Playful and gameful learning in a hybrid space


Screenshot 2016-08-10 10.10.44Keynoted at the SGames conference in Porto in June and it was directly after the H2020 Beaconing project workshop. A full week exploring the impact and implication of gamification in pervasive learning and how we could break barriers between formal/informal contexts as well as digital/physical spaces.

The mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics of gameplay have the potential to enhance the way a learning process/programme to be designed. We understand that there is a progression from play into gameplay and gamification as discussed in my previous post.

As a reflection piece based on my keynote (to be published as a sole book chapter for the conference proceedings- Springer), a short extract below iterates the progression from playfulness to gamefulness.

Play is key to intrinsically expanding and broadening our embodied experience with our surroundings, fostering autonomy and freedom. It is an exploratory and experiential means for incrementally, iteratively and continuously updating our understanding and interpretation of the various concepts, objects, people, emotions and the mapping between these variables [4] [5]. It is a complex process that is difficult to decode and measure. We are however in the world where almost everything is measured and within the context of education, measures and assessments are key to ensuring that the learning process leads to the desired learning outcomes and some forms of certification.

With these perspectives, for play to be included in learning to increase motivation intrinsically, it will have to be more structured and “formal”, adhering to the play-learn rules and associated measures. How do we design this playful and gameful experience without making it too restricting and to allow the feedback cycle to be as natural as possible so that it may add to the “play” experience? “This shouldn’t be construed as a claim that “everything is a game.” Games are a particular manifestation of play, not its totality. They happen to be a good starting point for an investigation of play because the formality of their rules makes the machinery of play easier to observe and analyse” [6]. Hence, games are a means by which play can be observed in a more objective way, which will lead to purposeful and meaningful engagement.

[4] Pramling Samuelsson, I., & Johansson, E. (2006). Play and learning—inseparable dimensions in preschool practice. Early Child Development and Care176(1), 47-65.

[5] Broadhead, P., Howard, J., & Wood, E. (Eds.). (2010). Play and learning in the early years: From research to practice. Sage.

[6] Upton, B. (2015). The Aesthetic of Play. MIT Press.

 

The playful learning experience should also support a more hybrid approach- such as the one being explored and investigated by the Beaconing project.

By further investigating how learners use the different spaces for learning, how to exploit learners’ preferences for enhancing the use of digital platforms and the potential of gamification, pervasive gaming and context-aware technologies in enhancing a blended learning process, the expected benefits of blended spaces and contexts can be optimised.

The Beaconing project (beaconing.eu) funded by the European Commission Horizon 2020 programme investigates playful approaches for digitally enabling play-learn in everyday spaces fostering cross-subject learning. Figure 1 illustrates the pervasive learning concept that will be supported by the play-lesson plan.

pervasive

Figure 1. Beaconing conceptual ecosystem

Learning within a classroom setting is expanded into the outdoor including personal spaces at home, providing support for the seamless transition from formal to informal contexts and vice versa. The key challenge for this approach is the feasibility of tracking meaningful measures and indicators for performance of informal learning activities.

The SGames keynote slides are as shown below:

Re-Mixing Play


remixplayPlay is key to expanding and broadening our embodied experience with our surroundings. It is an exploratory and experiential means for incrementally, iteratively and continuously updating our understanding and interpretation of the various concepts, objects, people, emotions and the mapping between these variables. It is a complex process that is difficult to decode and measure.

We are in the world where almost everything is measured. Competitive play for instance allow for  winning conditions to be determined and play outcomes to be assessed. A more summative approach to assessing play leads to having winners and losers at part of the experience. But what about the process in between. Are there any feedback mechanism that would influence the play process and steer the activity towards a more serious experience. What is serious? Serious competition with tangible outcomes/rewards or serious endevours with an aim to win for the sake of the adrenaline buzz?

