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Academical: A Choice-Based Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing Moral Reasoning, Knowledge, and Attitudes in Responsible Conduct of Research

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Abstract

Responsible conduct of research (RCR) is an essential skill for all researchers to develop, but training scientists to behave ethically is complex because it requires addressing both cognitive (e.g., conceptual knowledge and moral reasoning skills) and socio-affective (e.g., attitudes) learning outcomes. Both classroom- and web-based forms of RCR training struggle to address these distinct types of learning outcomes simultaneously. This chapter presents a pair of experiments providing initial evidence that playing a single brief session of Academical, a choice-based interactive narrative game, has positive effects on all three key RCR learning outcomes. Our results highlight that utilizing a choice-based interactive storytelling game is a uniquely effective way to holistically address RCR learning outcomes that drive ethical research behaviors.
Chapter 12
Academical: A Choice-Based Interactive
Storytelling Game for Enhancing Moral
Reasoning, Knowledge, and Attitudes in
Responsible Conduct of Research
Katelyn M. Grasse, Edward F. Melcer, Max Kreminski, Nick Junius,
James Ryan, and Noah Wardrip-Fruin
12.1 Introduction
Responsible conduct of research (RCR) comprises fundamental ethical topics
that inform all aspects of the research process, making it an important concept
that warrants study of and improvement to existing training tools (Kalichman
2014). However, ethics in research can be complicated by many factors such as
power dynamics and marginalized identities (Melcer et al. 2020a,b). As a result,
RCR requires understanding a variety of perspectives and dilemmas that impact
underlying research ethics (Kalichman and Plemmons 2007; Shamoo and Resnik
2009). This makes topics such as RCR difficult to teach due to the complexity
of applied ethics and ethical decision-making (Bouville 2008), the need for moral
reasoning (Schmaling and Blume 2009), and the lack of existing educational tools
that are motivating and foster critical thinking (Kalichman 2014). While past work
has attempted to address these issues through alternative learning approaches such
as group mentoring Whitbeck (2001) and role-playing (Brummel et al. 2010; Seiler
et al. 2011), these issues have still remained largely unaddressed—resulting in
ill-defined content, format, and goals, as well as minimal evidence for effective-
ness (Kalichman 2013). Furthermore, traditional educational RCR tools suffer from
a notable lack of user engagement and motivation with students (Kalichman 2014).
K. M. Grasse () · E. F. Melcer · M. Kreminski · N. Junius · N. Wardrip-Fruin
University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
e-mail: katy@ucsc.edu;eddie.melcer@ucsc.edu;mkremins@ucsc.edu;njunius@ucsc.edu;
nwardrip@ucsc.edu
J. Ryan
Carleton College, Northfield, MN, USA
e-mail: jryan@carleton.edu
© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022
B. Bostan (ed.), Games and Narrative: Theory and Practice, International Series on
Computer Entertainment and Media Technology,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-81538- 7_12
173
174 K. M. Grasse et al.
Conversely, in the context of educational games, choice-based interactive sto-
rytelling is a popular format for narrative videogames (Friedhoff 2013; Murray
2018; Salter 2016). There have even been educational interactive narratives designed
specifically to teach issues related to ethics (Hodhod et al. 2009), although they have
yet to be evaluated for effectiveness. Interactive storytelling (and educational games
in general Keehl and Melcer 2019; Melcer et al. 2017; Melcer and Isbister 2018)
have also been shown to increase engagement/motivation and learning for more rote
topics with clearly defined answers and educational outcomes, such as in the areas
of STEM (Rowe et al. 2011; Weng et al. 2011; Zhang et al. 2019). However, past
work has not fully examined the capabilities of choice-based interactive storytelling
games in teaching more ambiguous concepts such as moral reasoning and ethical
decision-making.
Interactive storytelling games may be an effective supplemental training tool
for addressing the above issues with RCR education. Specifically, we hypothesized
that the choice-based, role-playing nature of interactive storytelling games could be
employed to improve student engagement as well as cognitive and socio-affective
learning outcomes. As a result, we created Academical, a choice-based interactive
storytelling game for RCR education that allows players to experience a story
from multiple perspectives and practice ethical decision-making (see Fig. 12.1).
