Investigating the potential of mobile games as learning environments for independent adult skill development
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The research described in this thesis is grounded in the fields of independent adult learning, user experience for mobile applications and game design. It considers the case for mobile game-based learning in the context of informal microlearning and investigates the potential of mobile games to assist the independent skills development of adults. Initial research found that adults expressed positive attitudes towards the idea of learning with a mobile game, while even those who did not use mobile games recreationally appeared positive to using them if they perceived them as an effective way to develop their skills. Guidelines were then developed to inform the design of effective mobile learning games based on theories of adult learning, game-based engagement, mobile usability and mobile game design. These guided the development of a mobile game prototype aimed at assisting adults, speakers of English as a second language, to build their academic vocabulary. To evaluate the effectiveness of the prototype, a mixed methods approach combining quantitative and qualitative data collection instruments was utilised. Player engagement and system usability were measured rather than direct measures of learning outcomes. Overall the results were encouraging since evaluation participants were found to be engaged by the activity and able to easily pick up the game and play. Additionally, qualitative data on participants’ experiences and perceptions were collected, which supported initial research findings on the positive attitudes of adults towards using mobile games for learning. Though caution is recommended when generalising the evaluation results, the potential of mobile games for the independent learning of adults was supported. Overall this research offers a rationale for the use of mobile game-based learning, an insight into the nature of adult learners’ needs and their mobile devices usage patterns, a critical discussion on the type of learning that would be appropriate for the context, a set of guidelines for the design of mobile learning games, and finally a discussion of evaluation methods along with a collection of empirical data on the post-experiential attitudes of adults with regards to mobile games for learning.