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Spice up your teaching!

Have you ever thought of using games to stimulate learning?

Apractical cookbook of games you can integrate into your teaching practiceby the Educational Game Group (EGG) at the University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

" [Gaming is] the theatre of the mind. […] It’s the lens through which we understand how the world works without having to literally go to [live it] ourselves. It’s a way for people to be warned and to learn about what the world contains to better prepare themselves for what’s happening in their real life."

Jason VandenBerghe, (Playing Hard, 2018)

Game-based learning

Game-based learning is developing or using games which help us learn.These games can be very simple or very elaborate.Many can be integrated when remote teaching, and could help students motivation and engagement with the course material. We have gathered here a few ideas for you to use.

Index

Choose which type of game you would like to know more about

Crossword puzzles

Escape games

Trivia and quizzes

Speedruns

Case studies

Interactive stories

Pervasive games

Cooperative games

Easter eggs

Acknow-ledgments

or alternate reality games

Pervasive games

Pervasive games are scenario-based activities that blur the line between reality and fiction. They usually integrate various riddles or puzzles using different media to create a fictitious but realistic storyline. The scenario evolves according to the discoveries and decisions of the participants. Clues lead to a series of puzzles to solve over the course of the game. Pervasive games are very effective ways of staging course material and problem solving, especially over long periods of time.

Pervasive games

or alternate reality games

Players can work alone or in groups

Number of players

Days, weeks or even a whole semester

Duration

None; once played, the game is over

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Pervasive games

or alternate reality games

This is the most challenging and time consuming part.Introduce participants to the story gradually.Set clear expectations.New developments and clues should be regularly introduced to keep students engaged.

Prepare hints for students who are stuck.Be as realistic as possible (provide real numbers to call, real emails and convincing answers, etc.). You can can integrate other type of activities such as puzzles, crosswords, etc.

Platforms such as Canvas or Piktochart can be used to create templates or fake documents such a newspaper.

Bulding your scenario

Clues and other activities

Creating in-game material

Pervasive games

or alternate reality games

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few examples.

Online activity to support learning of course content

Crossword puzzles

Students solve crossword puzzles constructed by their professor, which means that clues can be tailored to come directly from course content. This activity works well for learning a new vocabulary – be it the vocabulary of a second language or the specialized vocabulary associated with a new discipline (e.g. anatomy). Crossword puzzles encourage students to slow down and think about what they have been learning and to practice recalling course content as they link clues with words. Having to fit each word into the right number of boxes helps with spelling of new terminology, an ongoing challenge for students. Feedback is immediate and puzzle completion provides low-stakes opportunities to fail and to learn from mistakes.

Crossword puzzles

Single player, but students could work in small groups

Number of players

15 to 30min

Duration

Students can redo puzzles to review content interactively when preparing for exams

Replayability

Distance learning

Method of delivery

Crossword puzzles

Crosswords don't need to be solely about learning vocabulary; they can also be about understanding and solving simple applied questions...... or even Math crosswords!

You can be creative!

The 5'-3' complimentary strand of the following sequence 5'ATAGGCC3'

Is it possible, or impossible, simply from looking at a double stranded DNA fragment, to see which parental strand will give rise to the lagging strand or the leading strand during replication, if you don't know where the origin of replication is?

Crossword puzzles

Let your students create crosswords!Building a crossword on a particular subject can become an individual or group assignment which engages students with the course material, whilst giving them the agency to create a learning tool.

Why do all the work?

01

Crossword puzzles

Online resources to create crosswords

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A free download (windows only) that works with a variety of languages and allows you to create many different puzzles from the same set of clues.

Create crosswords and more, freely and easily on this website.

Or breakout rooms

Escapte games

Escape games are activities in which participants, placed in a fictional environment, must search for and use a series of clues to solve puzzles and riddles in order to achieve a specific objective. Escape games are a great way to foster student engagement. They are a form of experiential learning in which participants can progress in a safe space. They also encourage research, understanding and use of various materials, tools or knowledge.

Escape games

or breakout rooms

Can be both cooperative and individual

Number of players

30min to 3hours

Duration

None

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Escape games

or breakout rooms

Many media are available to adapt escape games to the online environment: websites, downloadable files, videos, etc. There is virtually no limit to what can be used online, or within your own course material, to create escape game material.

