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Oli Haslam: My dream: Learning design for a collaborative ‘gamified simulation’ environment in Wordpress Multisite

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Oli Haslam
12 January 2013

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Ann Davis
5:28pm 12 January 2013

Sounds like a fun student experience.  I see the potential of a class that simulates 3 hours in the emergency room, where patients need evaluating, charts to be updates, phones calls to other departsments, decisions to be made, all with odd interruptions as happens in real-life. 

I think it might be important for students to be able to make poor decisions and then see the consequences of those (let them go down the wrong path for quite some time).  Perhaps at several times throughout, the student would need to justify their decision.  Definitely have a live discussion afterwards of how things could have been different and what each person got out of the simulation.

Peter Miller
6:45am 13 January 2013 (Edited 5:46pm 13 January 2013)

Interesting project! Just for reference, no more, a UK company called Daden did something similar in Second Life using an authoring system called PIVOTE. One nice aspect of this was that the simulation could also be delivered on the web in non-3D format if required. Or the pay-walled .  As far as I know, this didn't really catch on and they've developed a new, friendlier authoring system called OOPAL but this is commercial. Anyway, back on-topic, I'm not quite seeing where the gamification fits in?

Adam Warren
3:15pm 13 January 2013

Hi Oli, this seems like a really interesting project and I'd like to team up with you if possible. I think that developing a framework and guidelines to help tutors develop simple educational simulations will be really useful, and that WordPress is a good choice of platform.

So what will I bring to the party? From your description, it looks as if your focus will be on the technical side of things with the multi-site network and plugins. I have a work colleague, Alex Furr, also participating in OLDS-MOOC, who is also a WordPress techie; he recently developed a plugin that enables MCQ tests and feedback questions. Shall we see if he would like to join this team? For myself, I'm more interested in the simulation and gamification. I've developed several educational games over the years, most recently one for around 50 students which got them in teams to play the part of major geopolical power blocs negotiating global sustainability goals at a conference like Rio+20. Admittedly this was face-to-face and used board-game techniques (voting cards, game turns) but it still needed careful design so that the students could understand how they could 'play the game'. The gamification/competition aspect was limited to deciding which power bloc had best achieved their initial goal ambitions, but the main learning outcome was how difficult it was to prioritise goals which all had merit.

I agree with Ann that allowing/enabling students to explore/experience what happens if they make poor choices is a valuable part of any simulation. It may be that some activities could include branching storylines, and that students could individually explore these to help them collaboratively discuss the best course of action afterwards. Again, I have some experience with this type of technique.

Have a good weekend, and hope to hear back from you soon. Adam Warren

Alex Furr
4:41pm 13 January 2013

Hi Oli,

This ticks two of my interest boxes - namely wordpress and gamification. You've also got one of the most fleshed out proposals I've seen - great work.

I'd be keen to get involved and know a bit about developing WP plugins so could help with the tech side.

Looking forward to discussing more.


Oli Haslam
7:04pm 14 January 2013 (Edited 7:25pm 14 January 2013)

Hi everyone

It's good to know that others are interested in this idea and thanks for commenting here.

@Ann Davis 

Absolutely. It is essential that learners are able to make poor choices and to see the possible consequences in simulations. They should be encouraged to explore poor choices (in a safe environment where they can do no actual harm) and to find ways to compensate for poor choices or to learn what to do if a poor choice is made. Discussions afterwards of what they did is also essential. I'd like to enable a way for participants to discuss with each other on the website both during and after simulations (maybe before too? e.g. to plan a strategy, discuss roles). 

@Peter Miller

Thanks for the info. St George's are one the leaders in healthcare simulation and have done some great work. My ideas for gamification are to try to increase learner motivation and, to some extent, to try to reproduce the competition and reward based motivations that (sometimes) drive people in the real world. The kind of things I'm thinking of trying to introduce are:

  • competition and collaboration between teams of learners
  • doing activities against the clock
  • progress indicators
  • collecting points for tasks
  • branching storylines
  • a choice of challenges/tasks to take on for different amounts of points 

I have to admit I am fairly new to gamification but what little I've read seems to make a lot of sense (for certain types of simulation and certain types of learners perhaps?) and I can see how and why these will work in Wordpress. What are your thoughts on it?  

@Adam Warren and @Alex Furr

It will be great to have you both on the team! It looks like you have some really useful practical experience in this area.

My interest in the project covers all areas of it really - I'm interested in both the technical side and the teaching and learning side of this project and I love the flexibility, reliability and simplicity of Wordpress - which is why I came up with the idea, I suppose.

I have some experience with making simulations (branching scenarios etc. - but it wasn't in Wordpress) but I don't have any real experience of gamification. I have quite a bit of teaching experience, much of it using technology, and I've used Wordpress a fair amount in various ways but I can't write any PHP at all.   

My primary aim for this project is to create something  ("a framework and guidelines to help tutors develop simple educational simulations" - is a good way of putting it, Adam) that university lecturers can and will use to create simulations. I want it to be free and easy to set up and use as possible. I'm also big on authentic learning and would like it to be posible to make 'authentic' simulations that reproduce real-life situations as closely as possible but if people want to create non-authentic simulations with whatever we come up with, that is more than welcome too. 

