Tag Archives: Social Learning

Gaming With Learning Design

As mentioned in my previous blog post I will be writing a mini-lit review each weekend on the papers that I have read that week. This week I turned my attention to gamification. The purpose of this interest is through reviewing papers on learning design whilst on holiday (weekly posts about those over the forthcoming weeks) with the focus for me being on the thought process of the potential design of learning journeys and motivation in informal learning, gamification became a field of interest. Over the years I have observed how players move through levels, and keep playing for hours and days at an end, but why? What’s the hook? And how can I transfer that to learning design in informal learning journeys to increase motivation?


One of the biggest challenges in informal learning is motivation. Why is it that students undertaking formal qualifications are focused to completion, and informal learners aren’t as much? Granted there is a student drop out rate in formal higher education, but it seems not at the rate as to that of informal learners. So what motivates the student to complete where the informal learner does not? To complete, both student and learner must be motivated, but can the only motivations to learning and completion of study be a qualification in the form of letters and a certificate and the cost of formal tuition driving the student to completion? How and why is an informal learner motivated and through sound learning design can the pedagogy of an informal course aid or encourage this?

Most recently there has been growing research in the field of gamification. Previously thought largely as ‘play’ for children, a number of observations has led to the development of study in this field with the view to improving education (e.g. Emery & Enger 1972; Martin 1979; Perrone et al 1996; Squire 2002; Verenikina & Herrington 2009), with the recent explosion in technology and gaming developments there has been a significant increase in the focus of game-based learning (Garris et al 2002; Gros 2007; Pivec 2007; Hong et al 2009).

Cherryholmes (1966) presented findings that role-playing exercises enhance student motivation in comparison to the more traditional learning approaches such as lectures and case studies. Though it didn’t lead to an increase in concept learning it was stated that role-play aided in the retention of material learnt. Cherryholmes went on to state in the same findings that simulations increased the students’ interest in a topic and therefore their learning attitude. Many years later Randel et al. (1992) added that the subject matter must be taken into account when evaluating the effectiveness of using simulations, with the most beneficial being focused on the study of languages and mathematics. Druckman and Ebner (2013) counter Cherryholmes research with their own, stating that concept retention and motivation are enhanced through the use of simulation.

These are in many ways blanket statements. Through the work of Vogel et al (2006) in the conducting of meta-analyses to explore to what context does the use of games and interactive simulations become more or less effective that traditional instruction methods led me to the examine whether this would have a connection with the four types of learning theories developed by Smith (1999) namely; behaviourism, cognitivism, humanism, and constructivism. Though Utopian, it is not possible to only create one type of learning journey as there is not one type of informal learner.

Behaviourisms is based on the three principles; of learning manifested by change in behaviour, that environment shaping behaviour, and contiguity and reinforcement being crucial to the explanation of the learning process (Grippen & Peters 1983; Schlechter 1991; Watson 1997). Cognitivism advocate that involved thinking is required in addition to simulation and reinforcement (Moore & Fitz 1993), and built on the three principles of; attribution theory (Weiner 1974) in the explanation of the world to determine cause to events or behaviour, elaboration theory (Reigeluth 1983) grading learning from simple to complex, and theory of conditional learning (Gagne 1965) stipulating several different levels of learning requiring different types of instruction. Humanism concentrates on the freedom, value, dignity and potential of people (Combs 1981) with learning being student centred and the educator in the role as facilitator. Finally, constructivism believes learning to be an active process with learners in the role of information constructors creating their own representations of their reality (Bednar et al 1995).

What can be drawn from this is that motivation to learn is not a ‘one size fits all’ issue that can be resolved by a singular template to informal learning design. Though it won’t be possible in the time frame of my doctorate to explore all of the possibilities of what each of those learning designs could represent, it is possible to research as to the motivations of informal learners to ascertain what type of learning design could be potentially created in the future.


Bednar, A.K., Cunningham, D., Duffy, R.M., & Perry, J.D. (1995) Theory into practice: how do we think? In Instructional Technology: Past, Present, and Future (ed. G.J. Anglin), pp. 100-112. Libraries Unlimited, Inc., Englewood, CO.