This would mean that play that is meant to foster autonomy and freedom has now become more structured and “formal”. A personal experience is now influenced by the need to adhere to the play rules and the winning conditions? Play has been re-mixed into the context of gameplay. How do we design this playful and gameful experience without making it too restricting and to allow the feedback cycle to be as natural as possible so that it may add to the “play” experience?

This shouldn’t be construed as a claim that “everything is a game.” Games are a particular manifestation of play, not its totality. They happen to be a good starting point for an investigation of play because the formality of their rules makes the machinery of play easier to observe and analyze” (Upton, 2015). Hence, games are a means by which play can be observed in a more objective way, which will lead to purposeful and meaningful engagement.

Entertainment games provide this environment, where players can immerse in the “tasks” at hand. Play is now more designed with specific goals (pre)set for the players. The engaging characteristics of digital entertainment games and the need to inject more fun and play in serious activities have also inspired the use of the same technology for achieving more serious and purposeful outcomes. Serious Games as we called it is formally defined as the use of digital game technologies for purposes other than entertainment. (Game) Play has been re-mixed in such a way that the designed play experience is mapped against some serious and measurable outcomes (games for learning, games for change, games for health, etc.).

However, there is a danger that the mapping can be imbalance, where either the play elements or serious goals are compromised. Challenging! There are however existing studies such as flow (see Kristian et al., 2013;  2014), Learning-Game Mechanics Mapping (Arnab et al. 2015, Lim et al. 2014) and Transdisciplinary Methodological Framework (Arnab & Clarke 2016) amongst others which can be exploited and expanded towards informing the design and development process.

Another domain that is also influenced by the engaging and motivating aspects of games and play is Gamification, defined as the use of game elements (mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics) in non-game contexts. Simple examples include FitBit, Habitica, Starbucks reward app, Zombies Run, LinkedIn leaderboard, FourSquare, RiseGlobal leaderboards and many more.The more effective use of gamification will normally go beyond the extrinsics and focus more on intrinsic motivations and means to engage and sustain participation in an otherwise tedious task. Essentially, key to expanding gamification beyond the basic Points, Badges and Leaderboards (PBL) is to go back to basic and unpick the autonomy  of playfulness and the “formality” of gamefulness. Gamification in its positive forms maps the intrinsic pull of playfulness and gamefulness against purpose and meaning and the personalised needs of the individuals to achieve “mastery” in whatever activities they are engaging with. The activity- (actionable) feedback cycles commonly used in gamification are underpinned by meaningful measures,  observation and analysis afforded by the formality of game-like rules (mechanics and dynamics).

There are still a lot of studies and investigations that need to be carried out on the mapping between the autonomy of play, the formality of games, the desired serious outcomes and the individual needs of the target audience, which could transform ordinary activities into extraordinary experiences. The hybridness of space and contexts afforded by the advancement of technologies, such as the Internet of Things will supersize the playful and gameful experience. It is time to re-mix and transform play and make it even more pervasive in day to day life. Games and gamification are the instruments that can help to formalise and structure the experience to create context and narratives for the experience. Designed autonomy and serendipity?

The Game Science team going to ECGBL 2016


game_science_placeholder-300x300The Game Science team has been carrying out various research and development in the area of game-based learning, serious gaming and gamification within the context of the experimental Disruptive Media Learning Lab. On top of providing adaptable and adoptable approaches for use at Coventry University Teaching and Learning, we are also publishing findings in peer-reviewed journals (mentioned in previous posts) and also in conferences.

In particular, this year we are targeting for our work to be presented and disseminated at the 10th European Conference in Game Based Learning (ECGBL 2016), 6-7 Oct in Paisley, Scotland, a fantastic conference to engage with key researchers in the domain.

The five papers in the conference collectively highlight findings on the impact of play and gameplay in supporting teaching and learning within formal or informal contexts:

Paper 1: ImparApp: Designing And Piloting A Game-Based Approach For Language Learning

  • Authors: Luca Morini, Koula Charitonos, Sylvester Arnab, Tiziana Cervi Wilson, Billy Brick, Tyrone Bellamy-Wood, Gaetan Van Leeuwen
  • Abstract: The paper gives an overview of the development, deployment and evaluation of ImparApp, a location-based game to support teaching and learning of Italian Language. It draws on a project currently developed at Coventry University, which examines pervasive approaches to learning and exploits game-based techniques in contextualising language learning in a more active, innovative and engaging way.

