Enhancing Student Learning by Incorporating Game-Based Learning Into Your Course

Game-based learning (GBL) is a type of game play that has defined learning outcomes. Generally, game-based learning is designed to balance subject matter with game play and to help the player retain and apply what they have learned to the real world.

Are you looking for innovative ways to engage your students as learners? There might be a game that could help.

On May 12, 2014, the Center for Teaching and ITS-Instructional Services worked with a group of UI faculty members who had identified a learning need in their students and were looking to devise a game to help students address that learning challenge.


This collaborative opportunity enables faculty participants to:

  • work with ITS-Instructional Services and Center for Teaching staff to focus on at least one student learning challenge, research games that could be incorporated into the course, and consider content and designs for developing new games;
  • connect cognitive knowledge and intellectual skills to the purposes of specific games;
  • create a faculty learning community that continues to gain knowledge and skills, assess the impact of using games in their courses, and share information and encouragement. 


The Game-Based Learning Faculty Community kicked off with a workshop on Monday May 12. Prior to that, faculty participants read a few brief articles and submitted a brief description of a learning challenge their students seem to experience, along with the syllabus for the course in which students struggle.

The workshop helped us to gain shared understandings of definitions, functionality, and impact of games as well as ways that they can be used to target particular learning needs. 

During the summer, faculty members met individually (or in small groups) with Center for Teaching and ITS-Instructional Services staff members to develop content for incorporating a game and discussed how best to fold game-based learning into course materials, including assignments, in-class use, and assessment. We also discussed how faculty members will assess the impact of student use of games.

At the end of the summer or early fall, we gathered as a group and share our ideas. At the end of the fall semester, we regrouped again to discuss outcomes of using games in courses.


Faculty participants:

  • attend all workshops and follow-up meetings;
  • collaborate with ITS-IS and the CfT to find a game or develop a proposal for the Innovations in Teaching with Technology Awards to create, adapt, modify, or develop a game to address student learning needs;
  • participate in two follow-up meetings (late summer or early fall, and late fall);
  • develop course materials—particularly assignments, in-class exercises, and learning assessment—that incorporate the use of a game;
  • share and read a few current articles and web resources relevant to student learning and games as teaching tools;
  • respond to assessment inquires posed by ITS-Instructional Services and the Center for Teaching;
  • assess the impact of the game on their students’ learning outcomes. 

Game-Based Learning Faculty Institute Schedule

May 12, 2014

9:00 am


9:15 am

Activity #1: The Core of the Game  

 Play Games & Discussion

9:45 am

Introduction to Using Games for Learning

Dr. Benjamin ​Devane, College of Education

10:30 am


10:45 am

Activity #2: Game Design Elements & Workflow

Dr. Sarah Vigmostad, College of Engineering

11:45 am


Review & Discuss Course Ideas

12:30 am

Constructing Games: Meaningful Game Design

Josh Larson, “That Dragon, Cancer” – Game Developer

1:15 pm

Activity #3: Putting It All Together

Workshop Your Ideas & Pixar Pitch

2:00 pm

Game-Based Learning Assessment

Dr. Benjamin ​Devane, College of Education

2:15 pm

Badges in Education: An Introduction to the Perks and Perils of Digital Badges

Brittney Thomas, Learning Commons

2:45 pm


How do you want the learning community to continue?

Special Guests:

Ben Devane, assistant professor, educational psychology program

Josh Larsen, game developer

Brittney Thomas, Learning Commons coordinator

Sarah Vigmostad, associate professor, biomedical engineering



Panoramic photo of the main library.