undergoing editing and proofing process.