T.F. Su, M.T. Cheng, W.Y. Huang, C.H. Chen

National Changhua University of Education (TAIWAN)
The study aimed to priliminarily investigate the use of a serious educational game named HUMUNOLOGY for learning how human defense system works. A total of 4 classes (2 are 7th grade and 2 are 9th grade) consisting of 145 Taiwanese middle school students were invited and a quasi-experimental research design was used. The four classes were randomly and equally assigned to control and experimental groups, so that each treatment group included 2 classes in which one is 7th grade and the other is 9th grade. Both treatments received two sessions (30 minutes each) of didactic instructions taught by the same instructor that introduced basic ideas and scientific terms related to human immune system to students first. Then the control group learned the detail concepts of human defense from web-based materials in the following two weeks, whereas students in the experimental group learned through playing the developed HUMUNOLOGY. As human immunology is always not a topic in school science curricula in Taiwan, students were asked to carry out their own learning in their out-of-school time individually. A knowledge assessment consisting of 19 multiple-choice questions was developed to examine students' understanding. Of the 19 items, 14 were designed to investigate students’ factual understanding of human defense (factual concepts) and 5 were aimed to explore if they can transfer learned knowledge to solve actual problems (transfer concepts). The assessment was distributed to all students one week before the research as pretest to find out students’ prior understandings and a posttest was administrated again to evaluate what they have learned after treatments. Paired t tests were run to see the differences between pretest and posttest in experimental and control groups and a series of two-way (2x2) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) were conducted to see if there was any difference in students’ total achievement, performance on factual and transfer concepts, respectively. Two factors were grade (7th and 9th) and treatment (experimental and control). The results displayed that a significant improvement after treatments was showed regardless of experimental (t=6.77, p<0.01) or control group (t=3.47, p<0.01), illustrating students did learn from playing HUMUNOLOGY or browsing web-based materials. The results of ANCOVAs showed that the nineth graders performed significantly better than 7th graders on factual concepts (F=4.68, p<0.05) and a significant difference in performance on transfer concepts between control and experimental groups was revealed (F=5.11, p<0.05). No interaction was found. Students in experimental group obtained significantly higher scores (adjusted M=3.24, SD=1.63) on transfer concepts than control group (adjusted M=2.63, SD=1.64). The results implied that compared to learning from web-based materials, using HUMUNOLOGY to learn how human immune system works have much more potential in facilitating transfer learning that students could easily transfer what they have learned from the game to solve problems in the real world.