In this chapter, we discuss the design of Academical, and provide results from a
pair of initial studies evaluating the game’s efficacy for teaching RCR learning
outcomes. The first study compares our web-based game with traditional web-based
educational materials from an existing RCR course at the University of Utah with
respect to their engagement and efficacy for teaching RCR knowledge and moral
reasoning skills. The second study explores whether Academical can also improve
attitudes about RCR and how players’ engagement with the game relates to their
attitudes. We conclude with a discussion of combined results from both studies
and their implications for the usage of choice-base interactive storytelling games
for holistically teaching both cognitive and socio-affective learning outcomes of
ethically complex content.
Fig. 12.1 Two perspectives and corresponding choice points from Academical’s first scenario,
“The Head Start.” In this story, the player can role-play as an adviser or a graduate student
struggling to navigate the human subjects research approval process. The two highlighted text
blocks from each scene represent the player’s dialogue options for their character
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 175
12.2 Background
12.2.1 Interactive Storytelling and Learning
Prior work has argued for interactive storytelling’s power in terms of evoking
empathy (Bratitsis 2016; Salter 2016; Samuel et al. 2017),1providing therapeutic
benefits (Dias et al. 2018; Starks et al. 2016), and enabling learning experiences
through educational games (Camingue et al. 2020; Danilicheva et al. 2009; Melcer
et al. 2015; Nguyen et al. 2018; Weiß and Müller 2008). Specifically, narra-
tive/storytelling is an important element that can be incorporated into educational
games in order to maintain and increase students’ motivation (Dickey 2006; Padilla-
Zea et al. 2014;Roweetal.2011), with some suggesting that integration of a good
story into an educational game will determine its success or failure (Göbel et al.
2009). Interactive storytelling has been incorporated into a number of educational
games focusing on topics such as history (Christopoulos et al. 2011; Song et al.
2012), STEM (Danilicheva et al. 2009; Weng et al. 2011; Zhang et al. 2019), and
bullying (Aylett et al. 2005;Watsonetal.2007). However, the majority of research
on educational interactive storytelling games has focused on adaptivity (Göbel and
Mehm 2013; Kickmeier-Rust et al. 2008), interactivity (Song et al. 2012; Zhang
et al. 2019), emergent narrative (Aylett et al. 2005), player and knowledge modeling
(Magerko 2007; Rowe and Lester 2010), narrative planning and generation (Hodhod
et al. 2011; Riedl et al. 2008; Wang et al. 2016; Zook et al. 2012), and the game
creation process itself (Christopoulos et al. 2011; Diez and Melcer 2020; Spierling
2008). As a result, there is comparatively little work evaluating the impact of an
interactive storytelling approach on learning outcomes, especially for topics such as
RCR with ethically complex concepts that require a variety of perspectives.
12.2.2 Responsible Conduct of Research Training
Training scientists to recognize and engage in good ethical behaviors is critical to
improving the quality of research, encouraging healthier workplace practices and
increasing the general public’s trust in the scientific process. The importance of
RCR is such that many major funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF), explicitly require researchers
supported by their grants to receive RCR training (NIH et al. 1989; Plimpton
2009). However, concepts utilizing applied ethics, such as RCR, can prove difficult
to teach due to the complexity of problems faced by researchers and the many
underlying perspectives involved in such dilemmas (Shamoo and Resnik 2009).
Currently, the NIH provides a guideline of nine core RCR topics (Kalichman
1Though see Pozo (2018) for a critique of this notion.
176 K. M. Grasse et al.
2016): (1) conflict of interest,(2)human and animal subjects,(3)mentoring,(4)
collaboration,(5)peer review,(6)data management,(7)research misconduct,(8)
authorship and publication, and (9) scientists and society. Past research on RCR
education has ranged from issues teaching ethical theories underlying RCR (Bou-
ville 2008) and identifying metacognitive reasoning strategies that facilitate ethical
decision-making (Kligyte et al. 2008; Mumford et al. 2008) to the use of group
mentoring (Whitbeck 2001) and role-playing (Brummel et al. 2010; Seiler et al.
