Modelling the factors that influence computer science students' attitude towards serious games in class
Zeeman, Maria Jacomina
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Although the software development industry is one of the fastest growing sections in the labour market currently, computer science is one of the subject fields with the least growth in number of enrolments at tertiary institutions. Low enrolment figures and high dropout rates are common in computer science courses. Apart from the fact that programming is a difficult skill to master, irrelevant course material and out-dated teaching and learning strategies could be to blame for this phenomenon. When comparing modern technology with which young people engage outside the class room to the stereo typed old fashioned technology they are confronted with inside classrooms, it is discouraging. Games have been identified as a powerful and effective tool to create an attractive learning environment. Students find the competitive, fast-paced and interactive environment which serious games provide appealing. Progress has recently been made in incorporating digital educational (serious) games into the learning environment. Research on understanding the value that serious games can add to learning in computer science courses is limited. The purpose of this study is to address this issue by investigating the characteristic of serious games and establish the value these can add to learning in the computer science class. The identified characteristics were utilised as external variables in the technology acceptance model (TAM) in order to determine the students’ attitude towards the use of serious games in the computer science class. The TAM is a well-known predictor of the users’ attitude towards perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use as the internal factors motivating the acceptance of technology. These internal factors can be influenced by external factors which may differ in accordance to the technology being evaluated. The target population of this study comprised full-time computer science students enrolled at South African registered public higher education institutions (HEIs). For this study, a convenience sample of 547 computer science students was drawn from one traditional university and one university of technology. These two universities were selected by means of a non-probability judgement method. A self-administered questionnaire was hand-delivered to lecturers at each of the two HEIs. The questionnaire requested the participants to indicate on a six-point Likert scale the level of their agreement or disagreement on 41 items, designed to measure their attitude towards the use of serious games in the computer science class. Findings from this study suggest that computer science students exhibit a positive attitude towards using serious games in class. Usefulness was identified as the most significant internal variable predictor of attitude, with relevance to classwork, as the most significant external predictor of usefulness. Relevance of serious games to class work emerged as the strongest predictor of ease of use, followed by experienced and perceived enjoyment. Insights gained from this study will assist educators in designing and planning the implementation of serious games as part of the learning experience in class. Furthermore, educators can gain insights from the factors that students indicated to be the most significant in terms of serious game in class. The proposed model can be used by educators to evaluate the attitude of computer science students towards the implementation of a serious game in class.
- Engineering