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Collaborative and Competitive Video Games for Teaching Computing in Higher Education

Abstract

This study measures the success of using a collaborative and competitive video game, named Space Race, to teach computing to first year engineering students. Space Race is played by teams of four, each with their own tablet, collaborating to compete against the other teams in the class. The impact of the game on student learning was studied through measurements using 485 students, over one term. Surveys were used to gauge student reception of the game. Pre and post-tests, and in-course examinations were used to quantify student performance. The game was well received with at least 82% of the students that played it recommending it to others. In some cases, game participants outperformed non-participants on course exams. On the final course exam, all of the statistically significant (p<0.05) comparisons (42% of the relevant questions) showed a performance improvement of game participants on the questions, with a maximum grade improvement of 41%. The findings also suggest that some students retain the knowledge obtained from Space Race for at least 7 weeks. The results of this study provide strong evidence that a collaborative and competitive video game can be an effective tool for teaching computing in post-secondary education.

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Notes

  1. 1 The meta analysis of Wouters et al. (2013) suggests that serious games are not actually more motivating than conventional instruction. However, their analysis still supports the use of serious games because their data shows an increase in student learning and retention.

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Acknowledgments

The support from the Faculty of Engineering, McMaster University, is gratefully acknowledged, as is the participation of the first year engineering students. The specific individuals that we would like to thank for their contributions are Christopher Anand, Kevin Browne, Andrew Curtis, Douglas Down, Steve Drekic, and Michael Viveros.

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Correspondence to Spencer Smith.

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Smith, S., Chan, S. Collaborative and Competitive Video Games for Teaching Computing in Higher Education. J Sci Educ Technol 26, 438–457 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-017-9690-4

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Keywords

  • Improving classroom teaching
  • Post-secondary education
  • Programming and programming languages
  • Collaborative learning
  • Game design