Leveraging Game-Play in a 3D World: A Comparative Study in a Biology Classroom

Leveraging Game-Play in a 3D World: A Comparative Study in a Biology Classroom

Catherine Norton-Barker (Cornell University, USA), Margaret Corbit (Cornell University, USA), Richard Bernstein (Cornell University, USA) and Ebonie Greene (Cornell University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2009040102
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Computer games have the potential to engage students who do not respond well to traditional classroom activities. To test the appeal and usability of game-play in the classroom, four ninth grade science classes in a rural Upstate New York school were randomly assigned to learn an introductory genetics unit for three class periods in either an online, multi-user, virtual world computer environment or in a traditional classroom setting using lecture, worksheets and model building. The groups were then reversed for a second three-day trial. Quizzes were given before, at midpoint and at the end of the study. Both groups demonstrated significant knowledge gain of the genetics curriculum. This study demonstrates that self-directed learning can occur while exploring virtual world computer environments. The students were enthusiastic about using virtual worlds for education and indicated a strong preference for a variety of teaching methods, which suggests that offering mixed modalities may engage students who are otherwise uninterested in school.

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