Gamification for Learning in Electrotechnology

Dr Thomas Steffen, a recipient of a 2016 Teaching Innovation Award (TIA), explains how he has applied gamification to learning electrotechnology.

What did you want to achieve?

This project set out with a rather simple idea: to use an interactive simulation tool to teach students the basics of electric circuits in TTB211 Electrotechnology. We all know that electricity cannot be seen and should not be felt, so how do you learn about it? The project quickly gained momentum and additional facets, and now it includes four novel aspects:

    1. a browser based circuit simulation tool (everycircuit)
    2. gamification: a mobile game based on the same tool (circuit jam)
    3. an open source textbook
    4. a set of tutorial questions developed in Germany by Prof Kautz

So how do these work together?

A circuit simulation in Learn

A circuit simulation in Learn

The browser based simulation Everycircuit is great to use in the lecture, and I have done that before. But this time I want to go further, and so I have embedded simulations into a number of summary pages on Learn. Students will also have the ability to modify existing simulations or to create new ones. In my opinion, this really makes a difference, because it turns “magic” invisible electricity into something that students can play with and experience. Have a go with a Parallel resistors simulation.

The gamification aspect relies on a mobile game available in the Google Play Store, which includes a number of puzzles based on the same circuit simulator. So students get a familiar user interface, a portable way of learning, and the motivation of having clear goals and tracked progress. If you have an Android device, you can try a demo at: . (Providing for students without a personal Android device is one of the challenges here, and there are a number of alternatives available.)

The open source textbook is an existing project at In many ways, it is rather conventional, but it does offer two key advantages: for the students, it is more accessible and flexible than a library, and for the lecturer it offers the advantage that it can be edited and redistributed. I do not expect to put much effort into the second part this time, but going forward that is a significant opportunity.

Finally, I discovered a set of tutorial questions and exercises developed in Germany for a project in subject didactics in electrical engineering. The theoretical basis is a definition of two threshold concepts: electrical potential, and circuits as models [Brose, A., & Kautz, C. (2010). Research on student understanding as a guide for the development of instructional materials in introductory engineering courses. In Proceedings of the 3rd International Symposium for Engineering Education. Ireland: University College Cork]. The exercises are specifically designed and verified to reinforce these threshold concepts and to avoid common misconceptions found in student responses.

Has this affected your teaching?

Close to the beginning of the semester, I find myself well equipped and prepared to deliver this module, not just from an academic perspective, but also from a pedagogical point of view. Using these resources allows me to free up lecturing time to make the lectures more interactive, it helps to provide ample of simulations, exercises, homework and tutorial questions for reinforcement, and it includes the novel element of gamification to keep students engaged.

How has it been received by students?

The interactive simulation has already been tried in a smaller postgraduate module, and was received very well by the students. The gamification part and the tutorials not been used so far, but a thorough evaluation is planned. An update will be provided once the results are in.

See also:
Further information about the Teaching Innovation Award:

#technoparticipation – practice-as-research

This week Loughborough’s active technology enhanced teaching practice features in an conference at Brunel University. 


Lee Campbell from the School of the Arts, English and Drama is presenting and creating research around his Teaching Innovation Award (TIA) project looking at how Skype and similar technologies can develop richer professional learning communities. skypesthelimit


Here, in the first of the blogs from TIA projects, Lee outlines how colleagues in Loughborough’s campuses can both support and get engaged with this project. If you want to use, or are using Skype in your teaching, do share your practice with Lee via his Loughborough email or via Twitter #technoparticipation

“With the support of a Loughborough University Teaching Innovation Award, I am currently engaged in a period of practice-as-research. This aims to generate new knowledge about how teachers and learners may collaboratively use Skype and advance how it may interface with other technological tools in order to expand the possibilities of the digital classroom encompassing different forms of participation and improve both teacher and learner’s digital literacy.

“I aim to play with ‘online-ness’ as a dynamic liminal space that renders the human body as transgressive, being neither wholly present nor entirely absent and uncover and exploit Skype’s performative properties to explore what participation and social communication may mean in relation to concepts relating to terms including  ‘embodied’, ‘disembodied’, ‘virtual’ and ‘physical’ etc, as well as develop my term techoparticipation, drawing together aspects of Performance within pedagogy and inserting these into the digital classroom. I am committed to helping students engage with multiple technologies to improve their digital literacy and using the learning environment as a space in which to not only reflect upon practice but to produce it.

“I am currently drawing together different practices around Loughborough University, of teaching staff using Skype in the Design School (Dr Ksenija Kuzmina and Dr Erik Bohemia), Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (Dr Borja García-García), Mathematics Education Centre (Dr Stephanie Thomas and Dr Barbara Jaworski), IT Services (Richard Goodman) and the School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering (Dr Sheryl Williams) and I am on the lookout for more staff. So do get in touch!  Dissemination events of my project have been held at Nottingham Trent University and Brunel University.”

Keep up to date with the project using twitter hashtag #technoparticipation



Hanging Out with Google+

What’s this? Google+ is Google’s new approach to social networking. It builds on top of many other Google services, and Google intend for it to become a key feature of most of their products.

Why am I writing about it here on the E-Learning Blog? Well, Google+ has a number of features that may be interesting for educational institutions. I introduced a few of these in a recent UCISA presentation with Google’s William Florance. We recorded the session, and a copy of this is embedded below:

Read on to find out more about Google+ and its potential in Teaching and Learning…

Continue reading

The Elluminate roadmap

You will know that Elluminate and Wimba were both taken over by BlackBoard earlier this year, and merged into a new concern called BlackBoard Collaborate.

At an online webinar yesterday, the plans for the new company were outlined.  A total of 236 people attended the session, which used Elluminate as its platform.

It very quickly became clear that Elluminate was the senior partner in the merger.  It had always been the larger company, and it was obvious that the new joint product (codenamed ‘Gemini’) would be based on Elluminate Live!, not Wimba Classroom.

Work has already begun on Gemini, which seeks to merge the capabilities of Elluminate Live!, Wimba Classroom and Wimba Pronto into one product by the end of 2012.  The new product will be a free upgrade to all existing customers, and would be both “browser-based” and “Java-based”. Support for Wimba Classroom will cease in 2013.

  • All existing VLEs with integrations to either Elluminate or Wimba would continue to be supported.
  • Video quality would be improved using Wimba’s technology, but retaining Elluminate’s low-bandwidth capability.
  • Echo cancellation would be improved to support sessions with both local and remote participants
  • By summer 2011 the Gemini phase 1 product will be available to Elluminate users, incorporating some (configurable) improvements to the user interface.
  • By summer 2012 Gemini phase 2 will include Wimba features: a content repository allowing session resources like whiteboards to be stored, shared and re-used, and also archive movies of sessions will be available in .mp4 files.
  • By the end of 2012 Gemini will support mobile devices in the iPad/Android class.
  • Gemini will continue to use the SAS server system, Plan! and Publish!  as currently used by Elluminate, but will be hosted in several locations (sounds like Wimba’s UK servers will become Gemini servers)

From our point of view, changes will be minimal, since we already use Elluminate Live!.  We will simply get an improved and expanded system.  There was no word in pricing other than that Gemini will be a free upgrade for existing users.