Tag Archives: academic skills

Pervasive Learning Activities – Workshop July 11th

UPDATE: Date change to July 11th 2013

Pervasive Learning Activities (PLAs) are deeply embedded games-based approaches to learning which draw from key features of alternate reality games, and play on the idea of suspension of disbelief amongst participants: students become part of a developing scenario, learning skills and approaches in context, and gradually blur the line between the scenario and real life.

This approach has been used successfully to teach Enterprise in the Universities of Portsmouth and Leeds, and has potential for any other discipline.

As part of our ongoing research and practice in this area, Simon Brookes, Sarah Underwood and I are holding a workshop to outline the concept of PLAs, give participants experience of a real PLA, and then cover the skills needed to develop one in any discipline. It will be no surprise to hear that the day will be action-packed, fun and (we hope) rewarding.

The PLA Workshop is being arranged in conjunction with the Higher Education Academy, and will take place on Thursday 11th July at the University of Leicester.

Info / Sign up here

Points & prizes for core education elements

In the last few days I’ve come across multiple case studies where standard academic skills or issues have been overlain/augmented with game elements: those pillars of writing, referencing and  assessment.

Writing : 750 Words

Mainly aimed at (budding or struggling) authors, nonetheless this site would be useful for anyone having to write very long texts (of which academia abounds). In fact, it was recommended to me by a PhD student, @jennifermjones, who liked the fact that as well as providing space and encouragement (through points) to write 750 words each day, it also analyses themes and patterns within your writing over time. A simple space, simple points, with the addition of some variation with monthly challenges and ‘walls of shame’ or ‘amazingness’. I wonder whether the points, or the idea and well designed site, are more motivating, but it’s certainly a very interesting idea and useful tool.


…at the University of Michigan is a lovely little project which fits in well with the idea of using elements from the student’s projected context (ie. an effective subject researcher) and bringing out a competitive element within that familiar context. Using Zotero (an online reference manager/sharer), BiblioBouts encourages students to find new resources for a research theme, and then invite other students to rate them for academic suitability/relevance. Points are awarded for both rating/commenting on other students’ resources, and for scores given to their own resources. It will be interesting to see how this works in the coming year, as (much with my own Great History Conundrum) there is potential for students to develop as a community of practice together, gradually increasing their knowledge and skills within a valid research context.


This is an old chestnut, but worth adding here as it’s been doing the rounds again due to game-related conferences. Sheldon has the benefit of teaching game design to a class of game designers, but even so his approach is an interesting one: instead of grades, he assigns experience points and levels to his students. What has always interested me about this is the way that individual grades are far less important than the gradually increasing levels – which help to show students that essays and other assessment points are just elements (or side quests) within the greater aim (or campaign) of development  as experts in the subject.

Within the current debates around ‘gamification’ and the (often unrelated) application of points and gaming systems to real life situations, these three cases are fabulous examples of how game elements can be naturally combined with existing contexts, and strengthen existing elements of academic study.