The sky is the limit! ...

Creating a puzzle or riddle where the course content or material must be examined (not just browsed) is challenging. Identifying clear and specific learning outcomes is critical.Creating a consistent scenario is a complex task, especially without proper training. The storyline has to be both plausible and aligned with the course material. It is useful to design a general vision of the scenario at the beginning. Then, each step can be created in detail.

... But the task can be sizable

Escape games

It is important to find a way to supervise students while they are going through the activity (by you if the scenario allows it, or by a colleague). It is useful to prepare clues in case participants get stuck during the activity.It is critical to test the puzzles and riddles because the mind of the creator does not necessarily work like the minds of the participants.

Prior to and during the game

Tips and tricks

or breakout rooms

Escape games

or breakout rooms

Here are a few example to whet your appetite! (some are only available in French)

Looking for inspiration?

Escape games

or breakout rooms

Online platform specialized for creating escape game ($)

Free open source tutorial By Jen Giffen

Creating Digital Breakout EDU Locks with Google Forms

Creating Digital Breakout EDU Locks with Genial.ly

There are multiple online platforms for creating escape games. Here we present a few:Breakout EDU ($)Goolgle forms (free)Genial.ly (some free)

Tutorials and online resources

A timeless learning tool

Trivia and quizzes

Trivia and quizzes are champions of recall but they can also be much more!Recalling information is one of the best ways to memorize new information and good quizzing can also identify gaps in understanding or areas of weakness in one's knowledge. They are a great metacognitive tool for our students and so much fun!

Trivia and quizzes

Can be played Individually or in groups, depending on game

Number of players

5min to an hour

Duration

No, but they can become study tools and reused as such.

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Trivia and quizzes

Practical tips and tricks

Building question sets and flip cards in Quizlet or other platforms can easily become a question bank that builds over the years.Creating a trivia game or participating in building questions for a trivia game could be given as an assignment to students.

Motivate play by telling your students that some of the questions will be on the exam.Students can play each other’s games, and, with an adjudicator present, scores can be tallied for the winners, a bit like a tournament. Use games as icebreakers!

Trivia games and quizzes do not have to be solely based on low-level questions on Bloom’s taxonomy, but can also incorporate application of knowledge, transfer, problem solving and analytical questions.

Creating games

Integrating games in your teaching

Making games challenging!

Trivia and quizzes

Multiple platforms are available to create games

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AhaSlidesallows you to create quizzes and tally answers from participants on a leaderboard. Very interactive and fun, multiple options of question types, including pictures, interactive links, etc...

Genial.lyis an online platform that has some free content that can be used for creating all sorts of games, including trivia games. Multiple tutorials and good support comes with using the platform.

Charades is an app for mobile devices, where you can create games that will challenge your opponent to dance, sing or guess the word. The app is free (in app purchases) and allows you to create youe own challenges or use one from their bank.

Kahootis a popular online platform that let's you create quizzes or use quizzes already created by other users. Multiple help videos for using are available. Use a limited version for free.

The Jeopardy template makes uses of google slides and can be downloaded as a ppt presentation.

Quizlet let's you or your students create quizzes and flash cards for a course or a topic, the bank of questions can build over the years.

Flippityis an online resources for creating multiple games using Google templates. Easy to use and free!

Trivia and quizzes

Example of a online game created by Dr. Beaulieu and Dr. Petit-Turcotte

The game was created to help students practice and recall new knowledge in a novel manner. Points in the game are tied to points in their final grade and some questions were reused in exams.

Creating BioLingo

Students can track their progress over time using a leaderboard and stats for each subject in the course, over different levels of difficulty. This supports metacognition throughout the semester.

Personalizing learning

Each student must register to play the game (free) and must achieve a certain number of points in the game in order to obtain participation points for their final grade.

Rewarding effort

Cooperative games

Cooperative games require two or more players to work together. In well-designed co-operative games, players need to co-ordinate their choices and actions to maximize their ability to play the game well. Depending on the game, this can require—and offer opportunities to practice—skills such as communication, negotiation, strategic decision-making, resource optimization, or spatiotemporal awareness.

