Date of Award

12-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communications Media

First Advisor

Mark Piwinsky, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jay Start, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Steve Kleinman, Ph.D.

Abstract

Online education has become a mission critical investment for educational organizations, however ensuring the same or higher quality experienced in face-to-face courses is challenging. Incorporation of serious educational games into an online course can provide flexibility and effectiveness in conjunction with other pedagogical strategies. Much of the literature on the use of games in education focuses on the engagement or motivation value opposed to achievement of learning objectives. The study in this dissertation investigates effectiveness of two learning strategies embedded within a serious educational gaming environment. Under the theoretical framework of Information Processing, research incorporated a study where participants read an instructional module on the parts and functions of the human heart and played one of three games reinforcing content from the instructional module. All games were a quest style game having participants answer questions to earn badges. One of the game versions provided elaborate feedback to game questions, another version provided the same elaborate feedback plus offered a visual hint along with the question, and a third version provided neither feedback or a visual hint. Three post-tests (comprehension, identification, and drawing) were given to measure the transfer of information from working memory to long-term memory. Results found a significant difference between the game versions for one of the post-tests (identification) and while the other tests did not produce a significant finding, the mean scores on the comprehension and a comprehensive score did indicate participants exposed to the elaborate feedback and visual hints performed better than the control group. Demographic variables (age, gender, academic standing (GPA), credits earned, and digital gaming experience) combined with game versions were also tested to determine any effect on achievement of learning objectives. As with the results of the comprehension test and comprehensive scores, there were no statically significant findings however comparison of the means indicated participants exposed to elaborate feedback and visual hints score higher than participants not provide either. Future recommendations include the examination of different learning strategies within a gaming environment, a longitudinal study over the course of a longer term, and replication when technological advances warrant.

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