Naza Djafarova: open access resources for gamification in education | Episode 087

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With 20 years of business and management experience, Naza has been instrumental in implementing innovative approaches to development, support and delivery of online and hybrid courses and programs with national and international partners. Her team became one of the most innovative and efficient distance education centers in Canada, has grown to be a leader in digital education and one of the largest providers of university credit online courses in Ontario. Over 35 international and national organizations have recognized Digital Education Strategies (DES) work including the OLC International Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Education. Naza is a lead in grant proposals and in a number of educational initiatives providing technology and operational management expertise in the development of continuing education programs. One of her main goals currently is to create serious games for their learners.

She has approximately 20 staff members and is constantly working in connection with other departments for the delivery of online education. Her day focuses on how to engage and inspire colleagues to change the ways to deliver courses and programs, how to implement changes. But her day with engagement starts even earlier first thing in the morning with her five year-old and how to obtain engagement so early in the day.

Her favorite fail started with the school of nursing requesting a branching scenario project (where students are presented choices that affect future developments within the simulation, for example). It was not a failure in the end but it was super difficult to involve the whole multi-disciplinary team, it was through pain and suffering (and not on time!) They realized that faculty members have very limited time and it is hard to get them involved in the game-design. They couldn’t find much with regards to methodologies on how to work in these types of multi-disciplinary teams. The main learning is that just putting together a professor with a game designer it will just become a great serious learning game. It is not just about getting them together in a meeting at the start and then at the end, it is necessary to work together and meet regularly, update the design document together, to make sure all the sides are taken care of.

When they couldn’t find a detailed methodology for their setting, or that could at least mostly apply, they asked around and observed that it tended to be ad-hoc methods, they decided to create their own. They created cards to engage multi-disciplinary teams to engage in the creation of serious games for learning! They were looking at many of the related theories and methodologies to create this which they now use for their creations in this space.

A great success that Naza and her team have had in this space came from a project with the academic integrity office. They wanted to create scenario-based case-studies for students, with the purpose of minimizing plagiarism. They are currently almost done and it should launch in fall 2019. They used the methodology they created and this made things go quite smooth and with great results. The development time was much shorter than expected, they want to have a great tool for self-study in something that is so broadly used at the institution.

A best practice would be to start playing games and read about the successes and failures, both in books and articles. It is extremely useful to be able to understand what you’re aiming to achieve, both from the perspective of the user and also to reach out for some understanding of what is going on behind the curtains. Her favorite game would be Oregon Trail. She would like to hear from Dr. Atsusi (2C) Hirumi of the University of Central Florida. Her recommendation for the Engagers is to read the book by Karen Schrier titled Knowledge Games: How Playing Games Can Solve Problems, Create Insight, and Make Change and, if you haven’t already, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. She is also pushing for the creation of open access books on the subject! Naza’s superpower would be engaging people around new ideas.

The random question for Naza is related to the why of games and gamification. Listen to it by clicking play at the top of the post!

Her final advice is to connect with them because they are constantly sharing the resources they create openly with others. We can find Naza on LinkedIn as Naza Djafarova and at

These are some of the links shared by Naza:


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