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.
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.