Mobile phones are in the hands of young people everywhere, so it is quite natural that teaching and learning opportunities are progressing towards the mobile domain. While the integration of learning activities and mobile technologies has often been confined to classrooms, usually reserved for internet browsing and the use of games or other apps, location-based mobile learning games (LBMLGs) are giving academics and students the chance to venture out of the classroom and into the real world to engage in authentic learning experiences.
Between 2014-2016 the University of South Australia has been using the pedagogy associated with both playing and designing LBMLGs to blaze a trail that is informing the development of a contextually-based mobile learning framework for higher education. In 2016 the initiative won a citation for its outstanding contribution to digital learning, a teaching excellence award within the Business School, and was shortlisted for a Reimagine Education Award.
Hallmarked by high-interaction and high-context situational learning, LBMLGs provide students with the opportunity to visit real locations and adopt new perspectives. They unlock educational content through the power of storytelling, rich digital media, location-awareness, maps, and augmented reality (Edmonds & Smith, 2016). Wijers, Jonker and Drijvers (2010) highlight that the potential for engagement increases when gamification features such as rules, goals, points and activities are added. They increase the feeling challenge and other motivational elements of competition – elements that have salutary effects on learning outcomes. Gamification ties into LBMLGs potential to generate on-location social learning, which is an important dimension of any learning experience.
We piloted our first LBMLG in a core undergraduate Business course involving more than 400 students in 2014. Their feedback was very encouraging and the LBMLG has been embedded in the course since then, now engaging over 1,000 students each year.
“The Local Enterprise App is likely to be a key reason for high student satisfaction in Business and Society as it links the course with the mindset of “Generation Mobile”. If all courses were as contemporary in linking course content and personal technology it would ensure that students engage at the highest possible level and learn in sustainable ways”.
Professor Thomas Maak, Professor in Responsible Leadership, University of South Australia
Although difficult to isolate this single innovative intervention and link it directly and unequivocally with student retention or evaluations, it was, however, possible to use the students’ high levels of satisfaction with playing the LBMLG to justify scaling up. This then enabled staff in other courses to use LBMLGs to innovate teaching and learning within their curriculum. We applied for, and were successful in being awarded, two university grants that enabled us to do this. Since 2014 we have supported 54 staff and over 100 students across the University to design and develop over 121 LBMLGs in 10 courses. These activities extended across five disciplines: Business, Education, Health, Arts and Science. The games developed have been played over 1,700 times. We have every confidence that these preliminary results of our action-research indicate that playing LBMLGs is providing an authentic and meaningful new pathway to teach. Equally importantly, it appears to offer an engaging and pleasant educational experience for students. The authenticity of playing in the real world is deepening a student’s immersion with their study material.
To further our exploration of the benefits and opportunities of integrating LBMLG’s into teaching and learning, our focus in 2017 has been four-fold.
- Examining the functionality and usefulness of the processes and resources included in the framework prototype;
- Studying the possibility that the educational experiences of students who design their own games for others to play will be strengthened as they apply their ICT skills;
- Piloting an evaluation process involving peer review, reflection and a summative assessment process for students designing LBMLGs
- Identifying the challenges, support issues and opportunities of incorporating LBMLGs into fully online courses.
The opportunity to investigate all of the above objectives presented itself in 2017 through a fully online 3rd year course ’Personalised Learning with Digital Technologies’. This course aims at extending students’ knowledge of how technologies can support differentiated learning personalisation. A small group of students (n=16) were tasked with designing and developing a LBMLG at a destination of their choosing (e.g. their home town, a nearby park, cultural institution). The LBMLG they developed would be played by school-aged students when the 3rd year education students undertook their professional experience placement in a school later in the year.
We encouraged students to use the resources and guidelines in the LBMLG framework to assist them with the learning task and supported them with virtual classroom workshops and via email.
Students were assessed on:
their game’s design, media, narrative, location-interactions tasks and gamification strategies, a peer review of another students game using a rubric and, a reflective journal about the value of LBMLGs in teaching and learning, benefits to students and challenges and benefits of designing a LBMLG
Student work in this course is currently being assessed (as of May 2017) but it is already obvious that the quality, creativity, and variety of the LBMGs that have been developed is remarkably high. Feedback in the reflective journals and data from a student designer survey indicate that their experience in designing and developing LBMLGs has been a vehicle for enriching their own communication and collaboration skills, digital literacy, spatial awareness and social skills. The task of designing and developing LBMLGs has offered students an opportunity to identify and implement new ICT and online research skills (e.g. managing, operating and applying ICT) as they conceptualized, developed and implemented their own ideas into a mobile learning environment.
This recent phase of our study provides us with the necessary information and confidence to continue the development and dissemination of a common framework and associated resources to assist academic staff and students to plan, create and implement LBMLGs to deliver an authentic and a meaningful new pathway to amplify student learning, engagement and achievement. We aim to continue to expand the breadth of our investigations regarding the pedagogical benefits and “best practice” deployment options of both playing and student design of LBMLGs in 2018 via a student-focussed international LBMLG challenge.
The results of our action-research over 4 years (2014-2017) is indicating that playing LBMLGs is providing an authentic and meaningful new pathway to teach and learn in higher education. When students design LBMLGs they offer an opportunity to identify and implement new ICT and online research skills (e.g. managing, operating and applying ICT) as they conceptualized, developed and implemented their own ideas into a mobile learning environment. The authenticity of playing and designing LBMLGs in the real world strengthens a student’s immersion with their study material.
More information is available on our website http://pedago.online