in collaboration with Professor Jeroen Puttevils, Department of History, UAntwerp

Students play video games. Yet the gaming world and the academic world rarely coincide, which is a pity because games can achieve a great deal in education. This ECHO Teaching Tip aims to provide a framework and practical advice on integrating a video game into a programme component.

Video games in education: pros and cons

Game-based learning can have advantages for both the students and the lecturer. Some examples:

  • Games can be used for the acquisition of new knowledge (Boyle et al., 2016; Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017)
  • Games stimulate observation skills, analytical skills and systems thinking (Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017)
  • Games can also help foster students’ cooperation competences (Boyle et al., 2016; Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017)
  • The use of video games could even lead to better study results (Talan, Dogan, & Batdi, 2020; Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017).

The advantages of integrating a video game into a programme component are therefor potentially interesting. However, there are also some pitfalls:

  • The character and dynamics of the game should match the competences of the programme component.
  • There is a risk that students will lose interest if the video game is outdated or visually unappealing (Vlachopoulos & Makri, 2017).
  • Using a game during lessons can come at a cost.

Practical organisation

Below is one possible model for integrating a video game into a programme component, developed by Professor Jeroen Puttevils (Department of History, UAntwerp). This model is the result of trail and error, with constant reflection on the best didactic framework for this teaching method.

1)      Preparatory lesson

Students are introduced to the genre of the chosen video game, the competences you will be focusing on and the connection between the field of study that the programme component relates to. The gaming session and the debriefing session are discussed.

2)      Gaming session

It often helps when students who have never played the game follow a tutorial first (possibly at home), so they can familiarize themselves with the basic game controls and mechanics. For the actual gaming session, you can choose or write a scenario to be played by each student. You can also opt for a more open exploration of the game by the students. During the gaming session, students keep a log, taking notes but also screenshots, for instance. Usually a gaming session of two hours is sufficient to achieve the learning objectives.

3)      Debriefing session

The debriefing session is an important part of this teaching method. After all, this is the moment when students can gain important insights, when any misinformation of misinterpretations are corrected, and when the link to the competences is reiterated and reinforced. You can opt for an open dialogue or you can take a rigidly structured approach, for example by presenting a set of statements and having students respond to each one in turn.

4)      Assessment

The assessment of a gaming session can take different forms. Students could write an individual or group essay, with or without an oral presentation, or a short blog post, for instance. Be sure to make the purpose and criteria for this task clear in advance.