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Does the use of games- based learning and apps have a future in education?

Matt Ewens, information officer at Jisc’s Regional Support Centre (RSC) South West, talks to Jisc Inform about games-based apps and how learning providers can develop their own to enhance the learning experience.

When you think about games-based learning, you could be forgiven for conjuring images of students spending an unhealthy amount of time playing games and eating pizza, drinking fizzy drinks and not exercising. Perhaps a bit of a generalisation, but when I think about ‘games’ its function is primarily to entertain, so how can they be used effectively in education? 


Smartphone and tablet devices have exploded in popularity and teachers are using these devices in a variety of different ways. Bridgwater College is using iPads to analyse the technique of their sports students and Kendal College is using augmented reality in its prospectus materials. In terms of games-based learning Minecraft, a game based app, is being used as a tool for creating new worlds and there’s even a website dedicated to its use in education. Check out this interesting video by pbsideachannel to find our more.

There are certainly lots of education apps available. These range from marketing apps, to augmented reality learning tools, to apps that enable student access for admin purposes. Munib Hadi, e-Learning advisor, Jisc RSC South East, explains some of the uses: “The m-Connect apps which I developed allow us to communicate with e-practitioners using their smartphones to make them aware of news, events, newsletters, case studies, webcasts, funding opportunities and Moodle courses on offer. This is a quick and easy way for them to access information and keep up with the resources on offer to them.”

Another example is the Technology for Learning programme which enabled St David’s Catholic College to allow students to access their individual learning plan from their smart devices. Sharon Crossan, e-Learning advisor, Jisc RSC Wales, tells us more:

“The app saved the staff and students a lot of time and paperwork. I was told by the team that prior to the Technology for Learning programme, the students were given their timetables by queuing for long periods of time whilst staff flicked through mountains of paperwork. All students need to do now is use their smart devices and they can check their timetable, amongst other things, whenever they like…brilliant!”
Sharon Crossan
E-Learning advisor, Jisc RSC Wales

Is it easy to create an app, can anyone do it?

Developing an app is not ‘easy’ unless you’re a programmer, but there are tools and resources available that will help:

Here is a very good publication about mobile web apps

Read this blog about building your own augmented reality apps

Apple has a free-to-download Xcode environment that can be used to create an app for an iPhone or iPad. Xcode has pre-made objects that can be used within the development framework

Android SDK can be downloaded for free and includes the tools needed to build, test and develop apps.


To go one step further, an innovative work-based learning provider is proving that through its Double Entry Downpour accountancy app, their students are improving their skills. So how have they done this?

Double Entry Downpour

Accountancy Learning Ltd developed Double Entry Downpour to give its learners something that would help them to grasp accountancy processes more easily. The games-based app has two games available, either credits/debits or increases/decreases, and works by dividing the screen into two parts. The game is timed and starts with an account item falling from the sky. The learner must then move the item either to the left or to the right, depending on its category. At the end of the game the learner gets a score out of 52, which is added to a ‘high score leader board’. Accountancy Learning Director Prue Deane says: “We felt that because learners can be quite competitive in the classroom a high score would encourage competition between them. Learners can also consolidate their learning and improve their skills.”

Accountancy Learning’s managing director Simon Deane was keen to invest in something that would not only appeal as a learning game, but also extend the reach of their learning materials to a much wider audience. He explains:

“Accounting is one of the only real Esperantos of the world. It’s the same accounting process everywhere, so the app can help people struggling with accountancy well beyond the scope of what we could do before.”
Simon Deane
Managing director, Accountancy Learning Ltd

Hear more about the Double Entry Downpour accountancy app from Simon Deane


More info…

Visit the Jisc RSC website for more information




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