Digital Learning Games

16.12.2015 17:42:31

We play serious games

Acknowledging the rising trend of game-based learning, Tallinn University decided to open the interdisciplinary international master’s programme called Digital Learning Games.

Creating games needs a large amount of specific knowledge. The programme offers courses from various institutes on the basis of their competences: game planning, human and computer interaction, storytelling, pedagogy and psychology. Games and pedagogy share many innovative educational methods, such as game-based learning, the design of serious games and gamification. The latter is the method of applying game-like elements to activities in other fields, e.g. education.

Games can influence behaviour

Game-based learning is all about integrating learning goals with games. This means digital games made with only entertainment in mind can be used for teaching purposes. In addition to entertainment, serious games have the goal to teach or change the behaviour of people. We expect these practical goals from the theses of our students.

During the studies, students plan and execute common projects, which can result in a learning game, a gamified service, the application of games in actual learning or research in learning games. During the programme, the students acquire the necessary skills for creating computer games, such as conceptual planning, mathematical modelling, programming and technical writing, visual design, storytelling and creative writing, as well as an overview of cognitive processes and the pedagogical aspects of gaming. At the same time, they learn to lead a team and a project, and do general research and analysis. Those who graduate can start working as computer game designers, engineers of serious and learning games, or web and user experience designers, course and/or study material designers.

One week’s introduction

The two year master’s programme has a week-long introductory course at the Tallinn Summer School called Design of Serious Games. This course welcomes everyone who wish to get to know the basic processes and techniques of game development through practical workshops.

2015 was the third year for the serious games course. Participants from across the globe teamed up to design and develop learning games, starting with an idea and ending up with a working digital prototype. Teams featured every role needed for developing serious games (a designer, a programmer, a pedagogue, a project manager etc.)

The development progress was also a part of the summer workshop for the first year students of the Informatics bachelor’s programme at the School of Digital Technologies. Many ideas and designs got their framework and output thanks to the development work of these students.

We invite everyone who has an idea for a game, but lacks the skills or time to develop it, to take part in our shorter and longer courses.


4_Grete-Arro1-350x293Grete Arro, researcher at the School of Natural and Health Sciences

The courses in the programme can roughly be divided in two: those that help us understand the process of creating games and those that help us understand the people these games are made for. Without understanding the psychology of the user and the knowledge about learning at different levels of development, we cannot know nor guarantee the efficiency of the games.

Web-based games that develop measurable psychological processes are an ever-expanding field of interest for educational, neuro- and cognitive psychologists. Educational psychologists are interested in creating new ways to help students realize their potential: that the learning environment (teachers and the materials they use) would support and consider the standards as well as individuality, the motivation of the student, the development of their interest and learning habits.

Why is this all important in the context of digital games? Because learning is in large a psychological, therefore an individual process. The teacher might not see the basic processes or psychological factors that hinder one student in the group of many. It is probable that computer games may help us understand the exact processes the student needs help with, and therefore help them at a specific angle that is most suitable to their age.

Creating such games, which is in essence a collaborative project between institutes, is without doubt, as Kusturica implied, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Some games created during the development workshop

Eco House – turn-based economy simulator for seeing the possibilities of improving the energy efficiency of buildings.
World Quiz – a puzzle game based on the geopolitical data from the CIA World Factbook.
Color Space – a flight simulator that teaches the RGB colour model.

Text by Martin Sillaots (School of Digital Technologies, Lecturer of Serious Games), Andres Jõesaar (Baltic Film, Media, Arts and Communication School, Head of the Programme) and Grete Arro (researcher at the School of Natural Sciences and Health).

Read more about the programme and admission requirements from our webpage.


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