Gao, Lanlan (2020) An Exploratory Study: Games Promoting the Development of Virtual Inquiry-Based Learning Community. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The thesis summarises an exploratory study of digital games being used to promote the development of a virtual inquiry-based learning community (VILC). VILC has been shown to provide an important framework for enhancing students’ problem-solving skills. However, little attention has been paid to the promotion of the value in social learning generated by VILC. There exists, a relationship between games and learning values, with learning value generated in social learning, and the use of games supporting social learning. To improve the development of the learning value of VILC, this thesis considers using digital games as specific communities providing the opportunity to create value. A value creation framework is utilised to evaluate social learning in games/communities. As the community of inquiry (COI) is related to the nature of knowledge construction in inquiry-based learning (IBL), VILC involves both COI and IBL. According to this, this research carries out investigations involving the use of game characteristics to support IBL and to promote learning values of COI.

The research onion had been utilised throughout the methodology of this thesis as an effective tool to help the organisation of the research and development of the research design according to the layers of the research onion (i.e. research philosophy, research methods, research strategies, time horizons, and data collection methods).

The first step of this research identifies game characteristics used in the game and game-based strategy that is designed to promote IBL. The analysis revealed that the game genre of role-playing games(RPG) is often used, given its high suitability to support IBL. A wide variety of game elements were used including storylines, interactive artefacts, gameplay-context coherence and task assessment mechanics. The study suggests that these game features can be designed to provide different levels of support to students, and structure for their learning progression according to different theoretical models and the creation of diverse environments to support making sense of knowledge in context.

The second step reviews activities of COI as the key link which connects COI and value creation. These activities were evaluated to explore related values generated by activities. The results showed that value creation was impacted by teaching presence (TP), social presence (SP) and cognitive presence (CP). In particular, reframing value was not positively promoted by COI. This result provides important evidence by which to explore the third step of this research.

The third step presents a model of game features promoting reframing value to clarify the relationship between digital RPGs and reframing value. The reliability of the model was evaluated by 39 experts according to their teaching experience. They gave a high score to acknowledge the reliability of the model. The result of the factor analysis of 106 participants (teachers and students) was consistent with the model. This ensured the validity of the model. Participants of tests agreed that 10 game features such as multiple endings of the game, game stories, were inductively extracted from players’ comments of RPGs. These features were oriented at promoting four criteria of reframing value(i.e. promoting reflection, the change of evaluation, generating new assessments for other people and suggestions for community development).The relationship between digital RPGs and reframing value can support reflection of multiple dimensions (i.e. four criteria of reframing value ) in the process of social learning, create related environments assisting students to understand the knowledge and provide a reference for related stakeholders (e.g. teacher educators)who can use the model to select or design games aiming at promoting reframing value. A guideline was attached in order to provide support to related users of the model.

FINAL THESIS - Gao.pdf - Accepted Version
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