Cartoon of a map with text saying "games = fun + learning"
"Small World" background designed by Daniel Cook (

As instructors who use “Jeopardy” in their classes can attest, game-based learning (GBL) strategies can be an engaging and effective way to help students learn.

Well-designed game-based teaching strategies are more than just “fun and games”—research indicates that they can provide a number of advantages to learning, including:

  • Integrating assessment and contextual feedback (Gee, 2003; 2007).
  • Motivating students in a state of ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).
  • Helping to scaffold instruction, reinforce learning, and enhance social learning (Shaffer, 2006; Presnky, 2003).

Playing games is a regular part of college students’ lives. A 2003 report of college students’ gaming behavior indicated that 65% reported being regular or occasional game players and 70% reported playing video, computer, or online games at least once in a while. These statistics long predate Angry Birds and Candy Crush, and it is safe to say that digital gaming continues to be an important part of students’ lives.

National conferences such as Games for Change and Games Learning Society support a growing community of researchers, educators and game designers to develop games that serve as critical tools in educational and humanitarian efforts.

In recent years, a new educational trend has occurred as students shift from being primarily consumers of games to students also acting as producers of games, a change mediated by the emergence of open source technologies, including the interactive storytelling tool Twine and the html game platform Construct2. The power of games for publishing original works is now widely accessible to educators, game developers and students. As the tools and teaching models of GBL improve, institutional resources to support faculty adoption will be required to encourage and support meaningful impact in the classroom.

At The University of Iowa, a number of recent initiatives have supported instructors who seek to incorporate GBL into their courses or even develop their own games and game-based curricula.

Guest Speaker Lee Sheldon presents
Game-based Learning, The Multiplayer Classroom and You 
Wednesday, March 25, 4:30-6:00 pm in C20 Pomerantz Center

With a $34,600 OTLT Innovations in Teaching with Technology Award, and in consultation with OTLT Innovation Strategist Les Finken, Sheila Barron is creating an interactive simulation environment to teach statistical concepts in the social sciences. Barron is a Statistician/Biostatistician Manager in the College of Education Department of Psychological and Quantitative Foundations.

And after attending a daylong Center for Teaching Faculty Institute on game-based learning, Teacher Leader Center Director William Coghill-Behrends launched a digital badging initiative within the college’s professional development programs.

So will games change the world, as Jane McGonigal predicted in her New York Times Bestseller Reality is Broken? Perhaps. The learning-through-gaming landscape is booming with games used to promote social and emotional learning, community building, healthcare intervention strategies, and sustainable energy.

As OTLT continues to support game-based learning at Iowa, we are presenting a keynote address and master classes by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor in the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences Lee Sheldon. Game-based Learning, The Multiplayer Classroom and You will be presented on Wednesday, March 25, 4:30-6:00 pm in C20 Pomerantz Center.