Cherryholmes, C. (1966). Some current research on effectiveness of educational simulation games: A synthesis of findings. Simulation and Games 12(3): 307-332

Combs, A.W. (1981) Humanistic education: too tender for a tough world? The Phi Delta Kappan. 62, 446-449

de Freitas, S. & Routledge, H. (2013). Designing leadership and soft skills in educational games: The e-leadership and soft skills educational games design model (ELESS), British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 44 No 6 2013 951-968. British Educational Research Association.

Druckman, D. & Ebner, N. (2013). Games, Claims, and New Frames: Rethinking the Use of Simulation in Negotiation Education. Negotiation Journal January 2013

Emery, E.D., & Enger, T.P (1972) Computer gaming and learning in an introductory economics course. The Journal of Economic Education. 3, 77-85

Feng, C-Y., & Chen, M-P. (2013). The effects of goal specificity and scaffolding on programming performance and self regulation in game design. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 45 No 2 2014 285-302. British Educational Research Association.

Gange, R. (1965) The Conditions of Learning. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, NY.

Garris, R., Ahlers, R. & Driskell, J.E. (2002) Games, motivation, and learning; a research and practice model. Simulation and Gaming. 33, 441-467

Geippin, P. & Peters, S. (1983) Learning Theory and Learning Outcomes: The Connection. University Press of America, Inc., Lanham, MD.

Gros, B. (2007) Digital games in education: the design of games-based learning environments. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. 40, 23-38

Hong, J-C., Cheng, C-L., Hwang, M-Y., Lee, C-K., & Chang, H-Y. (2009) Assessing the educational values of digital games. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 25, 423-437

Li, Z-Z., Cheng, Y-B., & Liu, C-C. (2012). A constructionism framework for designing game-like learning systems: Its effect on different learners. British Journal of Educational Technology Vol 44 No 2 2013 208-224

Martin, D.S. (1979) Five simulation games in the social sciences. Simulation Gaming 10, 331-349

Moore, P. & Fitz, C. (1993) Gestalt theory and instructional design. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 23, 137-157

Perrone, C., Clark, D. & Repenning A. (1996) WebQuest; substantiating education in edutainment through interactive learning games. Computer Networks and ISDN Systems 28, 1307-1319

Pivec, M. (2007) Editorial: Play and learn: potentials of game-based learning. British Journal of Educational Technology. 38, 387-393

Randel, J.M., Morris, B.A., Wetzel, C.D., & Whitehall, B.V. (1992) The effectiveness of games for educational purposes: A review of recent research. Simulation and Gaming 23(3): 261-276

Reigeluth, C.M. (1983) Instructional Design Theories and Models. Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ.

Shlecter, T.M. (1991). Problems and Promises of Computer Based Training. Ablex Publishing Corporation, Norwood, NJ.

Squire, K. (2002) Biohazard Education at the Speed of Fear. MIT/Microsoft, Comparative Media Studies Department, Boston, M.A.

Smith, M.K. (1999) ‘Learning theory’, the encyclopedia of informal education

Verenikina, I. & Herrington, J. (2009) Computer games design and the imaginative play of young children. Paper presented at the 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, Como, Italy.

Vogel, J.J. Vogel, D.S., Canon-Bowers, J., Bowers, C.A., Muse, K. & Wright, M. (2006) Computer gaming and interactive simulation for learning; a meta-analysis. Educational Computing Research. 34, 229-243

Watson, J.B. (1997) Behaviorism. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ.

Weiner, B. (1974) Achievement Motivation and Attribution Theory. General Learning Press, Morristown, NJ.

Wu, W-H., Hsiao, H-C., Wu, P-L., Lin, C-H., & Huang, S-H. (2011). Investigating the learning-theory foundations of game-based learning: a meta analysis. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (2012), 28, 265-279. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The Story So Far…

I know I have been absence from my blog for a while but there were a few things I had to get sorted out. Firstly from the feedback from my PR01 and Residential School I have moved the focus of my research slightly, which has meant a rethink in my research strategy and a movement in my literature review.

Then I went on holiday. Not ideal timing I know, but it was booked 6 months before I was accepted onto the doctorate programme and I thought in holidaying in September that I would avoid any clashes with deadlines. How wrong could I be! Shortly after I was due to return from holiday I had the deadline of PR02. As it wasn’t possible to extend the deadline due to work travel commitments meaning I would have little extra time to work on my progress report I packed my bags for my holiday complete with a lever arch folder full of learning design papers, my laptop, iPad, notebook, highlighters and pens.

