Case Study: Gamification of the immune system

College Science
School / Department (list all where collaborative across more than one) Life Sciences
Project / Innovation Title Gamification of the immune system
Start & End Dates (where applicable) March 2021
Project Lead Name Dr Neil Holden
Additional Project Team Members Dr Claire Walker


Within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences second year module BGY2002 Immunology, students had previously done well learning the individual identities and functions of the immune system but struggled with integrating the components together and visualising the complete system. For example the timing and interactions between the different parts of the immune system.

This issue led to the idea of an immunology war games, the objective: To integrate the knowledge students have encountered to date on different parts of the immune system and how they combine to prevent disease. This was intended as a midway point in the module to allow consolidation of knowledge gained so far before the module moved into more application-based, and what happens when things go wrong themes, where the immune system as a whole needs to be considered.

Students were presented with a virus infection scenario in a teaching session and were tasked to take on the role of the immune system, their aim was to eliminate the virus. Students were presented with 8 cards to play, each card contained a different component of the immune system, each card can only be played once and will result in a specific activation of a cell in the immune system. Some of the card actions were prerequisites for the actions of other cells, e.g. for the full effect of a cell they had to have activated another cell previously. Within the lecture which also covered a revision of some of the material to date students were encouraged to give their initial thoughts and were able to ask questions. This provided a nice debate on what the best plans of attack were. We then followed this session up, around a week later with small group seminars where they were asked about the strategy they had devised and given feedback on this and the order of events which would have worked best in this scenario.

Students enjoyed these sessions and they resulted in numerous positive feedback comments on the module evaluation forms including

“The games of war session was fun and engaging and helped me fully understand the different bits.”

“The war games seminar really helped – i hadn’t pieced together the ‘flow’ of the immune system before it, and it made it a lot more understandable”

“The war games seminar was amazing and brought everything together”

 “The war games was helpful to tie everything together”

“War games as it was very informative and pieced everything together”

An example of one of the cards students were given to play


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