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Four dice stacked on top of each other

Why You May Want to Roll the Dice and Introduce Game-based Learning Into Your Course

Mon Oct 23, 2023 at 07:30 AM

Games can not only add a fun factor to your course, they can also offer you strategies to strengthen student learning, engagement, and collaboration. Game-based learning (GBL) differs from gamification because instead of adding game design elements to a course, the pedagogy focuses on designing a lesson or an entire course around students playing an actual educational game. 

Even though different games create different classroom experiences for students, they all share some common benefits. Some research shows that embedding a game into a course can facilitate interest and motivation and lead to greater engagement for students “both cognitively and emotionally” (Fernández-Raga et al., 2023). For example, including a game that promotes healthy competition, such as Kahoot, can motivate students to grasp difficult concepts. Games like Reacting to the Past that entail role-playing and immerse students in a problem, historical era, or challenging discussion can foster critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and communication skills. 

Game-time Decisions 

Educational games used in a course or a lesson can fuel discovery and the sharing of original ideas; however, finding the right game and creating opportunities for your students to learn and strengthen skills requires some decision-making. 

Game Resources

Several game options are available to fit a digital, on-campus, or Hyflex course. Choosing a game that fits your platform requires you to consider how often your students meet, how you want them to interact, and how situating a game in this context will encourage learning. As GBL takes root, more games will hopefully become available to align with your course design.

For now though, you could modify a board game to fit your students’ needs. Faculty have had good success using a modified version of Jeopardy or Bingo to help students master vocabulary, events, concepts, or other course content. Both games work well in large classrooms since students can play individually or be moved into teams to play. For instance, both games were used in an undergraduate Introduction to Statistics course to review key terms and main ideas; students expressed positive feedback about game playing to facilitate their learning (Andersson & Kroisandt, 2018).  

You can also create your own activities/games using H5P on Moodle. H5P allows you to create and embed your own interactive content in Moodle, such as the branching scenario tool to create situational dilemmas for your students to navigate. Students choose different pathways, obtain feedback, and earn points as they navigate the game. For example, a group of Canadian faculty developed a simulation game for nursing students. The game assists students in acquiring and applying knowledge and skills related to effective nurse-client relationships and mental health assessment completion.

Course Goals

Determining how to integrate a game into your course is essential. Designing a lesson or an entire course in which to situate a game entails considering learner levels, available technology, interaction levels, game duration and layout, and opportunity for participant feedback and reflection.    


Some instructors find that using a game in a certain lesson fits their students’ needs; others find that embedding one game to use all semester, such as a role-playing game, works well to facilitate an effective course design. For instance, various role playing games that focus on extensive topics, such as climate change, diet and disease, or Athens in 403 B.C.E to study the threshold of democracy, can dovetail nicely into any course and connect lessons to a game’s content.  


You can find games that enable students to play as a team or independently. However, students may benefit from working together to strengthen their problem-solving, creative, and/or critical thinking skills. In addition, connecting a game to a specific context can also help students with different learning styles and/or different aptitudes learn from their peers. For example, choosing a game that requires students to role-play a historical figure, a company start-up collaborator, or a scientist on a research team can foster interaction with peers as they discuss and strategize. 

As a pedagogical approach, implementing GBL can be an effective strategy to blend with traditional content delivery approaches to facilitate knowledge acquisition and skill development. Win, lose, or draw, adding a game to your course might be worthy of your consideration.

References and Resources 

Andersson, C., & Kroisandt, G. (2018, July). Using playful learning in a large classroom introductory statistics course. In Looking Back, Looking Forward. Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Teaching Statistics (ICOTS10), Kyoto, Japan.

Fernández-Raga, M. et al., (2023). Development of a comprehensive process for Introducing Game-Based learning in higher education for lecturers. Sustainability, 15(3706),  

H5P Examples and Downloads 

The Reacting Consortium

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About the Author

Written by Rachel Smydra, Faculty Fellow for the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University. Image by Matthias Groenveld. Others may share and adapt under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC

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