Motivationally Appealing Computer Science e-Learning Games: An Inclusive Design Approach




Motivationally appealing, e-Learning games, Digital entertainment games, Educational game framework, Gender and games


Research has shown that e-learning games do not have the same level of appeal to girls, as they do to boys; particularly in the crucial 11-14 age group. In the United Kingdom, this is typically when they start to make subject choices that impact their future studies and careers. Given the shortage of females who choose computer science as a career, this study explores how e-learning games can be designed to be motivationally appealing to young learners. It further explores the role of game representations and its appeal to this age group. This empirical study addresses the research question: “Can we develop e-learning games which appeal and motivate girls of age 11-14 to study computer science concepts?” Two e-learning games were developed: one included game representations such as game colour, graphics, character, age appropriateness, storyline, number of players, violence, identified as appealing to young females and the other game included antithetical or neutral representations. The two developed prototypes were used to explore key e-learning game representations as used to teach computer science concepts. A total of 304 participants, comprising of 152 girls and 152 boys from a combination of same sex and mixed secondary schools in Southeast England, engaged with both experimental games. The experiment also elicited information on how learners interact with these games and the resulting game appeal, motivation and learning. The insight gained from the analysis of data captured during the experiments, provide the evidence to demonstrate that inclusive e-learning games which motivate and appeal to girls of age 11-14 can be developed. This can have a positive influence on their willingness to use such games to learn computer science concepts. This implies that the study found positive outcomes related to e-learning game appeal, motivation and the learning of girls of this age group. A follow-up longitudinal study could investigate the impact of significant e-learning game representations that appeal to the target group. This could provide additional evidence on the changes in the appeal of the investigated significant game representations over time, due to the influence of other factors such as socio-economic and socio-cultural differences. This understanding can further enhance inclusive e-learning strategies to improve diversity in computer science education and consequently the career pipeline.

Author Biographies

Liz Bacon, Abertay University, Scotland, UK

Liz Bacon is Professor of  Computer Science and currently with University of Abertay University, Dundee. Scotland.

Research interests include immersive learning, smart systems, computing policy, smart systems, security, artificial intelligence, teaching programming and technology enhanced learning (TEL). Within TEL, I have applied my research in software engineering, artificial intelligence and security to a range of application areas such as crisis management and eHealth, focusing on: smart games-based learning environments; metacognition and learning strategies; adaptable, adaptive and personalised systems; and the use of social media in online learning.

Lachlan Mackinnon, University of South-Eastern Norway, Norway

Over 30 years experience in Computer Science, significant research experience in databases, interface design and development, XML/XSLT, Development methodologies, games and multimedia design and development, eLearning, smart systems, pervasive and ubiquitous computing.

Have had a number of roles institutionally and nationally in the development of secure systems, the teaching and professional development issues in cybersecurity and digital forensics, and in the development of new systems in identity management, authentication, and protection. Still a member of several committees looking at the development of national services and standards in cybersecurity.

Now working on significant revision of teaching and learning model at Institutional level in Norway in a part-time role, having retired from UK HE. Still teaching secure systems and cybersecurity, both in the University and to industry, and continuing to research in e-learning.

Specialties: Information and Knowledge Engineering; Software Engineering; Database Design and Development; Smart Systems; Games and Multimedia Design and Development; Team Building and Group Dynamics; Cybersecurity, ethical hacking and digital forensics.



18 Sep 2023