Effectiveness of Interactive, Online Games in Learning Neuroscience and Students' Perception of the Games as Learning Tools: A Pre-Experimental Study

Article excerpt

Neurological concepts applicable to a doctorate in occupational therapy are often challenging to comprehend, and students are required to demonstrate critical reasoning skills beyond simply recalling the information. To achieve this, various learning and teaching strategies are used, including the use of technology in the classroom. The availability of technology in academic settings has allowed for diverse and active teaching approaches. This includes videos, web-based instruction, and interactive online games. In this quantitative pre-experimental analysis, the learning and retention of neuroscience concepts by 30 occupational therapy doctoral students, who participated in an interactive online learning experience, were assessed. The results suggest that student use of these tools may enhance their learning of neuroscience. Furthermore, the students felt that the sites were appropriate, beneficial to them, and easy to use. Thus, the use of online, interactive neuroscience games may be effective in reinforcing lecture materials. This needs to be further assessed in a larger sample size. J Allied Health 2011; 40(3):150-155.

UNDERSTANDING the neurological concepts applicable to a doctorate in occupational therapy requires the student to demonstrate critical reasoning skills beyond the recall level of learning. To achieve success in doing this, the use of various learning and teaching strategies is often necessary. This paper describes a pre-experimental approach examining the learning and retention of neuroscience concepts by students who participated in an interactive, online learning experience. The research was conducted at a southeastern US private university, which offers a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program. The students involved in this study were taught basic neuroscience by a PhD faculty member within the School of Pharmacy at the same institution; the laboratory sections were taught by a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy adjunct faculty member currently employed in the field. Faculty shortages and lack of experts in specialty areas necessitate that faculty cross-discipline areas in order to optimize learning for students.

The Net Generation, also referred to as Millenials, includes those students born during 1980 to 1994.1,2 These students are frequent and competent users of computers and the internet, relying on technology for learning, entertainment, and communication. This generation expects technological innovation in their academic progression.3 Techniques, such as web-based learning and online games, are becoming increasingly popular as learning tools. The use of various modalities in online learning can include visual, kinesthetic, and auditory stimulation, which goes beyond the traditional text or verbal techniques such as reading and writing.4 These tools can then be manipulated at the student's own pace, convenience, level of curiosity, and level of motivation, thereby allowing the student to explore and individualize the learning experience. This results in an increased degree of learner control by the student and allows for flexibility for individual learning styles.5 This may be particularly important to both the "self-regulated" learner,6 who is proactive during learning, as well as the student with less self motivation.

By using an online self-directed learning experience, the shift moves away from faculty instruction and the student takes a more active role in the learning process. This is best exemplified through the self-directed learning model described by Merriam et al.7 The goals of adult self-directed learning can be summarized into three parts: 1) personal growth; 2) to achieve transformational learning, which is central to directed learning through critical reflection and internal change in consciousness; and 3) to promote emancipatory learning and social action. 0nline learning to supplement lecture material enables the student to not only complete a classroom experience but allows that individual to follow through later to expand the learning experience. …