Friday, July 30, 2010

Online game based learning of physics concepts

We are developing a set of educational self-paced stand-alone web-based games to help students learn basic physics concepts. These games integrate visual instructions with scientific inquiry pedagogy. The games are  designed to help students develop scientific reasoning skills and construct physics knowledge using the scientific inquiry approach.

Last semester we tested one of our games in an introductory physics class in a community college. The goal of this wave mechanics focused game was to investigate concepts of period, wavelength, frequency and wave speed as well as the relations between those concepts. Students were asked to complete the game and fill a survey as a homework assignment prior to the lecture on wave mechanics. All students received a full score regardless of the performance in the game. Click here to see a high school student playing the wave game and here to play the game yourself.

Twenty students played the game and filled the survey. Although half of them had taken a physics course before, most of them had none or very little knowledge of wave mechanics concepts. Most of the students were able to complete all four levels in the game completely, spending on average 24 minutes. The figure below shows the survey results.

The survey showed that most of the students significantly improved their understanding of the concepts. It is noteworthy that attitude questions are typically not very trustworthy because of general willingness of students to please the teacher. Nevertheless many students gave positive comments and constructive suggestions on improving the game.

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