Title: Serious Game-Based and Nongame-Based Online Courses: Learning Experiences and Outcomes (2013)

Authors: Taryn Hess & Glenda Gunter

Source: British Journal of Educational Technology

Research Question: How do two groups of high school students taking game-based and nongame-based online American history courses differ in learning pace, course performance, and intrinsic motivation for learning? How do students perceive their game-based and nongame-based learning experiences?

Study Design: Game-based learning has been a hotly discussed topic in the field of education. However, little research exists investigating the effectiveness of "serious" educational games. The authors compared learning experiences and outcomes between game-based and nongame-based online American history courses at Florida Virtual School. In the nongame-based online course, students were guided through the content in Blackboard and were provided traditional online assignments (e.g., multiple-choice questions, essays); in the game-based setting, students used avatars to navigate Conspiracy Code, a serious action game that consisted of mini-game-based and traditional online assessments. 92 students from each course were included in the quantitative analysis, while a small number of students and teachers were recruited for qualitative interviews.

Findings: Although students in the gaming group took a longer time to complete the course than those in the other group, they showed higher performance and reported more aspects of intrinsic motivation for learning than their counterparts. In addition, the gaming group reported in-depth social learning throughout the course as contributed by avatars and other in-game simulations.

Students and teachers in the game-based course further reported that the game play and the built-in multimodal instructional materials (e.g., graphics, pictures, videos, audios, storyboard) helped learning, while some "technical issues" and the lack of deadlines and directions for time management hindered learning.

Moving Forward: The study highlights a number of issues for various parties. For educators, it suggests the need to integrate new ways of learning (e.g., gaming, social networking) with digital classroom curricula; for instructional designers, it points to a need to incorporate a variety of media elements to anchor course content and to create a playful learning environment; for game designers, it underlines the need to continue to overcome technical issues that might restrain game navigation, to develop serious games that not only connect to subject knowledge but also provide mechanisms for active social learning.

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