Blending Education and Entertainment with Game-Based Learning at SMU’s Learning Innovation Festival 2023

By the SMU Corporate Communications team

In celebration of innovation in teaching, SMU’s Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE) hosted its annual Learning Innovation Festival (LIFE) on 6 October 2023, its first in-person event since 2019. Held in partnership with the ASEAN University Network Technology-enhanced Personalised Learning (AUN TEPL) Thematic Network, more than 150 participants across 10 countries engaged in interactive presentations and discussions during the event, which was themed “More Than Fun and Games - Elevate Teaching and Learning through Game-Based Learning”.

“Today is about harnessing the power of games to captivate, motivate, and educate. Games are great to prepare students for a world that demands adaptability, critical thinking, and collaboration. Let's explore the use of educational games together, and hopefully today's event inspires you to adopt a game in your teaching, or maybe even create an educational game yourself,” said Associate Professor Lieven Demeester, Director of CTE and Associate Provost (Teaching and Learning Innovation) at SMU at the opening of the event.

From solving puzzles in an immersive physical escape room, to witnessing natural selection in action through the journey of a group of charismatic ducks, LIFE 2023 demonstrated how game-based learning is an innovative approach that seamlessly blends education and entertainment. Participants had the opportunity to learn how educators were deploying gaming technology to engage students, enhance critical thinking and promote collaborative learning.  By leveraging the inherent motivational qualities of games, this pedagogical method empowers individuals to acquire knowledge and skills through interactive gameplay, problem-solving challenges, and immersive storytelling.

During the enriching and experiential half day event, participants gained a firsthand view of the game-based learning projects being deployed at SMU. The projects, which are applicable to learners of all ages and which aim to foster a dynamic and engaging learning experience, included:

Cofounders of the North, where students are invited to embark on a multiplayer adventure to build towering structures on a dynamic floating island. Through a process of having constantly to make strategic moves according to the changing environment, and to collaborate and compete with others, students cultivate investment planning and risk management skills. This was developed by Associate Professor Geng Xuesong and Senior Lecturer Whitney Zhang from SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

Dawn of the Duck Evolution Game, where Professor Norman Li from SMU School of Social Sciences lets students lead charismatic ducks on an evolutionary journey to explore and learn about natural selection and adaptation.

Escape Room Game, where students groups race against time to navigate intricate puzzles and challenges within an immersive physical room simulating a Pharaoh’s tomb. In the process, students pick up team building and people management skills. This was designed by Dr Low Chin Heng from SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business.

Inn or Out Yield Management Simulation, where Associate Professor Marcus Ang from SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business puts students in the role of hotel managers who optimise bookings to avoid empty rooms and overbookings. The game helps students strengthen their understanding of models for decision making via a web application developed for a business course on Service Processes.

iDecision Games, where students assume diverse roles and engage in real-time negotiations with peers. With this web application for real-time negotiations, students learn persuasion, collaboration, and critical thinking skills with the goal of reaching mutually beneficial outcomes between parties. This was showcased by Associate Professor Dorcas Quek Anderson from SMU Yong Pung How School of Law.

SMU Challenge, where students’ knowledge of accounting and law of torts are put to the test with a series of rapid-fire, multiple-choice questions in a mobile game that allots points for every correct answer. This was co-designed by Associate Professor Seow Poh Sun, Senior Lecturer Wong Suay Peng, and Associate Professor Sterling Huang from SMU School of Accountancy. Initially developed for the School of Accountancy, the app is discipline-neutral and is now also in use by the Yong Pung How School of Law.

In addition to project presentations by invited professors who had successfully implemented game-based learning in their classrooms, LIFE 2023 featured sharing sessions by colleagues from SMU's Centre for Management Practice on the writing of Cases and Teaching Notes for Game-Based Learning projects, as well as SMU’s Integrated Information Technology Services team, on the implementation of such projects in classes.

In a nod to the interactive nature of the topics under discussion, participants who were attending LIFE 2023 in person were invited to a booth session where they witnessed the design and implementation of the games, engaged with lead professors to discuss how the games stimulated learning and picked up strategies how to adopt the innovations to their own classroom use.

Participants were also invited to a virtual exhibition which displayed all the project showcased during the live event. The virtual exhibition held detailed information about the projects, their teaching strategy as well as a video detailing the faculty motivation, challenges and feedback.

To access the materials and recordings presented at the webinar, please visit the programme segment here