Cooperative games

Multiple playersStructured in groups

Number of players

20 to 90min

Duration

Yes, can be replayed whenever new groups are formed

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Cooperative games

Cooperative games can be well-suited to situations where group work is required. Group work is one of those things that students are often asked to do, but they haven’t necessarily been formally taught how to do it (in a professional setting). While cooperative games do not replace effective training in how to work well in groups (unless the game is designed specifically to do so), they can be used to let groups practice working together as groups with reduced consequences for failure (i.e. no impact on course grade for poor performance). Photo from wikipedia

Think of multiplayer video games!

Whole universes of spontaneous cooperative play.

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Cooperative games

They can be fun icebreakers!

Here are a few examples of ready made online cooperative games

Overcooked

Snipperclips

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Cooperative games

Escape games and theatre games can also be cooperative games

Here are a few examples of boardgames that are cooperative

"It’s a game full of tension and mental gymnastics, all bundled into a highly accessible package." - Tony Mastrangeli, Board Games Quest.

Work as a team and save the world!

Beat the other teams at building the best fireworks!

Cooperative games

Creating your own game or purposely using ready-made games

When using cooperative games, take time to identify the skill(s) that you would like the group to be able to practice and then search for a game that highlights the use of that skill. To do this, focus on the game’s mechanics rather than its theme.Some games are suitable for remote teaching, some are not.

People who are averse to competition may respond well to cooperative games. Keep in mind that some games are both cooperative and competitive (e.g. team vs. team). Also, cooperative games can still be intense if they have time limits or impose a high attentional load.

It is a good idea to monitor teams playing cooperative games to provide feedback on group interactions and to ensure that things run smoothly (e.g. watch for personality clashes).After a cooperative gaming session, debrief with groups to help them attend to the skills that the game had them practice.

Plan what you want students to learn

There is something in it for everyone

Play your gamemaster role well

Find more information here

or branching scenarios

Interactive stories

In interactive stories, participants follow a scenario and decide how it evolves. They are a virtual adaptation of "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and allow the creation of an interactive case study. At different stages of the scenario, a list of choices is presented to the participants who have to make a decision based on the facts of the story and the material provided. The choices made havedirect consequences on the course of the story and participants cannot usually reverse their decision.

Interactive stories

Can play individually or in small groups

Number of players

15min to 3 hours

Duration

Yes, by exploring different branches of the scenario

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

or branching scenarios

Interactive stories

Here are two examples of interactive stories, created for a course in environmental law at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. The University of Ottawa is a bilingual university (French/English), and both of these interactive stories are in French.

The interactive stories were built in H5P, a free online platform where you can create interactive presentations and integrate the created content directly into your Learning Management System.

or branching scenarios

What could this look like?

Interactive stories

or branching scenarios

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It is also possible to create interactive stories using Power Point

Here is a tutorial in French, on how to create an interactive story in Power Point

Here is a tutorial in English on how to create an interactive story in Power Point

Interactive stories

or branching scenarios

Preparing the scenario and its different branches beforehand makes the creation process easier. Linking the scenario branches to the intended learning outcomes can help create the options. Sometimes there can be the illusion of a choice. Some branches can be looped back to the main storyline.Try to keep a limited number of main storylines (3 to 5), as well as a limited number of endings (3 to 5), to keep the creation and content manageable.

Students can go through the scenario alone or in small groups. The story can also be used as a presentation in class or online in small groups (e.g. breakout sessions in Zoom), in which case choices can be made collectively. A group approach can help to build different perspectives on the same topic.Branching scenarios allow students to progress at their own pace and make their own choices. The professor should assist them as they move along the story, be available to answer questions, and discuss the choices made.

First step: storyboarding!

Delivering the story and managing students

Interactive stories

or branching scenarios

Have we truly whet your appetite for interactive stories so that you're ready to fully commit to creating complex stories?There is a whole community out there that shares your enthusiasm! You can join them and start coding in Twine.There is a plethora of tutorials and other resources available for Twine users, but it is a bit more complex as it uses various forms of coding. For hard core storymakers only!

