Math Learning Environment with Game-Like Elements: An Experimental Framework

Math Learning Environment with Game-Like Elements: An Experimental Framework

Dovan Rai (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA) and Joseph E. Beck (Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/ijgbl.2012040106
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Abstract

Educational games intend to make learning more enjoyable, but carry the potential cost of compromising learning efficiency by consuming both instructional time and student cognitive resources. Therefore, instead of creating an educational game, the authors create a learning environment with game-like elements, the aspects of games that are engaging but that do not negatively impact the learning effectiveness of the system. This paper presents an experimental framework for determining the effect of game-like elements in terms of their benefits such as enhancing engagement and learning, as well as their costs such as distraction and working memory overload. As a first experimental step, the authors develop four versions of a math tutor with different degrees of game-likeness, such as adding narrative and visual feedback. Based on a study with 297 students, it is found that students reported more satisfaction with the tutor with more game-like elements, but there was no conclusive difference in learning among the different versions.
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Introduction

Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) and educational games are two research areas in educational technologies. Intelligent tutors, which are primarily concerned with cognitive aspects of learning, provide students with adaptive, individualized tutoring and have been shown to improve learning significantly (Koedinger & Corbett, 2006). On the other hand, education researchers have also been interested in computer games due to their immense popularity and affordanceof new types of interactions. Games can not only enhance the affective aspects of learning, but also hold the potential to improve cognitive outcomes of learning as well. But despite this intuitive appeal of educational games, there is not enough empirical evidence on the effectiveness of educational games (Hays, 2005; O’Neil et al., 2005; Sitzmann, 2011). Although there is a relative scarcity of evidence directly comparing the educational effectiveness of educational games vs. computer tutors, recent comparisons have found an advantage for traditional tutoring approaches over educational games (Easterday, 2011; Jackson & McNamara, 2011). However, computer tutors, although able to produce learning gains, have had difficulties in maintaining students’ interest for long periods of time, which limit their utility for generating long-term learning (Jackson & McNamara, 2011).

Given these complementary benefits, there have been considerable efforts to combine these two fields. There is an active community of intelligent educational games (Conati, 2002; Spires et al., 2011; Habgood, 2005). Some researchers have incorporated elements from games into computer tutors to make them more engaging (Jackson & McNamara, 2011), and some have incorporated instructional features such as detailed content feedback into educational games (Easterday et al., 2011).

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