Studying on holiday isn’t easy. It’s not the distraction of the sun or the beach that you have to contend with, it’s the 40 plus degree heats that dry out your highlighters and gel pens as you mark and write, leading you to crank up the air conditioning in your room to arctic blast setting. And then to top it all off you have to fight for bandwidth with hundreds of other guests in the hotel lobby so you can log on to an Ethics seminar that you need to partake in, praying that the broadband in the desert will hold out long enough to post your forum comments, resulting in you keeping the hours of the hotel cleaning staff just so you can study before the sun rises and the sun worshipers flock to the lobby to upload their photos from the night before to Facebook.

To top off this study challenge extravaganza I fell prey to the Tunisian tummy bug after being served tap water in a mineral water bottle on the night of day seven leading me to spend the rest of my holiday in solitary confinement. The bug stayed with me long after flying home and after submitting PR02.

So, where does this leave me? To be honest it left me in a frustrating place, lacking in time and energy. But it was at this precise moment in time that my supervisors picked me up, dusted me down, and helped talk me through the planning of the next stages of my research.

The biggest difficulty of my research is that the field I wish to research is limited in the way of literature which means I have to read around the field into a number of other fields to see if I can reframe theory into mine. No easy feat. This leads me on to my second biggest difficulty, I’m old school. I’m a printy paper off, highlight, reflect, and write notes down with ink and paper kinda girl. This will not work for the volume of papers I will have to scan, shortlist, and read. Ironic as I’m known to always be carrying and making notes in my tablet for work, and my phone is surgically attached to my hand at all times.

This therefore requires a cunning, yet simple plan. And here it is, my blog becomes the place for my mini-literature reviews. I keep all my notes here with the aim to write a mini-literature review weekly. No more written hand notes like the ones above. And as I have self imposed my weekly deadline, no more reading papers to discard. The scanning of the abstract, findings and conclusion will be my ruthless filtering system.

Oh, and it starts today. Next blog posting coming up shortly. I feel like the energiser bunny.

For now, I’m still…

Doctor in Waiting

Spare, Spare Time

As my followers on Twitter know I fill most of my daily life being the Senior Producer: Social & Syndication for The Open University and that my doctorate I’m undertaking on a three year programme (which is what this blog is about) in my spare time.  

Well what about my spare, spare time? 

Normally, completely sane people choose to have a hobby or an interest, or just instead stare out of the window. Not me, I’ve never been the sit still, thumb twiddling type – as those that know me can contest, I make for a rubbish patient. 

So when an opportunity came up to work for my Pro-Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) as her Doctorate Research Assistant for the ICDE Research and Innovation Taskforce Project I jumped at the chance (and given that I’m 5’10 and wear 4″ heels, that’s pretty high). 

The focus of the R&I Taskforce is to:

  • Initiate a meta-study on the state of research and innovation in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning
  • Identify the grand challenges of research in open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning
  • Encourage cooperation amongst ICDE members on research and innovation (R&I), and
  • Advice the ICDE Executive Committee on R&I issues 

And also it means I will be working with the powerhouse of knowledge that is Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology in IET on campus (he has a penchant for biscuits, of which the producing of may be in my favour…). 

Meanwhile whilst all this was kicking off and I was settling into the my new spare, spare time role I had an email from the Director of International Development and Teacher Education in FELS (Faculty of Education and Language Studies) at the OU who is leading on another ICDE project on student success making enquiries about whether I was able to support him on the development of his survey and evaluation for his project. This is now my new spare, spare, spare time activity and I couldn’t be happier as both relate to my doctorate and also my research will hopefully be able to aid the projects. 

So…as I have successfully achieved filling all my spare time and saved myself from RSI from repeated thumb twiddling, I’ve hired a gardener. To be honest my plants are probably grateful. 

For now, I’m still…

Doctor in Waiting

Learning about Learning Design

As my doctorate is on the learning design of a journey, I have started my research with understanding how the learning design of courses is conducted at The Open University, to see how I could apply this methodology to a journey and what elements I would need to tweak or introduce to a journey-specific learning design. 

The concept of learning design was introduced within the OU in January 2013 with it becoming a required elements to the stage-gate course production process in March 2014. Even though the learning design process was adopted for formal for-fee content we have applied this process to the BOC (Badged Open Course) for-free initiative which I project manage. 

The use of learning design in informal content I feel is just as important as with for-fee or formal content as the learners need a cohesively designed course to feel that they are able to achieve the learning outcomes of the course and then if they decide to progress from learners to formal students then the pathways, layout, and design should feel familiar to them as they study our for-fee content. 