For the enthusiast

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Clicker case studies

Clicker case studies focus on using lectures to engage students in stories of discovery and problem solving. Combining stories containing scientific messages with “Class Response Systems” or “Clickers” can be an exciting way to engage students in “live” face-to-face or "online” sessions.

Clicker case studies

Multiple players, very large clasrooms, individually or in groups

Number of players

30 to 90min, possible to string one or more case studies over the term

Duration

No, but students can use it as a studying tool

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Clicker case studies

Clicker case studies are closer to experiential learning than lecturing. Students are presented with a case scenario with a "mission" and must follow prompts, analyze data, apply and acquire new knowledge, make sense of the knowledge, draw conclusions, and reflect on meaning in a manner that is contextual rather than theoretical.This form of inquiry-based learning requires that everyone is following the same case study in real time, and the instructor acts more as a mentor to students with direct, interactive feedback on student progress.

A simple and powerful tool for actively engaging students with course content

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Clicker case studies

Powerpoint or similarA researched storyA polling system (LectureTools, Mentimeter, Socrative, MS Forms, etc.)

What you will need is simple

Teaching face to face

All the above and an online conferencing system (MS Teams, Zoom or other)

Remote teaching

Get inspiration from real stories (crime stories, medical stories, news articles, published scientific papers). Ask various types of questions in which students must make informed decisions, offer opinions or conclusions based on observations. Focus on learning outcomes.Incorporate "think-pair-share" when tasking students to perform the activities.

Tips and tricks

Presenting slides (F2F or online), the instructor introduces the case and provides the information that students will need to consider. The instructor may also use slides to “lecture” and task students to answers questions using a polling app (i.e. interpret data, make decisions, offer opinions, etc.).

Student answers can then be shared with the rest of the class (anonymously) and can typically be used to elicit discussions and debates, allowing the professor to correct misconceptions and customize instruction. You can even poll students to know “which” part of the case they would like to explore first.

Asking students where they would like to start gives them agency. The instructor can then move to the related portion of the case, and once done, ask the class what the next destination will be.This way, each section of the case can be discussed, but not necessarily in the “order” originally chosen by the professor.

Presenting the clicker case study

Polling the students

Giving the students agency

Clicker case studies

INFO

FoxP2 and Speech

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Here are a few examples of clicker case studies from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) used in Dr. Colin Montpetit's introductory class to genetics.

Looking for inspiration?

Bloodline: a human genetic case

Cross-Dressing or Crossing-Over?

The Case of the Druid Dracula

Clicker case studies

This case study was divided in 3 parts, used at different times during the semester.

Based on a tv drama about a family secret that can only be solved using genetics.

This is great example! My class loves this one!

This is a case of a crime scene – another good one!

There are several online tutorials for creating or using clicker case studies or simply using "clicker" questions.Here are few freely avaible resources to get started.

Tutorials and online resources

Clicker case studies

or time attacks

Speedruns

Many course-based learning activities encourage reflection and reward quality, but once students move into to the workforce, they are often expected to work quickly too! Having to meet tight deadlines or quotas can come as a shock since courses don’t typically emphasize the need for speed. Activities such as a speedrun or time attack – where the main goal is to complete an activity quickly – encourage students to learn to work efficiently, prioritize certain elements, and improve their time management skills. Individuals work against the clock, but adding a competitive element can motivate students.

Multiple players. playing individually

Number of players

5 to 10min

Duration

Yes, different activities can be implemented over the course of a semester by using leaderboards.

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Speedruns

or time attacks

Speedruns

A timed quiz to test reading comprehensionSummarizing a reading or video in 250 words in 5 minutesProviding five key words to describe a given reading or videoTranslating a text on a short deadline

Examples

How to incorporate speedruns into your class

or time attacks

Tutorial

Published by Lynne Bowker

Keep individual speedrun activities short (i.e., 5-10 minutes), but conduct themregularly (e.g. one per class, or one every other class) to develop the habit of working quickly.

Do the very same speedrun activity at the beginning and end of the course; after a semester of regular speedruns, students will hopefully see an improvement in their time.

Students prefer this activity when it is not graded (or counts only minimally towards a grade).If doing this in class, it’s a great warm-up activity at the start of class.

