Nic Whitton

Professor of Digital Learning and Play, Prof

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am interested in supporting projects in the following areas:
* the design of educational games to meet learning outcomes or engagement objectives;
* explorations of player experience and game experience design;
* social justice, inclusivity and gaming;
* the use of technology in adult education;
* educational escape game design.

Willing to speak to media

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Personal profile

Research interests

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.



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. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Education/Academic qualification

Education, MSc, Education and Technology, Edinburgh Napier University

Award Date: 1 Jul 2014

Computing, PhD, An investigation into the potential of collaborative computer game-based learning in higher education, Edinburgh Napier University

Award Date: 22 Nov 2007

Education, PGCert, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Edinburgh Napier University

Award Date: 1 Jul 2005

Computing, MSc, Information Systems, Edinburgh Napier University

Award Date: 19 Nov 1998

Business andManagement Studies, BA (Hons), Business Management, Newcastle University

Award Date: 1 Jul 1994

External positions

Professor, Durham University

4 Sept 20233 Sept 2027

Professor, University of Sydney

1 May 202330 Apr 2024


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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