The influence of information delivery systems in modified video games on learning.

Moshirnia, Andrew Vahid, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2008


Modified video games are becoming powerful tools to advance learning. This study examined the impact of different information delivery systems within a modified version of the Civilization IV video game on comprehension and retention of knowledge about the American Revolutionary War.

Seventy-four college students were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Group A took a pretest and received a PowerPoint lecture. Group B took a pretest and played the video game. Group C did not take a pretest and played the video game. The modified version of Civilization IV uses three main information delivery systems: (1) Displays of continuous information, (2) Pop-up text, and (3) Sprites. Following the intervention, all participants took an identical 20-item short-answer posttest and then retook this same exam seven days later. The exam was divided into three sub-sections. Each sub-section contained items that were tied to information that was uniquely covered by one of the three delivery systems (Displays, Pop-ups, and Sprites). Following the exam, participants took a survey designed to assess their opinion of history.

Results showed that participants in the pretest game group B, outperformed ( M =11.4, SD = 3.87) participants in the posttest-only game group C ( M = 8.09, SD = 3.26), p = .017. Participants who used the game (groups B and C) demonstrated a higher knowledge retention rate than participants who received the PowerPoint lecture (group A). Scores were significantly different ( p < .001) for the three information delivery systems; Sprite highest ( M = .67, SD = .24), Displays ( M = .51, SD = .27), and Pop-ups ( M = .32, SD = .20) clearly lowest. Participants who played the modified video game longer scored higher on the Sprite ( r 2 = .57) and Display ( r 2 = .29) items. Length of play did not correlate significantly with performance on Pop-up items. The investigation of the groups' attitudes toward history found no statistically significant differences.

This study found that modified video games can successfully impart content specific knowledge. The higher scores for the pretest game group may support the importance of advance organizers in game-based learning. Pop-ups, though prevalent and easy to create, are ineffective in conveying knowledge and should not be used exclusively. The Sprite and Display information delivery systems appear to be most effective for advancing learning in modified video games.