An assessment of the potential of simulation games for teaching transferable skills

  Advocates of game-based learning argue that computer games have the
potential to transform university education, motivating and engaging a new
generation of learners in a way that traditional education does not. The research
described in this thesis, grounded in the fields of education, human-computer
interaction and game design, questions this assumption and considers the case
for computer game-based learning in Higher Education.
Initial research found that positive motivation for games-based learning is by no
means universal in adults, and that a propensity to play games recreationally
does not imply an enthusiasm to use games for learning. However, even
reluctant gamers were willing to try game-based learning if it was perceived to
be an efficient way to learn.
Criteria were developed for the design of effective educational games, based
around theories of constructivist learning. These informed the development of
two collaborative game-based activities with identical learning outcomes: an
adventure game and an online version of a traditional teambuilding exercise.
Questionnaires were developed to measure self-reported learning and
engagement and 112 students participated in an experiment to compare
educational effectiveness between two groups, one using the adventure game
and the other the teambuilding activity. No significant difference was found
between the two conditions, with the exception that those students who used
the teambuilding game had a significantly greater perception of control than
those who used the adventure game.
This study challenges the assumption that games will revolutionise education
because they lead to increased motivation and engagement. Instead, it argues
that there is a potential for increased engagement through educational games,
but this is because they embody the principles of interactive, collaborative and
experiential learning.
Overall, this research offers an insight of the nature of adult game playing,
practical guidance for the development of educational games, a validated tool
for measuring post-experiential engagement, a critical analysis of usability
testing techniques for multi-user games, and a genuine rationale for the use of
game-based learning.

  • Dates:

    2002 to 2007

  • Qualification:

    Doctorate (PhD)

Project Team