A serious game for programming in higher education

Thomas Hainey*, Gavin Baxter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Programming is a highly difficult skill which is a constituent of many undergraduate programmes at Higher Education (HE) level. With the advancement of games technology there is an increasing opportunity for educators to provide innovative assessment tools for students on their courses which are highly immersive and graphically indicative of the times. This could potentially be in a supplementary capacity or to a greater extent inextricably linked to the learning outcomes and assessment outcomes. Notably serious games and Games-Based Learning (GBL) have received high levels of attention from educationalists due to being motivational, novel learning approaches. This paper will outline two empirical studies conducted to develop a game to teach programming at HE level. The first study will gauge the acceptability of a computer game for teaching programming and formulating content integration development requirements. The second study will outline the evaluation of the developed game being placed in a module as a formative assessment tool to assist learners to revise for their formal class test. Study one showed that acceptability of the game was high with 61 participants completing an acceptability/content integration questionnaire. The game was designed to consolidate knowledge on rudimentary and advanced programming concepts, data structures and algorithms. 48 participants evaluated the game in study two with the results generally indicating that they enjoyed playing the game as a revision alternative with 14% of participants rating it as very effective and 51% of participants as effective for allowing them to prepare for their class test. The majority of participants also believed that games could be utilised in a formative and summative assessment capacity on courses for independent study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100061
Number of pages21
JournalComputers & Education: X Reality
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2024


  • formative assessment
  • revision
  • computer game
  • serious game
  • evaluation
  • programming education


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