2011) for improved training efficacy. However, there is still a notable engagement
issue within current RCR education, and a serious need for a variety of tools to
improve discussion, engagement, and critical thinking (Kalichman 2014; Kalichman
and Plemmons 2007). As a result, an interactive storytelling approach may prove
effective for increasing motivation and fostering deeper critical thinking.
12.2.3 RCR Learning Outcomes
According to RCR training experts, being able to successfully navigate ethical
dilemmas requires mastery of a combination of distinct learning outcomes, includ-
ing (1) relevant conceptual knowledge (e.g., sensitivity to societal expectations),
(2) moral reasoning skills (e.g., judgement of possible solutions) and (3) positive
attitudes about RCR (e.g., motivation to behave ethically) (Antes et al. 2010;
Bebeau 1993; Kalichman and Plemmons 2007). The logic follows that teaching
cognitive skills is only useful if the student also has the affective motivation
to apply them (Kalichman 2014). Reviews examining the pedagogical efficacy
of RCR training methods strongly recommend that learning activities should be
engaging and promote thoughtful consideration and discussion of relevant ethical
issues (Kalichman 2014). For instance, role-play provides an engaging opportunity
for students to embody contending perspectives on an issue, making it one of the
most promising discussion methods for improving comprehension and execution
of ethical behavior (Brummel et al. 2010). Much research has shown that role-
play is capable of training each of the three learning outcomes—knowledge, moral
reasoning skills and attitudes—that drive improvements in behavior (Rao and
Stupans 2012). Unfortunately, traditional role-play activities are relatively resource-
intensive because they require experienced guidance from an instructor combined
with substantial time spent with a partner to practice necessary skills (Cook et al.
2017; Feinstein et al. 2002). However, there is growing evidence demonstrating the
advantages of virtual training simulations over live-action role-play for preparing
workers to navigate challenging workplace scenarios (Spencer et al. 2019). This
chapter highlights the potential for interactive narrative games to provide an easily
accessible single-player form of digital role-play that is still capable of holistically
training both cognitive and socio-affective RCR learning outcomes. Notably, this
has not yet been empirically demonstrated for existing online RCR training tools.
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 177
12.3 Academical: A Choice-Based Interactive Storytelling
Game
Academical is a work of choice-based interactive storytelling (Koenitz et al. 2015;
Mawhorter et al. 2014,2018) that was created using the Twine authoring framework
(Friedhoff 2013; Salter 2016). The game comprises nine playable scenarios, each
pertaining to a specific topic in RCR (Kalichman 2016). These scenarios are
adapted (with permission) from a series of existing educational RCR role-playing
prompts (Brummel et al. 2010; Seiler et al. 2011). Figure 12.1 shows screenshots
taken during gameplay in a web browser.
Each playable scenario in Academical centers on a conversation between two
stakeholders in the RCR issue at hand, one of whom is controlled by the player—
in the sense that they select dialogue options for that character. By virtue of these
choices, the player will ultimately reach one of several possible endings, a subset of
which represent successful navigation of the situation. Upon reaching a good ending
for the first character, the player then unlocks the other interlocutor and replays the
scenario from that person’s viewpoint. In turn, reaching a good ending for the second
character in a given scenario unlocks the next scenario/RCR topic.
At the outset of the project, we decided that the format of choice-based interactive
storytelling—which allows a player to experience a story from multiple perspectives
and replay scenes to see how different actions play out—would demonstrate the
complicated nature of RCR to students in a compelling way. In adapting the
role-playing prompts, we sought to show how seemingly obvious answers around
questions of research ethics can be complicated by factors such as power dynamics
and marginalized identities and experiences. Instead of cleanly delineating right
and wrong answers, Academical showcases complexity and uncertainty to provoke
questions around how courses of action could have unexpected consequences.
In turn, while all successful paths through the game’s scenarios represent the
player character acting responsibly, not all of the situations reach clear resolutions.
