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Mary Dankbaar Assistant Professor

Research topic

Get to know Mary

About me

As an educational scientist, specialized in technology-enhanced learning, I have a passion for making teaching and learning more engaging ánd effective for students, and sustainable for educational institutions. Higher education has seen a tremendous growth in the last decades in number and characteristics of students. How can we use technology to not only improve current teaching strategies, but also facilitate innovation and the transition to new forms of education, matching the rapid societal changes?

My expertise is in instructional design of blended learning and innovation programs in academic teaching and learning, especially for simulations and serious games. I’m involved in design-based research to make game-based learning of procedural skills more adaptive, using indicators such as game-data and physiological measures. In addition, we’re doing research with a multiplayer game for training teamwork skills, to know whether this game actually prompts students to apply important teamwork principles online and what part of these skills should be trained face-to-face.

We showed that a medical emergency game can be used as an effective, motivating preparation for a face-to-face course to train residents' clinical emergency care skills.

Finding out about engaging, effective forms of skills training to make good doctors.

Research on instructional design of serious games, simulation programs, VR/AR for skills training.



  • Grant from NWO/NRO Human Capital Grant (Brain & Cognition) ‘Using real-time cognitive and non-cognitive indicators for regulation and self-regulation in game-based learning’. € 682.775, Start sept ’17- end July ’22.
  • CLI Fellowship for 2 years, o,2 fte, to do research on how teamwork principles are applied in a game



  1. PhD thesis (Nov ’15): Serious games and blended learning; effects on performance and motivation in medical education.
    The aims of this thesis were: 1) Compare the effectiveness of blended versus classroom training for the acquisition of knowledge; 2) Investigate the effec-
    tiveness and critical design features of serious games for performance improvement and motivation. Several empirical studies were conducted to answer these questions. The results of the studies indicated that:
    1) For knowledge acquisition, blended learning is equally effective and attractive for learners as classroom learning. A blended design is equally effective and attractive as classroom training. Blended learning facilitates adaptation to the learners’ knowledge level, flexibility in time and scalability of learning.
    2) A serious game with realistic, interactive cases improved complex cognitive skills for residents, with limited self-study time. Although the same game was motivating for in-experienced medical students and stimulated them to study longer, it did not improve their cognitive skills, compared to an instructional e-module. This indicates an ‘expertise reversal effect’, where a rich learning environment is effective for experts, but may be contra-productive for novices. Games may support skills learning, provided task complexity matches the learner’s competency level. More design-based research is needed
    on the effects of task complexity and other design features on performance improvement, for both novices and experts.
  2. Research on indicators for game-based learning (NWO).
    In this project, we a aim to identify indicators for effective learning in a simulation game for emergency medicine. In this game, students practice a procedural skill in applying the ABCDE method in stabilizing a critically ill patient. In experimental settings, we investigate whether behavioural in-game traces and physiological measurements are related to task performance and learning. If we find these indicators, we can use them as input to design adaptive game-based learning for students. This research takes place at Erasmus MC in collaboration with the Maastricht University Faculty of Health, Medicine, and Life Sciences.
  3. Research on how teamwork skills are applied in a multiplayer serious game
    In this project, we investigate the Team-Up! game for interprofessional teamwork. This multi-player game was developed to provide master students the opportunity to practice important teamwork skills, such as communication, leadership, decision making. We investigate what teamwork principles are applied in this game, to understand more on these game mechanics. In addition, this informs an optimal blended design in training this complex skill, in knowing what teamwork principles should be trained in the face-to-face training.

Workshops for teachers (medical curriculum or research masters)

  • Designing a Flipped Classroom curriculum
  • Developing an instructional e-module
  • Serious games

Erasmus MC medical curriculum (for students)

Community Project

  • Invited speaker Iran University of Medical Sciences (Dec. ’21)
  • Invited speaker Seminar Queens University Belfast, Centre for Med. Ed. (Febr 21)
  • Invited speaker at the Serious Games Conference in Singapore (Nov. ’18)
  • National and international presentations and workshops on research on serious games and blended learning:
    - AMEE (international medical education)
    -OTTAWA (international medical education and assessment)
    -Games for Health (European Conference on games)
    -IAMSE (international medical sciences education network)
    -DSSH Conferences (Dutch Society for Simulation in HealthCare)
    -NVMO (Dutch organization for Medical Education)
    -Erasmus University Rotterdam
  • Invited speaker at IMS Conference on flipped classroom model (student run national conference on innovation in medical education, Okt ‘21)
  • Podcast guest on Blended Learning (Jan. ’22)


Overview of Mary's publications: click here

Link to Mary's CV: click here

We created several formats, guidelines and tools for teachers on blended or online learning, e.g. on how to design an e-module, how to write a video-script, guidelines for interactive online teaching etc.: click here to read more.

From 2016: Chair of the DSSH Committee on Serious Gaming

From 2018: Member of the AMEE committee on Technology Enhanced Learning

Award: Best E-Learning award 2013 for the serious game ‘ABCDEsim’