UTFacultiesBMSEventsPhD Defence Mohammad Assaf | Enhancing Game-based Learning in Formal Education using Simplified Authoring Tools: A Design Science Research Study

PhD Defence Mohammad Assaf | Enhancing Game-based Learning in Formal Education using Simplified Authoring Tools: A Design Science Research Study

Enhancing Game-based Learning in Formal Education using Simplified Authoring Tools: A Design Science Research Study

The PhD defence of Mohammad Assaf will take place in the Waaier building of the University of Twente and can be followed by a live stream.
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Mohammad Assaf is a PhD student in the Department Industrial Engineering & Business Information Systems. (Co)Promotors are prof.dr. J. van Hillegersberg, dr.ir. A.A.M. Spil and dr. G.W.J. Bruinsma from the Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences.

The integration of game-based learning (GBL) into formal education presents a promising avenue for enhancing student engagement and learning outcomes. However, this integration is associated with numerous challenges, such as technical issues in the development of games and how to link the content of the games with learning material in the curriculum. This thesis intends to overcome these barriers in the development of a serious game platform, FunHomework, which provides a simplified game authoring tool that can help educators create and implement serious games (SG) in their teaching practice. 

The central research question to be answered during the course of the study is: How can the introduction of simplified game authoring tools facilitate the integration of game-based learning within formal educational environments? This question unfolds into various empirical research questions investigated across the thesis chapters, including the specific design features that facilitate the use for teachers, the impact such tools have on teacher attitudes toward GBL, and also the customizable learning contents for students engaged with SGs created through the platform. 

The thesis followed the iterative development of the FunHomework platform according to Design Science Research (DSR) methodology, based on designs that incorporated feedback from educators in order to consider the perspectives of teachers and students in the final product. The main feature of FunHomework is the game authoring tool, which aims to bridge the technical challenges that creating SGs can pose for educators, thus making GBL more accessible. The tool allows for the dynamic embedding of educational content into the games, making the SGs versatile for a variety of subjects and learning goals. 

Empirically, the study involved twelve teachers and over 200 students from different schools to evaluate the FunHomework platform. The multi-phase study aimed to measure the usability of FunHomework and its ability to influence teachers' attitudes towards using GBL in the classroom. The methodology used in this study involved mixed data collection methods: quantitative and qualitative. Surveys were used to measure teachers' experience in using FunHomework platform, while interviews with teachers were conducted to obtain in-depth responses about individual features of the platform. 

This thesis contributes to the field of game-based learning in multiple ways. The FunHomework platform introduces several innovative design principles that could be applied to game-based learning production. Moreover, the principle of Dynamic Learning Content for SG design was introduced, whereby learning materials are injected into a game at runtime instead of the SG being built based on fixed notation.  

Thus, the thesis provides a robust answer to the central research question and investigates how a simplified authoring tool such as FunHomework can enhance the adoption and effectiveness of GBL in formal education. By reducing the technical and time barriers associated with GBL and ensuring that SGs are closely aligned with educational goals, FunHomework facilitates a more widespread and effective use of game-based strategies in classrooms, leading to improved educational outcomes. 

The research therefore makes a significant contribution to the field of educational technology, as it aims to fill the gap with practical solutions to the challenges of integrating GBL into formal education. It provides a framework for both facilitating the development and deployment of SGs and advancing our understanding of the design principles that underlie successful GBL. The findings of this study have implications for the communities of educators, game designers, and stakeholders interested in harnessing the potential of GBL to make a qualitative and significant difference in education.