An interactive simulation game to enhance learners' experience on mobile devices

Vincent Tam, Alvin C M Kwan, C H Leung, Lawrence Yeung and Zexian Liao
University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong SAR, China

Digital game-based learning (DGBL), which advocates the constructive use of digital games to motivate and/or promote learners' experience, has been reshaping the latest educational technology and training methodologies in many areas, including the training of military personnel in tactics planning or resource management in a simulated combat environment. Besides such specific training, there are many successful examples of commercially developed simulation games that can help to motivate or sustain the players' interest in learning in specific fields -- such as SimCity and SimBusiness which some universities in North America use to train their students in business schools. In many cases, it has been shown that the appropriate use of simulation games not only avoids the indispensable loss of human lives or money in hostile combat or the investment field, but also motivates and/or raises learners' interest which can have a significant impact on their actual performance.

In Hong Kong, as a commercial city, many tertiary educators in the Engineering disciplines are faced with similar problems of motivating their students and realizing the meaningful values of their training. In a Teaching Development Project aimed at enhancing learners' experience after class, the authors proposed the development of an interesting simulation game inside a virtual university campus containing game rooms with different missions for students to fulfil on wireless mobile devices. All the missions are focused on engaging players to exercise their logical thinking or problem-solving skills relevant to specific Engineering disciplines. To promote the spirit of teamwork, each team of three to four students works together to complete all the missions within the virtual campus, with the team that obtains the highest score being declared the winner. Since the simulation game can be accessed through wireless mobile devices such as pocket PCs, the teams can continue their missions in the game at any time and anywhere. To demonstrate its feasibility, the Nebula Version 2.0 toolkit was used to build a prototype of the simulation game containing various game rooms inside a virtual campus that can be accessed through Window-based pocket PCs. When the prototype is completed, a detailed evaluation will be conducted to analyse its effectiveness in motivating and/or enhancing learners' experience in relevant Engineering disciplines. There are many interesting directions for further investigation, for example the integration of this simulation game with existing e-learning systems or powerful search engines. Also, any feasible mechanism to increase players' involvement in proposing new missions or acting as mentors to guide other teams after a team has finished its own missions merits thorough examination.