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Remote design model for interdisciplinary co-learning in Higher Education

Online teaching and learning are widely used in Higher Education (HE) in some cases exclusively and in others in blended learning settings. This has been especially the case in recent times due to the pandemic crisis, where HE institutions were required to flexibly shift to remote methods of teaching.

There is therefore a need for exploration of new models that provide opportunities for digital connection, proposing and implementing state-of-the-art critical educational approaches in order to help educators deliver inspirational and engaging online learning.

This project aims to explore-by-developing such a model in the context of design education, bringing together two renowned disciplines for both Universities (Games Design and Human-Technology Interaction), and thus strengthening their connection. The creative and collaborative nature of design education means that research outputs could be transferable to other creative subjects as well, and could also be adaptable to courses outside the design field.

This educational innovation project was a collaboration between Brunel University and Tampere University, with a focus on building on the digital internationalization of education.

Academic staff from both Universities joined forces to develop a series of remote, interdisciplinary design workshops to help postgraduate students build their design skills. With pandemic times, education has been one of the fields that have changed dramatically, and the requirement for remote delivery and new ways of implementation has been highlighted. There is therefore an increasing need to explore educational models that harness the opportunities of digital connection and help deliver effective online learning.

The aim of the project was to develop and pilot a remote design model for interdisciplinary co-learning, motivation and creativity. This was achieved by exploring remote student collaborations focusing on a design project as part of the learning, and by running a series of participatory lectures and design workshops with postgraduate students from Brunel (Games Design) and Tampere (Human-Technology Interaction).

stages of the games design

The focus of the design project was Serious Games and students could choose one of five potential focus areas: Mental Health, Health, Sustainability, Learning and Social Change games.

themes addressed by the games

Based on their interests, students were divided into teams and worked collaboratively for four weeks to develop a game concept, visual research, mockups and a small-scale game evaluation. In every session there was a combination of short lectures (on topics like visual aesthetics in games, player experience, persuasive design and user evaluation) and development workshops during which the teams worked in breakout rooms, applying the learning from the lecture. Students worked remotely in-between sessions as well to develop their serious game concepts, using tools for team communication, remote visual collaboration and quick prototyping. The four members of staff who developed the remote design model, also taught and supervised the student teams. At the end of the four weeks, the teams presented their work and findings for peer-feedback and discussion.

Many interesting Serious Games concepts were developed by the teams including a language learning game for conversational skills, a game about healthy food choices and a game to raise awareness about mental health, including depressions, OCD, and eating disorders. Academics and special guests from both Brunel and Tampere Universities attended the presentations and provided feedback to the students for their work.

Special thanks to Valentina for creating the visuals.

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 Reader 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. Her reseech interests are in experience design methdologies for cyber-physical environments, and applied games for social innovation (live action, role playing, digital). 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.

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 15/11/2023