Can play help us at work?

Our new online course will explore how play is an important part of our lives, from a baby’s first game of peek-a-boo through to adulthood.


Debates about play often dominate the headlines, with some raising fears children are ditching the outdoors for their smartphones and tablets in this so-called digital age.

But Exploring Play – our third FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – will discuss this issue as it examines the nature and value of play through the course of our lives, as well as across cultures and communities.

As a learner you will be introduced to the many play worlds and play lives people experience across their life span.

Without leaving your seat you will be transported to the Museum of Childhood in London to discover how play has evolved over time as well as to Weston Park Museum to learn how children and families engage playfully with past, present and future worlds.

Our MOOC will also explore how everyday knowledge informs playfulness and imagination through visiting virtual worlds where the boundaries between fantasy and reality are increasingly blurred.

You will see how people of all ages explore their local surroundings in outdoor play spaces as well as look at how play spaces can be designed to encourage playfulness and what happens when players bend the rules.

The course will also examine play as the subject of serious study by talking to academics from a variety of disciplines in the Faculty of Social Sciences, where our experts will discuss definitions of play and current debates about how the nature of play changes.

It will discuss key issues of debate, including:

  • Does play help us to learn?
  • Can it prepare young people to be successful in the adult world?
  • How do we learn to subvert the rules?
  • Are all forms of play good for us?

It will also explore the regular media panics about the presumed dangers of technology-related play, such as computer games.

Professor Jackie Marsh, who is leading the course with Professor Elizabeth Wood from the School of Education, said: “We’re now used to regular media reports that decry that ‘play is dead’, and newspaper columnists who lament that children do not play anymore and instead spend all of their time sitting in front of a screen. But is this really the case?

“In our free online course we’ll demonstrate that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Play is very much alive – across all age groups and all walks of life. The course will explore research that has examined play throughout life, and we’ll consider ideas about play across cultures and through time.”