The development and evaluation of an electronic serious game aimed at the education of core programming skills

Van Niekerk, Leon (2016-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The integration of information technology with everyday life has increased the demand for the number of programmers and computer scientists, yet the number of students moving into these fields professionally has not kept up with this demand. Education, and fostering interest is one potential way to increase the number of students moving into these fields. While good teachers and schools can develop this interest in students, this research explores the use of an educational serious game to both teach students the fundamentals of programming, while also increasing their interest in the field. Serious games are digital games with a primary purpose other than entertainment. In the case of this research, the purpose is education. A prototype serious game was developed to teach students the concepts and processes involved in programming and algorithmic development, rather than the writing of programming code. Abstract symbols represent blocks of conceptual code, which can be manipulated by the player in order to “program” solutions for predefined problems. In addition, the research called for testing the prototype. For this purpose, introductory programming students at the University of Stellenbosch were approached as test subjects. These students were asked firstly to complete a language-agnostic programming aptitude questionnaire, also developed as part of the research, at the start and end of their semester; and secondly, a subset was asked to play the game during the semester. Several metrics were gathered from these tests, namely, their university marks for the course, the results of the language-agnostic aptitude test, the previous programming and mathematics experience of the students, and an opinion questionnaire from the subset of students who played the game. While student fallout throughout the course was expected, the small class size and voluntary nature of their involvement in the study led to an unexpectedly low number of usable data points. However, it was possible to obtain the course marks from the students without their involvement. Thus, the test results were used in conjunction with the valid university course marks to establish a conclusion. Students who played the prototype scored significantly better in the quantitative tests than those who did not. This in combination with the results of other earlier studies indicate that games can be used as tools for the enhancement of the learning process.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die integrasie van informasietegnologie met die alledaagse lewe het gelei tot ’n toename in die aanvraag vir programmeerders en rekenaarwetenskaplikes. Ter- selfdertyd het die aantal studente wat professioneel in hierdie velde inbeweeg nie bygebly met hierdie aanvraag nie. Opleiding, asook die aanmoediging van belangstelling in hierdie velde is maniere om die aantal studente te vermeerder. Goeie onderwysers en skole kan ook moont- lik hierdie belangstelling kweek.Hierdie navorsing ondersoek egter die gebruik van ’n opvoedkundige, ernstige speletjie om die kernkonsepte van programmering oor te dra, asook belangstelling onder studente te kweek. Ernstige speletjies is digitale speletjies met ’n ander primˆere doel as vermaak. Vir hierdie navorsing was daardie doel opvoedkunde. ’n Prototipe van die ernstige speletjie was ontwikkel om studente te leer van die konsepte en prosesse betrokke by programmering en algoritme-ontwikkeling, eerder as die skryf van programmeringskode. Abstrakte simbole stel blokke konseptuele kode voor, wat kan beheer word deur die speler om oplossings tot vooraf bepaalde probleme te “programmeer”. Die navorsing het ook vereis dat die prototipe getoets word. Vir hierdie doel, was inleidende programmering studente aan die Universiteit van Stellenbosch benader as respondente. Hierdie studente was gevra om ’n taal-agnostiese programmer- ingsaanlegvraelys te voltooi aan die begin en einde van die semester. Hierdie vraelys was ook ontwikkel as deel van die navorsing. ’n Onderafdeling van die groep studente was ook gevra om gedurende die semester die speletjie te speel. Verskeie maatstawwe was versamel van hierdie toetse, naamlik die studente se punte vir die kursus, die resultate van die taal-agnosties aanlegtoets, hul vorige programmering en wiskunde ervaring, en ’n meningsvraelys uit die onderafdeling van studente wat die speletjie gespeel het. Terwyl dit verwag was dat studente sou uit val gedurende die kursus, het die klein klasgrootte en vrywillige aard van hul betrokkenheid by die studie gelei tot ’n onverwags lae aantal bruikbare datapunte. Die studente se klaspunte was nietemin beskikbaar sonder hul vrywillige inset. Die toetsuitslae is dus gebruik, saam met die geldige klaspunte, om ’n gevolgtrekking te vestig. Studente wat die prototipe gespeel het, het op ’n statisties betekenisvolle vlak beter punte behaal in die kwantitatiewe toetse as di´e wat dit nie gespeel het nie. In kombinasie met die resultate van vorige studies dui hierdie resultaat aan dat speletjies gebruik kan word as instrumente vir die verbetering van die leerproses.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/100119
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