Hess, T., & Gunter, G. (2013). Serious game‐based and nongame‐based online courses: Learning experiences and outcomes. British Journal of Educational Technology44(3), 372-385. doi:10.1111/bjet.12024

This study compares serious game-based and non-game-based online course in terms of their ability in improving students’ learning performances and motivation. In this study, 92 students participate who come from an American history course from Florida Virtual School. The game-based course used a serious game called Conspiracy Code, while the nongame-based course used a content delivery system called Blackboard. This study investigates four research questions. The first question is whether it is different in the amount of time between two cohorts in completing the courses. The second question is whether there is any difference in learning performances between both courses. The third question is whether there is any connection between students’ learning performance and motivation, and the last question is what element of both courses that students perceive it as useful. An experimental approach addresses the first three research questions, while the last one is examined by a qualitative method. Although the results suggest that students in the serious game-based course have a greater learning outcome and motivation, they need a longer time to finish the course. This study also reveals that visual aspect in the game is really helpful to enhance students’ motivation based on the interview with students.

The article provides an insight that serious game can be an effective tool in learning, not only in face-to-face class but also in an online class. It also can be seen from the study that the use of serious game provides a beneficial effect on student performance and motivation compared to the use of other delivery systems. This study is also useful for instructional designers and serious game designers to consider which part of the serious game they need to focus on in order to make these game become more motivating. 

However, this study did not consider the gender factor which may determine the experimental results as both group courses consist of randomly chosen students. It can be seen from Garneli, Giannakos, and Chorianopoulos (2017)’s study that gender factor can determine the effectiveness of serious games. In addition, the result provided in this study is biased because it is not clear whether the greater learning outcomes and motivation gained by the serious game-based group came from purely when students play the game or when they interact with their peers and teachers. The authors also cannot confirm why students in the serious game-based course need a longer time to finish the course. In this study, the students communicate using other platforms like email. This may be more useful to incorporate communication features embedded in the game like the study from Wilson and Williams (2010). Lastly, although the findings of this study suggest that the visual aspect of games such as video and graphic can be motivating and engaging, it needs to consider the cognitive load that can be a demotivating aspect if these elements of the game are too rich. It is related to Killi (2005) who claims that the richness of interface may result in higher cognitive load.


Kiili, K. (2005). Digital game-based learning: Towards an experiential gaming model. Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 13-24 

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