Conference Paper

Striking a Balance: User-Experience and Performance in Computerized Game-Based Assessment

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Game-based assessment (GBA) is a new frontier in the assessment industry. However, as with serious games, it will likely be important to find an optimal balance between making the game “fun” versus focusing on achieving the educational goals. We created two minigames to assess students’ knowledge of argumentation skills. We conducted an iterative counter-balanced pre-survey-interaction-post-survey study with 124 students. We discovered that game presentation sequence and game perceptions are related to performance in two games with varying numbers of game features and alignment to educational content. Specifically, understanding how to play the games is related to performance when users start with a familiar environment and move to one with more game features, whereas enjoyment is related to performance when users start with a more gamified experience before moving to a familiar environment.

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One strength of educational games stems from their potential to increase students’ motivation and engagement during educational tasks. However, game features may also detract from principle learning goals and interfere with students’ ability to master the target material. To assess the potential impact of game-based learning environments, in this study we examined motivation and learning for 84 high-school students across eight 1-hr sessions comparing 2 versions of a reading strategy tutoring system, an intelligent tutoring system (iSTART) and its game-based version (iSTART–ME). The results demonstrate equivalent target task performance (i.e., learning) across environments at pretest, posttest, and retention, but significantly higher levels of enjoyment and motivation for the game-based system. Analyses of performance across sessions reveal an initial decrease in performance followed by improvement within the game-based training condition. These results suggest possible constraints and benefits of game-based training, including time-scale effects. The findings from this study offer a potential explanation for some of the mixed findings within the literature and support the integration of game-based features within intelligent tutoring environments that require long-term interactions for students to develop skill mastery. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)
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Good computer and video games like System Shock 2, Deus Ex, Pikmin, Rise of Nations, Neverwinter Nights, and Xenosaga: Episode 1 are learning machines. They get themselves learned and learned well, so that they get played long and hard by a great many people. This is how they and their designers survive and perpetuate themselves. If a game cannot be learned and even mastered at a certain level, it won't get played by enough people, and the company that makes it will go broke. Good learning in games is a capitalist-driven Darwinian process of selection of the fittest. Of course, game designers could have solved their learning problems by making games shorter and easier, by dumbing them down, so to speak. But most gamers don't want short and easy games. Thus, designers face and largely solve an intriguing educational dilemma, one also faced by schools and workplaces: how to get people, often young people, to learn and master something that is long and challenging--and enjoy it, to boot.
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