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Game based learning vs. gamification from the higher education students' perspective


Abstract and Figures

The term Edutainment, has been fabricated by combing the two words “Education” and “Entertainment”, and as this term expresses, this concept provides educational entertainment or entertainment-education. That means this let the student to learn subject matters with entertainment, so that the students get attracted to learning rather than getting used to learning through the teacher centered learning concept. Under this novel concept called “Edutainment” there comes a couple of new ways of teaching like Game Based Learning and Gamification. These concepts can be applied to enhance the learning procedure of students in various age levels. This paper gives you an analysis of Game Based Learning vs. Gamification in higher education from Computer Science students' perspective.
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Game Based Learning vs. Gamification From the
Higher Education Students’ Perspective
Udeni Jayasinghe
University of Colombo School of Computing
Sri Lanka
Anuja Dharmaratne
University of Colombo School of Computing
Sri Lanka
Abstract The term Edutainment, has been fabricated by
combing the two words “Education” and “Entertainment”, and as
this term expresses, this concept provides educational
entertainment or entertainment-education. That means this let the
student to learn subject matters with entertainment, so that the
students get attracted to learning rather than getting used to
learning through the teacher centered learning concept. Under
this novel concept called “Edutainment” there comes a couple of
new ways of teaching like Game Based Learning and
Gamification. These concepts can be applied to enhance the
learning procedure of students in various age levels.
This paper gives you an analysis of Game Based Learning vs.
Gamification in higher education from Computer Science
students perspective.
Keywords; GBL, Game Based Learning, Gamification,
Edutainment, Sorting Algorithms
Today, it is found that the old teacher centered teaching
mechanism is no longer beneficial to the students because of
some reasons. Some of the reasons are as follows, the students
will not be able to think out of the box because they tend to cram
what the teacher says and the other thing is that the students will
not be able to do some kind of practical assessments under the
old mechanism, where edutainment gives the opportunity to do
some practical exercises and to acquire experience by using
some software. For example some of the chemical reactions
which we cannot perform in the class rooms, can be shown with
the aid of a computer.
In old teaching mechanism the students focus only on the
exams rather than trying to understand the underlying concepts
of the subject matters. So there arises a need to let the students
to learn in their own ways, rather than focusing on the exams
without understanding the subject matters. In order to give
opportunities for the students to learn by experience, the
researchers have been persuaded to create virtual learning
environments. This concept is called “Edutainment” and most of
the time they use Game Based learning and Gamification
applications. Because it is a well known fact that, learning by
experience is more efficient than learning by studying. The
students get the opportunity to make observations depending on
the experiments in an imaginary world through such approaches,
rather than studying the theory and imagining what would
happen. This innovative education paradigm called “Game
based learning” helps the students of various age levels to
enhance their learning process. No matter it is primary,
secondary or higher education, we can apply this concept for any
educational system to enhance it.
Nowadays various types of computer games such as action
games, adventure and role playing games, strategy games,
simulation games etc. are available. There are various kinds of
online games that can be used to improve the subject knowledge
of the students. Such games are not only limited to Computer
Science subjects, but also to subjects related to psychology,
youth, media and cultural studies. In addition to these games,
there are some particular games especially for kids to improve
their mathematical knowledge, awareness of the spellings, team
playing, and strategy planning as well [8].
There are various types of simulations to teach some practical
subjects. For example, we can show the simulations that have
been implemented to give the training to military staffs [9]. By
using such games, the soldiers can get an idea as to how they
could face unexpected sudden attacks from the
enemies. Likewise it is better to give a game to be played by
the students relevant to their subject matters, before their teacher
starts that lesson. Hence the students can ascertain the basic idea
of the lesson and it would be a great help for them to understand
the theory very clearly.
In addition to the Game Based Learning concept, now there is
another concept called “Gamification”. This means the usage of
gaming rules to non-gaming environments. Here the basic thing
is the offering of some kind of rewards to the students to
motivate them. For example when someone has scored marks
above a particular level, we can give them a sticker, ribbon etc.
to indicate that he has been able to pass a particular level in a
particular subject domain.
When it comes to the Tertiary education, there are subject
matters that are difficult to understand. In Computer Science
stream, Sorting Algorithms is considered as an important section
and somewhat difficult to understand. The main objective of this
research is to analyze the two concepts called Game Based
Learning and Gamification with Computer Science students
The rest of the paper is structured as follows. First, a brief
literature review on the related work in this area is presented.
