Exploring In-Game Scaffolds for Higher-Order Learning in a Case-Based RPG Learning Game





Games-Based Learning, Role-Playing Games, Case-Based Learning, Scaffolding, Adult Learning


As active learning tools, digital games often focus on including interface and design features to scaffold progression. However, little emphasis on the use of such in-game scaffolds for higher-order learning exists in the literature. We focused this study on the second interaction of a working prototype game called Stories of a GeoFarmer. The study evaluates the importance of in-game scaffolds for engaging learners in higher-order thinking in undergraduate Geography education. Stories of a GeoFarmer is a case-based role-playing game where players take on the role of a farmer in different countries. The game utilizes documented case studies of different environmental issues relating to cultural geography to place players into the role of the individuals impacted by the various situations. The situations are ill-structured presenting interesting arguments for no-win situations meant to engage more thinking about geographic implications. We incorporated several in-game scaffold types that connected to the learning objectives including metacognitive, conceptual, and procedural. We use a mixed methods exploratory design approach consisting of thematic analysis and correlation of post-game survey responses. Our research question asks how does in-game scaffolding in the geography game Stories of GeoFarmer affect the adult learners' experience? Results from 63 undergraduates indicate that students can regularly recall and extrapolate how their in-game actions affect the environment. However, fewer students are able to evaluate why no singular solution exists to the game’s problem despite all the provided in-game scaffolds. Metacognitive scaffolds play the largest role in prompting students to recognize cause and effect but also highlight the necessity of making multiple scaffold types more prominent in order to reach higher-order thinking. This study holds implications for serious game designers to consider how in-game scaffolds can be presented to support high-order learning in adults.