“Sell Your Bargains” or Playing a Mixed-Reality Game to Spice-Up Teaching in Higher Education

“Sell Your Bargains” or Playing a Mixed-Reality Game to Spice-Up Teaching in Higher Education

Chrissi Nerantzi (University of Salford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2848-9.ch008


This case study relates to a mixed-reality game that has been developed and used by the author in the area of Academic Development and specifically within the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE) module of the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP). The game aims to provide a highly immersive learning experience to the players and opportunities to enhance their teaching in more creative ways as a result of their engagement and participation. The author shares details about this mixed-reality game and the pedagogical rationale on which it is based with other practitioners. The following also explores how this approach could be adapted and used in different learning and teaching contexts to transform learning in Higher Education into a more playful and creative experience which has potentially the power to motivate and connect individuals and teams combining physical and virtual spaces.
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Setting The Stage

This game has been developed by the author (the game organizer) inspired by the BBC TV series Bargain Hunt and Dragons’ Den. The core activity of this game has been carried out before as a field trip which included an individual challenge within initial teacher education in Adult Learning, Further and Higher Education. The approach used has been continuously refined and evolved based on feedback received from players and on self reflections and evaluation. The game organizer has found it more challenging to introduce this game in HE. Whitton (2010) carried out research linked to acceptability of games. Her findings confirm that while students in HE are willing to consider learning through games, they need to be convinced that this is “the most effective way to learning something.” (p. 40) Could the same apply not just to students but the individuals who teach students in HE? Also, increasingly the possibilities technologies are providing to transform learning have been considered and have acted as enablers to take the game to the next level and transform into a fun experience and mixed-reality game with player-player and player-technology interactions.

This game in its current form is a mixed-reality game. It takes place in physical and virtual spaces which are seamlessly integrated and interwoven to provide a natural and immersive gaming and learning experience to all players who keep their real professional identities. The game is based on the principal that we are all creative and enjoy learning with and from each other. Learning in the game happens through collaboration and having fun but also on creating novel and immersive learning experiences in multiple locations which resembles Montana’s (2011) idea about pervasive games. He says referring to these games that they “expand the magic circle of play socially, spatially or temporally” (p. 4) but he also mentions that for these reasons these games make some feel uncomfortable and awkward. Ramsden (2003) discusses that making a topic interesting has the power to “arouse our interest” and increase our appetite for more and deeper engagement and learning and this can be enabled through game-based learning. Whitton (2010) notes that “the rationale behind the use of alternative reality games is that the use of problem-based, experiential and collaborative activities in alternative reality games makes them ideally suited to teaching in higher education; particularly as they enable players to become involved in both playing and shaping the narrative as it emerges.” (p. 87) This observation is also in line with Johnson et al (2011) who in addition states that supporters of game-based learning in HE claim that games enable students to experiment, explore identities and fail in a safe environment.

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