Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Exploring the Factors Influencing Learning Effectiveness in Digital Game-Based Learning

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Exploring the Factors Influencing Learning Effectiveness in Digital Game-Based Learning

Article excerpt


Play is a common experience for all human beings, including children and adults. Play is an intense learning experience in which both children and adults voluntarily invest enormous amounts of time, energy and commitment, while at the same time deriving great enjoyment from the experience (Rieber, Smith & Noah, 1998). In the last few decades, a substantial body of research (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Provost, 1990; Yawkey & Pellegrini, 1984) in anthropology, psychology, and education has indicated that play is an important mediator for childrens' and adults' learning and socialization throughout life. Kerr and Apter (1991) also claimed that play is a suitable and respectable way to describe meaningful learning. However, playing digital game has become the favorite form of play for the 'digital natives', Prensky (2001) coined the term to refer to today's youngsters; in other words, playing digital games is also a meaningful learning activity.

Although the inference above could be opposed by someone who associates digital games with violence or addiction, good digital games, regardless of the level of difficulty, actually have the power to get new players to actively learn. According to Gee (2003), well-designed digital games show us that learning is fun, and there are 36 implicit learning principles embedded in good digital games. Therefore, well-known terms such as educational game, digital game-based learning (DGBL), edutainment, or serious game have been coined to harness the power of digital games for training or education. After years of discussion and research conducted by the proponents of DGBL, a majority of people now believes that digital games promote a learning engagement (Van Eck, 2006). Moreover, with the advent of e-Learning, using digital games for learning is rapidly also becoming a new and popular trend (Aldrich, 2004; Prensky, 2001) for overcoming the hurdle of motivating e-Learners.

Despite DGBL having caught most people's attention, it does not mean that society is ready to massively adopt DGBL in the educational system (Torrente, Moreno-Ger, Martinez-Ortiz, & Fernandez-Manjon, 2009). Recently more and more researchers (Papastergious, 2009; Ke, 2008) have noted that the empirical effectiveness of DGBL is still a mystery. For example, although some studies (Whitehall & McDonald, 1993; McFarlane, Sparrowhawk, & Heald, 2002) indicated that educational computer games have a positive effect in math, science, and military education, several reports (Pierfy, 1977; Randel, Morris, Wetzel, & Whitehall, 1992; Van Eck & Dempsey, 2002) showed that DGBL is ineffective especially when compared with traditional instruction or traditional e-Learning. Hays (2005) also concluded that there is no evidence indicating that instructional games are the preferred instructional method in all situations after reviewing 274 articles on the design, use, and empirical evaluation of instructional games. Hence, as Gunter, Kenny, and Vick (2008) stated, the effectiveness of an educational game is often based on enhancing learning motivating and social interactions rather than the effectiveness of knowledge acquisition. These circumstances imply that, while DGBL has won the trust of most people in terms of its ability to enhance learning motivation, its power to promote better effectiveness of acquiring knowledge is uncertain.

Therefore, it is crucial to explore the mystery of learning effectiveness in DGBL. To solve the mystery, a practical way is to understand the factors influencing the effectiveness of learners' knowledge acquisition in DGBL. Although many researchers (Mitchell & Savill-Smith, 2004) have indicated that students' distraction caused by game-playing is the key factor affecting their learning effectiveness in DGBL, this research issue has not yet been much explored.

In view of the above, the purpose of this study was to explore the factors influencing the effectiveness of students' knowledge acquisition in DGBL by attempting to analyze the reasons why differences in the effectiveness of knowledge acquisition exist among DGBL participants. …

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