My theory (and this is one of the elements that I am exploring in my research) is that for a learning journey to be effective not only should the components within have learning design applied, but also the narrative that stitches all the component parts together. It can’t be expected that learners will know exactly what to do next after they have completed one part of the journey has this leads to confusion, loss in confidence and motivation, and eventually an increase in drop off rates. 

Anyway, enough of that for now (as no doubt you will be subjected to many theoretical ramblings as my research increases in this area over the forthcoming three years) and back to the learning design at the OU.

IET (Institute of Educational Technology) at the OU has a team of learning design specialists that work with course teams to identify the learning design of their courses, demonstrate the benefits of a good learning design, develop case studies for use, and help to identify the tools and resources that course teams require in the development of their courses. 

I started out developing my understanding of learning design at the OU by partaking in the learning design workshops for the BOCs (more about those in a future post soon) and from there I attended curriculum learning design training and now I am undertaking IET’s LD101: Introduction to Learning Design course, which is the first of a four part series of learning design courses by IET. 

I am hoping that this practical application, observation, reflection, study of their courses, and the development of my reading and research for my literature review will aid me to deepen my understanding of learning design in preparation for my application of the methodology. 

Right, less blogging, more studying of LD101 

For now, I’m still…

Doctor in Waiting 

The Story So Far…

So following on from my ‘about me, myself, and how am I here?’ section I think it best to update you with where I am to date and then promise faithfully to update my blog on a regular basis with my thoughts and findings as I progress through my doctorate to my viva, and hopefully post a few happy celebratory photos in the concluding installments on my journey to become Dr Gore (I know, I would have made for a great hammer horror style surgeon).

Following on from the feedback I received from Rebecca my supervisor on my proposal, I reflected on the amendments that I would make to get this proposal tweaked, tuned, and in tip top condition for my first progress report. I thought upon submitting my PR01 eight days ahead of schedule (I did say I was no ordinary doctorate student) that I had my research questions and plan in the bag. How wrong could I be.

Residential School was like a baptism of fire on my little brain. I had sparks, tangents, and lightbulbs flashing all over the place. After three days of sessions with my supervisor, I thought I had cracked it, and tottered home happy with mental exhaustion. Then I slept and thought some more. Then reflected on the thoughts, then thought some more. Now I have my doctorate.

Drum roll please…

Title: Effective Processes and Structures in Online Learning through a Social Paradigm

Aim: This research will investigate the delivery methods of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), the success criteria required in its pedagogical design, the structure of the platfom required delivering it, and the learning obtained in understanding the digital footprint of design an informal learning journey within a social paradigm.

Specific Research Questions:

1. What is an effective learning design of an informal learning journey featuring MOOCs?

An effective design is the foundation of a successful learning journey, with MOOCs being facilitated through third party platforms, which are beneficial to the social missions of educational providers, do come at the cost of delivering a disparate approach, segregating learners onto different platforms with limited aggregation to deliver community based informal/social learning. When registration numbers of MOOCs range from tens of, to hundreds of thousands, developing an effective learning design could impact upon the registration of formal offerings within The Open University.

2. What is an effective delivery of a MOOC within an informal learning journey?

At present there are two predominant types of delivery; xMOOCs which are online course provisions delivered through a broadcast method on a singular platform (such as FutureLearn), and cMOOCs in which learning communities are facilitated solely in third-party social platforms. The former provide structure but lack a connected approach as a learner journey, but the latter are too disparate in delivery and depend on learners possessing high digital literacy skills. Since the creation of these two strands of MOOC there have been further developments of versions of these:

  • TORQUE – Tiny, Open-with-Restrictions, focused on Quality and Effectivement
  • DOCC – Distributed Online Collaborative Courses
  • SMOC – Synchronous Massive Online Courses
  • SPOC – Small Private Online Courses
  • BOOC – Big Open Online Courses
  • Corporate MOOC – developed solely for the Continuing Professional Development market
  • MOCC – Massive Online Closed Couse

However, all these draw from the primary two types xMOOC and cMOOC. And none of them consider the informal learning journey in which they reside.

So there you have it in a nutshell, years of thinking has got me to this point, and the next few years of thinking will help me to shape these questions into answers.

For now, I’m still…

Doctor in Waiting