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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

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project


Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.


Project last modified 04/11/2021