Video Games and Learning

Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Video games aren’t just fun, they can be powerful vehicles for learning as well. In this course, we discuss research on the kinds of thinking and learning that go into video games and gaming culture, benefits and drawbacks of digital gameplay, tensions between youth culture and traditional education, and new developments intended to bridge that growing divide.

Video games are one of the fastest trending topics in media, education, and technology. Research across fields as disparate as science, literacy, history, visual processing, curriculum, and computer science suggests that video games aren’t just fun – they can actually be good for your mind as well. In this course, we will discuss current research on the kinds of thinking and learning that go into video games and gaming culture. We’ll investigate the intellectual side of digital gameplay, covering topics that range from perception and attention in Left 4 Dead 2 to the development of historical understanding in Civilization to collaborative learning in massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. Throughout the course, we examine the inherent tensions between contemporary youth culture and traditional education and new developments in games for learning that promise to help bridge that growing divide.

If you do have questions about the course itself, please direct your inquiries to

Data from this course is being used for quality assurance and for educational research purposes. All data from minors will be excluded from use in educational research purposes. See Coursera’s Terms of Use for a description of the data captured from course activity. Please contact with any questions or concerns. If you do not wish to have your data from this course used for educational research purposes, you may dis-enroll from this course.


Week One – Introduction: Games and Learning?!
Week Two – Game Design for Learning?
Week Three – Game Culture & Learning
Week Four – Games & Cognition
Week Five – Games & Content Subject Matter
Week Six – Games & The Institution of Education 

Recommended Background

Though the course targets an undergraduate audience, there is no prerequisite for completing the course.

Suggested Readings

Squire, K. (2011). Video Games and Learning: Teaching and Participatory Culture in the Digital Age. Technology, Education--Connections (the TEC Series). Teachers College Press. 1234 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027.

Steinkuehler, C., Squire, K. & Barab, S. (2012) Games, Learning and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age. Cambridge University Press.

Gee, J.P. (2004). Situated Language & Learning: A Critique on Traditional Schooling. Routledge.

Gee, J.P. (2007). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition: Revised and Updated. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Course Format

Each week you can expect video lectures, readings, and one or more assignments, including ample discussion of each in the forums. Though we hope you complete the entire course, you can choose to focus on what interests you.


  • What if I'm taking the course past the 11th of December?

    You are still welcome to take a look at all content that is available, but do know that the administrators of the website are rarely active in the forums and some of the assignments will no longer be available. You will also not be able to receive a statement of accomplishment.

  • What if I'm a newbie? Or, what if I'm an expert?

    All are welcome, and we expect you'll have your own experience with the course content and its discussion. Newbs, challenge us and your fellow students. Experts, contribute to the dialog and expound the benefits of games for learning.

  • Besides a web browser, do I need to come prepared with anything else?

    Some assignments require you to play games of your choice, so it is presumed that you have access to a computer, console, or portable gaming device.

  • Is the course free?


  • What happens if I join the course after its start date?

    No problem! All released content will be available for you to view.

  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment?

    Students who complete the entire course will receive a Statement of Accomplishment.

  • 3 October 2013, 6 weeks
Course properties:
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  • Paid:
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  • Language: English Gb


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