Interaction Design and Educational Video Games: Motivating Undergraduate Students to Explore New Territories

talk – 30 min | Feb 4 – 2:30

The video game environment in K-12 is extensively developed. However, once at university, students rarely encounter video games as a supplemental resource in their learning experiences. Additionally, most of those games are often too serious or not fun enough for students to play. Poor graphics, weak playability, bad usability: we have all encountered this experience at least once with an educational video game.

Can interaction design students do anything about it? In which areas could undergraduate interaction design students be involved when designing a serious video game? What unique learning experiences could be acquired by designing a serious video game? What are some challenges for the integration of serious game design in the classroom?

To answer these questions, we partnered with a biology professor interested in developing a video game for undergraduate biology students. This partnership was twofold: First, we integrated the video game project in an interaction design class. Then, we hired undergraduate interaction design and computing science students, in partnership with professors in biology and computing science, to work with us on the concept and then on the development of a video game prototype.

While most students had prior video game experience as players, it was a new genre to explore as an interaction designer for the majority. Students were very motivated to explore this new territory. Most solutions were interesting and had a lot of potential. However, developing an interesting and original concept, thoughtful game mechanics and good graphics take time, a lot more than expected. Also, as interaction design students are not biology experts (neither are we), they had to learn complex biology concepts to develop a game that was really credible and useful. Overall, this new exploration was a successful endeavor as it expanded students’ horizons regarding potential career paths interaction designers can pursue.

About the speakers

Isabelle Sperano

Isabelle Sperano

MacEwan University, Canada

Dr. Sperano has a PhD in information architecture. In her thesis, she analyzed experts’ discourse related to the assessment of information-intensive digital spaces. She also completed a master’s degree in interaction design and a bachelor’s degree in graphic design, technical communication and education.

Dr. Sperano embraces a systemic, social and sustainable view of interaction design and information. This approach reveals itself in her teaching, notably by raising student awareness about the importance of taking user needs into account, developing a deep understanding of information behaviours and using holistic frameworks to elaborate sustainable solutions. In order to aid and support the decision-making process of the designers, Dr. Sperano also studies the development of innovative ways to visually describe information-rich ecosystems and interactions with their users. She focuses on finding common avenues of reflection for scientific research, teaching and practice in interaction design and information architecture. As she is constantly looking to widen her perspectives, she is invariably involved in interdisciplinary research teams with technical communication, education, information science, psychology and computer science researchers and practitioners.

Robert Andruchow and Ross Shaw


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