Game-Based Learning Talk

A quest to transform education through game-based learning

Planning A Game-Based Learning Virtual Academy

with 13 comments

Transform education?  Yes we must!

— Sir Ken Robinson in a Huffington Post article

Today, there are several reasons why the timing is right for educational transformation to take place.  The main reasons include:

  • The Academic Achievement Gaps – Not only is there the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in this country, but there is also the global achievement gap between U.S. students and their international peers.
  • The Economic Downturn – Business innovation often occurs during times of economic hardship.  So, it stands to reason that educational innovation should also occur in today’s era of drastic budget cuts in education.
  • The Internet – Nearly every industry today is being transformed by the Internet.  Businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies are all changing to adapt to an Internet-connected world.  Traditionally, education has been slower to adapt to new innovation, but we’re now starting to see the Internet’s impact on education, especially with the rapid growth of online education.

We need new educational innovations from large institutions all the way down to individual educators to help us revive of our stagnating educational system.  As an individual educator, I am embarking on a new venture in order to help transform education.  My plan is to create:

A game-based learning (GBL) virtual academy for college-age students

Game-Based Learning Virtual AcademyWHY GAME-BASED LEARNING?

The Horizon Report 2011 has selected GBL as one of six “emerging technologies” that will impact learning in the next five years.  GBL activities have many educational benefits over traditional learning methods, including:

  • Better motivation for students because of the engaging and “OK to fail” GBL environments
  • Better assessment, including more frequent formative feedback, which is important for the multitasking “videogame generation”
  • Games can provide a situated learning environment in which students can learn through authentic experiences

These benefits can lead to the better learning of subject matter, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and other 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, etc.).


Online education has arrived.  Today, there are over 4 million K-12 students and over 13 million higher education students who participate in online courses (see the Ambient Insight report for details).  At its current phenomenal growth rate, online education will soon become a standard way for people to learn throughout their entire lifetime – in school, at work, and even after retirement.

And, we’re only just starting to learn how to teach and design effective online courses.  We’re also just starting to see the many benefits of online education.  In a few years, I’m pretty certain that we’ll see a lot of new, innovative techniques to make online learning an even more effective way to learn.


There are several reasons that I am targeting this segment of learners, including:

  • This year, California community colleges may have to enroll 400,000 fewer students because budget cuts have eliminated several courses
  • The 30% high school dropout rate in this country has created a massive number of potential students for a program that can teach valuable learning skills
  • GBL brick and mortar schools already exist in K-12, such as the Quest To Learn school in New York, so I would like to make this type of program available to the adult student population, many of whom probably grew up playing video games.


The subject matter curriculum for the GBL virtual academy will cover the general education courses because there is the greatest demand for these courses at the community college level.  In the future, the curriculum can expand into practically any subject area where there is a demand for learning.

Courses will feature various GBL activities that will be designed or selected to promote efficient learning and deep understanding of topics and learning skills.  These activities and programs include:

  • Playing learning games
  • Designing and developing games in order to learn through the game creation process
    • Sandbox games (e.g., Minecraft, Gamemaker, Scratch, etc.)
    • Virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life)
    • Alternate reality games
    • Augmented reality games and other mobile games
    • Non-digital games
  • Creating game-related multimedia
  • Adding game elements to the learning system, such as experience points and achievement levels for assignment completion and discussion board participation


In order to fulfill this vision to create a GBL virtual academy, I’m starting with a single prototype course and then evolve into a series of courses.  Here is an overview of my implementation plan:

  • Start with a prototype course
  • Expand to a program of multiple courses in a specific subject area
  • Explore becoming a certificate program
  • Expand to multiple programs of other subject areas
  • Investigate becoming a standalone school or aligning with an existing educational institution

Of course, I’ll have to develop a formal business plan, which will address issues such as feasibility, market analysis, sustainability, and growth areas – but, that will come later.  The first step is to build a prototype course (currently underway), implement the course, and then reflect on how to expand.


Because I have the experience, background, knowledge, and most importantly, the desire to build this new type of educational system.  I have several years experience in the videogames industry as a game developer, several years experience designing educational programs, a master’s degree in instructional design and technology, an MBA degree, and I’ve been a gamer since the days of early Nintendo.  Also, I am an associate dean at an international university, where I’m working on creating curriculum for a new program.

Of course, there are probably many people who are much more qualified than I am to take on this type of project.  However, games and education are in my blood, and marrying the two to build a GBL virtual academy at this point of time just feels like it’s the right thing for me to do to help make a difference in education.


If you’re interested in becoming involved in this project in some capacity, please post a comment or email me at  I’m looking to partner with experienced educators and game designers who understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of game-based learning design/implementation and have a desire to start something new and exciting.

Otherwise, if you’re just interested in GBL, please feel free to post your comments here as I post future updates on this project.  Thanks a lot for your interest and feedback!


Written by randyfuj

June 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm

13 Responses

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  1. I would like to follow your project and possibly get involved.

    I would detach age from content levels. At least a large minority (in many places, a majority) of community college students are middle aged, going for their second or third profession. There is a growing stratum of kids and teens working at college (or graduate) level, as well – and not being served too well by the overcrowded community college system. From the rest of your proposal, I would assume you don’t want to exclude these populations.

    Maria Droujkova

    June 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  2. Hi Maria!

    Thanks for your comment. That’s a very good point about age – I guess community college-aged can refer to pretty much any age (like the Chevy Chase character on the TV show Community!).

    And yes, it would be great if you could be involved. Maybe we can chat about the first course I am planning on statistics – I’m putting together the design for a statistics educational ARG.



    June 23, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    • This may be interesting. Probability, statistics and games have been connected forever… A good combo!

      Maria Droujkova

      June 27, 2011 at 7:56 pm

  3. Totally support this!
    Let me know how i can help.
    We deploy educational games to the university level have a look at perhaps we can work together.



    June 24, 2011 at 5:24 am

    • Hi Jeremy, thanks for sharing the link to your Spongelab site. Looks like you’ve developed a great library of games and other good learning objects there. Yes, let’s discuss possible ways we could collaborate. Can you email me at

      Thanks for your comment!



      June 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

  4. I agree, I see the future of GBL and other non-traditional learning as being first and foremost a way to reach non-traditional students, many of whom are not currently being served by existing solutions. I would be interested in getting involved in this as well and would be happy to discuss the project with you.

    Lisi Gopin

    June 24, 2011 at 7:09 am

    • Hi Lisi, thanks for your comment and interest in the project. Can you email me at so we can discuss? I also saw you’re a member of the GBL group on edWeb, so you can msg me there if you like. Thanks!



      June 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

  5. […] particular blog is of great interest to me…. It focuses is on the evolution Game Based Learning (GBL) and how this emerging technology […]

  6. We have the platform, and our first group of teachers/designers creating the curriculum in a closed beta. See


    August 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  7. Randall,

    This is a great project! I would definitely be interested in getting involved when you get to the point where you need some more human resources. I am a classroom teacher, and would definitely be into developing a program and teaching teachers about GBL.

    Eamonn O’Brien

    Eamonn O'Brien

    September 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

  8. i love this idea, i homeschool my 12yr old and he loves to learn this way, it works!!!!


    January 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm

  9. love it!!!!

    Carrie Leslie

    January 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm

  10. great for homeschooling,my son learns so fast this way,:))

    Carrie Leslie

    January 26, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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