Paper 2: Competition And Collaboration Using A Social And Gamified Online Learning Platform

  • Authors: Sylvester Arnab, Roy Bhakta, Sarah Kate Merry, Mike Smith, Kam Star, Michael Duncan
  • Abstract: Gamification is defined as the use of game techniques in a non-game context and has demonstrated potential impact in a wide range of subjects. Informed by the design and processes of digital gaming, gamification often exploits competition to motivate, personified by points, badges and leader boards. Success, however, seems to go beyond these basic features and rely on a concrete acknowledgement of the motivational model of the user, taking into account concepts such as situational relevance and situated motivational affordance, which can be framed under competition and/or collaboration. This paper investigates the impact of competitive and collaborative environments on summative assessment. This study bases its investigation on the StarQuest platform (http://starquest.eu/), a social and gamified collaboration application hosting a private online environment for small groups of individuals to co-curate and share digital contents. Participants were second year undergraduate students (Sport Psychology, n=94), who enrolled on a module entitled “A Fundamental Approach to Motor Learning and Control”. The module ran for 11 weeks and the curriculum was delivered using a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach. The results highlighted a number of strengths and weaknesses of implementing a gamified online platform for team working, which will inform future design, development and deployment of gamified and learning platforms.

Paper 3: EscapED: A Framework for Creating Live-Action, Interactive Games for Higher/Further Education Learning and Soft Skills Development.

  • Authors: Samantha Clarke, Sylvester Arnab, Luca Morini , Oliver Woo, Kate Green, Alex Masters
  • Abstract: There is a rapid growing interest and demand globally, for developing and participating in live, team-based, interactive gaming experiences otherwise known as Escape Rooms. Traditionally designed to provide entertainment, Escape Rooms require its players to solve puzzles, complete tasks and work together efficiently in order to complete an overall goal such as solving a mystery or escaping the room itself. The structure of Escape Rooms and their overall growing popularity, equally amongst players of all ages and genders, indicates that the premise of interactive, live-action gaming can be adapted to develop engaging scenarios for game-based learning. The authors therefore present; EscapED, as a work in progress, case study and paradigm for creating educational Escape Rooms and Interactive Gaming Experiences aimed at staff and students in further/higher education institutions. A focus is drawn to designing and developing on-site experiences, to provide engaging alternatives for learning and soft skills development amongst higher education staff and students. A review of a prototype scenario, developed to support Coventry University staff at a teaching and learning training event is given, alongside participant’s general feedback and reactions to the overall experience and perceived educational value of EscapED. The EscapED framework is then discussed and offered as a tool to help foster a best practice approach to developing future Interactive Game-Based Learning Experiences (IGBLE). To conclude, the authors examine future needs and requirements for refining scenario design, development and iterative live-player testing, to ensure the EscapED Programme meets all educational and player engagement standards.

Paper 4: The andragogical perspectives of Older People’s interaction with digital game technologies: Game-play on gesture and touch-based platforms

