Serious game and simulation design

Graduate certificate University of Missouri-Columbia
People working in a game design office.

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Since the 1960s, serious games have presented an engaging, immersive learning experience. Over the decades, the delivery method has evolved: beyond physical activities and controlled environments, game and simulation design presents the tools to craft a virtual, life-like learning experience. School-age children and adolescents absorb new concepts beyond textbooks and worksheets, and adults attend educational or occupational training to practice or build off what they know. 

Interested in shaking up the traditional classroom? Discover how you can enter this growing, specialized field with the University of Missouri-Columbia’s (Mizzou) online graduate certificate in serious game and simulation design. Gain the skills to develop and pioneer transformational, effective educational opportunities in your school, workplace or training facility. 

This 16-credit program blends art, design, programming, user experience, testing, digital media, content, computer science and software engineering concepts to help you overhaul existing educational efforts and design your own. Explore where narrative, objectives, graphics and experience appeal to and motivate your audience to complete tasks and absorb new information. 

The online graduate certificate in serious game and simulation design is overseen by the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies (SISLT). SISLT is a proud member of the iSchools consortium, an international coalition of leading information schools.

Quick facts

Official name

Graduate certificate in serious game and simulation design


University of Missouri-Columbia

Program type

Graduate certificate

Academic home

College of Education & Human Development | School of Information Science and Learning Technologies

Delivery mode

100% online


Higher Learning Commission

Credit hours


Estimated cost


*This cost is for illustrative purposes only. Your hours and costs will differ, depending on your transfer hours, your course choices and your academic progress. See more about tuition and financial aid.

Why earn a certificate in serious game and simulation design?

Organizations and schools strive to engage learners of all ages. Traditional methods introduce concepts, but an applied experience presents a hands-on environment to try out and see theories in action. Through simulation, nearly any type of program or objective is possible. Serious games increasingly harness these technologies to develop educational tasks for K–12 and university students, health care, the military, science, engineering, emergency management and marketing, as well as for research and observational purposes.

What goes into serious game and simulation design? As the focus of Mizzou’s online program, this discipline combines creative, digital and technology skills with storytelling while factoring in psychology and sociology principles. What you create captivates learners, gives appropriate feedback along their journey, provides entertainment with educational value and introduces new concepts. 

Through Mizzou’s online certificate program, existing educators and game developers can expand their skills to pivot careers or stand out in their existing role. Newly developed courses hone in on instructional design techniques necessary for making an impact in virtual settings. At the same time, while courses are 100% online, you’ll also learn in an applied, hands-on environment. 

This online graduate certificate:

  • Introduces the collaborative process behind developing serious games and simulated learning environments
  • Covers the software, game engine tools and technology equipment for prototyping simulated environments, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR
  • Instructs you in designing your own virtual activity with a learning or psychological objective
  • Helps you develop a critical perspective for analyzing other serious games and simulated learning experiences based on cognitive, affective and psychomotor outcomes
  • Explores user experience and usability in relation to game enjoyment, environment simulation and learning outcomes
  • Presents the opportunity to get hands-on experience through an internship with ADROIT, Mizzou’s grant-funded serious games studio
Three workers looking over a computer and drawings.

Career prospects

Bring your ideas to fruition with Mizzou’s online certificate in serious game and simulation design. Your skill set equips you to develop simulated learning experiences in technology environments with an educational focus, corporate and military training programs and school systems looking to unlock student engagement.

Coupled with your existing degree and experience, this certificate program prepares you to improve a spectrum of training and learning solutions as a:

  • Game or simulation designer
  • Game or simulation narrative writer
  • Graphic designer
  • Introductory game developer
  • Instructional game designer
  • Instructional coordinator
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
employment growth
Burning Glass Technologies. 2021. Salary numbers and employment growth numbers are based on models that consider advertised job posting salary, Bureau of Labor Statistics data and other proprietary and public sources of information for multiple occupations.
median salary

Program structure

Work around your existing professional and personal obligations. All courses for the graduate certificate in serious game and simulation design are entirely online — no on-campus visits are required. The typical student takes two classes per semester to finish in roughly a year’s time.

SISLT divides the program into two portions: a 13 credit-hour core covering key technology, learning design and visual competencies and a three credit-hour elective in a topic of your choosing.

Course work

Through this structure, you’ll start to understand:

  • The link between games and the learning process
  • The basics of developing and evaluating educational games
  • How to design computer-generated animation and visualizations
  • The role of the internet and activities in sparking curiosity 
  • Instructional learning theories and models at K–12 and undergraduate levels
  • Prototyping tools and methods
  • The functions and use of a game engine
  • How to solve real-world problems with simulated learning

Review all course descriptions for the online graduate certificate in serious game and simulation design.


100% online

Calendar system


Typical program length

1 year

Typical course load

2 classes per semester


The University of Missouri is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States.

Faculty spotlight

Rose Marra

Dr. Marra conducts research on the design and development of technology-enhanced learning environments for both face-to-face and web-based learning. Her particular emphases are on supporting complex learning with technology in the area of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education examining their impact on problem-solving and meta-cognitive development. Dr. Marra develops and teaches courses in the areas of the systematic design of instruction, meaningful use of technology in learning, online learning and serious games. In a “past life”, Dr. Marra was a software engineer for AT&T Bell Labs.

Rose Marra, PhD
Director - School of Information Science & Learning Technologies, Professor
Danielle Oprean

Danielle Oprean's research focuses on understanding the role of immersion in comprehending virtual space as a means to transfer knowledge to a number of applications include learning spatial concepts, decision-making and design. She has experience in developing learning environments, including her experience working with the iSocial project, on different gaming platforms and works with different virtual and augmented reality technology. She currently works in researching the value of creating and using virtual field trips as a means to supplement both the traditional and the online classroom through situated exploratory learning and decision-making.

Danielle Oprean, PhD
Assistant Professor
Xinhao Xu

Dr. Xu’s research interests focus on embodied interactions and learning, immersive virtual learning environments and game-based learning for STEM subjects. Utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods, he has been actively conducting research on learning and training in technology-enhanced environments to pursue answers to the umbrella research question of how to use technology to help people learn.

Xinhao Xu, PhD
Assistant Professor
Joe Griffin

Joe Griffin is Technical Director of Adroit Studios housed in the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri. Since coming to MU, Joe has collaborated on grants totaling over $6 million by providing Unity development expertise as well as other game development services. Joe has developed game-based learning and support systems for individual learning, for collaborative learning, and for nontraditional educational contexts. Joe worked on the development of iSocial, a 3D VLE for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Joe has recently finished working with a team of researchers and developers to create Mission HydroSci, a game-based 3D virtual learning system, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Joe is currently working on a game based assessment to be used in educating social workers towards a more trauma informed approach.

Joe Griffin
Programmer Analyst

Learn more about this program

This program is administered by the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies