Using a gamification framework to increase student engagement with groupwork.


  • Manjot Brar newcastle university
  • Catherine Douglas Newcastle University
  • Elisa Lopez-Capel Newcastle University


A sci-fi themed boardgame has been developed by students, for students, to enhance engagement and satisfaction with teamwork tasks at university and beyond.

To address the need identified amongst students at Newcastle University for additional support in preparation for groupwork, funding was competitively acquired from the University’s Education Development Fund to employ 6 student interns with the remit to develop an inclusive, fun, board game to tackle common issues with group working. They collaborated with staff to codesign a teaching resource that aimed to increase student engagement with groupwork.

The need was raised in part due to a focus group with international students, and part of general student module feedback, and staff lived experience.  Staff saw the value in an active approach to learning teamwork skills as opposed to listing off a series of dos and don’t’s in lectures. As such a framework of gamification was used to create ‘Alien Alliance’, a sci-fi themed board game incorporating teamwork training elements.

This case study analyses the intervention to demonstrate that the gamified teaching resource can improve student engagement with teamwork through its ability to provide students with take away tips for future groupwork and act as a fun ice-breaker in a range of scenarios to develop confidence and communication skills.  

The game was piloted and trialled across a range of scenarios in the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, including widening-access summer schools in the transition to HE and across Stage 1-3, with applications identified in engineering, medicine, and languages.  Feedback collated from students and staff demonstrated that this co-designed activity was considered a fun tool that has the potential to provide takeaway tips for future group work and definite ability in improving student confidence and communication. While it is not liked by all students, comparison of groupwork related complaints before and after the game was introduced into a module, suggests it has reduced issues. Alien Alliance provides a strong foundation from which further, improved versions can be developed.

A 4 minute video outlining the game (supplementing the instruction booklet at the start of a lecture and available via QR code) is available here to give further context and a visual description of the project and insight into the game:


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Author Biographies

Manjot Brar, newcastle university

Research assistant at the Institute of Population Health Sciences at Newcastle University. BSc Biology and Psychology Joint Honours.

Catherine Douglas, Newcastle University

Degree Programme Director BSc Agriculture and BSc Animal Science, School of

Natural and Environmental Science. Research interests animal and student welfare.

Elisa Lopez-Capel, Newcastle University

Senior lecturer in soil science, with extensive experience in biogeochemistry, renewable energy, carbon sequestration and climate change.




How to Cite

Brar, M., Douglas, C., & Lopez-Capel, E. . (2024). Using a gamification framework to increase student engagement with groupwork . Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal, 5(2), 57–75. Retrieved from



Case studies/Practice Pieces