  • Authors: Suriati Khartini Jali, Sylvester Arnab
  • Abstract: Due to the engaging factor of gameplay afforded by digital game technologies, the application of games is becoming a popular medium in promoting and fostering serious outcomes in domains, such as education and health. For instance, social inclusion and healthy lifestyle can be motivated and stimulated through social interaction, cognitive exercises and physical activity afforded by digital game technology. Acknowledging the potential benefits of game-play, this paper explores digital gaming from the perspectives of a specific target group – older people above the age of 55. It is essential that users or players are captivated and engaged by a game before any serious purposes/activities can be imposed. The design of most games used for both entertainment and serious purposes however focuses on the general player population, and mostly targeting a much younger population currently engaging with digital gaming. The paper thus aims to specifically investigate the correlation between the challenges associated with older people, their existing engagement with digital gaming and other interactive technologies, the andragogical perspectives and existing game design attributes. A pilot study was carried out with 14 participants. Data was collected from their interactions with and experiences of digital gaming. Questionnaires and group discussions were utilised in order to collect their feedback and perspectives on the experience. The results of our study show that there are three key findings which are; 1) the interaction types and the experience provided by the game itself, 2) the game interaction styles which is supported by the platforms and 3) gameplay interaction and challenges associated to age-related changes. These findings should be considered when considering the interaction and experience of older people for digital game design.

Paper 5: SimAULA: Creating Higher-Level Gamification, through adoption of a Learning-Objective to Game-Objective Mapping Approach.

  • Authors: Samantha Clarke, Petros Lameras, Sylvester Arnab
  • Abstract: In order to support the development and implementation of higher-level gamification in e-learning towards encouraging and sustaining player motivation and engagement, the authors present an analysis of the design and development approach to creating SimAULA; a gamified simulation for training teachers in using Inquiry-based learning (IBL) theory and practice. This study seeks to transfer an understanding of the design and creation methods of utilising a learning-objective to game-objective mapping process in which pedagogic theories are transformed into game objectives and challenges to create interesting learning experiences for players. A prototype version of SimAULA is presented alongside the method taken that informed the development considerations and choices whilst mapping pedagogic theory and learning outcomes of IBL practice to SimAULA’s design style, delivery, game mechanics and game-play features. The paper further highlights key game mechanics that have been chosen to align with the learning-objective to game-objective mapping (LO-GO) approach, in which player choice, player ownership and learning feedback play vital roles in developing higher-level gamification methods. The authors present a case for adopting a higher-level gamification approach for advancing serious games, simulations and applications through development of player choice & ownership, narrative, feedback and game metrics to create enhanced e-learning solutions. Furthermore, the design and development methodology adopted for SimAULA is transcribed to inform the LO-GO mapping approach which is presented as a recommendation to inform future research and developments of higher-level gamification approaches for e-learning.

 

Catch us at the ECGBL and say hello!

Game Science in a Hybrid Learning Space


Slide1As mentioned in one of my blog posts, I’m working on a book idea around the power of gameful and playful learning as a response to the blurring of the boundaries between digital and physical contexts and spaces as well as between formal, informal and social settings. The idea was initially conceived mid 2014 and further developed in 2015. The initial idea has also inspired part of the development of the Beaconing project concept.  

This book will essentially explore existing work, trends and impact and implication in education. Existing projects I’m involved in  and leading will inform some of my thoughts and perspectives, including Beaconing, C4Rs, GameChangers, Starquest, Imparapp, etc. I have also spoken about some elements surrounding the topic in my various keynotes. My blog posts so far also give some flavour of some of the views and perspectives that will be further explored in the book.

The book proposal has been submitted to a publisher (Routledge) and has recently been approved and a contract is being sorted out as we speak. I will provide an update on the timeline and when the book will be expected. Watch this space!

The short summary of what the book will explore is as follows (all copyrighted 2015):

Games Science in a Hybrid Learning Space

Sylvester Arnab

Disruptive Media Learning Lab

Coventry University, UK

Games Science in A hybrid Learning Space will explore the potential, implication and impact of game-based approaches and interventions in response to the opportunities, requirements and challenges motivated by the blurring of the boundaries between digital and physical as well as formal and informal (including non-formal) learning spaces and contexts. Recognition of informal learning as an extension to formal methods is an important means for promoting ‘lifelong learning for all’ and, subsequently, for reshaping learning to better match the needs of the 21st century knowledge economies and open societies. The book will build upon the concept of a hybrid learning space that aims to reduce the barriers of time and physical space in teaching and learning practices, fostering seamless, sustained and measurable learning participation and outcomes beyond the barriers of formal education and physical learning contexts. The focus on a gamified approach is inspired by the increasing use of games concepts, techniques and technology to inject more fun into everyday spaces and contexts, and the evidence of increased engagement, enhanced experience and improved learning outcomes afforded by the approach.