Specifically, many scenarios feature paths that appear to represent obvious solutions,
but ultimately lead to bad outcomes. Through replaying and selecting new options,
the player explores the social concerns encompassed in a given RCR scenario,
which will lead to a richer understanding of the ethical complications that one can
encounter while conducting research as well as aid future moral reasoning.
12.4 Experiment 1: Randomized Group Comparison Study
12.4.1 Methods
We hypothesized that the choice-based, role-playing nature of Academical—which
is specifically designed to highlight how research ethics can be complicated by many
factors such as power dynamics and marginalized identities—would be (1) more
178 K. M. Grasse et al.
engaging, (2) as effective as traditional RCR educational materials at developing
knowledge of RCR concepts, and (3) result in stronger moral reasoning skills.
In order to explore these hypotheses, we conducted a between-subjects study
comparing our choice-based interactive storytelling game approach with web-based
educational materials from an existing university RCR course. The study consisted
of two conditions: (1) a group that read through two modules of the web-based
educational RCR materials covering peer review and authorship; and (2) a group that
played two chapters of Academical covering peer review and authorship content.
12.4.1.1 Procedure
Participants were told that the study was to explore different approaches to RCR
education, and they would either play a game or read materials teaching selected
RCR concepts. They then completed an online survey collecting demographic
information (age, prior gaming experience, prior RCR experience, and so forth).
Upon completing the survey, participants were randomly assigned to one of the two
conditions (web materials or Academical). After completing the RCR training for
peer review and authorship, participants then completed a post-test that assessed
their (1) engagement with the training material, (2) quantitative knowledge of peer
review and authorship RCR concepts and (3) qualitative moral reasoning skills for
these same concepts.
12.4.1.2 Measures
Temple Presence Inventory, Engagement Subscale Engagement is a critical
aspect of the learning process (Kearsley and Shneiderman 1998), drastically
influencing a learner’s motivation to continue interacting with a system and the
educational content (O’Brien and Toms 2008). In order to assess participant engage-
ment with the two educational RCR tools employed, we utilized the Engagement
subscale of the Temple Presence Inventory (TPI) (Lombard et al. 2009). The TPI
has been validated for use with games (Lombard et al. 2011) and measuring game
engagement (Martey et al. 2014).
Peer Review and Authorship RCR Quizzes To assess and compare how effective
the two RCR tools were for teaching knowledge of peer review and authorship
concepts, we utilized two quizzes from an existing online RCR course at the
University of Utah. Each quiz consists of three questions around a respective topic,
and each question is either true/false, yes/no, or multiple choice.
Qualitative Assessment of Moral Reasoning To assess and compare how effec-
tive the two RCR tools were for teaching moral reasoning skills, we utilized
qualitative test materials from a previous study that evaluated the effect of role-play
on RCR learning outcomes (Seiler et al. 2011). These test materials included two
RCR-themed short stories obtained from the Online Ethics Center for Engineering
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 179
and Research and three short answer questions that the previous study designed to
characterize a student’s ability to (1) analyze a moral problem, (2) consider the
viewpoints of all individuals involved, and (3) propose solutions and anticipate
their possible short- and long-term consequences. Participants first read and wrote
responses to the short story about peer review, then answered the same three
questions for the other scenario involving authorship. After completion of the study,
two of the authors scored these answers using the behaviorally anchored rating scale
(BARS) method (see Melcer et al. 2020a and Seiler et al. 2011) for more information
on the authors’ coding procedure.
12.4.2 Results
12.4.2.1 Participant Demographics, Prior Knowledge and Experience
A convenience sample of 28 university graduate and undergraduate students—the
standard target populations for RCR training—were recruited for the study (age:
μ=24.8, σ=7.6). There were 10 female, 14 male, and 3 non-binary participants,
with 1 declining to disclose gender. During the study, participants were randomly
assigned to one of the two conditions: web materials (14 total; 3 female, 2 non-
binary, 8 male, 1 decline to answer) and Academical game (14 total;7female,1
non-binary, 6 male).
