As the first step in our project, all partners have researched the use and conditions of game-based assessment in general. Here is the summary of this extensive research:
There are several common threads in which the research documents present. They all agree to a point that Game-Based Assessments are meant to motivate, engage, and enhance user experience through game-designed elements more attractively and effectively than traditional methods. The examples offered in the research show a wide range of complexities, where some were straightforward to more complex programs, like a collaborative simulation.
Game-based vs Gamification
The research distinguishes the difference between Game-Based Assessment (GBA) and Gamification. GBA focuses more on the entertainment aspects of motivation and engagement, or principles that correspond to those of a game, while Gamification reveals the actual ability in a customized way, through traditional principles of test construction, to evaluate the user. While each research has a different approach to the GBAs, there are three main subjects: cognitive and aptitude skills, emotional intelligence, and personality. In an article entitled “Game-Based Learning and Information Literacy (IL)” presented by BGB-Serbia, a game was created in a profound, engaging, and fun way for students to build IL skills. In the game, students encounter real-world IL tasks such as collecting, evaluating and using information from different media types and formats. Problem-solving here, and in general, is a key component in practically all assessment cases.
Framework & Game Design
A framework is essential for an effective assessment, and research shows intersecting elements in gamification and game design. These frameworks contain essential elements such as the components (points, levels, roles), mechanics (challenges, competitions, rewards), and dynamics (narratives, storylines). Game design is approached in two ways: Serious Games, which are designed and created for educational and informational purposes and Game-Based Learning, which are games that already exist with pre-established mechanics and are adapted to get a balance between the subject matter, the game, and the user’s ability to retain and apply in the real world. Therefore, the layout and elements define the game.
Serious Games analytics open opportunities for assessments of engagement within game-based learning environments. The availability of real-time information about the learners’ actions and behaviours stemming from key decision points or game-specific events provides insight into the learner’s engagement during gameplay. Gameplay Loop and the Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics (MDA) framework are foundational in this type of GBA structure. Keywords, sentiments, and emotions can all be extracted from these models to provide meaningful insight from unstructured data making analytics-driven GBA a great way to look at engagement.
All the research considered a variety of elements and stages of a game. While the most common game elements were to enhance user experience, such as using points, badges, and levels of increasing challenges, assessments and assessment plans were important to evaluate the process efficiency, resource optimisation, and competencies. An interesting assessment was converting a multiple choice personality assessment into a story. This concept is called “Storification”. RV-Germany presented an effective digital literacy program assessment plan for seniors as a framework for evaluation. This gives vital context and pretext to the potential game-based elements and structure.
Examples, Pitfalls, & Recommendations
A Game-Based Assessment called Stealth Assessment takes a different approach. Research by IOETB-Ireland stated that “Bayesian networks are employed to create a system of conditional probabilities associated with individual behaviours within a game. These behaviours can then be used to create a real-time estimate of the player’s knowledge as it increases over the course of a game. The game’s purpose is two-fold: players are expected to learn as they play, but accurate assessment is still needed during the learning process”.
While research is mostly positive around gamification, the IOETB-Ireland research also pointed out key pitfalls. There is concern that adults will not take games seriously and question their authority and credibility. The problem is that gamified solutions often prefer game aesthetics to game design. For example, when you have to spend significant time explaining the game rules, you can quickly lose your learners’ interest; what they see is an unnecessary complication in their training. Not everyone is willing to play and is eager to change their learning routines. However, the research presented by RV-Germany gives recommendations on the selection, and use of game-based/gamified assessments in a way that fits the overall strategy of an employer yet is tailored to the target group. Sample assessments for digital competencies were also given, in which a self-assessment was presented before training. This presents a solution and guidelines for GBAs. Technological advancements have even brought some of these assessments to mobile platforms such as smartphones and tablets, making GBA even easier to access.