Games Science in A hybrid Learning Space will delve deeper into the concept of, the opportunities afforded and challenges posed by a hybrid learning space, and how the science of games and the act of gameplay can better foster and scaffold teaching and learning experience and outcomes. The book will specifically focus on the crossings of pervasive technologies, gaming and gamification. Research and development of pervasive gaming is catalysed by the proliferation of more cost-effective, robust and mobile technology, providing opportunities for context-aware educational resources to be supported and delivered within a playful context. This in turn provides the mechanism for proactive discovery and learning, offering real benefits for teaching: they enable active pedagogy through physical and contextual immersion of learners, “in situ” information while practicing within authentic context. Existing findings (such as Schmitz, et al., 2013[1]) provide evidence that the appropriate use of context information within pervasive approach directs the use and presentation of content within a game and thus influences learning effects and motivation of individual players.

Based on original research, Games Science in A Hybrid Learning Space will also establish trans-disciplinary and holistic considerations for further conceptual and empirical investigation into this topic, with the dual goals of a better understanding of the role of a pervasive game-based approach in a blended environment, and of the possible structural and cultural transformation of formal education and life-long learning. The book will conclude with a future outlook on pervasiveness in teaching and learning practices, the enabling technologies and the impact they would have in future education and lifelong learning. This book is an essential guide for researchers, designers, teachers, learners and practitioners, who want to better understand the relationship between games and learning that merges digital and physical experiences and blends formal and informal instructions.

[1] Schmitz, B., Klemke, R., & Specht, M. (2013). A Learning Outcome-Oriented Approach towards Classifying Pervasive Games for Learning using Game Design Patterns and Contextual Information. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL), 5(4), 59-71

Early view – marrying learning and games for #seriousgames #gamification design in #highereducation


A paper co-written with Petros Lameras and Samantha Clarke is now available online (in press) to be published by British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET):

Lameras, P., Arnab, S., Dunwell, I., Stewart, C., Clarke, S. and Petridis, P. (2016), Essential features of serious games design in higher education: Linking learning attributes to game mechanics. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12467


Abstract

This paper consolidates evidence and material from a range of specialist and disciplinary fields to provide an evidence-based review and synthesis on the design and use of serious games in higher education. Search terms identified 165 papers reporting conceptual and empirical evidence on how learning attributes and game mechanics may be planned, designed and implemented by university teachers interested in using games, which are integrated into lesson plans and orchestrated as part of a learning sequence at any scale. The findings outline the potential of classifying the links between learning attributes and game mechanics as a means to scaffold teachers’ understanding of how to perpetuate learning in optimal ways while enhancing the in-game learning experience. The findings of this paper provide a foundation for describing methods, frames and discourse around experiences of design and use of serious games, linked to methodological limitations and recommendations for further research in this area.


This paper forms part of the portfolio of work, where we are looking at serious games, GBL and gamification design and development methodology and considerations. Other papers include the transdiciplinary perspectives, SDT extensions to the LM-GM considerations, the holistic gamified design approach, etc.

Immersive narrative – a collaboration with colleagues at Coventry University


There are so many variables that influence human behaviours, attitudes, habits and actions, and understanding people as individuals is a complex process. Empathy is a very difficult “skill” to master especially when you put cultural aspects into the mix. Experience is key to incrementally developing this skill.

Assumptions can be made prior to meeting a new person (either client, patients, students, etc.), but perceptions can quickly change when meeting face-to-face. And the use of body language, vocal tone, micro expressions and other such auditory and visual signals can sub-consciously trigger responses in face-to-face meetings, collectively influencing the granularity of the conversation dynamic. 

