At Northern Illinois University, students are learning engineering dynamics with the aid of a video game. This is the third core mechanical engineering course in which I have incorporated a video game. For this course, I have created an entirely new game called Spumone.
Watch the YouTube trailer
And visit the website
The research project is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (0935225). Any opinions, findings and conclusions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nati
We're creating a relatively small video game which requires players to apply their knowledge of engineering dynamics to complete challenges within the game. The over-arching purpose of the game is to explore how different game features and ways of structuring the challenges impact learning and student engagement. See videos by clicking on links below, as well as the project website.
What are you designing, creating, or researching?
We have considerable prior experience using video games to teach core mechanical engineering courses. (See other Working Example at link below) The prior projects were successful beyond our expectations. Not only do we want to do it again -- this time for a lower level course -- we also wanted to perform some controlled experiments to examine which game features impact student learning and engagement. Our previous game is unsuited for such experiments. Spumone was designed explicitly for the purpose of conducting such research.
1. When creating video games, a lot of effort often goes in making it look good and sound good. Adding these graphical and audio resources takes a lot of effort. Is it worth it? Does it improve student engagement? 2. How should challenges in an educational game be structured? Do students learn better when there is a high resolution scoring mechanism? Or, should the challenges be more task oriented? 3. In multiplayer mode, do students learn better when they compete or when the cooperate? I'd like to study these and other questions. Our new game will allow us to begin.
We're doing a controlled experiment: a. Randomly divide the course into two groups. b. Perform pre-test. c. One group gets one version of the game. The other group gets the other version. Measure Engagement. d. Test e. Swap versions between the groups. Measure engagement. f. Test.
What have you done to get ready (planning, research, visioning, etc.)?
Most of our time so far has been devoted to developing the game. We have just begun studying question 1 listed in the "seed" section.
Here is a somewhat more mature paper (based on more data) showing that the game is having a positive impact on conceptual learning. The primary mechanism seems to be that the game is elevating the performance of the "bottom" of the class. That is, students who come to the class performing poorly on tests of prerequisite knowledge, seem to catch up. Paper bib info: Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference, 2012.
So far, using the game appears to have a beneficial impact on student learning. Preliminary results are detailed in the conference paper below.