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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