With the increasing use of technology in the classroom, many educators are exploring the use of instructional methods that would enhance their teaching and students’ learning. Educators acknowledge the fact that pedagogical practices need to embrace the learning opportunities available in the modern learning environment where learning tools such as computers, the internet, graphics, fantasy tools, and so on are available.
They also acknowledge that learners’ learning behaviour has changed and therefore more learning materials have to be used in the learning process so as to boost their learning motivations and learning experiences. Consequently, many educators have embraced game-based learning with the aim of motivating learners in their learning process. A number of games have been incorporated in a range of instructional approaches for educational purposes.
Psychologists argue that there is a positive relation between students’ learning and having fun (Glasser 1998). Fun is regarded as a fundamental determinant of human behaviour. According to Glasser (1998), students are delighted in what their educators ask them to do since it allows them to have fun during the learning process. Game-based learning enables students to learn by practice; hence, they get engaged in the entire learning process.
Similarly, games reinforce learner motivation. The main reason why games are considered to be motivating is the fact that participants in the game are obliged to source for the relevant information that can enable them meet the challenges presented by the game (Chiong 2010). In addition, some brain researchers have noted that the inclusion of fun in the learning process boosts the memory ability of the students as the contents that they are taught stick for long in their memory (Mathews 2010).
Games are seen to complement the role of the teacher in the classroom; making learning fun and enjoyable. For example, video and computer games allow students to simulate situations such as experiments, scientific, and historical events for themselves. Similarly, they motivate students, who otherwise are weak in some subject areas by allowing them to encounter ‘real problem’ and devising ways of how to solve it.
Besides, the increased use of games in classrooms has contributed to students’ development in other aspects of their personal life. Hence, skills such as patience, discipline, critical thinking skills, problem solving among others, are learned with the use of games. The study therefore sought to determine the effectiveness of game-based learning in schools, its influence on students’ motivation, and other factors of motivation associated with game-based learning.
Background of the study
During earlier years, education was imparted mainly through blackboard and textbooks. Teachers’ knowledge was considered to be ultimate. But over the years, technology has leaped to great heights and so have the educational methods.
Besides the technological advancements, innovation has also played a crucial role in creating new avenues for imparting education. Several politicians, scholars and other activists have expressed their opinion with regard to the need to restructure the systems of students learning in order to equip them with the relevant technological skills that they can apply in their daily lives (Chen 2011).
Game-based learning is one such innovation that has probably infused interest among the students to learn (and grasp) better. Many educators are at the centre of shifting their teaching or instruction models. The instructors are acknowledging the pressing urge to review the pedagogical practices for the students in the current modern world who are quickly adopting the internet, graphics or fantasy tools while abandoning the traditional methods of learning (Garris, Ahlers & Driskell 2002).
Moreover, students in today’s society contemplate sourcing for their own information as the current technology provides a wide array of learning materials. The technology-based mode of learning that is adopted in the current world points out clearly the objectives of the learning experiences and boosts the learning motivations. In the same way, the technology-based learning encompasses all the learning activities in general (Garris, Ahlers & Driskell 2002).
Neurologists suggest that when pleasure, opulence and impulsiveness are substituted by consistency and compliance, the brains of the students are hindered from processing information in a successful manner, thus, affecting their memory (Willis 2006). With regard to this, many learning instructors all across the world have embraced game-based learning with the aim of motivating the students in their learning process.
The fastest growing technological change in the modern world has brought with it various challenges which are clearly visible. A student cannot be successful in life when he/she has no background of computers.
This is due to the sole reason that many jobs in the 21st century are purely based on computers; without computer knowledge, a person is not well prepared for the eventual success (Amorim et al. 2011). The needs for computers have been justified in the case of the call for computer literacy and the integration of the computers in the learning process (Deaney, Ruthven & Hennessy 2006).
The game-based learning initiatives will create interest among the students (Cassell & Jenkins 1998). Content on laptops can be more illustrative and informative in comparison to that in textbooks. Content-related videos and audios on laptops can add value to the teaching instructions.
Games prompt motivation and that students get engrossed in the competitive aspects of the game; they try harder at games than in other courses. Hence, games stimulate student interest in the classroom activities, making one motivated and willing to learn (Randel et al. 1992).
Gaming and simulation facilitates learning, acquiring new knowledge on specific domains and concept and other several cognitive skills such as decision making, pattern recognition and problem solving (Funk 2002). A student’s effectiveness, motivation, exploration and skill increases by playing computer games (Bredemeier & Greenblat 1981).
Like for instance, a 30 minutes’ collaborative learning using dialogue games encompassing constructive conflict, explanatory talk and collaborative argumentation elicited significant improvement in students’ conceptual understanding and knowledge about physics of motion (Aldrich 2005).
So, it is evident that students can acquire specific skills by embracing game based learning (Green & Bavalier 2003). As such, games like Civilization III, Racing Academy and Revolution are widely embraced by schools to facilitate learning (Bonk & Dennen 2005). Games can also be used to teach students important personal skills such as patience, discipline, critical thinking and problem solving (Michael & Chen 2006).
