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A game to help HE students develop note-taking skills

Taking effective notes is an important academic skill which is also very useful in the industry. Students however often find note-taking in Higher Education (HE) settings difficult. In this context, games can become a powerful way to help students learn and develop new skills, but up-to-date empirical research on the area is scarce. There is therefore a need for games specifically designed to help HE students develop note-taking skills, where the design has been directly informed by note-taking learning theories.

Note-taking is a transferable, lifelong skill which is based on the ability to document information in meaningful ways, via effectively prioritising and summarising such information. Taking effective notes is a skill useful both in academic and in professional settings.

This project explores the practical use of game-based learning (GBL) to assist the development of note-taking skills, focusing on the game design approach.

Note-taking learning theories have been directly applied in the design of the mechanics for an educational game for note-taking, entitled ‘Investigate: Tudors’, and the game’s effectiveness and engaging potential have been evaluated. Evaluation results with HE students showed that the game was a successful tool to help them develop note-taking skills.

‘Investigate: Tudors’ was created by a team of five undergraduate games design students, supervised by a team of academics from the Division of Digital Arts, with the collaboration of the University’s Academic Skills Service (ASK) and the Disability and Dyslexia Service (Student Wellbeing). The game was developed under the Octopus 8 annual student summer project, which is run by academic staff for the students of the BA Games Design. The setting of the game is Tudor times and players assume the role of a spy.

They are asked to play through a variety of missions across five different levels, where they must use their note-taking skills to unravel mysteries. This is achieved via being part of conversations in different scenaria and filling in spy reports at the end.

The game uses a variety of narratives for spy cases as well as puzzle and strategy gameplay elements to facilitate engagement. Each level helps students develop specific note-taking skills such as information gathering, abbreviation, validity inspection, note application etc.

This project investigates the use of GBL for note-taking skills development. ‘Investigate: Tudors’ was designed as a standalone learning game for HE students, to help them develop and practice their skills. It can therefore be used either independently or as part of a curriculum about note-taking skills.

The design of the game considered the characteristics of HE students as adult learners and was informed by a constructivist learning approach. The findings of the evaluation as well as the proposed learning heuristics developed, contribute to good practice via proposing design guidelines for the development of similar games. These could be used for designing other educational games for note-taking or applied to different contexts and can therefore contribute to future research in the area.

The work was presented at the CHI PLAY 2020 international conference and the associated paper was published in the ACM Digital Library proceedings: Thaleia Deniozou, Mariza Dima, and Chris Cox. 2020. Designing a Game to Help Higher Education Students Develop Their Note-Taking Skills. In Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY '20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 181–192.

Special thanks

A special acknowledgment goes to the five undergraduate students (now alumni) who developed the game: Harry Prebble, Sam Pickard, Olivia Jeremiah, Phill Shaw, Reece Merryweather-Brown

note taking game screenshot
Note-taking game screenshot
Note-taking game screenshot
Note-taking game screenshot
Note-taking game screenshot
Note-taking game screenshot

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Thaleia Deniozou
Dr Thaleia Deniozou - Thaleia is the Division Lead for Digital Arts, managing the Games Design subject and overseeing undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study within the Division. She is also a Reader in Games Art and the Theme Leader for the Art Pathway of the BA Games Design, leading the art provision within the subject. Thaleia's background is interdisciplinary, with a focus on cultural technology and communication, digital media design and art history and practice. Her PhD research investigated the design of mobile game-based learning applications to help adult learners develop language skills. Her research interests are on game-based learning design, creative pedagogy and educational innovation within Higher Education, while she is particularly interested in serious games and games for change. Thaleia has been teaching on the areas of digital arts, video games and media design in Higher Education for more than ten years. She teaches art-focused modules at undergraduate and postgraduate level and her teaching is informed by art theory and practice, creative thinking, concepts of visual style and graphical vocabularies and visual aesthetics within games.
Dr Mariza Dima
Dr Mariza Dima - Mariza is a Senior Lecturer in Games Design. She specialises in User Experience and User Interface design for developing meaningful and engaging interactions particularly using mobile, AR and haptic technologies. She has worked between academia and the creative industries as an interaction designer and creative technologist in R&D projects combining engineering and design approaches grounded on theoretical contexts of narrative, affective dramaturgy, and audience/player engagement. A keen knowledge hunter, she is often inspired by and experiments playfully with perspectives from different fields that could offer a useful alternative lens on user experience design and then turns them into a tool for designing engaging experiences. Her design approach is holistic and experiential where the designer embeds and immerses herself in a collaborative design process and views it as an educational and transformative experience rather than participating in it as a design expert. She also consults on strategies for devising and developing digital projects and user interactions in the creative industries and has expertise in design methods for collaboration and co-creation.
Mr Chris Cox
Mr Chris Cox - Chris lectures in Games Design and Games Application. He has an MA in Games Theory and Design from Brunel. He is particularly interested in player engagement with different game styles or mechanics and enjoys combining games theory with the more practical side of design. Chris is interested in player engagement, why people like the games the do and what are the parallels between them, he is also excited by the opportunities for social interactions in games and this extends to board games as well as digital experiences.  He is also passionate about diversity and inclusion in real life and in the digital world, and this extends to how we can engage our students in making this a reality. Chris has worked in creative industries for many years in both theatre and games and live events. He has experience working as a games designerand also as a consultant and producer for various games companies. Chris has won various awards at Brunel including Most Inspirational Lecturer and awards for Fairness and Inclusion.  Chris is a Fellow of the HEA and of the Brunel Acadamey for Transformational Teaching. Chris plays all sorts of games and is an enthusiast for almost every genre, from tabletop one shot games to complex simulations taking in everything on the journey.  

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Project last modified 15/11/2023