Gaming in Pharmacy Education Webinar Recap

Recently TiPEL hosted a webinar titled "Gaming in Pharmacy Education." As part of our recap, we like to take comments from the presenters to summarize their points and thoughts on their presentation, please see their comments:

Jeff Cain, EdD

Using games for teaching and learning has a lot of promise if done correctly.  Although “games” has a negative connotation in education circles, there are a number of reasons why they can be useful.  Gaming research has passed the point in which we need to ask if games are beneficial for learning.  There is enough evidence to support that they are.  The questions that need to be asked now pertain to which instructional design decisions are the most important for achieving learning outcomes. 

Not all games or game designs are appropriate for learning and the desired outcomes and teaching strategy should dictate if, when, and how they are used.  In general though, there are numerous aspects of game and learning design that make games an attractive option.  Gaining and maintaining student attention, dynamic and immediate feedback, and encouraging risk-taking are all elements of good educational gaming principles.  The choice of whether to use games or not should be answered with the question “Are games an appropriate strategy for my desired outcome?

Tyler Rose, BS, PhD

My presentation summarized many of my experiences developing and using games in education, including some of the major lessons I learned along the way, starting with one of the first educational games I developed, called “Race to Glucose,” a board game for students to play in teams following a lecture and worksheet on the biochemical pathways.  Details about this game can be found in AJPE (American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 2011, 75(9), Article 183).  The game met my expectation of getting students engaged with the class material and working with one another enjoyably; however, the amount of time required to use the game in class and to modify it based on year-to-year changes in material was a drawback of its use.

Following the board game, I attempted to circumvent my problem of having to print and cut out playing materials by going electronic.  I used Multimedia Fusion 2 from to create “Hepatic Regualtorz,” a game for reviewing the positive and negative regulators of the metabolic pathways, and “Boards ‘N’ Ladders,” a quiz-type review game designed for a dental student biochemistry course.  It was really fun and empowering to be able to make these kinds of electronic games, but student feedback on the usefulness of the games was lackluster, making me question my motives for creating the games in the first place.  Was I using the games I had created to address real learning needs?  I suspected not.

Because of the educational benefits I had observed using Race to Glucose, I wanted to see if I could minimize the time consuming elements of its preparation and modification by using an electronic solution.  Using the Visual Basic programming tools of PowerPoint, I created a macro that eliminated the need to provide dice or cards to play the game.  Now, all an instructor would have to do is provide the PowerPoint file, print the game board (and game rules), and let students play, using whatever they like as game pieces.  The best part is, with PowerPoint, faculty would be able to customize the slide deck with their own questions and conditions. 

I was eager to share my new, semi-electronic version of Race to Glucose, but found I needed to work with my school in regard to developing a licensing and distribution plan.  Thus, educators interested in developing games would benefit from discuss their plans with their institution early in the process to iron out issues of ownership and to develop a common vision for how to develop and disseminate the final product. 

Adam Persky, PhD, FACSM

We developed 3 games for pharmacokinetics courses (both foundational and clinical courses) as alternatives to more traditional active learning classes. The first game was PK Poker and was a combination of Jeopardy™ and poler. It was used to review the semester activities. The important feature for this game was to place emphasis on individual student preparation but still allowing opportunity for peer teaching when necessary. A second game was developed to develop critical thinking skills around antidepressant pharmacokinetics. This game required students to solve a crime related to a drug interaction. Clues (~30) were given to teams of students and they had to summarize what happened within the game. Several iterations of the game were necessary to work out the bugs including team size and tweaking of clues to direct students to more desired endpoints. The final game was developed after Clue™ and was used to apply pharmacokinetic thought processes to drugs commonly encountered in a community pharmacy setting. The basic framework of murderer, weapon and location is flexible enough to adopt easily year to year. The murderer clue required a judgement of which pharmacist or physician was most likely to harm their patient. The weapon and location clue were more factual based. Of the 3 games developed, this is the only one still in use. Games were used as alternatives to other active learning techniques. The major challenge was development time and outcomes – is it worth the effort to develop and use in lieu of other instructional techniques? While we found positive outcomes and for the most part the games are reusable with little effort each year, other instructional approaches have been used in place of these activities.

Aleda Chen, MS, PharmD, PhD

Pharmacy programs are asked to promote the development of “…behaviors, and attitudes necessary to apply the foundational sciences to the provision of patient-centered care” in the 2016 ACPE Standards.1For students who are young and may not have experienced health-related or aging-related challenging, it can be difficult for them to understand the experience of older adults and develop the needed behaviors and attitudes for practice.  Simulation games, such as the Geriatric Medication Game® (GMG), which specifically addresses medication-related challenges of older adults, are useful methods for teaching concepts to students in a safe environment.  At Purdue, we incorporated the GMG with first-year professional pharmacy students and third-year nursing students.  Students “became” an older adult with personal characteristics, health conditions and disability, and financial resources and were asked to navigate the healthcare system.  During their navigation, they were asked to perform various tasks and received empathetic and non-empathetic care from a variety of healthcare providers, including a physician, nurse practitioner, and pharmacist.  We assessed changes in their empathy and attitudes toward older adults as well as their experience using the KCES© and a survey created for the experience.  From the GMG, student empathy significantly improved as well as most items related to their attitudes and understanding of the experience of older adults.  Incorporating games, such as the GMG, may be beneficial to improve student empathy and understanding in order to develop appropriate patient-centered behaviors and attitudes.

1.       Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.  Standards 2016.  Available at:  Accessed April 30, 2016.

2.       Colby, Sandra L. and Jennifer M. Ortman, Projections of the Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060, Current Population Reports, P25-1143, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC, 2014.

3.       Evans SL, Lombardo M, Belgeri MT, Fontane PE. The Geriatric Medication Game in pharmacy education. Am J Pharm Educ. 2005;69(3):304-310.