Research activity per year

Personal profile


I am a Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computing at the University of the West of Scotland specialising in games-based learning and Serious Games.  My research interests include motivations for playing computer games, evaluation of games-based learning applications and assessment integration for games-based learning applications.  I have a number of journal and conference publications in these areas.  My doctoral dissertation was about using games-based learning to teach requirements collection and analysis at tertiary education level.  I deliver a module on Serious Games covering learning theories, research methods, content integration, assessment integration, evaluation, design principles and story and narrative at honours level.  I have been involved in a number of European projects associated with the use of serious games and is a member of the GaLA (Games and Learning Alliance) FP 7 Network of Excellence which aims to shape the scientific community and build a European Virtual Research Centre aimed at gathering, integrating, harmonizing and coordinating research on serious games and disseminating knowledge, best practices and tools as a reference point at an international level.  I was also involved in the Wellcome Trust project which produced a large systematic literature review on games-based learning and serious game empirical evidence.  I am also a reviewer for IEEE, the journal of Computers and Education and the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET).  I currently teach in the Computer Games Technology/Development degree streams and teach the following modules: Introduction to Games Development, 2D Graphics Programming, Programming with Objects, Serious Games and Computer Games Development Project.

Area of academic expertise - outline

My main area of expertise is in Serious Games and games-based learning researching the following:

  • application of computer games to non-entertainment fields
  • motivational aspects of computer games
  • content integation in serious games
  • assessment integration in serious games
  • evaluation of serious games in terms of learning effectiveness
  • the use of serious games in Higher Edcuation for programming purposes
  • the use of games-based construction learning in Primary Education for increased programming knowledge
  • the use of games-based learning in the hospitality industry

Current research activities

My current research activities are centred around the use of games-based learning and serious games for programming education and one such project that is being developd has the following project summary: Programming is a fundamental skill of all Computer Science, Software Engineering and Computer Games Technology/Development courses at Higher Education level.  A major problem with programming courses is that they are seen as difficult and have high dropout rates among students.  Some specific problems associated with teaching programming are: traditional teaching methods are insufficient for preparing graduates for a computer programming role, student inability to understand abstract concepts, object oriented programming concepts, debugging, student inability to learn basic concepts e.g. variables, data types and pointers and not knowing how to correctly use specific programming languages to create a program.  This is exacerbated when attempting to intermingle structural programming with object oriented programming concepts.  A potential solution to this is games-based learning (GBL) which has been used in a variety of different areas such as science, mathematics, language learning and computer programming to attempt to address some of the shortcomings of traditional teaching approaches.   This project will utilise the experience of a 2nd level programming class called 2D Graphics Programming to assist in designing a generic computer game to teach basic coding concepts using a Participatory Design process.  The students in this class will have had experience (as a pre-requisite) studies a course called Programming with Objects (which is delivered in C++ and C#).  The game will be implemented by a games developer using the teaching/gaming experience of the students.  The game will then be played and evaluated using a pre-test/post-test experimental design to generate qualitative and quantitative empirical evidence associated with the application of GBL in a rudimentary programming class to assist students to learn basic programming concepts the following year.  

Another area is the use of computer games for educational puspoes in Primary Education. A systematic literature review was performed and published in Computers and Education in late 2016 detailing the findings. This has lead on to another journal paper which is reporting a large scale empirical evaluation of the use of games-based construction learning using Scratch to educate upper PE level in rudimentary, elementary programming concepts.  

The research performed in these projects is designed to augment and tie in with my teaching courses to inform the areas and greatly enhance the student experinece in terms of motivation and participation. The relevant modules that are informed by the research are; Introduction to Games Development, Programming with Objects and 2D Graphics Programming.   


Desired research direction

My desired research direction is to utilise the skills of the students that we are currently educating everyday and utilised their knowledge and experiences to produce new novel teaching approaches such as a computer games for the purposes of programming knowledge.  If some smaller projects could get off the ground with some interesting empirical results then this would hopefully lead onto further collaborations and larger scale evaluations of games-based learning in terms of comparisons between games and traditional teaching approaches.  The ideal situation would be a randomised controlled trial experiment. Despite my intrisic interest associated with using games in the HE and PE, I am interested in using a number of novel teaching approaches to enhance the student experience.  This also includes the utilisation of Social Networking tools in the classroom to provide qualitative and quantative empriical evidence.  


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