Next, the design and the implementation of this research are
outlined. After that the evaluation of the presented object and
finally, the paper will be winded up with a brief discussion.
There are projects that have been carried out in “Game Based
Learning” area. Some of those projects are described under this
Pivec M. et al [1] have introduced a game platform where
different instructors can introduce different knowledge and
contexts to apply game-based learning for their particular topics
and specific goals.
They have followed these steps to create a successful game-
based learning platform.
Determine Pedagogical Approach (how you believe
learning takes place)
• Situate the Task in a Model World
• Elaborate Details
• Incorporate Underlying Pedagogical Support
• Map Learning Activities to Interface Actions
• Map Learning Concepts to Interface Objects
It can be classified as a role-play game, that fosters
participation in problem solving, effective communication,
teamwork, project management, as well as other soft skills such
as responsibility, creativity, micro-entrepreneurship, corporate
culture, etc. The game is based on constructivist learning
approach and collaborative learning. It should be able to be used
in regular face-to-face or online classes.
Their game themes (i.e. assignments and subjects to be
discussed) are defined by the teacher. Play time can fluctuate
from few days to few weeks and it depends on the difficulty of
the theme and basic skills of the students. In the game, basic
stages can be distinguished as follows: team work and team
preparation time, general discussion, student feedback,
discussion of the game in the seminar.
Kirriemuir J et al [2] have done a survey on how and why
online games are used as an integrated part of formal classroom
learning. They have presented a number of examples of the use
of such games, and have tried to determine likely trends in their
use in such an environment. They have found that an increasing
number of schools are using computer and video games in
variety of situations, many of which are imaginative, or support
the learning process within a range of other tools and resources.
However, on the negative side, they have pointed out that there
is a lack of games being used for relevant subject-based learning
and the schools provide games for recreation or as rewards for
good behavior (thus recognizing that children like to play them),
but fail to use them for learning-oriented purposes even where
this potential is recognized.
Garris R. et al [3] have developed a game called BOTTOM
GUN which is a game-based submarine periscope trainer for the
U.S. Navy. BOTTOM GUN was developed to enhance
submarine technical skills and to examine the effects of the
game-based training approach on student motivation. It has been
designed to provide an entertaining way to practice making
estimates of critical visual variables, including angle-on-the-
bow (AOB) (i.e., angle at which the observed ship is visually
presented to the periscope observer) and divisions (the number
of tick marks on the periscope reticle representing the height of
the targeted ship from its waterline to its highest visible point).
In addition to this BOTTOM GUN game there are number
of games for Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and joint forces.
These games have been developed by the Department of
Defense games developers’ community.
Connolly T M et al [4] have explored the use of interactive
visualization and computer games to provide a web-based
collaborative learning environment to supplement traditional
methods of teaching database analysis and design.
They have illustrated the influences of the online games-
based collaborative learning environment that they have
developed to teach database analysis.
The following three main components have formed their
learning environment.
The online learning units/topics introduce the concepts to be
explored; these units are structured in a hierarchical manner
allowing students to ‘drill down’ to obtain further details. Topics
are hyperlinked to allow non-sequential browsing.
The visualizations enhance learning by providing animated
walkthroughs of specific examples (e.g. construction of an ER
diagram or the process of normalization).
The simulation game provides a real-world simulated
environment within which to apply skills and techniques.
Finally they have come to a conclusion that there was a
higher rate of the number of students who faced online exam got
the highest marks when compared with the students who had a
written paper exam.
Connolly T M et al [5] have described a computer game to
teach Software Engineering concepts. Here, the whole life cycle
of the software development has been animated. In this system
the responsible person for each and every phase in the software
development life cycle should take the correct decisions to carry
out the project. The team members have to do the project better
than the other teams, because the teacher gives the marks for all
the projects.
Here we describe two situations where we have used
gamification techniques and game based learning for Data
Structures and Algorithms course module comes under
Computer Science stream.
Our intention is to get to know what sorts of learning
materials are expected by the tertiary students, i.e. whether they
are more towards to gaming components or to the gamified
materials which let them to grab the underlying theory at a
glance without any unnecessary decorations.
Here we compared a simple game [13], which has been
implemented to give the idea of sorting algorithms with a
gamified material which gives the idea of each and every sorting
algorithm along with an animation according to the pseudo code
and this has a simple quiz after each and every sorting algorithm.
