Tag Archives: Leicester

Pervasive Learning Activities workshop

PLA Academy11:30am, Thursday 11th July: a Registrar instructs the Head of the Press Office to send an urgent press release out, whilst the PVC (Students) phones a worried parent about their daughter, who has just had her money stolen in a distant airport. This might be a scenario which has played out during a high profile student fieldtrip in another institution, but in this case all of the above persons and events are fictional. Not that you could tell, looking in.

The PVC, Registrar etc. were in fact participants in a workshop I ran with Simon Brookes (University of Portsmouth) and Sarah Underwood (University of Leeds), in conjunction with the Higher Education Academy, at the University of Leicester. The day-long event focussed on Pervasive Learning Activities (PLAs) – an authentic/experiential approach to learning which we developed from the educational benefits of Alternate Reality Games (Brookes & Moseley, 2012; Moseley, 2012) and which Simon and Sarah have implemented in whole module designs for undergraduate Business students.

Arrivals Board

One of the artefacts we created: an arrivals board showing the flight arriving

We structured the workshop around the ‘why, what and how’ of PLAs. Simon opened the day with an excellent introduction to ‘why’ we recommend PLAs for effective teaching of domain knowledge and ‘professional competencies’ together. And then, because PLAs are focussed around creating authentic contexts – with the actions, events, roles and artefacts used in those contexts – at 11am prompt we asked our participants to open their name badges, and fold them over to reveal their new identities. On the screen, a plane touched down in a dusty landscape and an arrivals board showed Kenyan Airways flight RO354 touching down in Juba International Airport. One half of the group (the University Geography department) went to their office, whilst the Senior Management team gathered in their Operations Room.

For the next hour, each team had to quickly familiarise themselves with the Geography department fieldtrip they were overseeing (see the Geography Student Society blog), and cope with a variety of problems ranging from lost passports to an outbreak of rioting at their intended destination. Whilst the Geography dept were liaising by phone with the group leader on the ground (superbly played by our colleague Katie Piatt in Brighton by prior arrangement), the Senior Management Team could be found checking student Twitter feeds as they contacted the South Sudesia Embassy for latest travel advice (staffed by  bored jobsworth receptionist, ably delivered by Nic Whitton in Manchester).

Notes on PLA materials

Notes scribbled over the PLA materials during the live activity.

By the end of the hour, the teams had quickly dropped into their learning context, and successfully negotiated a number of events in (pretty much) the way a real University department and SMT team might have done.

After lunch, we revealed the preparation which had gone into their experience: the planning stages, the preprepared artefacts (including documents which had been posted out to participants in advance of the workshop, to set the scene), the scripts which Katie and Nic had been working to, and the live updates/responses we had been making during the hour. There was much fascinating discussion as participants considered their own discipline contexts and how a PLA, and the design process, might work for them. The design process, with worked examples, is available on our dedicated web site:

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the workshop, hope that it provided you with plenty to consider for your own context, and thank the HEA for their support and partnership in hosting and promoting the event.


Brookes, S. & Moseley, A. (2012) “Authentic Contextual Games for Learning”. In Whitton, N. & Moseley, A. (eds) Using Games to Enhance Learning and Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide. Routledge: New York, pp91-107.

Moseley, A. (2012) “An Alternate Reality for Education?: Lessons to be Learned from Online Immersive Games”, International Journal of Games Based Learning, Vol 2, No. 3, pp32-50.

Meeple in the Pub: or The Games and Learning SIG is launched

At the last ALT-C conference, Nic Whitton and myself floated the idea of a Games and Learning special interest group (SIG) with the powers that be; to be greeted with much enthusiasm.

Fast forward three months, and a group of researchers and practitioners within higher and further education who all shared an interest in the use of games within learning (either directly, or indirectly through research) met together in a first SIG online meeting. And there was much rejoicing.

Between then and now, we’ve been working on a variety of projects to consolidate our approaches and develop new research and outreach; including creating a web site and membership scheme to allow anyone interested in the area (games for adult learning) to join in. We are pleased to announce that this is now open to all:

What about the pub?

GLSIG members 'on task'

The first challenge: open the Lego packets

Last week, the core members of the SIG met for the first of what we aim to be six-monthly ‘face to face’ events. I hosted at the University of Leicester, and we spent a fabulous 24-hours (including a sleep and university catering-supplied bacon butties) packing in a whole host of work including, but not limited to:

  • competing in a lego-building ‘contextual’ challenge

    Lego figure

    Make my day, punk

  • setting out the aims and structure of a planned white paper on games and learning
  • discussing Aaron Dignan’s Game Frame (see Nic’s thoughts here, which matched the discussion pretty well)
  • pooling research ideas and opportunities
  • playing and critiquing my course design board game (very useful feedback) and  decamping in the evening for beer and some highly competitive games of Carcassonne, Ruk Shuk and Pass the Pigs.
Playing course design board game

Playing the course design boardgame

Long live the GL-SIG!