Full-Scale Development: Collaborative Research Advancing Informal STEM Learning Through Scientific Alternate Reality Games

October 1st, 2013 - September 30th, 2016 | PROJECT

Brigham Young University and the University of Maryland, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the Computer History Museum, and NASA, plus leading game designers, educators, scientists, and researchers, will conduct research on the design and development of two large-scale Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) based on deep-time science in astrobiology, astrophysics, and interplanetary space travel. The project will iteratively design and test two distinct types of ARGs (closed- and open-ended) to study the effects of these ARGs on STEM learning. The ARGs will be based upon the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), affording learners with intensive, self-driven, and scaffolded scientific learning and will be aimed at attracting girls and other groups historically underrepresented in science and technology. Each ARG will be designed by NASA scientists, educators and education researchers, and game-based learning experts and will be highly interactive: engaging learners in collaborative investigations in real and virtual worlds to collect scientific data, conduct data analysis, and contribute scientific evidence that will help solve scientific questions within a science-based narrative derived from real world problems that will develop learners' computational thinking skills in a collaborative, participatory virtual learning environment. Combining data from web and social media analytics, player interviews, surveys, and user-generated content, researchers, and evaluation experts at UXR who will provide an outcomes-based evaluation, including front-end, formative, remedial, and summative evaluations, will establish the properties of ARGs that most effectively advance informal STEM learning outcomes. By comparing open-ended and closed-ended ARGs, the PIs will be able to assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of two distinct approaches to Alternate Reality Game design. The project team will test the hypothesis that open-ended, user-generated content will support inquiry-based learning, peer-to-peer learning, and life-wide and life-deep learning, while close-ended, narrative-rich ARGs will support specific transfer of STEM knowledge, collaboration, and problem solving. To help ensure that the games appeal to their target audiences, the project team will adopt co-design methods, enlisting the creative input of participating teens at each stage of the design process. Supplementary materials and lesson plans developed in close consultation with teachers, librarians, teens, and external stakeholders will enable the ARGs to be widely and effectively used as a model in museums, classrooms, libraries, and after-school programs. The proposed ARGs represent a unique environment to test learning principles that enable players to bridge their learning through transmedia across multiple contexts and test the effects of collaboration with massive numbers of concurrent players. As a result, the project should yield insights on how learning principles can be adopted and re-appropriated for emerging learning environments, including those that that might be crowd-sourced. The research is well grounded in the literature and the PIs do an excellent job of mapping ARG design principles to the pertinent learning science research, providing a clear sense of the particular affordances of the genre that should lead to new understandings. The approach has profound implications for the way we might teach the next generation of students. The ability to mix problem solving and learning in virtual spaces with experiences and data derived from the physical world could dramatically change how we understand the role of technology in education.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Poster - Advancing Informal STEM Learning Through Scientific Alternate Reality Games
DUST Evaluation: Reusability Assessment of Game Components
DUST User Experience Assessment

Team Members

Derek Hansen, Principal Investigator, Brigham Young University
Steven Shumway, Co-Principal Investigator, Brigham Young University
June Ahn, Co-Principal Investigator, University of Maryland, College Park
Elizabeth Bonsignore, Contributor, University of Maryland, College Park
Kari Kraus, Principal Investigator, University of Maryland, College Park


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1323787
Funding Amount: 836066

Funding Source: NSF
Award Number: 1323306
Funding Amount: 445231


Access and Inclusion: Women and Girls
Audience: Evaluators | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Space science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Games | Simulations | Interactives | Media and Technology