Playing games in Higher Education


Scholarly Critique #4

“Much of the literature thus far has spoken to GBL’s (Game Based Learning) potential, rather than to its demonstrable effects, often making grandiose claims unsupported by the evidence (Crocco, Offenholley, and Hernandez, 2016 p. 406).”

I selected this article because it because it has a direct impact in the environment I work in.   Currently, I work at Employee Services for the University of Colorado.  I regularly make training documents as well as workflow improvements to current policy and procedures used both internally and externally.  This article was written last year, which makes it even more relevant to the way I create training documents.

gblThe interesting part of this study is that the author recognizes there are mixed findings when it comes to the effectiveness of game based learning (GBL). The authors questioned sample sizes and measures past studies used when doing their research.  This is the first time I have seen a scholarly article, not immediately assume GBL was successful.

According to Crocco et al.,

      “…insufficient evidence exists to justify the many rosy claims for the affordances it provides. This is particularly the case in higher education, which, for various reasons, has been slow to adopt GBL and has not produced quantitative evaluations of significant size to test its efficacy (2016, p. 405).”

testI could not point out any evidence that was missing from the study they did. According to their article, it began in 2011 and went on over the course of several semesters/class sections.  I was excited to find an article so new and relevant to this class. 440 students in undergraduate courses would be the test group.  Half of the participants participated in game based learning and half learned through traditional instruction.

Covering three different subjects for this undergraduate study was ambitious. I would like to see this done (if possible) to the same group of people every year until they graduate.  Also, doing comparisons between freshman and seniors could provide an interesting contrast.  There are countless higher education populations that could be examined following these basic criteria.  These various opportunities to capture different age groups, could uncover even more clarity in higher education realm.

graduateThe advantage to doing a study like this in higher education is students maybe more willing to participate, as they could possibly be incentivized. When getting my Bachelor’s degree, I was asked constantly to do surveys or to participate in research for money or other incentives.

The results of the study done was surprising, it appears that “GBL curriculum provides no tangible benefit, at least in terms of quiz score” however “more enjoyment of the lesson correlated with improvements in deep learning regardless of whether games were used or not, and games tended to increase enjoyment (Crocco et al., 2016 p. 418).”

Figure 5: Enjoyment of the lesson, visually shows the results from the study


After reading this, I began to wonder, is a good grade more or less important than a person actually enjoying what they are learning?

Learning through games is not for everyone.  There will always be weight in using traditional methods to teach students.  Also, there are opportunities to use games in to teach some of the more complicated subjects.  This could be something to look into in the future.

Works Cited:

A Proof-of-Concept Study of Game-Based Learning in Higher Education  Francesco Crocco, KathleenOffenholley, Carlos Hernandez.  Simulation & Gaming.  Vol 47, Issue 4, pp. 403 – 422. First published date: February-26-2016  10.1177/1046878116632484


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s