Creating the team

I'm assuming Adam and Alex you are both up for joing the team already. Is that right?

How about Ann? Peter? 

Does anyone else want to join the 'team' for this project?

I will set up the clouds/cloudscapes/google group etc. recommended as part of the OLDS MOOC week one activities when we have settled on team members. 

If you have any thoughts ideas on the best ways to proceed feel free to contribute here.



Adam Warren
5:04pm 15 January 2013

Hi Oli - a good first step would be to create a clearly named item on the Team Up! page making sure that it invites new members - and we could post a Tweet to advertise that "Interested in joining our collaborative gamified simulation project using WordPress? See .... etc"

It's been suggested (in todays Google hang out) that as the 'dreamer' that also makes you the leader of this group, which is fine by me... I don't want to tread on your toes by pushing ahead and just doing these things without your agreement.

Oli Haslam
1:18am 16 January 2013

I've st up a cloudscape for the project: A collaborative 'gamified simulation' environment

Adam and Alex, I've made you into Admins for the cloud so feel free to do whatever that allows you to do.

And I've set up an overview cloud:  A Collaborative 'Gamified Simulation' Environment in Wordpress - project overview

I'm not sure if you'll be able to put something in there about yourselves... let me know if you can't. 


Oli Haslam
1:33am 16 January 2013

Hi all

Thanks for your comments Adam. I'm happy to be known as the 'dreamer'certainly - and will see how  leadership works out! For the moment at least. 

I've had some communication in the comments on my learning journal blog about plugins/functionality which might be worth looking at. 

And I've set up a very brief demo of part of the idea on my blog too. It has almost no content at all but proves part of the concept (to me at least). Go to the Flood Simulation page to start.

I hope to get round to announcing the project, setting up a group or whatever on Google Groups tomorrow.

Feel free to start inviting people, Tweeting about the project if you feel like it. Hashtag #GamifiedSimulation


Oli Haslam
11:11pm 16 January 2013

Here's a link to find the Google Group for this project. It's an open group so feel free to come on in.!forum/gamified-simulation-olds-mooc-project

Bronwyn Hegarty
1:28am 17 January 2013

Hi Oli

Your project does look really interesting. I may dip in and out as I am already committing to two other projects. I was wondering what are the benefits of setting up a multisite in wordpress, why not just let the groups of students set up their own wordpress blogs? Is it the additional features such as discussion forums that make it attractive? Bronwyn Hegarty

Oli Haslam
4:44pm 18 January 2013

Hi Bronwyn

Please note that I'm talking about self-hosted here, not which is quite different. is a lot more flexible than but needs a domain name, and a server to host it on. There are several reasons that I'd like to use WP Multisite.

Firstly, WP Multisite it allows me (or any admin/facilitator) to create a network of as many child-sites (blogs) as I want in a few clicks, under just one domain name. I can manage all of the plugins and themes for all of those sites easily from one place and I can manage all of the users on the sites too.  This means I can (hopefully) set up the infrastructure for dozens of sites fairly easily making it useful for large cohorts, for example. So I might have a cohort of 200 students divided into 20 teams of 10 players, with each team playing on a separate child-site at the same time. That situation would be a nightmare to manage if it were on 20 separate standalone WP sites!

Secondly, simulations will need populating with some initial content (objectives, content, tasks, password protected posts and secret passwords etc.) before they can be played. A facilitator/administrator will need to do this initially. I think (I hope!) it is possible to duplicate the infrastructure and content of an entire child-site in Multisite, so a single simulation could be created once then duplicated as many times as wanted.

And thirdly, yes, it allows me to easily use additional features like discussion forums between simulations as well as within them, which opens up lots of collaborative opportunities that could make a simulation more realistic. Again, I can manage the lot from one place easily.

Having said all that, I'm not a control freak and am very much in favour of students creating their own simulations themselves by using and developing the model that we come up with.

Hope that helps, Bronwyn, and others who may have an interest. And please do feel free just to keep an eye on the project if you find it interesting, and dip in whenever suits.



Adam Warren
8:57pm 19 January 2013

Hi Oli,

I'm sorry but I have decided that I really can't cope with this mooc - I posted a final blog post that has some explanation for this: Snowed under…

I did get as far as posting a scenario in the format they wanted, but when it came to personas, force diagrams and ecologies of resources, I just felt that I really didn't have the time or motivation to study these seriously enough to be able to apply them in the time available - and to be honest it would probably take me a couple of weeks to start getting my head around them.

Good luck with the project!

Paméla Radien-Zinn
2:55pm 20 January 2013

Hi Oli! . I'm trying to do some catching up on activities - getting to know and understand what is happening on the site and what is expected. So this is my first posting.  I am a total beginner when it comes to designing anything online except for the little that I've learned about designing at varsity. I've been interested in simulations and much more for the purpose of making learning more authentic for some time. As I've mentioned, I really have no idea of how things should/can be done - but that is what I have to do and apply at the institute where I am, at least at the start of the next term.

I might or might not be able to give you some input, but I would really like to learn at least some basic things...

To abreviate my interests, these are some key words: Authentic learning; real life; mathematics; self-regulation; collaboration;  feedback (peer and facilitator - made possible through collaboration); blended learning etc.

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