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Durham University

DCAD: English Language Support

Current Staff Information

Publication details for Prof Nicola Whitton

Whitton, Nicola & Langan, Mark (2019). Fun and games in higher education: an analysis of UK student perspectives. Teaching in Higher Education 24(8): 1000-1013.

Author(s) from Durham


In an increasingly neoliberal Higher Education sector, there is increased pressure on institutions to enhance learner engagement and student satisfaction. Many academics believe that students expect their university learning experiences to be enjoyable, and discourses of game-based learning reflect this, with a dominant narrative highlighting the fun of educational games. Whether students expect learning to be fun or see a relationship between fun and games is under-explored. To address this, we investigated student perceptions of fun in Higher Education using a thematic network analysis based on data from 37 in-depth interviews with undergraduate students. Here, we highlight five themes that encapsulate what students perceive to be a fun learning experience: stimulating pedagogy; lecturer engagement; a safe learning space; shared experience; and a low-stress environment. These aspects are not unique to games, and we conclude by considering the relationship between educational games and fun, and alternative playful approaches.