You are now in the main content area

Optimizing health care through gamification

A cross-disciplinary team developed a simulation game for nursing students funded by eCampus Ontario
January 24, 2019
From left: Cathy Tang, Patrick Neumann, Toby Stevens-Guille, Nancy Purdy and Andy Zhang collaborating and working on laptops

From left: Cathy Tang, Patrick Neumann (professor, mechanical and industrial engineering), Toby Stevens-Guille, Nancy Purdy (professor, nursing) and Andy Zhang. The students and professors were part of a team that developed a learning tool for nursing students. Photo: Alyssa Katherine Faoro.

“My research is all about promoting healthy work environments,” said Nancy Purdy, professor, School of Nursing, in the Faculty of Community Services. “I’m trying to show the connection between quality work environments for nurses and the quality of patient care.”

Purdy and project co-lead Patrick Neumann, professor, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and principal investigator at the Human Factors Engineering Lab, identified a gap in training for undergraduate nursing students, and leveraged funding from eCampus Ontario, external link to develop a new online curriculum and simulation game that teaches process improvement methods and strategies.

A highly collaborative effort, the curriculum and game development included researchers and educators from Queen’s University, Western University, Trent University, George Brown College and Centennial College. The Digital Education Strategies team from The Chang School provided the leadership and expertise to convert the content into an accessible online educational tool.

The project puts students in the driver’s seat to make decisions as clinicians in a hypothetical health-care system with an emphasis on efficiency, quality and enhancing the work environment. In a risk-free virtual setting, the applied game encourages students to identify ways that health-care organizations can better coordinate their teams for the overall improvement of quality, safety, costs and the reduction of accidents.

“We want to produce teams that can tackle quality, cost and safety — for the caregiver as well as the patient — all in one improvement process,” said Neumann. “Because in the end you only have one organization, not three. This training sets the bedrock for doing that integrated improvement effort.”

Students who tested the online modules and game appreciated the real-life aspects, and found that the examples made textbook learning more relevant. They also said that they enjoy the use of audio and video clips, particularly when dealing with abstract concepts. The multimedia elements developed through this project are made available as open educational materials, which are free and easily accessible online. Adoption of the game is expected to increase over the coming months as marketing to schools ramps up more broadly.

While this interdisciplinary relationship is an unexpected pairing, Purdy and Neumann have demonstrated the impact that collaborative work can make on student learning opportunities, faculty-specific research and the university as a whole.

This project is one of five open content initiatives funded by eCampusOntario, announced last year by eLearning at Ryerson ​to expand on the university’s existing campus-wide elearning strategy. The funding from eCampusOntario totall​ed​ close to $438,000, ​and support​s​ the development of open online modules and eTextbooks designed for students in retail management, nursing, early childhood studies and English.  ​ 

Previous Ryerson open learning projects which were funded under the same program are featured on Ryerson’s Open Learning site. To learn more about elearning at Ryerson, please contact

More News