Date of Award

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Information Studies


Scott Nicholson


Experiential Learning, Game design, Higher Education, Information Literacy, Self determination theory, Social Constructivism

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Despite the importance placed on information literacy in fostering lifelong learning, helping students develop the skills required of critical thinkers and independent learners are limited. This study contributes to the burgeoning discourse on alternative instructional approaches to teaching information literacy and focuses on the use of game design in learning environments.

The appeal of gaming among the younger generation of learners has led to the increasing use of games in learning environments. Within recent years, some innovative academic libraries have begun adopting games as a platform for information literacy instruction. While the literature recognizes game design as fostering higher-level learning in educational contexts, it is not commonly adopted in the classroom. Typically, there is a preference among instructors to have students play games. Therefore, a more thorough understanding on the ways game design best facilitate learning is needed to assist towards its more frequent adoption. This study focuses on the use of game design within library spaces.

The purpose of this study is to explore the experiences of undergraduate students learning by game design in information literacy classes. The overarching research question looks at how an instructor can incorporate motivational theories into an information literacy class through learning by game design and how students engage with the content and each other in this environment. More specific supporting questions address: How can an instructor incorporate motivational theories into an information literacy class through “learning by game design”? How does the “learning by game design” approach within information literacy classes foster the sharing of knowledge among undergraduate students? How do undergraduate students represent information literacy concepts in the game-based artifacts they design? What were undergraduate students’ motivations to use information literacy practices they were exposed to throughout their class experiences?

Applying a descriptive multi-site case study methodology, this study draws upon the theories of social constructivism, experiential learning, and motivation to explore the phenomenon of learning by game design in information literacy classes. Data was collected from two sites using various methods to provide a comprehensive view of the phenomenon. Data sources included: student's artifacts, submitted class assessment materials, recorded observation, participant observation, items from the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) and interviews. Analysis was done by drawing meanings across the multiple instances of data.

Findings from this study show that learning by game design is a viable option for teaching information literacy classes, when effectively scaffolded into the classroom. Students were able to draw upon a higher order of cognition and described situated instances where information literacy skills were applied, such as use in complex assignments and real world situations.


Open Access