Working with colleagues from the Health and Life Sciences, they emphasises that it is important to be able to understand how a client is feeling so that their patient journey is as smooth as possible. “Theory based models only give a vague insight into how a real-life scenario unfolds, and role-play can be time consuming in organizing, and also requires recurring costs“.

We have recently collaborated on a research project, which is called Immersive Narrative aiming to experiment on various approaches to help our students at Coventry University to explore the need for emphathy and deeper learning. Our ambition is to experiment  visual interpretation through 3D animation within a 360/VR environment, with characters, rigs and animations that can be re-purposed, without the need for employing actors or simulated patients.

The team member includes Sheila Leddington-Wright and Michelle Stanley from the Sports Therapy unit and Sean Graham from the Centre of Excellence in Learning (CELE).

The research question is: Would fidelity in character representations influence the level of engagement and enhance empathy and deeper understanding of learning scenarios?

Our objectives include:

  • Develop 3D character and scenario for proof of concept using Unity 3D based on Sports Therapy case studies.

3d-character-design-screnshot-1

  • Translate into the VR/360 environment

in-game-VR screenshot

The scenarios have been developed and the initial testings have also been carried out.

  • Randomised Control Trials – An RCT (n>45) consisting of a control group with 4 different interventions (a written script, audio dictation, traditional screen based animation, and an immersive VR animation) were carried out to evaluate the significance of a 3D character approach to storytelling. Analysis of findings will indicate any direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of learning resources developed within the University, and for the wider academic community.

The findings are still being analysed and the outcomes will be published in one of the SJR: Q1 or Q2 journals. But what we have observed so far is the potential of using a more immersive approach using off the shelf GoogleCardboard to help engage learners in learning scenarios. The next level up is to add a meta-narrative to encapsulate the different scenarios into a game-like adventure. Watch this space!

Article accepted for publication – Simulation and Gaming


The mapping of Learning Mechanics- Game Mechanics (LM-GM) has been explored to better understand the relationships between pedagogical constructs and game-play mechanics. The mapping has also been used to inform the design of a game and the trans-disciplinary approach employed is reflected in a paper published in the British Journal of Educational Technology (BJET) journal.

This post is about another perspective of the mapping inspired by the importance of self-directed learning being one of the key aims for the use of game-based techniques and technologies in learning. The use of game techniques can potentially enhance engagement, promoting agency and sustaining participation in a learning process.In the paper that has just been accepted for publication in the Simulation and Gaming journal, we are looking at the mapping of these two key elements under the lens of the self-determination theory.

Title: Learning mechanics and game mechanics under the perspective of self-determination theory to foster motivation in digital game based learning.

Authors: Jean-Nicolas Proulx1, Margarida Romero1, Sylvester Arnab2

1 Université Laval, Québec, Canada

Jean-Nicolas.Proulx.1@ulaval.ca, Margarida.Romero@fse.ulaval.ca

2 Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University, UK

s.arnab@coventry.ac.uk

Abstract: Using digital games for educational purposes has been associated with higher levels of motivation among learners of different educational levels. However, the underlying psychological factors involved in digital game based learning (DGBL) have been rarely analyzed considering the self-determination theory (SDT, Ryan & Deci, 2000b); the relation of SDT with the flow experience (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) has neither been evaluated in the context of DGBL. Evaluating DGBL under the perspective of SDT can improve the study of motivational factors in DGBL. In this paper, we aim to introduce the LMGM-SDT theoretical framework, where the use of DGBL is analyzed through the Learning Mechanics and Game Mechanics mapping model (LM-GM, Arnab et al., 2015) and its relation with the components of the SDT. The implications for the use of DGBL in order to promote learners’ motivation are also discussed.

Keywords: Digital game based learning, motivation, self-determination theory, learning mechanic, game mechanics, LM-GM, SDT, flow.

There is also another paper that is currently under proof with BJET, which has expanded on the LM-GM mapping in order to understand the key relationships between the granularity of a learning process with game-play based on the development of a game aiming to foster inquiry-based teaching and learning. Will blog about this later.