There are some important aspects to be considered while assessing the pros and cons of using game-based learning as the mode of instructions. Such aspects are of varied nature ranging from the involved cost to the authenticity of content (especially when the content needs continuous updating).
While considering the various pros and cons, the prime concern should be whether the students can adapt to the proposed change in an efficient manner and study well. Moreover, it is obvious that the students might need personal laptops to participate in the game-based learning. Computer based learning is more useful and considered to be full of fun (Bonnah & Unwin 2010).
Considering the pros and cons, the first aspect that comes to mind is the cost. Arguably, the one-time cost of purchasing a laptop would be more than the annual cost of textbooks. But at the same time, during the ensuing years, students need not invest in laptops, whereas they will have to purchase textbooks for their next academic year. The concept seems to be appealing (cost wise) but the plight of financially unsound parents should also be considered (Dixon & Tierney 2012).
Besides being useful in game based learning, laptops can prove to be a compact storage for all the course-material (Boris 2012). The use of laptops in classrooms can provide motivation and interest for students and as a result, the participation rate of students will increase. But at the same time, there is a risk of the students accessing distracting content (Fried 2006).
In order to achieve the objective of the study, the researchers adopted a mixed methodology by incorporating both qualitative and quantitative research methodology. Quantitative methodology is relevant for categorizing the observations or variables, examining the variables and generating statistical representations to analyze the observations.
Qualitative approach on the other hand helps generate information that applies to the designated case study. We therefore sampled 450 students and teachers and sent them questionnaires to gather quantitative data. The questionnaire items comprised two major categories including the demographic part and the Likert-scale items and closed-ended items seeking to gather views of the respondents on the study topic. The Likert-scale questionnaire contained 10 items and the other part also contained 5 closed ended items.
237 respondents (52.6%) of the expected 450 respondents completed the questionnaires. Female respondents were 142 and male respondents were 95. Many respondents were from the age group 40-49 years (43%, n=101). This was followed by respondents in the age group 30-39 years (24%, n=57). The third largest age group was 50-59 years which had 55 respondents (23%). The age group under 30 years had the lowest number of respondents (10%, n=24).
These results were analyzed using SPSS and correlation analysis. At the same time, the researcher sampled 20 students who were engaged in 13 weeks of game-based learning. Each game-based lesson lasted 30 minutes. At the end of the intervention period, the researchers engaged the participants in an interview. The interview questions sought to answer the questions ‘why?’, ‘how?’, and ‘what?’ as regards the subject of the research.
Respondents were issued with questionnaires in order to give their responses regarding the instructional power of game-based learning and simulations in education. The results showed that the mean for the effectiveness of game-based learning was 113.20, with a standard deviation of 14.30.
From this computation, it can be deduced that many students and teachers believed that game-based learning is incredibly effective. This is indicated by the high value of the standard deviation. The mean and standard deviation for the other relationships: the influence of game-based learning on motivation; the impacts of game-based learning on students’ learning; and other motivating factors connected to game-based learning and instructional power, are also shown in table 3.1 below.
Table 3.1 Summary of descriptive statistics
|Study question||Mean||Standard deviation|
|Effectiveness of game-based learning||113.20||14.30|
|Influence of game-based learning on |
|Impacts of game-based learning on students’ learning||103.10||10.80|
|Other motivating factors connected to game- |
based learning and instructional power
Inferential statistics were also calculated and the results showed strong correlations between the influence of game-based learning on motivation and instructional power
(r = 0.598, p < 0.01), other motivating factors connected to game-based learning and instructional power (r = 0.585, p < 0.01), effectiveness of game-based learning and its instructional power (r = 0.386, p < 0.01), and between impacts of game-based learning and instructional power (r = 0.268, p < 0.05).
Table 3.2 Summary of the inferential statistics
|Study question||Pearson Correlation||Sig (2-tailed)|
|Effectiveness of game-based learning||0.273||0.044*|
|Influence of game-based learning on |
|Impacts of game-based learning on students’ learning||0.268||0.042*|
|Other motivating factors connected to game- |
based learning and instructional power
Note: *= p<0.05, **= p < 0.01
The results of the interview also provided some valuable insights. First, a large majority (n=16) of the students who were interviewed responded that they really enjoyed their learning when it was game-based. The students liked the idea of sourcing information on their own as well as corresponding to their peers as they engaged in problem solving situations.
However, the remaining four students responded that their learning motivation did not change even with the introduction of game-based learning. They were mainly motivated by the need to attain excellent grades. Two, it was noted that game-based learning was quite engaging especially with respects to aspects of team work, competition between teams, and the feedback received from the instructor. Game-based learning provided an enjoyable ambience to them as it promoted strong social connection among the students.
Three, the use of game-based learning helped the students to gain interest in their learning as it enabled them to search for information by themselves instead of relying mainly on the notes provided by the teachers in the classroom. Besides, it allowed them to actively participate during the learning process. Fourth, factors such as the aims, desires, and goals of the students were found to be the other motivating factors for the students to work hard in their class work.
