UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of an educational game for learning programming McKee-Scott, Jamie


Introductory, first-year programming classes are challenging for many students. Unlike other first year science courses, computer science is not required for entry to most first-year science programs, and students struggle with bug hunting and code planning, especially if they have never programmed before. This thesis introduces the development of a web-based educational game, called Code Age, as a tool for supporting the learning of basic programming concepts. Code Age is a mini-game style game designed to be used at the students convenience, and currently consists of three minigames related to introductory programming concepts encountered throughout the process of learning programming. A pilot study was designed to evaluate the prototype in terms of using mini-games for learning, finding the correct measures for evaluating engagement, and continuing the project. The pilot study consisted of a heuristic evaluation and usability study. The heuristic evaluation found few usability errors in the software, which did not impact the results and analysis of the usability study. The usability study contained three questionnaires, the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory, an engagement pre/post-test, and a usability questionnaire. The IMI showed that students found value and enjoyment from the game. The engagement questionnaire was adapted from the NSSE and its results showed promise, despite the fact that the study did not have enough participants and the adapted questions were too course-oriented. Suggestions for modified questions are proposed. The usability study demonstrated that student opinion of the mini-games was diverse, but a wide variety of games is necessary to maintain engagement and throughout these games, the balance between conceptual and physical challenge must be given much attention. The pilot study ultimately concluded that the engagement questionnaire needed revision, the mini-games were a good choice, and the system was intuitive and easy to use despite the usability errors. Finally, the study showed that even the students who did not care for Code Age itself felt that games are useful to help learning and to help learning programming.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada