Game On!: Investigating Digital Game-Based Versus Gamified Learning in Higher Education

Game On!: Investigating Digital Game-Based Versus Gamified Learning in Higher Education

Papia Bawa (Purdue University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2020070102


Today, there is growing interest in digital game-based learning (DGBL) due to the increase in the variety of educational and commercial games available. Literature indicates that video games in general have entertaining, motivational, and educational benefits. Despite this, there is a lack of research comparing game types to assess their value for learning. Typically, DGBL approach may include a variety of game types, like those designed for educational purposes such as digital education games (DEGs), as well as those created for entertainment and commercial reasons, such as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs). Digital games do possess a significantly high capacity to keep users engaged, which is a potential that can be used to motivate learners to interact more deeply with their learning environments, and consequently enhance their performances. This study supports the hypothesis that both DEGs and MMOs can be instrumental in improving engagement and learning versus traditional teaching methods. The article shares the results of the mixed methods study that examined the use of one DEG and four MMOs in undergraduate courses within a community college. The results suggest that learner performance and engagement are enhanced when using DGBL for both types of games, versus the traditional teaching methods. Additionally, practitioner and future research implications are also discussed.
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Using digital games in education or Digital Game Based Learning (DGBL) is becoming increasingly feasible due to the rise in variety and availability of digital educational and commercial games, as well as their consumption by contemporary users (Gros, 2007; Hainey, Connolly, Stansfield, & Boyle, 2011; Pivec, 2007). For example, in 2015, one hundred and fifty-five million Americans played video games, with at least two players in each game-playing household (ESA, 2015). Gaming is inherently motivating, which may allow learners to gain skills and knowledge, by leveraging entertainment and weaving it within learning environments (Becker, 2008; Bopp, 2006; Gee, 2005; Gee, 2003; Killi 2010; Killi, 2007; Miller, 2008; Paraskeva, Mysirlaki, & Papagianni, 2010; Rieber, 1996; United States Department of Education, 2010; Van Eck & Hung, 2010). Research studies, as well as conceptual literature indicate that video or digital games in particular have great engagement and education related benefits (Bogost, 2007; Griffiths, 2002; Paraskeva, Mysirlaki, & Papagianni,2010; Zarraonandia, Diaz, Aedo, & Ruiz, 2014).

Currently, both Digital Educational Games (DEGs) and Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) games like Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) are emerging as interesting options for instruction, although they are not being used to their optimum potential in Higher Education (Godwin-James, 2014; Law & Sun, 2012). To institutionalize and adopt DGBL more extensively in Higher Education, it is important to research how using games, both DEGS and MMOs, in Higher Education curriculum may affect learners’ experiences and learning (Epper, Derryberry, & Jackson, 2012). Perrotta, Featherstone, Aston & Houghton (2013) use the report from the National Foundation for Educational Research to indicate that although there is evidence that game-based learning can improve engagement and motivation, there is a gap pertaining to knowledge about its effects on performance outcomes. Additionally, there is a gap in the literature pertaining to investigations on comparing the value of DEGs and MMOs versus traditional learning in a Higher Education setting.

This mixed methods study seeks to contribute to literature by examining the value of using DEGs and MMOs as compared to traditional teaching methods in the context of improving student performance outcomes. Additionally, in order to understand why such improvements or not, if any, took place, the perceptions of learners with respect to the interest and challenge factors pertaining to the DGBL learning, were also examined. Specifically, the study answered the following questions:

  • 1.

    Do learners have higher performance outcomes when exposed to activities involving digital educational games (DEG) and massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) versus non-game based, traditional learning environments?

  • 2.

    What factors within DEGs and MMOs do learners find interesting and challenging and why?

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