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Research Methods, Week 3

The Impact of Specially Designed

Digital Games-Based Learning in
Undergraduate Pathology and Medical

Matthew Grabinsky, Joyce Thomas, Christopher Gould, Jordan Holmes &
Rickesh Kotecha
One instructional strategy that is gaining momentum with
educators, is the use of digital games-based learning
Although there is a rapid increase in the use of DGBL as
a teaching strategy, there is not a substantial body of
empirical research to support all claims of its benefits.
For this reason, traditional graduate programs such as
medicine have not embraced DGBL. In comparison to
engineering programs, which engage and incorporate
technology in their daily practice of teaching and

Research Question
Researchers Rani Kanthan and Jenna-Lynn Senger, conducted a study
on the effects of DGBL with first and second year medical and dental
students at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon.
The purpose of the this study was to examine the effectiveness of the
implementation of study specially designed digital games in
(1) improving academic performance/learning outcomes, as measured by
examination test scores, and (quantitative)
(2) examining student satisfaction and perceptions of DGBL.
Kanthan, R., & Senger, J. 2011. The Impact of Specially Designed Digital
Games-Based Learning in Undergraduate Pathology and Medical
Education. Arch Pathol Lab Med. Vol. 135:135-142

Gaming Design
Collaborative project between a College of Medicine faculty member
together with members of a developmental team from Educational Media
Access and Production
Created specifically designed content-relevant digital games for the
pathology courses for students registered in the first and second year of
undergraduate medical education
Game design principles included gaming strategies of problem
solving,strategic thinking, and interpretive analysis with the overall aim of
encouraging engagement and motivation to learn in a fun game like
The first game, Path to Success, places students in virtual life or death
situations. Test questions were all MC.
The second game, The Path is Right, has students placing wagers on their
knowledge. Test question were MC, fill in the blank and matching.

Methods First-Year Medical Students (2007-2009)
114 first-year students enrolled in Med 102 during the study periods (07-

The midterm examination for 07-08 had 50 questions.

The final examination for 07-08 had 70 questions.

Results of the exams were tabulated by a blind evaluator.

Students had access to games for 2 weeks before midterm and final. Were
told that games would act as supplemental study aide
Results First-Year Medical Students (2007-2009)

The performance scores to the examination question cohorts
studied were divided into 3 categories:

All questions

Top 10 questions

Bottom 10 questions


Results First-Year Medical Students (2007-2009)
- Top and bottom 10 questions were identified by the number of
students who answered correctly.

- In all four cases (two years of midterm/final), the most accurately
answered questions were the same 10 questions from the digital
game content.

- The top 10 questions 98% got the answers correct for both the
midterm and final.

- The bottom 10 questions had very different performance between the
midterm and final.

- Midterm was about 57% in each year, while final was more like 35%.
Methods Second-Year Medical Students (2008-2009)
77 Year 2 pathology students were exposed to the
The midterm test acted as a control for the gaming
intervention that was given 2 weeks before the final
exam (year-long course)
The final exam and midterm covered independent
It was not directly stated how much of the final exam
material was covered in the games
Results Second-Year Medical Students (2008-2009)
The exam results on the midterm in Med 202 for the
second-year medical students ranged from 53.06% to
88.50% with a mean of 74.31%, whereas the final
examination results ranged from 57.84% to 89.22% with
a mean of 75.52%
Only change that was statistically significant was the
bottom range elevation from 53.06% to 57.84%
Authors conclude DGBL is particularly good for poor
performing students

Student Satisfaction

The games used throughout the experiment received
excellent feedback from the students, even with the
high level and tedious learning material
Every student in the class had at least one interaction
with the software and game
Virtual prizes were concluded to motivate students to
achieve deeper "levels"
Based on the survey results, students requested that
more digital games were implemented
The results from the Med 102 study showed that the
use of the digital gaming reinforced and enhanced
academic performance when compared to the
traditional lecture/passive reading methods
These results were explained and supported with
quantitative data that compared the ranges of the
midterms and finals written
A conclusion was made that even the weakest students
benefited more from this e-teaching/learning resource

The use of technology and digital learning tools should
not be used as a replacement for the interaction and
experience students should receive from an actual
More of an interactive supplementary tool that requires
independent and self-controlled learning and studying


Do you think that a game containing multiple choice questions, such as
the ones used in this experiment, enhance higher order and critical
thinking skills?

How would you account for the statistical difference between the first and
second year cohorts?

Was this experiment reflective of true game based learning and the
gamification of the learning environment?