Integration of Educational Games in Synchronous Virtual Classroom: A Case Study

Integration of Educational Games in Synchronous Virtual Classroom: A Case Study

Eleni Rossiou (University of Macedonia, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch037
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Abstract

Higher Education could be seen as an ideal field for the development and wide use of modern technologies and pedagogical methods of cooperative and Web-based education. Many students today are digital natives and thus game-based learning is becoming increasingly popular and highly motivating because of their ability to use computers effectively. The aim of this chapter is to describe the integration of an educational multiplayer game in the context of a synchronous virtual classroom. In particular, what follows is the proposed design and implementation of an instructive intervention whereby many different technological tools are combined simultaneously (LMS, synchronous virtual classroom, and a Web-based Educational Game) in order to support the educational process of the course “Algorithm with C” in the Department of Applied Informatics of University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece. Furthermore, there is a presentation of the pedagogical and technological framework of the educational proposal that combines methods and techniques of network supported learning and places great emphasis on learning by playing.
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Introduction

Students in conventional Higher Education are educated in a particular place, time and knowledge topic. The Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) enrich and develop the educational process. Thus, ICT change the production and dissemination of knowledge in Higher Education Institutes which enrich and complement their courses with services of Distance Education (Bates, 2000). European Commission acknowledges the role of education in the development of “Knowledge Society” with ICT as vehicle (European Commission, 2001). There are many ICT applications in education: from integrated Information Systems and automated creation of time-plans up to Learning Management Systems (LMS) and Tele-Education. Many Greek Higher Education Institutes meet the demand for the management of learning resources and communication between instructors and students by introducing Learning Management Systems, as e-Class, CoMPUs, Blackboard and Moodle. However, in those systems emphasis is mainly given in administration services for organizing and management of learning resources and less in supporting communication, interactivity and cooperation. Higher Education can be a suitable place for implementation and utilization of modern technologies and pedagogical methods of cooperative and Web-based education (Andreou et al., 2005; Karagiannis et al., 2006) because lecturers and students have access to appropriate facilities, there is a high-level experience in pedagogical approaches and, in parallel, there is a need for multiple support of educational process and active students’ participation. Examples that will be cited later on in this section include Game-Based Learning, Blended Learning and Open and Distance Education.

Games are a form of fun and play that offer enjoyment, pleasure, intense and passionate involvement. They give structure and motivation through rules and goals. Interactivity is a main characteristic, since players do something and this interaction leads to the formation of social groups. Learning is promoted by outcomes and feedback. Also, competition and challenge increases the level of players adrenaline and emotional involvement in their story (Prensky, 2001). Games as a whole are one of the most interesting ways for pupils to learn new things (Jaykanthan, 2002). Computer games in general help the development of unique skills that are useful and valuable for children growing up in a technology-driven society. Educational games are designed with specific educational objectives which are sensitive to both the requirements of teachers and the students’ needs. If they are incorporated successfully into an educational framework, research shows that a significant and positive educational outcome is likely to be achieved (Bergen, 2001). Furthermore, the goal of educational games is to engage students not just in the game, but in the subject matter itself. Educational games have incredible ability to hold the interest and attention of students for longer than more traditional teaching methods. Among the range of computer-mediated applications available for teachers to use with students are games and simulations. It has been suggested that by using online educational games to supplement traditional classroom lessons, teachers can place a greater emphasis on teaching their students other important skills such as critical thinking, social skills, sense of empathy, community involvement, respect for diversity, and interpersonal communication (Rossiou & Papadakis, 2008).

Learning by playing a game is a well established training tool for student management. (Jacobs & Baum, 1987). Researchers have argued that games engage students in a manner that promotes learning (Prensky, 2001; Gee, 2003). This learning takes place both during the game, where users develop their game and cognitive skills and outside the game, as they reflect on how they might play better, seeking tips and resources about game playing.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Blended Learning: The teaching method that combines into an integrated learning environment face-to-face instruction in physical places (amphitheatre, classrooms and labs) and distance education via e-learning services. The implementation of blended learning promotes the combination of the “best features” of the two worlds but the most important thing is that it covers the weaknesses of the two worlds.

Places of Action: Are used during the implementation phase of a Tutoring Tele-meeting. They are: Place of announcements, Place of synchronous virtual classroom, Place of collaboration and playing, Place of virtual room.

