An Overview of Accessibility and Usability of Educational Games

An Overview of Accessibility and Usability of Educational Games

Marion A. Hersh (University of Glasgow, Scotland) and Barbara Leporini (ISTI – CNR, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1987-6.ch001
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This chapter presents an overview of accessibility and usability for educational computer-based games and the first survey of the accessibility and usability of digital educational games. The overview includes a discussion of accessibility and usability, both in general and in the specific context of educational games, as well as a brief presentation of issues relating to game design, including of mobile games. Since there are no previous studies of the accessibility and usability of educational computer-based games, studies of the accessibility and usability of the related areas of virtual learning environments, digital games for entertainment and PDF documents, are also presented. The overview of accessibility and usability and the results of the survey are used to draw up a structured list of 62 guidelines and recommendations, organised into three categories at the first level and ten at the second level. These guidelines and recommendations are illustrated by an example of their application to a fictitious new educational game.
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1. Introduction

1.1. Aims and Objectives: Learning through Games

A combination of increasing interest in learning through games and advances in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) have led to the development of a number of computer-based educational games and gaming environments. This trend is likely to continue. There is also increasing recognition of the needs of disabled students and the importance of integrating them into mainstream education, as well as the importance of doing this appropriately and the associated requirement for adequate resources to support this. This makes it imperative to consider the requirements of disabled students (and staff) to ensure their full inclusion while the development and dissemination of educational computer-based games and gaming environments are still at a relatively early stage.

This raises the issues of whether and, if so, how best such approaches can be used to support disabled learners. Thus, it is important to understand the underlying pedagogical assumptions on which the particular course topic or module and the use of educational digital games are based. This will also require consideration of the affect of these pedagogical assumptions on disabled students and whether it will be necessary to modify some or all of them to enable full inclusion of all disabled and non-disabled students. In addition, guidelines will be required to support the development of high quality accessible and usable educational computer-based games. Discussion of the associated resource implications is beyond the scope of this chapter.

Therefore, the overall aim of the chapter is increasing understanding of the conditions to be met for good practice in designing educational gaming environments which are effective, fun to use and fully accessible by disabled (and non-disabled) students. Specific objectives include an introduction to accessibility and usability issues for computer-based games and gaming environments, with a particular focus on the accessibility and usability requirements of disabled people. Other objectives include a presentation and evaluation of the state of the art with regards to the development of educational computer-based games and their usability and accessibility, and the development of guidelines and recommendations to be followed.

The chapter is laid out as follows. The remainder of this section gives a brief overview of the social and medical models of disability and design for all. Section 3 considers accessibility and usability, including definitions, the connections and differences between the two and accessibility guidelines and recommendations. It is motivated by a brief discussion of computer use with the support of assistive technology. Section 3 provides an overview of educational computer-based games, including principles and categorisations, mobile digital games, collaborative and cooperative features, student assessment, accessibility and usability, and digital games for disabled students. The section on accessibility and usability includes pedagogical usability, playability, and accessibility and usability of educational computer based games and educational games on mobile devices. Section 4 presents a number of studies of the accessibility and usability of virtual learning environments, PDF documents, and games for entertainment. Section 5 presents the first study of the accessibility and usability of educational digital games. Section 6 presents a structured list of recommendations and guidelines, and section 7 discussion and conclusions.

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