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Professor of Digital Learning and Play Nic Whitton


Department: Computer and Information Sciences

I have a varied academic background starting with a degree in Business Management from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne followed by several years working in the not-for-profit sector. In my late twenties I returned to education and undertook a masters degree in Information Systems at Edinburgh Napier University followed by a part-time PhD while working in a range of learning technology and academic development roles.

After completing my PhD in the potential of collaborative video games for learning I moved to the School of Education at Manchester Metropolitan University where I stayed until 2018. This was followed by a five-year stint as Director for the Centre for Academic Development at Durham University before moving to Northumbria in September 2023. 

Nic Whitton

My main research interests are in using playful approaches and digital games to support adult learning, as well as impacts on work, social engagement and wellbeing. I am particularly interested in the potential of games and play to support learning, but also how they can unintentionally create barriers to engagement. More widely, I am interested in digital learning and digital practice in Higher Education.

I am interested in the design of digital play and video games for learning, and how playful learning approaches can be used to make learning more engaging and inclusive, and how play can be used to create safe spaces in which to learn from failure. 

My work is interdisciplinary and draws on user experience design, video game design, play studies, education, and psychology.


  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Escape rooms as tools for learning through failure, Whitton, N., O'Brien, R. 18 Mar 2024, In: Electronic Journal of e-Learning
  • State of Play: An Historic Review of Playful Learning Approaches in Higher Education, Whitton, N. 4 Sep 2023, Higher Education Research, Practice, and Policy: Connections & Complexities
  • Creating a Naked University, Whitton, N. 6 Dec 2022, Leading Innovation and Creativity in University Teaching, London, Routledge
  • Play and Learning in Adulthood: Reimagining Pedagogy and the Politics of Education, Whitton, N. 11 Nov 2022
  • A framework for re-imagining video in Higher Education using playfulness, Caspar, S., Whitton, N., Whitton, P. 4 Oct 2021, In: Journal of Play in Adulthood
  • Utilizing digital educational games to enhance adult learning, Cordie, L., Lin, X., Whitton, N. 19 Mar 2021, Research Anthology on Adult Education and the Development of Lifelong Learners, Hershey, US, IGI Global
  • Fun and games in higher education: an analysis of UK student perspectives, Whitton, N., Langan, M. 17 Nov 2019, In: Teaching in Higher Education
  • Playful learning: Events and activities to engage adults, Moseley, A., Whitton, N. 25 Apr 2019
  • SimFection: a digital resource for vaccination education, Carolan, K., Verran, J., Amos, M., Crossley, M., Redfern, J., Whitton, N., Louttit, D. 15 Mar 2019, In: Journal of Biological Education
  • Impact of educational interventions on adolescent attitudes and knowledge regarding vaccination: A pilot study, Carolan, K., Verran, J., Crossley, M., Redfern, J., Whitton, N., Amos, M. 19 Jan 2018, In: PLoS One

  • Andrew Turnbull The application of the Theory of Constraints in the Operation of Information Systems Start Date: 06/03/2024
  • Rachelle Rawlinson An exploration of the educational potential of digital escape rooms in Higher Education Start Date: 01/11/2023

  • Education MSc July 01 2014
  • Computing PhD November 22 2007
  • Education PGCert July 01 2005
  • Computing MSc November 19 1998
  • Business andManagement Studies BA (Hons) July 01 1994
  • Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy PFHEA 2018
  • National Teaching Fellow NTF 2013

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