Learning Lab

A player in the midst of a game of Regulator Rally

A player in the midst of a game of Regulator Rally


The Learning Lab is an exper­i­mental pro­gram for higher edu­ca­tion. Its first edi­tion was open to hon­ors stu­dents of the UvA and has since spread to other insti­tu­tions in the Netherlands and abroad. Its aim is to foster lead­er­ship qual­it­ies in stu­dents and it attempts to do this by turn­ing the concept of edu­ca­tion inside-out, send­ing stu­dents out into the world on actual ven­tures instead of keep­ing them in class rooms con­sum­ing theory.


After its first edi­tion the Learning Lab got inter­ested in play. The organ­isa­tion dis­covered that many aspects of its pro­gram were quite sim­ilar to real­ity games such as Urgent Evoke and I Love Bees. They wanted to form­al­ise these qual­it­ies, and con­tinue the exper­i­ment of using play and games to chal­lenge stu­dents to deal with lead­er­ship issues in a hands-on man­ner and help them reflect on their pro­gress doing so.

The slaying of a dragon piñata at the live finale of a social game

The slay­ing of a dragon piñata at the live finale of a social game


We set out to immerse ourselves in the pro­gram and from the pos­i­tion of par­ti­cipants start to look for design oppor­tun­it­ies. To this end we enrolled in the second Learning Lab and split our time between exper­i­en­cing the pro­gram first hand, and design­ing and test­ing games for it. We rap­idly cre­ated a broad range of games and played them with the stu­dents, to see which types res­on­ated with them and which types were con­sidered most use­ful by the program’s coordinators.


At the end of the Learning Lab’s second run, we had cre­ated and run a social net­work­ing game for a con­fer­ence the lab took part in, an urban game that con­fron­ted the stu­dents with their own assump­tions and a blog-based social game that chal­lenged stu­dents to get more involved in each other’s learn­ing pro­cesses. These exper­i­ments lead to the design of a metagame suit­able for use with the program’s internal net­work of blogs, aimed at the fas­cil­it­a­tion of reflec­tion of the stu­dents on their worn work, and that of their colleagues.

A paper prototype test of the metagame in progress

A paper pro­to­type test of the metagame in progress