This is the methodology of our comparison. We selected
group of 60 students who are not familiar with the Algorithms
and who had been able to score a grade higher than an “A for
Mathematics course, so that we can make an assumption that all
the students are in the same level of knowledge. First we divided
them into two groups and again we divided both groups into two
sub groups.
First Group:
Sub Group 1.1: gave the Gaming Component to learn Bubble
Sub Group 1.2: gave the gamified material to learn Bucket Sort
Second Group:
Sub Group 2.1: gave the Gaming Component to learn Bucket
Sub Group 2.2: gave the gamified material to learn Bubble Sort
At the end of the practice, the students were given a quiz and
we analyzed the performance of the students belong to the two
sets mentioned before.
After that we compared the results of group 1.1 with group
2.2 and group 1.2 with group 2.1, so that we can get an idea about
which has been able to give the idea correctly to the students i.e.
whether it is the gamified material or the gaming component.
In addition to the quiz the students were given a
questionnaire to gather their own ideas about the two learning
By analyzing the details we get from the questionnaires, we
were able to get an idea about what the favorable medium of the
students who are being engaged in higher education is.
We measured the average time they spent to learn the theory
as well as the average time they took to finish the quiz. By
analyzing these two durations we thought of measuring the
effectiveness of these two mechanisms.
A. The Game Design
The gaming component is developed as an undergraduate
project by Roderick Vella [13], and the intention of this game
is to help the students to understand the fundamental principles
of Bubble and Bucket Sorting algorithms. It is said that this
game is based on the famous game Frogger’, where the
student has to collect boxes and sort them according their
values by using sorting algorithms rules.
B. The Design of the Gamified component
This is to teach five of the sorting algorithms come under
Data Structures and Algorithms course module.
Here we use the concept called Gamification, and we try to
give the basic idea of the each and every sorting algorithm at a
The following sorting algorithms have been implemented
under this section.
Bubble sort
Selection sort
Insertion sort
Shell sort
Merge sort
Bucket sort
We allow the student to look at the pseudo code for a
particular sorting algorithm. There, a given data set is being
sorted and the part of the pseudo code is being highlighted
according to the execution of the algorithm so that the student
will be able to capture the fundamental idea for a particular
sorting algorithm.
After the demonstrations for sorting algorithms, there are
quizzes to be followed by the students and they will be able to
get to know their standards. Based on the marks that the student
has obtained, he will get a ribbon so that he can be satisfied with
his knowledge.
A. The Game Implementation
As we have mentioned earlier, this game has been
implemented by Vella R[13] and he says that this game has been
developed using Microsoft XNA and can be installed freely on
any PC that is running Windows. Figure1 and 2 are screenshots
from this game and Figure 1 shows how the Bucket short
happens and the Figure 2 shows how the Bubble sort happens.
Figure 1. Bucket Sort
Figure 2. Bubble Sort
B. The Implementaionof the Gamified component
To implement this we used java applets [14] and online quiz
generating tool called “ProProfs[11]. After that we used
“Reload Editor” [12] to create a SCORM object of the
implementation in order to upload that in the moodle so that the
students can access that.
A screen shot from the SCORM object that has been
implemented is shown in the Figure 3.
Figure 3. Sorting Algorithms SCORM object
Here are more screen shots from the SCORM object to
illustrate the steps of this gamified component.
Figure 4. Sorting Algorithms page of the SCORM object
Figure 5. Bubble Sort demonstration
Figure 6. Quiz page for Bubble Sort
The intention of this evaluation was to gather the ideas of the
students about the Game based learning and the gamified
learning as well as to get to know which medium really helps
the students to grab the idea of the underlying theory. As these
components are made for the students who are following their
tertiary education, we have to have an idea about their desires,
and what they expect from this GBL concept.
First we thought of evaluating the marks of the two groups
which we have mentioned earlier in the design section, so that
we can compare the marks of them.
We drew two graphs according to the marks that the students
have obtained. Graph 1 has been drawn taking into account the
results of the students who have done the quiz for Bubble Sort
and Graph 2 for the students who have done the quiz for Bucket
Graph 1. Marks for the “Bubble Sort” quiz
Graph 2. Marks for the “Bucket Sort” quiz
20 40 60 80 100
20 40 60 80 100
By looking at the two graphs it can be said that higher marks
have been obtained by the students who have studied the
gamified component.
Students from sub group 1.1 have scored 50.667% of average
marks where sub group 1.2 has scored a 72% average mark.
Students from sub group 2.1 have scored 40% of average marks
where sub group 1.2 has scored a 65.333% average mark.
