Factors Affecting Tertiary Students’ Attitudes Towards Learning And Playing Digital Games With Educational Features.
Despite the trend and popularity of game-based learning (GBL), still very little is known about higher education (HE) students’ motivational and attitudinal potential of using digital games in academic setting. Thus, the purpose of this study was to verify existing attitudes of higher education previous and current students towards GBL, and experimentally test what would be an efficient strategy to fit tertiary students’ needs by exploring who and how can in fact benefit from the use of educational games. In order to understand these concepts better, the psychological strand of this research drew upon theories of social influence, persuasion, and motivational and orientational potential of using GBL with adult students by looking at previous research in this area and adding conflicting literature regarding perceived source characteristics, metacognition and self-validation in persuasion. In this study, 112 HE students’ responses were analysed using Revised two-factor Study Process Questionnaire: R-SPQ-2F, New Computer Game Attitude Scale – NCGAS and an adapted experiment based on a procedure by Clark et al., (2011, 2013). The results of this study indicated that participants’ attitudes towards GBL were positive, moreover, there may be a tendency within tertiary students using GBL to have more positive attitudes towards educational games at a particular period of time during their course, and also social influence of either an experienced tutor or a peer learner can have a varied effect on attitudes towards using educational games with peers being perceived as more efficacious regarding promoting and utilising GBL than expert tutors.
Game-based learning, educational games, tertiary students, motivation, peer learning, attitudes, perceptions of source efficacy and persuasion.
Over the last few decades, major advances in technology have occurred, and computer games in particular gained a global audience. Digital culture and the Internet have had a significant impact on communication and the way people interact with the world and each other. Technological breakthroughs and interactive social web-based tools facilitating collaboration have brought new challenges to the field of formal education. Educationalists are trying to utilize the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and enhance their practice, as well as learners’ experience, by addressing knowledge society’s needs. Innovation and digital educational strategy create new opportunities for integrating learning games into curriculum of formal education. Interestingly, recent research findings in education highlighted specific issues related to motivational and attitudinal differences between adult learners and children – the main target audience of developers and teachers interested in GBL.
Some researchers exploring tertiary students’ attitudes towards games with educational features have been skeptical of some of the claims regarding over-optimistic aspects of digital games as “a panacea for education’s ills”, and acknowledged that games can be utilized as learning tools, however cannot replace teachers or traditional learning methods, and that not every student can find them attractive or beneficial (Gee, 2009; Whitton, 2007, 2010). In the context of game-based learning, Whitton (2007), carried out a study exploring whether digital games can be useful learning tools and whether tertiary students find them motivating. Whitton’s (2007) study showed that tertiary students, despite not feeling motivated to play educational games, were interested in GBL as long as they perceived such learning method as the most efficient studying tool. Also, it is important to add that despite the prevalence of approaches towards studying and game-based learning (GBL), still very little is known about higher education (HE) students’ motivational and attitudinal potential of using digital games in academic setting.
Thus, the goal of this study was to verify existing attitudes of higher education previous and current students towards GBL, and experimentally test what would be an efficient strategy to fit tertiary students’ needs by exploring who and how can in fact benefit from the use of educational games. In order to understand these concepts better, the psychological strand of this research drew upon theories of social influence, persuasion, and motivational and orientational potential of using GBL with adult students by looking at previous research in this area and adding conflicting literature regarding perceived source characteristics, metacognition and self-validation in persuasion.
We also wanted to test whether attitudes towards using digital games with educational features can be influenced by an exposure to either an expert – tutor, or a peer – student/stereotypical gamer (Kowert et al., 2014).
For the purpose of this study we aimed to directly explore tertiary students’ issue-related opinions and experimentally test their attitudes towards using digital games in Higher Education, regardless of generational discourse (Wang et al., 2014). A strategy applied to test tertiary students’ views on GBL and issue-related affairs was based on social psychology findings in the area of persuasion.
Some of the theories and models that proved to be useful in the current research were: social influence, social comparison theory, expectancy-value, self-validation of cognitive responses, and Elaboration Likelihood Model, ELM, and its source characteristics (Clark and Wegener, 2013).
Source characteristics investigated in the current study were related to perceived efficacy and credibility. The research was linked to a realistic scenario; therefore, an effect of the perceived similarity was emphasized to test whether there would be any differences between expert and peer sources and other factors such as message arguments, and influence these can yield on attitudes towards GBL. Source efficacy was employed as an additional characteristic. Prior research has shown that cognitive responses can influence attitudes and that all changes caused by that influence depend on the amount and direction of issue-related thoughts that individuals generate. These processes are related to metacognition which has more elaborative dimensions i.e. confidence in one own’s thoughts which can also influence attitude change. Source efficacy received very little research attention, however, it was found to be effective in influencing message-related elaboration, when message arguments were moderate in terms of issue involvement or when message arguments tended to be in contrary to recipients’ pre-message attitudes. Also, motivation and ability to process persuasive information was found highly relevant in the context of interaction with source characteristics in different ways depending on i.e. timing, when source information precedes or follows an interventional message. Furthermore, prior research found perceived similarity as an important factor that can shed light on specific characteristic related to message and source effectiveness. Perceived similarity can affect individuals’ perception and make someone think that other people’s experiences are similar to his or her own experiences, and these factors can be related to demographics, context etc. Interestingly, findings in previous research within the field of consumer psychology and advertising suggest that peers exposed to a low credibility sources such as peers, were prone to stronger persuasion, in other words, people presented more positive attitudes towards specific suggestions and communications of their peers. Thus, in the light of the current study, it was expected that low source credibility, a tertiary education student, will yield more persuasion on post-message attitudes towards GBL but only in the high efficacy source condition, and will also be perceived as more successful in strong message arguments condition.
Quantitative methodology was used in this study: 2 (source efficacy: low vs high) x 2 (argument quality: weak vs strong) x 2 (source credibility: low – peer vs high – expert) between-participants factorial design Analysis of Variance (three-way ANOVA). One hundred and twelve previous and current international tertiary education students participated in the current research, and all participants were either formerly or currently enrolled as “regular” or “part time” students on an eligible programme at an eligible Higher Education institution (above secondary school level). Two validated 5 and 4 point Likert type scales were employed to measure participants’ baseline attitudes towards studying (a 20 item Revised two-factor Study Process Questionnaire: R-SPQ-2F) and using digital games (New Computer Game Attitude Scale – NCGAS – a 22-item instrument).
The main findings of the current study were twofold. First part of the current study explored participants’ pre-existing attitudes towards game-based learning and traditional studying. Second part of the study explored whether the current study population will react to persuasive source characteristics, metacognition and self-validation, and whether in consequence of these interactions participants’ attitudes will either increase or decrease. There were consistencies found in relation to previous research in persuasion. Moreover, as hypothesized, low source associated with a strong message condition was perceived as more efficacious.
The current and previous research has highlighted how important it is for the educational institutions, game industry and government to motivate peer learners, rather than experts and teachers, to actively engage in their education and potentially help co-design their positive learning experiences. Implications of this study can be used to help create better student engagement strategies and explore how tertiary students form attitudes and potential behavior in relation to GBL. Moreover, it can provide theoretical and practical implications for consumer and social psychologists, educationalists, student organisations, researchers, marketing specialists, issue advocates, policymakers, game and instructional designers and the game industry. It is important to understand tertiary students and design efficient GBL strategies to better fit their educational and motivational needs.
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