Abstract Details

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Instructional Design Of Game-based Product-oriented Problem-solving (POPS) Training Module

Problem-solving skills are crucial in the 21st century education, a condition whereby students would have to be innovative and inventive when using designing new products as potential solutions of unknown problems. In this research project, a digital mobile game titled ‘Inventors of Future’ was designed and developed for undergraduate students to acquire product-oriented problem-solving skills (Tan, Tan, Cho & Ahmad Zamzuri, 2020). Although the game could be used to demonstrate how students may learn, invent and assess their invention to solve problems in the game world, pilot tests of the game indicated that a training module should be developed for the students to optimize the attainment of intended training outcomes. With a module, the POPS may be nurtured in both the digital and physical learning contexts. This paper describes how the training module was developed.

Research Question

The project attempted to answer the research question: how to design a training module to learn product-oriented problem-solving that involves a bespoke digital game?


With reference to the module development methods proposed by Sidek and Jamaludin (2008), two strategies were deployed to prepare the game-based POPS training module, i.e. the rational strategy that was based on rationalization of literature review and the empirical strategy that was grounded on empirical research studies. Also, the generic instructional design model, known as ADDIE (analysis, design, develop, implement & evaluate) was referred concurrent with these strategies. Specifically, the rational strategy involved the analysis, design and develop steps; while the empirical strategy covered the implement and evaluate steps.

The Rational Strategy

With reference to existing literature, the POPS process in the digital game was analyzed by deconstructing the algorithm into measurable steps. The steps were aligned to observable learning behaviours when students played the game. Next, supportive learning contents were designed to assure that students actually achieved the intended learning outcome (ILO) and its enabling learning outcomes (ELOs) in one game level, before moving on to another level. Both the ILO and ELOs were written using measurable verbs stated in Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill & Krathwohl, 1956).
Then, the training module was drafted by following the seven steps of gamification in a worked example (Tan & Maizatul Hayati, 2019). Similar to the example, every game level was broken down into five to seven checkpoints. These checkpoints challenge players to either identifying the problem, generating solutions, or assessing solutions.
With the module, players would be able to use the 7W1H (who, what, when, where, whose, which, why & how) questioning technique to identify problems in a given scenario. After that, the Nine Windows technique would assist players to generate solutions systematically by thinking at super-system, system and sub-system levels across past, present and future context. Once they generated a solution, they may refer to the D.U.M.B.S. model to assess whether the solution is doable, usable, marketable, bankable or sustainable in practice (Tan & Yong, 2018). The same model can also be used to assess solutions created by their peers.

The Empirical Strategy

A template of checkpoint was created for the module. The template was divided into three sections, one for each level of the digital game. Every section contained a short description of the ILO and ELOs, suggested play duration, step-by-step instructions on how to reach the checkpoint, possible challenges and rewards, and tips for debriefing after playing the game.
After having the module drafted, a mock game-based POPS training session was run and tested with experts in pedagogy, learning contents and game technology to evaluate its usability and playability. The module was revised several times based on the feedback given by the experts.
Discussion and Conclusion
Some constraints were encountered when we developed the game-based POPS training module. Due to the characteristics of being a sandbox for inventing products to solve problems, the digital game alone has no definite winning conditions. Unlike games with well-structured problem-solving that has one fixed solution, POPS may have more than one solution. To resolve this open-ended issue, we set a fixed number of optimal winning conditions in the training module, particularly for trainers to conduct POPS training in the classroom settings. Probing questions were provided to support trainer when carrying out debriefing sessions with the students. A discussion would be facilitated to determine at least one winner who has the best solution.

The biggest challenge in POPS is to identify a problem in a given context or scenario. Without problem identification, students would have no idea upon the issue to resolve. Once the problem is identified and formulated, the next challenge would be inventing a product to solve the problem by drawing on the mobile device. However, some players might find drawing on screen using a finger difficult, leading to the failure in problem-solving. Hence, work examples and guided answers were prepared for players in the training module, in which they may choose options instead of drawing from scratch.
The module may act as a strategy guide or even cheat code for certain students. It augments the limited story and narrative of the digital game, helping students to establish a big picture behind every problem they faced in the digital game world. Besides, the storyline may capture players’ attention, although more art assets would be needed for the game.


  • Bloom, S. B., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., Krathwohl, D. R., 1956. Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.
  • Sidek, M. N., & Jamaludin, A., 2008. Module Development: How to design training and academic module (2nd ed.). Serdang: Penerbit UPM.
  • Tan, B. S., Tan, W. H., Cho, W. H., & Ahmad Zamzuri M. A., 2020. A framework for game-based soft skills development: A case of Inventors of Future. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation, 24(5), 1057-1064.
  • Tan, W. H. & Maizatul Hayati, M. Y., 2019. Gamification in education: game-based learning training module. Tanjong Malim: Penerbit UPSI.
  • Tan, W. H., & Yong, R., 2018. Mapping ARIZ against a conceptual model of how a grassroots innovator solved non-routine problems. In Proceedings of MyTRIZ Conference 2018, pp. 93-101.

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