According to a series of independent samples t-tests, participants in the two
conditions did not differ with respect to age, prior game experience, or prior
interactive story experience (all p values >= 0.12). Similarly, none of the participants
reported prior RCR training in the past 2 years. Therefore, we can assume that
participants in both groups had similar prior RCR, game, and interactive story
experience.
12.4.2.2 Engagement with RCR Training Tools
An independent samples t-test revealed a significant difference in favor of Academi-
cal for participant engagement (see Table 12.1; p = 0.029, r = 0.4), suggesting that a
choice-based interactive story game is a more engaging experience for RCR training
than traditional web reading materials.
12.4.2.3 RCR Learning Outcomes
Peer Review and Authorship RCR Quizzes A series of Wilcoxon rank sum tests
showed that participants in the Academical condition scored significantly higher on
the peer review test (see Table 12.1; p = 0.002, r = 0.56) and comparable to the
web materials for the authorship test (n.s., p = 0.23). This suggests that, in terms
180 K. M. Grasse et al.
Table 12.1 Post-test results for engagement, RCR knowledge and moral reasoning skills. Bold
font indicates statistical significance
Web Game Sig ES
Quantitative measures μ σ μ σ p d r
TPI engagement (out of 42–6 items) 23.4 930.1 6.1 0.029 0.87 0.4
Peer review knowledge quiz (3 items) 2.14 0.77 2.93 0.27 0.002 1.4 0.56
Authorship knowledge quiz (3 items) 2.36 0.75 20.79 0.23 0.47 0.23
Qualitative measures μ σ μ σ p d r
Identify issues (2 topics) 6.93 1.9 8.57 1.6 0.023 0.92 0.42
Describe viewpoints (2 topics) 4.71 2.8 7.36 2.5 0.016 0.99 0.44
Propose solutions (2 topics) 4.71 2.3 7.14 2.3 0.015 1.1 0.47
Total score (out of 30–6 items) 16.4 5.7 23.1 4.7 0.004 1.3 0.54
of short-term learning, a choice-based interactive story approach is overall more
effective than traditional educational materials for developing knowledge of certain
RCR topics.
Qualitative Assessment of Moral Reasoning A series of Wilcoxon rank sum
tests showed that participants in the Academical group scored significantly higher
overall on the qualitative tests of moral reasoning (see Table 12.1; Total Score: p =
0.004, r = 0.54). Combining the scores across the two scenarios revealed that these
participants had similarly significant improvements for all three aspects of moral
reasoning (Issues: p = 0.023, r = 0.42; Viewpoints: p = 0.016, r = 0.44; Solutions:
p = 0.015, r = 0.47). A series of independent-samples t-tests similarly highlighted
that the Academical group also demonstrated better overall moral reasoning skills
for each scenario (Peer Review: p = 0.015, r = 0.44; Authorship: p = 0.0028, r
= 0.53). These results indicate that, with respect to short-term learning, a choice-
based interactive story approach is more effective than traditional educational RCR
materials for developing moral reasoning skills necessary to properly employ RCR.
12.5 Experiment 2: Correlational Study
12.5.1 Methods
For the second study, we hypothesized that (1) a choice-based interactive narrative
game (i.e., Academical) would improve participants’ attitudes towards RCR and
(2) participants’ reported engagement playing the game would predict their post-
game attitudes about RCR. In order to explore these hypotheses, we conducted a
quasi-experimental within-subjects study measuring one group of participants’ RCR
attitudes before and after playing a single short session of Academical to compare
with their feelings of engagement with the game.
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 181
12.5.1.1 Procedure
Study participants were required to (1) complete a pre-game survey assessing
demographics and attitudes about RCR, (2) play the Academical game, and (3)
complete a post-game survey gauging knowledge and attitudes about RCR and
their feelings of engagement with the game. All participants were recruited from
an undergraduate course offered through the engineering department at UCSC (a
Tier 1 research institution). Participants were informed of the study through email
and offered extra credit toward their class grade in exchange for completing the
study. Participants were also told that the purpose of the study was to test the
efficacy of a new RCR training program. Participants accessed the surveys and
game using the same methods as the previous Academical study—through their
preferred web browser on their personal computers and without any supervision
beyond automated data collection. Two of the nine possible scenarios were selected
for students to play through (i.e., peer review and authorship). Participants were
instructed to play through each character at least once in each scenario—equating
a minimum of 4 total playthroughs (2 per module)—before completing the post-
survey. Nine of the 69 participants that successfully completed all parts of the study
reported that they had received prior RCR training and were excluded from analysis.
