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NET 2019 from a gamification researcher perspective

10 Feb 2020 | Dr Russell Crawford and Dr Sarah Aynsley Dr Russell Crawford and Dr Sarah Aynsley, two gamification researchers from Keele University, share their thoughts about bringing their gamified approach to learning and teaching to the NET Conference and the collaboration potential that emerged.

Gamification in an educational context has been shown to be a valuable tool to learners and educators both inside and outside higher education, and is the application of small group learning as a way of exploring and demonstrating knowledge (Nevin et al, 2014).  The inherent rules that exist within a games mechanic allow play to be experienced in a “structured, contextual and thematic” way (Miller, 2013). This, together with layers of strategy conferred by the games design and the ability to freely make “mistakes” through play, result in enhanced learning benefits becoming possible through gamified approaches to learning (Iosup and Epema, 2014). Given the discipline neutral stance that a gamified approach to learning presents in the abstract, our work at the NET Conference in 2019 explored how a gamification ethos was of value in developing and refining awareness and perceptions of inter-professional education (IPE) through play. 

Inter-professional education is an integral part of learning for undergraduate healthcare students and our NET 2019 presentation showcased the creation of a novel approach to inter-professional education from Keele University using our previous experience of creating games for education (Aynsley and Crawford, 2017; Aynsley et al, 2018).  

Rather than report our pilot findings in this blog post, we wanted to offer some reflections of our experience of NET 2019 as well as the impacts it held for our projects and plans following the event. There was a delicious academic symmetry in presenting our inter-professional education game to an inter-professional audience as part of NET 2019 and was also our first experience of NET as a forum to share our healthcare related educational research. 

We were excited to see how our innovations compared or indeed, complemented other work on show, having attended a few gamification conferences the same year with our other research. At first, the sheer scale of the NET Conference was intimidating and the logistics of all those parallel sessions, times and rooms were an exercise in multifariousness but that very quickly evaporated with the organised and considerate directions from conference staff. Even down to the individual room facilities, there was always a facilitator on hand to chair each and every session. With this stress off our plates, we were able to attend a host of diverse sessions before our own, getting a feel for the tone of the event as much as anything else. 

Reflecting on this, the tone of a conference is a strange thing…having attended many conferences in a range of disciplines over the years, you always get a 'feel' for an event very quickly – ranging from passionate (read: aggressive or targeted, as required) to collaborative and everything in between. 

We would describe NET as 'inclusive', where we felt that our work was genuinely being valued and discussions following our presentation were less about the minutia and more about the application of our philosophy…which was a fantastically inclusive way to approach gamification in general and ourselves as researchers more specifically.

To that end, the major opportunity that emerged from NET 2019 for Braincept was a fantastic collaboration with two researchers from Lincoln University who were present in our presentation session and who swapped details with us at the event. 

Following on from this chance meeting, we have grown a vibrant and impactful collaboration with Lincoln in the months since, which has already seen ethical approval for an inter-institutional (Keele / Lincoln) study collaboratively using our games. 

What the future holds for this collaboration is anyone’s guess, but with funding being sought after, papers planned out, data under collection and meetings reciprocally being conducted, it`s that lightning in a bottle that 'good' academic conferencing facilitates that means we felt passionate enough to contribute this blog post to encourage others to attend the NET Conference this year (we`ll also be there if at all possible) and see what opportunity awaits in 2020.


Braincept is a series of educational games co-invented by Dr Russell Crawford and Dr Sarah Aynsley from Keele University, both teaching professionals with extensive experience and a range of subject expertise. With Braincept games, they are looking to harness their experience and knowledge of how students learn in the development of targeted, pedagogically-informed serious games. Games are contextual physical games aimed at encouraging discussion, discovery and a threshold learning experience for players. 


The deadline for abstract submissions is 21 February, submit your paper for NET 2020 here.



Aynsley, S. and Crawford, R. (2017) Pilot evaluation of medical student perception of a novel pharmacology-based role-play game: Braincept. Educ. Health 2017;30:97-8

Aynsley, S, Nathawat, K & Crawford, R. (2018) Evaluating student perceptions of using a game-based approach to aid learning: Braincept, Higher Education Pedagogies, 3:1, 70-81.

Iosup, A., & Epema, D. (2014, March). An experience report on using gamification in technical higher education. In Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (pp. 27-32). ACM.

Nevin, C. R., Westfall, A. O., Rodriguez, J. M., Dempsey, D. M., Cherrington, A., Roy, B., & Willig, J. H. (2014). Gamification as a tool for enhancing graduate medical education. Postgraduate medical journal90(1070), 685-693.

Miller, C. (2013). The gamification of education. In Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning: Proceedings of the Annual ABSEL conference (Vol. 40).

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