Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

PlayIT: Game Based Learning Approach for Teaching Programming Concepts

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

PlayIT: Game Based Learning Approach for Teaching Programming Concepts

Article excerpt


The application of technology-enabled solutions in everyday activities has a pervasive effect on information and communications technology (ICT) education. There is an increasing demand for the analytical, technical and programming abilities of information technology (IT) graduates by the computing industry. To build the problem solving capabilities in students, ICT courses are designed with many practical elements. However, after entering into ICT related courses (e.g., programming, networks and databases); many students find it difficult to transmit taught concepts to real world applications. These students may find courses to be dry and boring, which lowers their motivation and interest in learning (Prensky, 2003; Sarkar, 2006). If students are not interested or motivated, it is difficult to keep them engaged in classrooms. To enhance student learning for achieving required IT based skill sets, innovative pedagogical approaches are applied to teaching and learning (T&L) practices. Behavioural scientists suggest utilising fun based interventions to engage active learning as an effective pedagogical approach (Dicheva et al., 2015; Oblinger, 2006). One such approach for adding engaging elements to classrooms is use of game-based learning (GBL) or serious games, whereby people of all ages and genders can play games for many hours without realising they are potentially in a T&L environment (Soflano, 2011). Gaming activities are a good source of engagement and bring fun into learning by providing instant gratification to players when tasks are completed successfully, allowing them to reach higher stages in the gameplay. Many workplaces use gamification strategies to empower employees, with one German automotive company Volkswagen labelling gameplay strategy as "the fun theory" (Huang & Soman, 2013).

Directed instruction is a venerable part of the classroom environment; lectures are designed to explain theoretical concepts, which are complemented with practical experiments. Teachers evaluate student learning with a set of formal assignments, oral presentations and written exams. Nevertheless, T&L environments could be made more fun if critical skills are taught both through directed teaching and game-mediated interventions. This would make students more engaged and motivated, and could change the student's mindset that the journey of learning is not dry or boring, but can be fun. This study attempts to address this gap by utilising a GBL approach to T&L context using a case involved in ICT education.

The paper first gives some highlights of current literature in pedagogical approaches to ICT education, and how educational games have been used in previous studies. The case study of PlayIT (a pseudonym) is introduced next, followed by an explanation of how the chosen educational game has been mapped with the subject module for programming in an ICT course curriculum. The design of a GBL experiment with two different student cohorts is presented. The paper then discusses experiment findings using quantitative and qualitative methods to identify any significant/insignificant correlations with diverse student cohort datasets. Student results are further investigated to inform how study participants progressed in their subject knowledge. Finally, the paper concludes with an overview of our findings, leading to further contributions in the ongoing quest for innovative, useful pedagogies in T&L environments.

Pedagogical approaches to ICT education

Computing is interwoven in almost all facets of managing and running a business. Furthermore, it is expected that technological applications will get more efficient and advanced over time, requiring more skilled and collaborative workforce (Stantchev, Prieto-Gonzalez, & Tamm, 2015). A study investigating critical information systems/information technology (IS/IT) skills from the perspectives of seventy managers shows that web applications, online services, networking protocols, wireless communications and wireless applications are the skills of the future (Lee & Mirchandani, 2010). …

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