It is very easy to gamify or incorporate games (virtual or otherwise) into a lesson plan to improve learning and/or motivate learners to be engaged. How can we ensure that they not only improve learning but cause learning as well?01 Sep 2022
Research-Based Game Design for Serious Games
April 27, 2022
It is very easy to gamify or incorporate games (virtual or otherwise) into a lesson plan to improve learning and/or motivate learners to be engaged. How can we ensure that they not only improve learning but cause learning as well? Using the Universal Design for Learning framework in connection to a review of related literature on motivation and social learning, this study has identified several effective factors that need to be considered for developing serious games. —Nika Espinosa
Role of Games in Learning
Serious games are activities that “serve as mediators to directly cause learning,” as defined by Landers (2015).1 A lot of research into serious games has shown conflicting evidence on their impact on education. However, observed inconsistencies can be resolved. Drawing from theories on social learning, motivation, and the framework of Universal Design for Learning, Watt and Smith (2021) determine guidelines for designing serious games.
“Virtually all games explored in these studies were single-player computer games.” These games do not support the importance of social learning. The evidence from social constructivism tells us that learning is dependent on the interaction between the learners. “Participation in cooperative learning strongly predicts student achievement2 as well as increasing student motivation and self-efficacy and decreasing anxiety.”3 Furthermore, the literature strongly suggests that even when the game has a social component, cooperative games are found to be more effective as opposed to competitive games with leaderboards and social components.
“Motivation and engagement have been shown to have a positive effect on learning,4,5,6 and so can be considered moderators of learning.” Glynn et. al (2011)7 would like us to view motivation as having four key components: intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, self-efficacy, and self-determination.
There were six social learning factors and eight motivation factors identified as effective serious game design guidelines based on the literature reviewed by Watt and Smith (2021) in connection to Universal Design for Learning.
Social Learning Factors for Game Design
The social learning factors are:
- Introducing team-building activities before the learning activities.8
- When designing games, a team identity that encourages membership maintenance should be developed.8,2
- Game design should lean more towards cooperative rather than competitive play.9,10,11,12
- Ensured opportunities where each member can be an expert through developing specialties.13
- Ensured opportunities where each member can teach other members in their expertise,13,14,15,16,17,18
- Experiential learning should be supported with a level of teacher guidance.19,20,21,22,23,24,25
Motivational Factors for Game Design
The motivational factors are:
- Considerations for themes or narratives that are compelling.26,7
- Promoting self-determination through adequate decision-making and freedom of movement.27,28
- Provision of multiple attempts and strategies as opposed to a punitive approach to failure.29,30
- In order to encourage grade motivation, learners need to be assessed on content within the game.31
- Rewarding learning as opposed to performance.7
- Student achievement must be evident in order to earn rewards.7,8
- In-game rewards for learning should be included in order to benefit later play.28
- Immersion and visual elements should be balanced so as not to add unnecessary cognitive load.32
An impressive, well-developed game can take several years to develop. “These games often require budgets of over half a billion dollars and teams of hundreds of developers to produce.” Educators do not have the time nor capacity to create such games. What educators can do instead is to deliver content material in a fun and engaging manner, by using these proposed guidelines, to ensure that it does not only improve learning but that there is learning happening as well.
Watt, K., & Smith, T. (2021). Research-Based Game Design for Serious Games. Simulation & Gaming, 104687812110067. https://doi.org/10.1177/10468781211006758
Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.
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