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.