Tutoring Tele-Meeting (TTM): Constitutes an educational Internet based “tool” based on principles of adult’ education and offers the possibility of self-supportive, cooperative and experiential learning. It includes various media, such as: stand-alone Web-based learning, asynchronous and synchronous Web-based teaching. With TTM, students can search and find support when they need it according to their personal learning difficulties. The queries expression, the common attempt to solve problems, and the exchange of suggested solutions promote self-confidence and active learning through experiment.

CENTRA Symposium: (http://www.centra.com) is a synchronous distance education tool. Some privileges of CENTRA virtual classroom are: collaboration, synchronous audio and video, file sharing, whiteboard, surveys, break out room, text chat, “Websafari”. Also, participants are provided with interactive features such as the expression of feelings (agreement or not, applause, laughter), text and graphics’ annotation, as well as playing (later on) the asynchronous playback of the synchronous event. Students have the opportunity to interact, cooperate and learn by simulating the conventional class in real time without being present in it but with their presence via the Internet.

Educational Games Central (EGC): Designed as a virtual meeting-place for those interested in using games for educational purposes. Teachers can either create a new game from scratch or choose among available predefined games (http://www.savie.qc.ca/carrefourjeux2). The design environment is a teaching tool endowed with a structure that generates learning activities, promotes the use of various strategies and involves conflict. Also, apart from a set of rules that governs players’ movements, there are criteria which allow players to end the game by declaring a winner. At the moment, there are six user-friendly generic shells (Snakes and Ladders, Tic Tac Toe, Trivia, Mother Goose Game and Concentration, Parcheesi) and they were developed for the on-line modification of the learning content.

CoMPUs: (http://compus.uom.com) is an integrated asynchronous tele-education system developed at University of Macedonia, Greece. It is an Internet based environment that offers administrative services and management of electronic courses. CoMPUs allows teachers to create and manage the lesson Web-pages in which they publish documents in various formats (Word, PDF, HTML, Video, e.t.c.), as well as public or private discussions in order to assess students exercises and inform them on the content and the development of the lessons. Students/members of CoMPUs are able to download digital educational material, study it, participate in forum discussions, solve exercises and submit them electronically. CoMPUs serves as a focal point for announcements and resources.

Life Cycle of the TTM: The educational intervention integrated by educational game contains three phases: Preparatory (which lasts 2 weeks, organized by instructors-advisors, and aims at students’ and instructors’ preparation in activity content and their familiarization with the tools that they will use, implementation (which lasts 1½ - 2 hours and aims at student support in active participation, communication, collaboration, playing for learning in a common place of action and interaction from distance) and evaluation phase (which lasts 3 weeks and it is implemented by tutors, the instructors-advisors). The aim of this phase is twofold: (a) the evaluation of the whole educational intervention through observation and (b) the analysis of the events appearing during implementation. Evaluation is supported by recordings, questionnaires and tutors’ observation papers.

Algorithms Recursive Educational Game: A game created in Educational Games Central platform http://www.savie.qc.ca/carrefourjeux2) and uses learning management tools (diagnosis and assessment) and evaluation tools of the shell Snakes and Ladders. Algorithms_Recursive game, created by four steps: (a) design of the game (b) choice of the frame of the game (c) creation of the game and (d) evaluation of the game. The game Algorithms_Recursive lends itself to various types of learning: awareness, acquisition, review, evaluation and maybe even a little bit of luck. Up to 4 players can play at the same time and it requires a minimum of 15 questions to create a challenge for players.

Algorithm: A well-defined procedure to solve a problem. It generally takes some input, carries out a number of effective steps in a finite amount of time and produces some output. A common method of its simplification is to divide a problem into sub-problems of the same type. A method of specifying a process by means of itself is called recursion. The recursive algorithm calls itself with smaller and smaller subsets of the original input, doing a little bit of work each time, until it reaches the base case. Recursion is a very simple, yet useful and powerful programmer’s tools. A programming routine activates itself and it can be a subroutine or a function.

Phases of a TTM: Are the 4 short periods of the TTM: (a) session: both students and tutors participate, (b) phase of playing: includes a game between 2-4 players who try to win the game, (c) group-phase with the participation of 3-5 students in which the instructor-advisor can be present with a supporting role and (d) session for evaluation: groups transfer their result via their representative in the session and are engaged in critical reflection

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