A Randomised Controlled Trial to Evaluate Learning Effectiveness Using an Adaptive Serious Game to Teach SQL at Higher Education Level

Thomas Hainey, Mario Soflano, Thomas M. Connolly

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

4 Citations (Scopus)


The literature suggests that every learner has a particular Learning Style (LS) and it is beneficial for the teacher and the learning approach to adapt to and accommodate these differences. The traditional classroom fails to motivate some learners and to maintain their engagement level during learning, possibly because of lack of interactivity. Computer games on the other hand seem to be able to engage participants for prolonged periods of time and motivate them to replay the game repeatedly. Some educationalists consider games as a potential platform to support learning and the term Games-Based Learning (GBL) has been introduced into the curriculum to reflect this approach. While many GBL applications have been developed, there is still a lack of empirical evidence to support its validity. Furthermore, there are very few adaptive GBL applications developed and adaptive GBL frameworks proposed. Another issue with GBL is that games engage the learners differently compared to traditional teaching approaches or eLearning and learning styles may differ inside and outside of the game. For the purpose of this research, a game with three game modes was developed. The modes were 1) non-adaptivity mode, 2) a mode that customises the game according to the learner’s LS identified by a LS questionnaire, and 3) a mode with an in-game adaptive system based on a newly developed framework that can automatically adapt content according to the learner’s interactions with the game. GBL has been used to teach various disciplines; however, this research focuses on teaching Structured Query Language (SQL) at Higher Education (HE). A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) was conducted with 30 students for each of the above game modes and another 30 students in a control group who learned SQL using a traditional paper-based approach. The results show that the game developed, regardless of mode, produced better learning outcomes than those who learned from a textbook. Particularly for adaptive GBL, learning effectiveness was identified to be higher while the learning duration was shorter compared to the other modes of the game.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology, Pedagogy, and Assessment in Serious Games
EditorsThomas M. Connolly, Thomas Hainey, Elizabeth Boyle, Gavin Baxter, Pablo Moreno-Ger
Place of PublicationHershey, PA, USA
PublisherIdea Group Inc
Number of pages22
ISBN (Print)9781466647732
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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