A GAME DESIGN METHOD FOR LEARNING BUILT ON HIERARCHICALLY STRUCTURED COMPONENTS
Research has proven the usefulness of serious gaming for learning and advancing motivation by its combination of visuals, audio, text, and entertaining elements. Nevertheless, a broadly accepted, practical instructional design approach to serious games does not yet exist, especially for vocational education. The authors introduce a new game design model built upon the four components instructional design (4C/ID), developed for this massive field of education, and argue some advantages compared to other design approaches. The 4C/ID approach focuses on supporting problem-solving oriented learning, which comes close to the concept of experiential learning within a serious game. It aims at the integration and coordinated performance of learning tasks, which are strongly connected to the work floor. This concept strives at decreasing motivational barriers within the target group on different levels. First, the gaming elements work motivating, because they add fun to the classroom activities and students experience a positive competition amongst each other. Secondly, the close connection of what is learned within the game with assignments outside of the game creates an authentic learning environment and directly illustrates the usefulness of the theoretical knowledge that is applied within the game. Thirdly, the structured and nested approach of simple and complex tasks within the game provides a varied environment to gather complex learning skills.
The first application of the game design approach is presented in mechanics mechatronics education to illustrate the close match of timing and provision of information that the instructional design model prescribes and how this has been translated to a hierarchically structured serious game design. An experimental test phase with about 100 students of different schools is accomplished in early summer 2012. The game is evaluated with help of questionnaires, observations and log data. First outcomes are that the game is capable to keep the students playing for at least one whole day, and that the nested structure of assignments works well for fostering the learning progress from simple to more complex tasks. The relationship between the two parts of play within the game, a work place and a leisure park, is useful for keeping the students busy with the core tasks where application of theoretical knowledge is needed. The paper will present and discuss the results of the tests regarding as well the game itself as the game design method. The discussion will lead us to further research questions, like the need to apply the 4C/ID design approach to more cases to find more proof of the usefulness of this method for serious game design.