Game-based Pedagogy for Higher Education


Primary school used to be fun. Remember playing number-based games in school? There were many simple games designed to keep the children engaged while teaching them some basic principles. Some of the nursery rhymes were created to teach numbers and other such basic facts of life. Primary school was fun. However, the fun quotient slowly disappeared and was replaced by rote learning where the children are expected to write pages of imposition every day.  A few years ago, I overheard a conversation among a few ladies in our apartment lift. They were all expressing stress and relief after the children finished their final exams in school. Guess which class the kids were? They were in fourth grade! 

Imagine the extent of seriousness and stress that got into the entire education process. Most of us have gone through the same and are kind of resigned to the fate of our children, believing that this is the way to learn. Not necessarily! Multiple pedagogical models have evolved over the years where the teachers and children can have both fun and learning together. However, these models remained in a few elite schools that could not scale up due to a lack of patronage. The problem continued up to the higher education level, where the challenges faced by both teachers and learners are multi-fold. This article explores some of these challenges along with a proposed solution.  

Activity-based learning

Corporate training professionals and the industry popularized activity-based learning, to engage working professionals while ensuring that they learn and retain some of the social and behavioral skills. Interestingly, these innovations rarely come to the classroom. While the pedagogy can offer a gazillion opportunities to make learning fun, the fun factor depends solely on the teacher. Some of the top B-schools have designed a few games to be played in class by the students to make learning more engaging and fun. But such examples are far and few. I remember playing a game that involved supply chain management and logistics planning for a beer company. Another instance was in the strategy class. Much more could have been done.   

Case-based learning

Another pedagogical innovation in higher education has been about using case studies to generate discussion and illustrate some of the key aspects of management. Many researchers and professors authored many cases along with teaching notes to help other teachers use them in the class to promote engaged learning. However, the biggest challenge has been the failure of this flipped class model where the students are expected to study the case and come prepared for discussion. While the effectiveness of case-based learning is well-established, the actual success has been debatable. Some of the teachers started doing small quizzes to check and ensure that students came prepared, with mixed results. Another challenge with case-based learning is that cases are usually multi-faceted and can be used to demonstrate multiple aspects and concepts. This increases the challenges and complexities for both learners and teachers.      

Game-based learning

It is time for the games to come into the classroom. The challenge is designing the games and then administering them in the classroom.  Unlike cases, there is no prep time for playing games. No practice is necessary. Winning or losing does not matter. Only playing matters. A game is usually designed with a single objective and context, that make it easily relatable and playable. There is no need for a 300-page user annual. A well-designed game is usually engaging and entertaining. Learners would be able to remember the concepts discussed.  

There lies the big challenge! Designing a good game is not easy and takes a lot of time, and expertise developed through years of experience. However, after discussing with some seasoned game developers, a simple framework has been identified that can be used to develop board games. Using this framework, interested teachers can create simple games and use them in the classroom for interesting results.  

A simple framework for game design 

A good game requires the following elements to be clearly defined.  

  • A problem to be solved. 

  • Context in which the problem exists.  

  • Goal / Objective of the game  

  • What the players must do, must not do, could do, and can't do.  

  • What are the players allowed to do? 

  • How these rules are integrated into the game 

  • Setting of the game world- where it happens 

  • Interactions- how to move forward in the game. 

  • Player actions – rolling the dice, moving their pawn, action based on the place they land, etc. 

Sounds simple enough! It is not. However, this framework can be used as a guide to build simple board games that could be used to teach various concepts in the class. Hope this will encourage some of you to experiment and innovate. Happy teaching and learning through gaming! 

About the Author  

Flt. Lt. Sridhar is a Startup Ecosystem Builder, Keynote Speaker, Author, Researcher, and Entrepreneur. Sridhar’s mission is to help Entrepreneurs and startups achieve incredible success through exponential growth. He brings insights and lessons from three decades of hands-on startup and business leadership experience in various verticals. Sridhar uses six different thinking processes, including systems thinking and design thinking, and helps entrepreneurs create breakthrough solutions through his unique coaching process. Sridhar launched and ran four businesses. He is a certified Startup Mentor from the Confederation of Indian Industries.  

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