This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Gameplay in Higher Education: The Use of Serious Games vs Traditional Instructional Methods in Learning




Gale, Mark

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Over the past 15-20 years, the video game industry has grown at an incredible pace. The students entering our colleges and universities, known as digital natives, have grown up with advanced technology being commonplace rather than luxury. When looking at video games, we can see elements of instruction designed in them. Additionally, we see increases in motivation and engagement when users are playing video games. Therefore, current research has theoretically proposed that video games designed around educational material can serve as effective instructional tools. These educational games and simulations are known as serious games. Although there is an abundance of theoretical data regarding the benefits of serious games, empirical data is harder to find. This study attempted to fill some of the empirical data in regards to the benefits of serious games. The study uses three groups of students in post-secondary education classes. Each group was given instructional material covering the topic of crop domestication, but the method of transmitting the material was different (Audio Lecture, Text Reading, Serious Game). The participants took a pre-test and a post-test covering the material. Additional demographic information was gathered in order to determine differences in demographic populations using the various instructional techniques. Results of the study showed significant learning increases in each of the three instructional techniques. The three instructional techniques were then compared against one another. Students using serious games performed significantly worse on a post-test examination. This suggests that although serious games can produce increases in learning, it does so at a lower rate than other instructional techniques when applied to the constraints of this study.