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Existing best practices related to the use of games in Problem-based learning (PBL) and engineering education


        The use of games in education is not new. During the last years concepts such as game-based learning and “gamification” have been developed and experienced in different contexts. Therefore, in order to attain the goals of the eCity project a search of existing projects was conducted to perform an analysis of best practices about the use of games in PBL and engineering education. As a result, a relatively large variety of games was found, from city simulators, e-health games, games to teach programming, games to improve teaching practices, etc. Next sections include a summary of the main best practices related to the use of games in PBL and education. These best practices are taken into account for the development of eCity games.


  • Academic knowledge needed to play

           One possible practice to follow in games is the use of academic knowledge as a tool to achieve goals. This means that to play the user will need to have some previous knowledge and, in addition, such knowledge must be expanded to move forward in the game itself. There is therefore a kind of binomial fun/knowledge. Knowledge becomes a need to succeed in the game, which will motivate learning by students.
           Usually this binomial relation fun/knowledge is reflected in the availability of various levels in games and the need to gradually acquire new knowledge to go to the upper levels. Note that in some cases it is not necessary to have a certain initial knowledge, just enough student's curiosity, and the game itself would be enough to provide or promote such a knowledge.

  • Sophisticated design techniques

          The availability of an attractive platform that changes the learning process into an interesting and motivating process can improve learners’ engagement and motivation. Therefore, using sophisticated design techniques is another best practice. These techniques allow to provide scenarios as close to reality as possible, with characters and situations in which the players can feel reflected. The graphic qualities should be high and the system must respond quickly to user actions.
             If a student feels reflected in avatars or feels that he/she faces on common situations in his/her usual day, it is quite feasible that he/she gets more interested with the game and finds a solution to problems.

Multiple scenarios

    Not all students have the same level of knowledge or curiosity and games usually include multiple scenarios focused on different profiles. In some systems the game can adapt the level of difficulty to the academic level of the students. The choice of scenario can be used to study different concepts and adapt to specific situations. In others cases the players can choose themselves the game scenario. Furthermore, sometimes users are allowed to create their own scenarios, from scratch or by modifying existing ones.
    A wide variety of situations and scenarios can be used to maintain high levels of commitment. Stages can be used to achieve different learning objectives or multiple scenarios can be used to achieve the same objectives. In this way the game can be reused in different contexts. Games should also include variety of scenarios and random elements that prevent repetitiveness and too deterministic flows, so players cannot predict or anticipate the flow of events.


The pedagogical methodology in E-city

The eCity project is interested in the adoption of an innovative pedagogical methodology that supports the learning process both in engineering academic organizations and in secondary and vocational schools. The methodology is focused on two different complementary approaches:
·         Engineering students themselves will develop new challenges and problems. This way they will be directly applying the concepts learned at higher education.
·         They will be solving the set of problem-developed challenges plus the new ones with the support of other (secondary/vocational) students. By doing this they will scaffold their engineering learning and develop other skills like leadership, group work and collaboration.

Proposed usage model in E-city

ECity aims at being integrated into a clear pedagogical methodology, PBL oriented, to ensure that maximum relevance is given to the learning process, and not the technology. This pedagogical methodology includes a full and complex process. It starts with the teacher in the early work stages and ends with the students fully engaged, self-evaluating and interacting.
According to what was explained in the previous section the possible places of use are basically two: the classroom and elsewhere outside the classroom.


Playing games individually or in groups

Students could play Ecity games in different ways. These are some proposed scenarios.
·         Individually. From home or directly from the classroom, the student has to face lonely to problem resolution. He/She needs to make the whole process with only the help of the teacher, which will be available to guide and orient. The student must identify what is really the problem, break it down into smaller problems and try to go looking for solutions gradually. The student should also seek information and learn to relate this new information with what he/she already know.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Copyright © 2015 ISEP, All rights reserved.

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