When we look at the average marks for both sub groups it
can be said that, the students who followed the gamified
component have been able to score a higher average than the
other group.
We gave only five questions in the quiz and 3 of them were
based on the underlying theory and the other 2 were based on
the code. We analyzed the questions against marks and got to
know that 33% of the students from group 1.1 and 2.1 were
unable to answer the two questions based on the code. That
means they were able to understand the underlying theory, but
not the code.
The average time that they have spent to learn the theory are
40.5 mins and 20.667mins for sub group 1.1 and 1.2
respectively. And 48.667 mins and 26.333 mins were taken by
the students from the sub groups 2.1 and 2.2 respectively.
By looking at the average times taken to grab the underlying
theory of the both algorithms, it can be said that gamified
component is the effective one for these students.
To get to know, what sort of learning materials are expected
by the students, out of these two types, we distributed a
questionnaire among the students who followed both course
materials in the university. The questions we asked from them
are shown in the table 1.
1. Do you like to play this game?
2. Can the “Game Based
Learning” scenario enhance
your motivation?
3. Can the gaming phenomena be
used in other complex topics in
Computer Science?
4. Which methodology do you
suggest to teach the other
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
5. Is this gaming environment
appropriate for a learning
6. Does this provide an adequate
learning environment?
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
7. Which methodology do you
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
8. Which methodology explains
the underline theory clearly?
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
9. Which one motivates you to
refer repeatedly?
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
10. Give an overall rating for the
learning out come.
Gaming Component?
Gamified Component?
Table 1. Questionnaire
Based on these questions on the questionnaire, we made a
hypothesis that the gamified components are preferred by the
students who are having a tertiary education; in addition to that,
they are capable of understanding the underlying theories easily
with the gamified component. That means they want to grab the
theory of particular subject matter immediately, rather than
wasting their time to enjoy it with a simple game full of
According to a revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy in 2001
we can simplify the learning process as follows.
Before we can understand a concept we have
to remember it
Before we can apply the concept we
must understand it
Before we analyze it we must be able to apply it
Before we can evaluate its impact we must
have analyzed it
Before we can create we must have remembered,
understood, applied, analyzed, and evaluated.
By letting the students to use gamified learning materials,
they will automatically follow the above learning processes.
But when they use game based learning materials, sometimes
the students will not get the chance only to follow all the
processes mentioned above.
Finally we came to a conclusion that “Gamified” type of
teaching approach paves the way for the students to follow their
tertiary education, even in difficult academic matters in an
efficient way.
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Classroom”,in Proceedings of the 2003 Digital Games Research
Association Conference. University of Utrecht, Utrecht. 2003.
[3] R. Garris and R. Ahlers, “A Game-Based Training Model Development,
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[4] T. M. Connolly , M. Stansfield, and Evelyn McLellan Using an Online
Games-Based Learning Approach to Teach Database Design Concepts”,
Electronic journal of e-Learning, vol.4, no. 1, pp.103-110, 2006.
[5] T. M. Connolly, M. Stansfield, T. Hainey, “ Using Games-Based Learning
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How to design effective learning opportunities? Why is learning by experience often more efficient than learning by studying? How to provide the learning experiences needed to respond to current challenges? Using computer games and games in general for educational purposes offers a variety of knowledge presentations and creates opportunities to apply the knowledge within a virtual world, thus supporting and facilitating learning processes. An innovative educational paradigm such as game-based learning, which is considered suitable for the given purpose, is described in this article. The connection of the collaborative social context of education with game-based learning is discussed in the first part of the paper. The second part of the paper introduces the game concept of "UniGame: Social Skills and Knowledge Training". Game ideas along the educational background of the UniGame game concept are outlined. UniGame scenarios presented and possible use cases should stimulate users to apply game-based learning approach in the future for their classes.
Conference Paper
For some time now, computer games have played an important role in both children and adults’ leisure activities. While there has been much written on the negative aspects of computer games, it has also been recognised that they have potential advantages and benefits. There is no doubt that computer games can be highly engaging and incorporate features that are extremely compelling. It is these highly engaging features of computer games that have attracted the interests of educationalists. The use of games-based learning has been growing for some years now, however, within software engineering there is still a dearth of empirical evidence to support this approach. In this paper, we examine the literature on the use of computer games to teach software engineering concepts and describe a computer game we have been developing to teach these concepts.
A Game-Based Training Model Development, Application, And Evaluation The Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference (I/ITSEC)
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