The results were analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and correlation analysis. The responses of the students who were interviewed were listed in five main categories as suggested below:
- Out of 20 students, 16 of them confirmed that they really enjoyed their learning when it was game-based. The students had a higher affinity of sourcing for their own information in addition to corresponding with their colleagues in order to meet the challenges of their studies. The students alluded to the fact that learning was more enjoyable in game-based learning as compared to the traditional system of learning whereby the teacher just gave out notes. The remaining four students pointed out that their learning motivation did not change even with the introduction of game-based learning. Their main motivation for learning was the ability to attain excellent grades; thus, the introduction of games did not matter at all.
- The students appreciated that game-based learning was quite engaging especially with respects to aspects of team work, competition between teams, and the feedback received from the instructor. Game-based learning provided an enjoyable ambience to them as there is a strong social connection among the students. The learning environment is therefore rendered to be free of stress. When the students work as a team amongst themselves, a feeling of social belonging is created.
- The use of game-based learning helped the students to gain interest in their learning because of the fact that the students searched for information by themselves instead of just relying on the notes provided by the teachers in classrooms. In addition, the students did not find any lesson to be boring because of the fact that they were actively participating during the lessons. This notion was supported the fact that the results of the study showed that the class attendance was excellent during the 13 weeks of the course.
- The students were comfortable with the 30 minutes that were allocated for the game-based learning as it was effective in stimulating their interests. Nevertheless, the 30 minutes was not found to be sufficient enough to affect the motivation of the students with regard to their learning. The main motivation of the students came from the fact that they desired to attain high grades or scores and to have a bright future with regard to their careers.
- Besides game-based learning acting as a motivating factor the students, other factors such as the aims, desires and the goals of the students were the main motivating factors for the students to work hard in their studies. Some students pointed out to the fact that they worked so hard in their studies so as to attract confidence and recognition from their parents.
Psychologists emphasize the integration of games in the school curriculum as a way of helping students develop in all their faculties. Besides, games provide students with an avenue to release their mental tension resulting from rigorous academic engagement. The research has shown that the learning process can be made more enjoyable by using games as part of the learning activities. They also add value to learning as they encourages conceptualizing imagined phenomenon to real life experiences.
In addition, when effectively used, games can facilitate learning because they enable students to learn important life skills such as problem solving skills, patience, critical thinking skills and discipline among others. As opposed to traditional learning methods which mainly involve lecture, game-based learning reinforces learning motivation.
The main reason why games are considered to be motivating is the fact that the participants in the game get the opportunity to source for relevant information that can enable them to meet the challenges presented by the game. Traditional learning method is very much different from game-based learning due to the fact that students do not have to think or be creative as they are given the necessary figures or facts to comprehend the essential ones.
The practice of teachers using games in class is gaining popularity at a fast rate. This is especially because it is more appealing to each student and it makes learning more enjoyable and memorable. The practice is applicable to all subjects and it only requires a little creativity on the part of the teacher to effectively achieve the lesson objective to a high level.
Teachers who are not well experienced in the use of games in the classroom can now access resources on the internet on the best practice of transferring games to the classroom. When effectively used, games can facilitate learning because they enable students to learn important life virtues such as problem solving skills, patience, critical thinking skills and discipline among others. Also, they add value to learning as they encourages conceptualizing imagined phenomenon to real life experiences.
Despite the positive effects that games bring in a learning environment, improper use can have adverse effects on a student. Effects such as health problems, abnormal behaviours such as aggressiveness and poor time management can result as a result of improper administration of games.
The use of games has strong educational values since it is a very sufficient resource for improving the standards of learning. Students are encouraged to shape up their time management skills in addition to being focused and attentive to the teachers’ instructions. Just like teachers, some students also find it difficult to embrace new change in the learning environment.
Therefore, it is prudent that, when introducing educational technology to the learning environment, a lot of concern should be attributed particularly to the students who have second thoughts concerning change in the learning environment.
Proponents of computer-based learning point out that game-based learning carries with it the capacity to revolutionize the mode of learning in institutions. The modern world students feel more motivated to learn than they would have felt when using traditional methods of learning. The main reason why games are considered to be motivating is that the participants in the game are obliged to source for the relevant information that can enable them to meet the challenges presented by the game.
Traditional learning method is very much different from game-based learning due to the fact that students do not have to think or be creative as they are given the necessary figures or facts to comprehend the essential ones. The use of games, therefore, has a strong and immediate impact in the learning environment.
The increased use of games in the classrooms has contributed to students’ development in other aspects of their personal life. Hence, skills such as patience, discipline, critical thinking skills, problem solving among others, are learned with the use of games.
In the future, researchers should look into the various aspects of game-based learning that offer motivation to the students. In addition, the researchers need to come up with the various measures of learning gains and also the degrees of learning. Finally, future studies should explore the effectiveness of game-based learning amongst mentally challenged students.
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