Keep it short and practice often!

See the progress!

Keep it low stakes!

Speedruns

or time attacks

You can set up the activity using the “quiz” feature within most Learning Management Systems, even if the activity is not a “quiz” per se.The LMS records how long students spend on the activity, and it may be able to auto-correct and give feedback.

To encourage friendly competition, create a leaderboard using Google Sheets where you can record times (or implement an honour system where students can record their own times).When multiple speedrun activities take place during a course, cumulative times can be recorded on a leaderboard in order to crown an overall speed champion at the end of the course.

Logistics

Management

Organize activity

Organize students

Speedruns

or time attacks

Easter eggs

In video games, comic books, and movies, an Easter egg refers to a hidden message, image or feature. The original Easter eggs were coded into the game or movie. Gradually, however, the concept was loosened so that an Easter egg could appear in the content itself (e.g. a “hidden Mickey” in a Disney movie), or it could be offered as a sort of bonus for viewers (e.g. deleted scenes). As part of this wider definition, you could even consider an Easter egg to be a sort of fun prank (e.g. a harmless bait and switch). For instance, you can embed a link in a document that at first reading appears to be “serious” course content, but when clicked, it leads to something fun, such as a cartoon. Hunting for the Easter egg can be an activity to motivate students to explore and engage with the course site or content.

Multiple players, mostly playing individually

Number of players

3 to 5min

Duration

Yes, different activities can be implemented over the course of a semester

Replayability

Distance or face-to-face learning

Method of delivery

Easter eggs

Tips and tricks

Anticipation is half the fun, so one Easter egg per week or module is enough. Turn it into a friendly competition (i.e., Easter egg hunt) with a small prize for the winner (e.g. the first one to find the Easter egg gets to skip the discussion question for the week, or gets a participation point).Incorporate a popular internet meme (e.g. rick-rolling!).

The Easter egg can still be relevant to the course content, but it just deals with the “lighter side” of the subject, so the link could lead to a cartoon, a joke, a parody site, or even just a fun popularized explanation of a concept, etc. The Learning Management System (e.g. Brightspace, Canvas) of your institution can possibly be used to incorporate an Easter egg into the class content.

Don't overdo it!

Fun but relevant

Easter eggs

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Examples

Easter Eggs

In a psychology course, the Easter egg could be an article on The Onion parody site.

In a translation course, the Easter egg could be a site with some funny texts that have been poorly translated.

Here are a few ideas and interesting resources.

Resources

Easter eggs

Aknowledgments

Editors and contributors

Elaine Beaulieu

Assistant professorFaculty of ScienceUniversity of Ottawa

Alexandre Lillo

Ph.D. candidate and Part-time profFaculty of LawUniversity of Ottawa

Lynne Bowker

Full ProfessorSchool of Translation and Interpretation and School of Information StudiesUniversity of Ottawa

Thomas Burelli

Assistant ProfessorCivil Law SectionUniversity of Ottawa

Colin Montpetit

Assistant professorFaculty of ScienceUniversity of Ottawa

Mish Boutet

Digital Literacy LibrarianUniversity of Ottawa

Steven Ousko

Jackie Carnegie

Associate ProfessorDept. of Cellular and Molecular MedicineUniversity of Ottawa

David MacDonald

Assistant professorDépartement de dramaturgie  Université d’Ottawa 

Specialist, Educational Development and Digital LearningUniversity of Ottawa

The Educational Games Group (EGG)University of Ottawa

The Educational Games Group (EGG) is a community of practice dedicated to game-based learning at the University of Ottawa. Created in September 2019, it brings together a group of about 15 individuals that use game-based strategies in wide range of teaching or training activities. It includes professors from different departments and faculties (Law, Biology, Medicine, Arts, etc.), support staff from various services (Library, Teaching and Learning Support Service, Academic Writing Help Centre, Health Promotion, etc.) and students from different disciplines.Based on the strong belief that games can transform higher education and that this revolution will be fostered by a collective approach, The EGG is a forum to share experiences, generate new ideas and create interdisciplinary or cross-faculty collaborations.

More details in the published version!

Français

English