Designing Engaging Educational Games and Assessing Engagement in Game-Based Learning

Designing Engaging Educational Games and Assessing Engagement in Game-Based Learning

Xun Ge, Dirk Ifenthaler
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0513-6.ch012
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The focus of this chapter is on designing engaging educational games for cognitive, motivational, and emotional benefits. The concept of engagement is defined and its relationship with motivation and cognition are discussed. Design issues with many educational games are examined in terms of factors influencing sustained motivation and engagement. A theoretical framework to design engaging digital games is presented, including three dimensions of engagement (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, and emotional). Later, the chapter considers how to harness the appealing power of engaging games for designing engaging educational games. Various motivational features of game design and learner experiences are considered. In conclusion, the chapter also discusses various methods to assess engagement in order to inform the design of educational games that motivate learners.
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Over the past two decades game-based learning has grown increasingly into a popular instructional approach due to its power to motivate and engage students in complex learning, such as problem solving, decision making, and metacognitive thinking (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). There has been a lot of effort to design and develop educational digital games or to use existing commercial entertaining games to create a game-based learning environment (Susi, Johanesson, & Backlund, 2007). Despite some ongoing debates over positive or negative impact of digital games, there is sufficient empirical evidence to support the benefits of digital games (including video and computer games) for learners in several aspects, such as cognitive aspect (Amory et al., 1999; Eseryel, Ge, Ifenthaler, & Law, 2011; Navarrete, 2013; Shaffer, 2006), motivational aspect (Navarrete, 2013; Johnson, 2010), emotional aspect (Virvou, Katsionis, & Manos, 2005), and social aspect (Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014). Researchers studying the impact of games, including the impact of massive multiple player online games (MMOG), have observed that if designed well, games could afford rich opportunities for, communication, collaboration, fantasy engagement, problem solving, hypothesis generation, identity development, and reflective thinking (Barab, Ingram-Goble, & Warren, 2008; Squire, 2008). Games also help to understand complex systems, create expressions with digital tools, and enhance social interactions (Oksanen & Hämäläinen, 2014; Squire, 2008).

Why are digital games becoming one of the popular instructional tools? The answer is simple: Games are fun and engaging. Since games have such capability and power to motivate and benefit leaners’ cognitive thinking, educational researchers have attempted to capture the fun, challenges and engagement of game playing experience and apply it to support learning and instruction (e.g., Amory et al., 1999). However, evidence shows that not all games are interesting or motivating, especially when it comes to educational games, which do not necessarily engage students or sustain their engagement over a period of time (Eseryel, Ifenthaler, & Ge, 2011). Educational games are also categorized as “serious games”, which are defined as electronic/computer-access games that are not designed primarily for commercial or entertainment purposes but rather for training users on a specific skill set for educational or training purpose (Annetta, 2010; Djaouti, Alvarez and Jessel, 2011; Michael & Chen, 2006; Susi, Johanesson, & Backlund, 2007). This type of games merges a non-entertaining purpose with a game structure (Djaouti, Alvarez, & Jessel, 2011).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Games: Educational games are those intentionally designed for the purpose of education, or those entertainment games that have incidental or educational values. Educational games are designed to help people understand concepts, learn domain knowledge, and develop problem solving skills as they play games.

Emotional Engagement: Emotional engagement involves interest, boredom, happiness, anxiety, and other affective states, any of which factors could affect learners’ involvement with learning or their sustained effort in playing games, such as in the context of playing a game. Emotional engagement also involves the sense of belonging and values.

Behavioral Engagement: Behavioral engagement is something we can observe to infer students’ persistence, effort, attention, participation, and involvement.

Cognitive Engagement: Cognitive engagement refers to engaging in effortful tasks with purposiveness and strategy use, making cognitive investment in learning, and engaging in metacognition and self-regulated learning.

Engagement: Engagement refers to the degree of attention, interest, curiosity, motivation and passion students show, as well as the effort and time they invest and the persistence and resilience they demonstrate towards their goals.

Serious Games: Serious games are defined as not having entertainment, enjoyment or fun as their primary purpose.

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