A mobile game-based learning system for improving learning achievements (m-learning)
In the past decade, the mobile phone industry and development of the mobile internet have been explosive. Mobile phones have become powerful mini computers and allow to develop an effective mobile game-based learning system. Thanks to user interaction with these ubiquitous devices and their use for learning purposes, the traditional learning paradigm has been extended into a new phenomenon called mobile learning (m-learning).
Mobile devices can also help students increase their science and geographical knowledge. Mobile devices can facilitate data collection, processes and analysis, and the high interactivity makes collaboration and communication easy among students. However, with mobile technologies come challenges, including the difficulties of supporting and guiding learners in environments that combine real-world and digital-world resources. In today’s connected, digital world, it is now important that educators develop effectively and easy-to-follow learning guidance models for the context-aware mobile learning system.
Context-aware mobile learning environment
Several studies have demonstrated successful experiments that support knowledge production and transmission among learners and educators through the use of mobile devices in the learning activities of various courses, such as natural science, social science and languages. The Taiwanese academics reported on other studies that show students using handheld devices to take photos of birds and communicate with teachers and other students while outside bird-watching. Another activity involved a butterfly ecology garden where mobile learning environments were integrated with electronic library facilities to assist young students to observe and distinguish butterfly features in a science course.
Mobile technologies allow for rapid ‘note-taking’ through photos, audio and video recording, and learning materials can be stored on mobile devices to assist students in their development of abstract concepts. The academics report that recent findings in research literature show digital learning resources, alongside the real-world learning contexts, improve students’ learning interest, motivation and their achievement.
Gamification for m-learning
Mobile technologies can be used as powerful cognitive tools to help solve complex problems and engage students in meaningful activities. Educational gamification uses game-like rule systems, player experiences and cultural roles to shape learners’ behaviour. In previous studies, researchers have found that many children used a trial-and-error strategy to play games. For this reason, gamifying a course would be a great help to primary students. Educators can take advantage of the motivational power of games and apply it to the problems in education so successful learning can take place.
Gamification study to support a gamified learning approach
The Taiwanese academics wrote about a study that looked at the scope of game-play in a learning situation by adopting gamified learning strategies and combining game elements with well-designed mobile learning activities. The goal of the study was to determine whether mobile technologies could support a gamified learning approach, and whether or not learning strategies influenced the students’ achievements in a natural science course. The researchers implemented the academics’ solution proposal, called Mobile Insect Learning System (MILS). A series of learning activities geared towards integrating the game elements into course design was developed for the outdoor learning environment.
The researchers designed an experiment in which students carried out the well-designed gamified learning activities in a mobile learning environment. The researchers had two major hypotheses:
- The demographic variables will affect the learning achievement positively.
- The students who receive different interventions show a significant difference in individual learning achievement in an outdoor learning environment positively.
MILS design and implementation
With MILS, teachers can create any number of teams for students, and create any number of specific, relevant goals and missions for that team to pursue. These include visiting the learning area, observing the learning target, and generally being social. After logging in to the mobile learning application, students can browse the learning games nearby them and select one to participate in. The system then sends students a new reminder with instructions on how to start with the learning task. The learning contents were represented on the screen after students scanned the QR code of specific learning target. Students can view the learning objects, the NPCs (no-player character), and the notes created by others according to their location in the learning area. All of the NPCs are essential to the main storyline and will guide students to the next steps. Students can create personal knowledge gained through first-hand observation and personal experience.
MILS study participants
The researchers in the study wanted to measure the effect of different teaching strategies on learning achievement. The participants of this study were three classes of fourth-grade students, aged 10 and 11, and taught by the same teacher in Taiwan. The teacher had been teaching in the school for more than three years. There were 102 students participating in this study, of which 54 were male and 48 female. After studying the fundamental knowledge of insects in a natural science course, these participants were randomly assigned to three groups to participate separately in three different teaching methods. There were two control groups and one experimental group. The participants of the experimental group used the MILS application, incorporating game-informed learning approaches in an outdoor education environment.
Various data sources and methods were used to evaluate the students’ learning achievements and attitudes while participating in the different learning conditions. These data sources and methods included pre-test/post-test design, questionnaires, and interviews with the teacher and students.
The results of the study shows that experienced students enjoyed the learning activities more, and were more satisfied with their learning achievement in the ‘Understanding of Insects’ learning activity than the non-experienced students.
The male students had a higher learning performance than the female students in the experimental group. The students’ subject interest also indicated a significant difference in post-examination achievement, which means the students who were interested in insects had a higher learning achievement than the students who were not interested in insects. Moreover, prior experience with smartphones also led to a significant difference in post-examination achievements. Based on the results, hypothesis one was significance.
For testing hypothesis two, this study analysed the differences between pre-examination, post-examination and learning strategies. The results showed that using mobile learning with a gamification approach could promote student’s botanical knowledge and lead to differences in learning performance, after removing the influence of the pre-examination. The post-doc analysis for the research model showed that achievement in using mobile learning with a gamification approach was higher than the achievement of conventional mobile learning and traditional instruction alone. The result shows that hypothesis two was significance.
Mobile game-based learning system: Study findings
This study investigated how different learning conditions affect student achievement, and the academics noted three interesting findings:
Learner characteristics affect learning achievement. The study supported the argument that male students had higher learning performances than females, and experienced students had higher learning performances than non-experienced students.
MILS offers advantages. The students in the experimental group satisfied the learner-controlled pace of the learning process, and they thought the gaming mechanics in the structure of game play were organised and useful for assisting them to learn.
The comparison of learning achievement with different learning strategies. The experimental group’s students who use MILS had better learning achievements than other control groups in post-test.
Through gamification educators can not only create a mindset that encourages students to try new things and not be afraid of failing, but can also enable students to engage in enjoyable experiences for the purpose of learning. Gamification is an innovative approach to learning, and because new technologies and new applications are continuously emerging, it is still developing. Future studies must continue to examine the new mechanics and new applications associated with emerging gamification technologies.
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