Human Centred Design – A Media Comparison of an Educational Game

Research Motivation

Video games offer an alternative to reading and class work that many hope will engage children in learning. Game design can incorporate elements that require players to use cognitive reasoning in new ways, offering them the opportunity to practice using concepts in an applied context (Satwicz & Stevens, 2008) and engage high-level cognitive thinking (Tsung-Yen Chuang & Wei-Fan, 2009).

A media comparison study was conducted to assess the efficacy of learning through a computer game with learning through traditional means which, in this case, was printed text.

Method

Our game is designed to cater to a target age group of 6-9 year olds, and aims to increase their knowledge about specific topics related to the International Space Station (ISS), including space suits, gravity, and re orbiting the ISS. 

Sessions were conducted with ten participants, six male and and four female. Their ages fell between the range of 22-29 (mean 23.50, SD 2.07). The study applied between-subject design, where participants were randomly assigned to two different groups; the treatment group where participants learned by playing the computer game, and the control group where participants learned through the traditional medium of printed paper.

Data was gathered using a mixed methods approach. It was determined that effectively addressing the study’s research question would require gathering both quantitative and qualitative data from participants.

Testing Session

Participants were split into two groups, where one group played a computer game and the other read a printed document. The computer game was created by members of the research team for the purposes of this study. A Pre-testing and Post-testing questionnaires were given, along with a Learning Outcome survey to measures the efficacy of learning on the computer game.

Results

In terms of user experience within the game group, 3 of 5 participants described the game as fun or enjoyable, and all participants described the game as engaging. The two most commonly selected reaction cards were “satisfying” and “fast”. In terms of the game’s usability, all participants indicated that they understood the game’s victory conditions and the transitions between levels. The learning outcomes of the treatment and control groups were both low. The treatment group had a slightly higher outcome.

Conclusion

The learning outcome of the game was low, though a slim majority of the participants found the game to be educational and helped them learn about re-orbiting the ISS, which is the intention of the game. However, they did not find the game to be challenging for their skills. This might be attributed to the design and study limitations, as well as the game’s instructions which were not conducive to the participants’ learning experience.

Limitation

Our game was designed for children of 6-9 years old. Unfortunately, such targeted audience was unavailable for our usability testing. Instead, the testing sessions were conducted on adults between 22-29 years old. This resulted in participants rating the game as not challenging enough. In addition, our sample size for testing was small, with five participants only, which caused the results found to be not statistically significant nor can they be generalized.

My Contribution: Usability Protocol; Preparation of Pre-Testing Questionnaire; One of the Moderators for the Testing Sessions

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