Of the 60 remaining participants, there were 41 males, 16 females and 3 non-binary.
The average participant age was 20.6±2.2 years (median: 20, range: 18–29), which
is a typical age for students starting to engage in research and consider applying to
graduate school.
12.5.1.2 Assessment Tools
Temple Presence Inventory, Engagement Subscale See Sect. 12.4.1.2.
RCR Attitudes Survey To assess Academicals efficacy for improving attitudes
about RCR, we created a short survey using a list of attitude goals that are highly
recommended by RCR instructors (Kalichman and Plemmons 2007). This survey
included six items (two questions and four statements, see Table 12.2) with possible
responses along a 7-point Likert scale indicating level of agreement. To assess
within-subject changes in these attitudes, participants completed the same attitude
survey before and after playing the game.
12.5.2 Results
12.5.2.1 RCR Attitudes
In order to gauge whether playing Academical could improve participants’ attitudes
about RCR, we conducted within-subject comparisons of pre- and post-game
182 K. M. Grasse et al.
Table 12.2 Participants’ attitude score before and after playing a single short session of Academ-
ical. Bold font indicates statistical significance.
Pre Post Sig ES
Attitude survey items μ σ μ σ p d
(1) How important is RCR training to you? 4.2 1.5 5.0 1.5<0.001 0.49
(2) How important do you think RCR training
should be for researchers?
5.7 1.2 6.3 1.0<0.001 0.57
(3) Research ethics is serious and deserving of the
attention of all researchers.a
6.1 1.0 6.5 0.90.01 0.35
(4) Researchers have a personal responsibility to
model and promote RCR.a
5.5 1.1 6.1 1.0<0.001 0.51
(5) Researchers have a responsibility to society.a5.6 1.2 6.0 1.1<0.001 0.37
(6) Excellence in research includes RCR.a5.6 1.2 6.2 1.0<0.001 0.55
Overall attitude score 5.3 0.9 5.9 0.9<0.001 0.65
aItems borrowed from Kalichman and Plemmons (2007)
attitude ratings. For each participant, we averaged the six attitude scores to find
an overall attitude score for both test-points (Pre: 5.3±0.9; Post: 5.9±0.9; Change:
0.55±0.7). A series of Wilcoxon sign rank tests revealed that, after playing Aca-
demical, participants on average reported a significant improvement in agreement
with every individual item in the attitudes survey (see Table 12.2; all p<0.01; effect
size range of d = 0.35–0.57, which are small to medium). This analysis also showed
that participants’ averaged overall attitude score also increased significantly after
playing the game (Rank sign test: r = 0.31, p < 0.001; effect size d = 0.65, which is
medium). These results confirmed our first hypothesis and demonstrate that playing
a short session of Academical can significantly improve a variety of important
attitudes about RCR.
12.5.2.2 Engagement Correlations with RCR Attitudes
Participants on average reported an engagement score of 26.9±6.6 out of a possible
42 points (median: 28; range: 7–42), showing that this cohort varied greatly in their
feelings of engagement with the game. First, Spearman correlations revealed that
engagement did not predict participants’ pre-game attitude scores (rs= 0.16, p =
0.23). In contrast, we found that engagement was significantly correlated with post-
game attitudes (rs= 0.41, p = 0.001, moderate strength)—confirming our hypothesis
that engagement would predict post-game attitudes. Engagement was also correlated
with participants’ change in attitude (rs= 0.27, p = 0.04, weak strength). Together,
these results indicate that after playing Academical, participants changed their RCR
attitudes to more closely align with their feelings of engagement with the game (see
Fig. 12.2).
