The Role of the Educator in Game-Based Learning

As Garrison (1997) observes ‘collaboration and constructivist approaches to learning do not happen by simply making the technology available’ (p. 5). The educator plays a critical role in the transition period mapping the curriculum to game-based learning. It is worthwhile to note that the transition must ‘not be merely about moving conventional learning to Internet [game], but about enriching and changing it’ (Lynch, 2001, as cited Teras & Myllyla, 2009, p. 3). Enrichment would be evidenced in the creation of a knowledge-able learning environment (see Wesch, 2012).

The transition period would involve stakeholder management. Supervisors, e-learning support staff and IT support would need to be brought on board early in the process. Student stakeholder management is also essential as they also can create obstacles to implementation should they not see gaming as a learning tool.

During the game based learning sessions, most importantly, educators should provide structured reflection and debriefing to make explicit the knowledge that has been developed (Wagner, 2008) and allow students themselves to acknowledge that game-based strategies can also foster learning (Prensky 2003). Reporting, reflection and evaluation is a key part of the learning process that will be undertaken.

In-game, the educator becomes the lorekeeper (Gillispie and Lawson, 2011). It is anticipated that the educator will also need to participate in peer-based online activities as they can serve as innovative and immersive learning environments in themselves (Ito et al. 2008). As they develop their own expertise, curriculum-centred learning environments can be built, which resemble existing patterns of lessons in the classroom (Mayo, 2009, p. 13).

The educator also needs to share experiences and evangelise to other teachers the benefits to the learner, such as the development of deep understanding and problematic knowledge (see Wood, 2011), thus encouraging integration of game-based learning.

The Role of the Learner in Game-Based Learning

The role of the learner is to be a produser (see Bruns) in a knowledge-able environment (see Wesch, 2012). Participating virtuality through game play and make meaning of those experiences through character interactions. Within the realm of games, there is the opportunity for building identity for interaction and experimentation and for amplification and practice (see  Engenfeldt and Nielson, 2006).

Assessments may include reflections and content creation through a variety of formats, including blogs, video, advertisements, propaganda, media articles, reviews, and Fakebook accounts.

Assessments take the form of quests and may include:

  • comparing and contrasting in-game experiences to curriculum
  • making meaning of game based experiences
  • reflections on identities in online space

In addition to compulsory learning objectives, learners should be permitted enough freedom to decide on strategies and choose their own pathways through a constructivist-style learning environment (Sanchez 2011). The learner becomes the hero (Gillispie and Lawson, 2011).

Learners should also experience failure but without serious consequences and be given constructive feedback to encourage them to keep trying (Sanchez 2011; Squire 2008). It is through alternative courses of action the learner is able to experience consequences (Mason and Rennie, 2008, p. 110).


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Egenfeldt-Nielsen, S., 2006. Overview of research on the educational use of video games, Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, [online] Available at: <>

Garrison, D. R., 1997. Computer conferencing: the post-industrial age of distance education. Open learning, Vol. 12(2), pp. 3-11.

Gillispie, L., and Lawson, C., 2011. WoWinSchool: A Hero’s Journey. Available at:

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Mason, R. & Rennie, F., 2008. Chapter 4: The Tools in Practice, in E-Learning and Social Networking Handbook: Resources for Higher Education, New York and London, Routledge. Available at: <>

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Teras, H. and Myllyla, M., 2009. Educating Teachers for the Knowledge Society: Social Media, Authentic Learning and Communities of Practice. Available at:

Wagner, Mark., 2011. Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games As Constructivist Learning Environments in K-12 Education: A Delphi Study. [pdf] Available at: <>

Wesch, M., 2012. From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able. Available at: <|>

Wood, K., 2011. Simulation video games as learning tools: an examination of instructor guided reflection on cognitive outcomes. Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology Ph. D. Georgia State University, Atlanta.