Through the development of a web based artefact, Panda Math, my 3rd year university project explored the affects of “gamification” and “game based learning” applied to e-learning applications.
- Design & development for research objectives.
- Illustrations made with Adobe CS6.
- Implementation of A* path finding algorithm.
- CSS3 animations for feedback and other UX enhancements.
- Custom back-end to manage game features (points, leader board) and research based data logging.
- Server side cron job to periodically summarise results.
Panda Math was built with three variations, one based on no game, one based on principles of “gamification”, and a third fully implemented game. Check them out in action on YouTube. Primary school children were invited to optionally use this learning tool after school, and were randomly assigned to one of the three variations upon registration. Quantitative usage statistics were gathered to inform the research.
It was found both game variations improved engagement and learning when compared to the non-game control group. “Gamification” did best in terms of the number of questions students completed, whilst the full game based learning variant retained users for longer periods of time. It also increased the accuracy of answers given by students more so than the “gamified” experience.
Development proved tough, especially for the third “full game” variation of Panda Math. I learnt about and implemented all sorts of cool stuff, including an A* path finding algorithm so the player can interact with chasers.
After the largest game was built, along with the back-end infrastructure to manage participants and log data, things became much easier. The “gamified” and non-game variations were easy to build, especially as much functionality could be abstracted from previous work (such as the algorithms to generate questions based on student level).
Beyond technical challenges, I devoted a lot of time to learning the fundamentals of Illustrator and brushing up on Photoshop to create the various illustrations required from the project. This included the design of the website itself, the game map, and unlock-able game achievements.
In the near four week data gathering period 57 users registered, 992 minutes were spent by students actively engaged in math, and 5,161 mental math problems were solved correctly.
Panda Math was a fun, challenging, and insightful project. I hope for others like it in the future.