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Gamification: Adopt Online Boardgame Platform for Virtual Teaching and Learning

Updated: May 13, 2022

Teacher: Dr. Meike Sauerwein, Lecturer

Department: Division of Environment and Sustainability, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)


Gamification or game-based learning, the design of applying gaming elements or a stand-alone game, appears to gain popularity in higher education thanks to its potential in strengthening engagement with students. Through technological advancement, such methods could be carried out both physically and digitally depending on situations and needs. Dr Meike Sauerwein, a lecturer from the Division of Environment and Sustainability of HKUST, has implemented games in the courses SUST1000-Introduction to Sustainability, ENVR1080-The Smart Consumer - Uncovering the Hidden Story behind the Product Label and ENGG2010-Engineering Seminar Series. Two online available games called “L.O.O.P.” (Life of Ordinary People) and “Life Cycle Thinking game” (LCT) were adopted.

When designing the games Dr. Sauerwein intended to create “aha moments” for students - insights from experiencing certain situations in the game, insights that could not be obtained through the traditional lecturing style. To do so, students needed to involve in the game and experience the game mechanisms. This could spark them to transfer the game elements into subject matter concepts in reality and to reflect on how their experience in the game could be applied to real life. Thus, raising their awareness and initiating change in their attitudes towards the topics. From the in-class observation, students generally perceived using games as an interactive, engaging, and authentic activity. According to the survey on the LCT game, students even recommended using games as teaching means as compared to the traditional teaching and learning activities.

Given the experience of students during the game is less easy to control, the learning pathway of students would vary and impact their effectiveness in achieving the learning objectives. To this, Dr Sauerwein highlighted the importance of having a comprehensive debriefing to bring out the key messages and avoid misconceptions. During discussions, students could express their observations and opinions as well as exchange feedback. Additionally, she suggested a few ways to enhance students’ learning and smoothen the processes when adopting the game online including: (1) keeping the game introduction short to reserve time for students to explore the gaming platform, (2) engaging facilitators to assist student groups with game controls and rules (esp. in the online setting), and (3) utilizing other supporting materials such as complementary apps or instructional information for students to try out specific processes in the game.

Dr. Sauerwein remarked that time was a key limiting factor for using games in class, especially for online games as students are often not familiar with online platforms and may face some technical issues. Therefore, using the physical copy of the game is preferred when face-to-face classes resume. Overall, she regards gaming as a great teaching approach to enhance student engagement and cater a diverse set of learning preferences as long as one can maintain a balance between experiential and attaining effective learning.

Check out the link below to read more tips to develop your gamification or game-based project.

The commercial game, L.O.O.P., available on Tabletopia:


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