A Reference Architecture for Game-Based Intelligent Tutoring

A Reference Architecture for Game-Based Intelligent Tutoring

Dennis Maciuszek (University of Rostock, Germany) and Alke Martens (University of Rostock, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch031

Abstract

Educational computer games may improve learning experiences and learning outcomes. However, many off-the-shelf games still fail at smoothly integrating learning content into gameplay mechanisms. In addition, they do make an effort at adapting educational content to individual learners. Learner models and adaptivity, as applied by Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs), address this problem. A solution to the integration dilemma would ideally be found at the software architecture level. Assuming the perspective of the software engineer, this chapter reviews published game-based ITS architectures. The most promising approaches are partially integrated architectures, which replace sub-systems of Clancey’s (1984) classic ITS architecture with corresponding game elements. In order to provide a reference to developers, this chapter follows up on these ideas and proposes a unifying game-based ITS architecture based on genre studies of computer role-playing games.
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Problem Analysis

Integration of Learning and Gameplay

One does not find many empirical evaluations of off-the-shelf educational computer games (i.e. no academic prototypes). Yet, there are a few studies that highlight the prevalent discrepancy between learning and gameplay. Table 1 presents three investigations of the learning content and gameplay of some successful games that sold well and/or won a variety of awards.

Table 1.
Learning-gameplay integration in commercial games
StudyGame(s)LearningGameplayIntegrationFindings
Bormann, Heyligers, Kerres, & Niesenhaus, 2008 Physikus (1999, © Braingame)Educational glossary of physics knowledgePoint-and-click adventureSolve game puzzles by applying glossary knowledgeLearners spent more time playing than reading the glossary. When they read it, they focused only on immediately game-related information.
Jantke, 2007 Genius Tech Tycoon (Genius – Unternehmen Physik, 2004, © Cornelsen), Genius Biology (Genius – Task Force Biologie, 2005, © Cornelsen)Classical eLearning exercises (point-and-click science experiments)Construction and management simulation gameEarn money for the simulation by correct answers to the exercisesGame and exercises are unrelated except for the money transfer. The Biology game could be completed without the exercises.
Harr, Buch, & Hanghøj, 2008 Global Conflicts: Palestine (2007, © Serious Games Interactive)Multiple choice from quotes collected during the game, to ‘write’ a virtual newspaper articleDialogue-rich point-and-click adventure with RPG elementsCollect quotes from citizens of virtual Jerusalem, which then become items in the multiple-choice exerciseMultiple-choice was too restrictive for expressing critical thinking. The journalism part stole the focus from the political conflict.

All games investigated in the studies mentioned above consist of separate learning and game parts. The designers had to connect these by more or less artificial mechanisms: puzzle content, virtual money, and quotes to be collected. In Physikus and the Genius games, this means that the player can ignore large parts of the instructional content. Palestine is superior in that it immerses the player in a virtual Jerusalem and its social conflicts, yet it destroys the immersion in instructional content by the primitive exercise that concludes each mission. Summing up, learning and gameplay are often not well integrated.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Non-Player Character (NPC): Fictional person in a game not controlled by the player.

Player Character (PC): Protagonist in a game, controlled by the player.

Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS): eLearning system that can adapt to an individual learner.

Digital Educational Game: eLearning system presenting educational content in the form of a video game.

Software Design Pattern: Documented typical way of designing or implementing certain software (parts).

Role-Playing Game (RPG): Conversational game in which players create fictional characters and guide them through adventures according to a set of simulation rules; exist in pen-and-paper and digital form.

Game-Based ITS: Digital educational game that adapts to an individual player.

Software Architecture: Arrangement of software parts and communication in-between.

Software component: Reusable software part that can be easily plugged together with other components to form a software application.

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