S5-GAM1-3 - Exploring perspectives and experiences of diverse learners' acceptance of online educational engineering games as learning tools in the classroom

3. Research Full Paper
Kimberly Cook-Chennault1 , Idalis Villanueva2
1 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
2 Utah State University

This full paper falls within the research category of study and, focuses on the experiences and perceptions of first- and second year engineering students when using an online engineering game that was designed to enhance understanding of statics concepts. Technology and online games are increasingly being used in engineering education to help students gain competencies in technical domains in the engineering field. Less is known about the way that these online games are designed and incorporated into the classroom environment and how these factors can ignite inequitable perspectives and experiences among engineering students. Also, little work that combines the TAM model and intersectionality of race and gender in engineering education has been done, though several studies have been modified to account for gender or race. This study expands upon the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) by exploring perspectives of intersectional groups (defined as women of color who are engineering students). A Mixed Method Sequential Exploratory Research Design approach was used that extends the TAM model. Students were asked to play the engineering educational game, complete an open-ended questionnaire and then to participate in a focus group. Early findings suggest that while many students were open to learning to use the game and recommended inclusion of online engineering educational games as learning tools in classrooms, only a few indicated that they would use this tool to prepare for exams or technical job interviews. Some of the main themes identified in this study included unintended perpetuation of inequality through bias in favor of students who enjoyed competition-based learning and assessment of knowledge, and bias for students having prior experience in playing online games. Competition-based assessment related to presumed learning of course content enhanced student anxiety and feelings of intimidation and led to some students seeking to “game the game” versus learning the material, in efforts to achieve grade goals. Other students associated use of the game and the classroom weighted grading with intense stress that led them to prematurely stop the use of the engineering tool. Initial findings indicate that both game design and how technology is incorporated into the grading and testing of learning outcomes, influence student perceptions of the technology’s usefulness and ultimately the acceptance of the online game as a "learning tool." In addition, preliminary findings suggest that inquiry-based instruction is most effective when incorporated with a multifaceted schema of tools, e.g. additional sources of information, feedback on successful and failed attempts, opportunities to review evidence, provision of explanations to explain predictions and communication of results and findings. In addition, preliminary results indicate that students have different expectations of engineering educational serious games versus games designed for entertainment. Insights such as these will be used to further develop and modify the questionnaire.