MarsU: A Statistics Game to Supplement Learning

By  David Simkins

MarsU: This project introduces a web-based game for learning developed generally to enhance learning of statistics concepts among visual learners, and specifically to improve learning outcomes for deaf and hard of hearing students. The game is intended to be played by students in a statistics course, and is considered a supplemental exercise to help support and enhance learning. The game focuses on the first concepts in introductory statistics, population and sample. While maintaining that focus, it by necessity touches on many other statistical concepts including probability and statistical inference. The game stands on its own, but the hope is to develop a series of games that will supplement the entire semester curriculum in introductory statistics.

The game takes place on Mars University, or MarsU, where the player, an incoming student, seeks to propel her chosen candidate to win the student government presidential election. The game uses realistic statistical formulas and modeling to produce polls of student voters, allowing students to target their marketing to specific groups and to poll targeted or general student body polls to further refine their campaign.

Increasingly learning games researchers are looking to develop games within or to work with curriculum. While multimodal learning is an effective teaching tool, it is most effective when applied to complex concepts and systems (Mitiri Group, 2008). Learning games that incorporate role play are generally themselves more complex systems requiring more time to learn the game, which can enhance but can also interfere with learning (author). The goal of this game is to make use of the advantages of digital role play and complex, contextual systems to give players enjoyable, engaging, and playful to learn.

This talk and demonstration will show the game while walking through the process of development. If we have the opportunity for hands-on play and discussion, that would be best. Otherwise, this can be conducted as a talk with the game used to highlight features of learning design.

The goal of this presentation is to highlight some of the affordances of learning game design in this environment, particularly in taking a STEM subject and presenting it for visually-dominant learners (visual learners and DHH students). We will also discuss some of the challenges in this approach to learning, including scope creep, focus on learning goals, and the effort to create playtesting possibilities to enhance the learning opportunities and level of engagement in the game.

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