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 183
1234567
Pre Attitude
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Engagement
rs = 0.158 p = 0.229
1234567
Post Attitude
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
rs = 0.406 p = 0.001
-3-2-10123
Change in Attitude
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
rs = 0.273 p = 0.035
Fig. 12.2 Participants changed their RCR attitudes to more closely align with their feelings
of engagement with the game. For simpler visual comparison with the overall attitude scores,
engagement scores are reported here as the average (rather than the sum) of the six survey items.
Non-parametric Spearman correlation coefficients are provided above each result
12.6 Overall Discussion
12.6.1 Using Interactive Narrative to Teach RCR Learning
Outcomes
The results from these two studies evaluating Academical suggest that a choice-
based interactive storytelling game design is effective as an RCR education tool. In
the first study (Melcer et al. 2020a,b), participants who played the Academical game
(n = 14) developed significantly higher engagement, stronger overall moral reason-
ing skills, and statistically equivalent or better knowledge scores for certain RCR
topics compared to a group trained by an existing web-based university RCR course
(n = 14)—highlighting the potential of choice-based interactive storytelling games
for improving student engagement and learning outcomes within RCR education.
In the second study (Grasse et al. 2021), participants (n = 60) reported significantly
higher attitudes about RCR after playing Academical, demonstrating that playing
the game, even for a short amount of time, can also improve relevant socio-
affective learning outcomes. Together, these two studies show that Academical is
an effective tool for training all three key learning outcomes (i.e., knowledge, skills
and attitudes) that contribute to improvements in ethical behavior. Importantly,
this collection of evidence indicates that the choice-based interactive storytelling
design of the Academical video game can successfully train both cognitive and
socio-affective learning outcomes simultaneously, addressing the full breadth of
distinct learning outcomes essential to RCR education in one tool. To the best of our
knowledge, this is an achievement which has not yet been documented for existing
web-based RCR pedagogy (Powell et al. 2007; Seiler et al. 2011).
184 K. M. Grasse et al.
12.6.2 The Importance of Engagement within Interactive
Narrative
Game-based learning research has demonstrated that engagement can influence
a student’s motivation to learn (Clark et al. 2016;Noe1986), particularly for
socio-affective outcomes like attitudes (Sabourin and Lester 2013; Lustria 2007).
Narrative has become an especially effective method for improving engagement
and deep learning (Rowe et al. 2010). Contrasted with the passive reading study
strategy promoted by the majority of existing web training tools, Academical utilizes
narrative role-play and interactive choices to foster engagement and challenge
the player to successfully navigate various moral dilemmas common to scientific
research. However, care should be taken to generalize Academical’s success across
the interactive narrative game genre. Our results illustrate the importance of
ensuring that an interactive narrative is engaging for the player, as post-game
attitudes (rs= 0.41, p = 0.001) and changes in attitudes from pre to post (rs=
0.27, p = 0.04) were significantly correlated with participants’ engagement. This
highlights that merely using the interactive narrative medium does not guarantee
that a story will feel immersive or engaging for all (or even any) readers. Therefore,
it is crucial for designers of interactive narrative games to consider how aspects of
their design impact engagement and employ various techniques to improve it. For
instance, a lack of relatability to the content (either the characters or story) can cause
players to disengage from the narrative (Green and Jenkins 2014), so utilizing a
demographically diverse cast of characters or enabling the player to personalize their
character for the narrative could improve relatability and subsequently engagement.
In order to help guide improvements to Academical, future work is required to fully
explore which aspects of the game’s design best facilitate players’ engagement and
learning (Revi et al. 2020; Kalyuga and Plass 2009; Ryan et al. 2006).
12.6.3 The Benefits of Online Single-Player Interactive
Role-Play
Studies have shown that live-action interactive role-play can help students practice
moral reasoning skills, but when compared to playing a computer game, it is a
relatively resource-intensive activity in terms of the time and energy needed to
facilitate and evaluate the training process (Cook et al. 2017; Spencer et al. 2019).
Furthermore, role-playing with others in the physical world can be an uncomfortable
or unproductive experience for some people, potentially compromising the learning
experience (Cook et al. 2017; Seiler et al. 2011). In comparison, Academical is
an engaging single-player role-playing experience that carries no social pressure,
allowing students to explore multiple perspectives at their own pace. Furthermore,
its digital nature means that all learners can play through the same training scenarios
with the same dialogue options, and consequently their learning experience, learning
12 Academical: An Interactive Storytelling Game for Enhancing RCR... 185
progress and progression through the stories can be tracked far more easily than
traditional role-playing scenarios (Feinstein et al. 2002). Critically, the improved
convenience of using Academical for ethical training has the potential to reach a far
broader audience than live action role-playing, as well as enable larger and more
controlled studies of its effects on RCR learning outcomes.
12.7 Conclusion
In this chapter, we described the design of Academical, a choice-based interactive
storytelling game for RCR training that enables players to experience a story from
multiple perspectives. We also presented results from two initial studies altogether
demonstrating (1) Academical’s advantages over traditional web-based educational
materials for teaching the full breadth of RCR learning outcomes and (2) the
potential role of engagement for driving positive attitudes about RCR (and possibly
cognitive learning outcomes as well). This work provides evidence supporting the
efficacy of interactive narrative games for training ethics. More specifically, our
results further elucidate the value of a choice-based interactive storytelling game,
such as Academical, for teaching RCR and provide implications for the use of
interactive storytelling games to improve learning outcomes of ethically complex
content such as RCR.
Acknowledgments We would like to thank Jim Moore and the UCSC Division of Graduate
Studies for sponsoring the development and evaluation of Academical. We would also like to
thank Squinky who played a crucial role leading the development of Academical,aswellasBrent
Hill from the University of Utah for graciously providing their web-based RCR course materials.
Furthermore, we would like to thank the many UCSC undergraduate students that assisted with
various aspects of the game’s development. Finally, we also thank Gene Amberg, C. K. Gunsalus,
Sylvie Khan, and Michael Loui of the University of Illinois, both for allowing us to adapt their
materials to create this game and for providing feedback on an early prototype.
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Providing intelligent feedback to aid authoring has been proposed as a way to speed up authoring, give the author more control, and to enable the authoring of more complex interactive narratives. However, there is little research investigating what concrete feedback items would be useful for interactive digital narrative (IDN) creators. In this paper, we discuss potentially useful feedback items in relation to authoring goals and concerns. We perform a systematic literature review to make a list of concrete feedback items of interest related to the most emphasised concern of authoring - the effect of the interactive narrative on the user. We identify 47 User Experience (UX) dimensions in the IDN literature that could serve as useful feedback items, covering 8 categories - Agency, Cognition, Immersion, Affect, Drama, Rewards, Motivation and Dissonance. This list combines and untangles how different IDN researchers have interpreted and expressed interest in the complex idea of UX in the past decade and gives us insight into what concrete aspects of UX might be useful to estimate via automated feedback.
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Emulating realistic school environments and practicing difficult conversations between collaborating teachers are necessary for teacher candidates to prepare for potentially challenging workplace realities. In an effort to determine best practices for doing so in university classroom settings, a study was conducted comparing role-play with mixed-reality simulation in preservice courses. Half of the participants interacted in role-play; the other half interacted with an avatar in a mixed-reality simulation in a case study with a reluctant coteacher. Participants completed pre- and postsurveys aimed at measuring their opinion of the value of having a coteacher and indicate their perception of usefulness and realism of role-play and mixed-reality. Findings indicate that participants found mixed-reality sessions significantly more realistic and a more useful practice tool when compared with role-play participants. These findings demonstrate promise for continued use of mixed-reality simulation and invites conversation about simulation targeting practice of concepts difficult to replicate in university classrooms. Additional significant findings indicate that participants realized greater value of coteaching partners in the simulated environment. Findings are encouraging because coteaching is commonly used to assist with including students with special needs in general education classrooms; preservice programs must effectively teach communication methods to students in preparation for their future careers.