Simulations and Advanced Gaming Environments (SAGE) for Learning

Aimed at better understanding and supporting learning in these environments, the bilingual, Pan-Canadian SAGE for Learning initiative addressed the interplay among the exploding popularity of technology-based simulations and games for entertainment; new technologies for appealing, immersive, engaging simulations and games; and growing evidence that learning works best when people collaborate, practice and reflect on their learning.

Principal Investigator: Dr. David Kaufman
Network co-leader: Louise Sauvé, Télé-université
Funding Agency:
SSHRC (2003-2013)

See Additional Team Members below.

What's Proposed

Focusing on health-related learning, the initiative investigated:

  • (a) how people learn through technology-based simulations and games;
  • (b) which cognitive, human and social factors, as well as which game and simulation characteristics, contribute to making simulations and games engaging, motivating, and effective for learning;
  • (c) how to integrate new technologies and our theoretical knowledge of learning to create effective learning simulations and games in real-world settings (e.g., schools, hospitals, businesses, communities),and
  • (d) how to improve our methods and tools for research and evaluation on learning with simulations and games.

How This Project Is Carried Out

The project was funded for approximately $3 million by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) through its Initiative on the New Economy - Collaborative Research Initiative Program.

Thirty-six Canadian and international university-based researchers in education, psychology, computer science, educational technology, new digital media, and research/ evaluation methodologies participated. The project also included over 30 Canadian and international partner organizations, many of which supported and collaborated on SAGE research projects.

SAGE for Learning members worked to transform health-related learning through the study, development, and application of technology-based games and simulations. 

Topics included:

  • Educational Gameplay
  • Simulation Environments
  • SAGE for Learning Project
  • Role of Narrative in Educational Games and Simulations
  • Fantasy as an Important Motivational Feature in Digital Games
  • Gender and Digital Gameplay
  • Games in Health Education
  • Ethical Decision-making
  • Virtual Reality Technologies
  • Collaborative, Online, Multimedia, Problem–based Simulations (COMPS)

The research objectives were addressed through a multi-methodological approach consisting of descriptive, developmental, and evaluative research phases, using a mixed quantitative-qualitative methodology. SAGE research was conceptually grouped into foundation and application domains with specific loosely integrated projects addressing theoretical as well as practical issues involved in translating game and simulation entertainment technologies into effective learning tools and in evaluating their learning impact.

This project resulted in two books (one English and one French) describing the multiple projects that were conducted in the large SAGE project.

How This Project is Put into Action

The ‘SAGE’ project addressed a diverse number of areas and many of these are relevant to practice. Here are several examples.

In the area of healthcare, our work in creating handheld games for children to use in managing their diseases is extremely important and has shown positive results. This promises to be a tremendously useful tool for children in hospitals as well as in their own settings. 

Our work done on narrative and fantasy in videogames is key to designing engaging and compelling videogames. In the simulation area,  our implementation of a problem-based learning (PBL) online case-based simulation is on the leading edge of PBL practice as the Internet is becoming an important environment for communication, collaboration, information retrieval, and knowledge creation. This project provides one model for implementing PBL online.

Finally, the research and development work that our team has been doing around handheld games, biofeedback games, virtual reality, gender and videogames, and ethical decision-making all are contributing to both theory and practice.

Where to Learn More

Watch the videos of Nintendogs and Brainwave Journey.

Additional Team Members


  • James Bizzocchi, Simon Fraser University
  • Jonathan Borwein, Dalhousie University
  • Suzanne de Castell, Simon Fraser University
  • Michael Dobson, Simon Fraser University
  • Claire IsaBelle, University of Ottawa
  • Jennifer Jenson, York University
  • Margot Kaszap, Université Laval
  • Ronald Owston, York University
  • Lise Renaud, Université du Québec à Montréal
  • Patrice Renaud, Université du Québec en Outaouais
  • Carolyn Watters, Dalhousie University


  • Steve DiPaola, Simon Fraser University
  • Peter Fenrich, British Columbia Institute of Technology
  • Andre Kushniruk, University of Victoria
  • Michael Shepherd, Dalhousie University