Ep 058 David Chandross brings gamification to healthcare education

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David Chandross began his career as a neuroscientist working in the field of selective attention and cognitive science. After receiving his Ph.D. in curriculum and a second masters degree in medical education he went on to become an academic Dean and then held positions in senior administration across Canada in higher education. His work in gamification began in the 1990s and matured in at Ryerson University after which he accepted a position at the Simon Fraser University in the field of gamification under a 5-year, $3 million dollar simulation and advanced gaming environments federal grant. Currently, Dr. Chandross holds the position of program coordinator with Ryerson University and participates in research initiatives in gamification with Baycrest Health Sciences, the College of Family Physicians, the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and other institutions to further the implementation of game-based learning in higher education.

David started bringing game-based learning elements into his teaching in the early nineties, university mandatory courses were all converted into fully immersive role-playing games! For a while, he was dedicated to research only, but he is back into teaching with gamification and games. He is frequently defusing institutional innovation barriers to introduce games into the faculty’s classrooms, inspired by Juho Hamari among others.

He shared with us a situation that didn’t go well for him at Humber College in Canada. He was hired for serious game design in education for one year. The academic VP who hired him, she accepted a better position at another college. This meant that the new VP had to be approved once again and it didn’t! This new person was not willing to put in the effort to continue moving on the initiative. He has found that universities and colleges, especially those that depend on funding, are weird places and departments are competing against each other for it.

A nice success he had was using a plain LMS to turn it into a game using adaptive releases. Basically, the idea is to block certain content until certain actions are made (just like in games!) This one is about neurological assessments, with cases of patients that are chosen by the students to analyze. It is a sort of scenario-based learning as well, a waiting room full of patients. Another thing he has done is use a WordPress-based blog to turn things around into a discussion. The idea is that they post case studies and each is worth a certain amount of “gold.” To move forward they must solve at least one case. With the gold, they can buy things that allow them to unlock better things that of course improve their learning.

David has three different approaches when it comes to using gamification. One is where he is the architect of the game working with the instructors back and forth using their content. Another approach is to present ideas of games that have been used in the past and have them do a game-jam of sorts to create. A version of this is to go straight to the students and do the game-jam with them to see how content could be designed to improve learning. This allows for many interesting and wild things happen because collaboration kicks in and you can’t be sure where it will end, though you can be certain it will improve learning. The third approach would be where the instructors themselves come with an idea to David and he helps them channel that process to arrive at something great.

A best practice for David would be a buddy system, to form a team to bounce ideas out of especially so the design can be built upon each other. He talks about a specific experience he had with prisons, listen up it is quite interesting! His favorite game is certainly World of Warcraft. He especially enjoys the fact that there is no way of discrimination, you are just who you are. It is also a great experience in general. Another one he recommends taking a look at is Deus Ex, where moral choices affect the aspect of your character. He has even used Second Life to improve older adult’s lives.

David is writing a book about hyper-reality and how to open the learning and the game so people’s learning is not limited to what you expected from the starts. He would love to listen to Dr. David Kauffman of Simon Fraser University. He would recommend us to read Karl Kapp‘s books, also Andrzej Marczewski‘s Even Ninja Monkeys Like to Play and finally Educational Gameplay and Simulation Environments: Case Studies and Lessons Learned.

His superpower is synthetic thinking, creativity. His background in philosophy and neuroscience allows him to look at things in a unique way. He sees a broader influence in gamification and wants to have that positive influence in the field. We can reach him at dchandross [at] ryerson [dot] ca through his email and on LinkedIn as well! His final advice is to think big, to think of why you are building games, and if you can’t find a deep reason you probably shouldn’t get into it because it is hard. Do it because you think there is a greater meaning!


There are many ways to get in touch with us, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


6 Replies to “Ep 058 David Chandross brings gamification to healthcare education”

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