Implementation of digital role-playing games in Higher Education classrooms to accomplish learning outcomes

  • Li Ping Thong

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Industries have expectations that university graduates possess well-rounded theoretical and practical knowledge to be successful in their jobs. While effective teaching and learning are essential goals in higher education institutions, lessons and learning activities in traditional classroom settings are often out of context, presented to students with much theoretical generality and abstract representations. This leads to a disconnection between academia and industry, where students struggle to apply abstract principles and knowledge in a real-world context to perform effectively in their workplace. Live role-play has been traditionally used as an educational technique to engage students and provide them the opportunity to learn with a real-world context within classroom settings. While role-playing in the classroom encourages transfer of learning, one of its limitation is traditional role-play often does not provide an authentic and believable real-world experience to participants. The primary aim of this study is to converge the pedagogical benefits of role-playing, educational technology and digital games to investigate the effectiveness of using digital role-playing games in classrooms to achieve learning outcomes.

    Qualitative data were collected from digital media lecturers of a transnational university based in Vietnam and Australia to identify desirable learning outcomes and describe teaching and learning challenges of digital media courses. Through interviews, lecturers also discussed their perceptions of digital RPGs and their level of acceptance in using this educational technology as part of their teaching practice to accomplish learning outcomes. The results highlighted three key desirable learning outcomes: The first learning outcome is students should develop solid understanding of theoretical and foundational design knowledge, enabling effective application of theoretical knowledge to produce creative digital media outputs. The second learning outcome - students should speak the "design language". Students should develop the ability to articulate, critique and explain creative works using appropriate design vocabularies and terminologies, which are used by design practitioners in the industry. The third learning outcome indicated that students should be resourceful and self-sufficient to conceptualise and generate creative ideas. Using Bloom’s taxonomy categories, game characteristics and identified learning outcomes, a conceptual framework was developed for the design and use of digital RPGs to achieve learning outcomes for digital media education. In validating this conceptual framework, a 3d digital role-playing game, Virtual Designer was developed and implemented in classroom environment. A pre/post-test experimental setup was implemented, in which performance gains were measured and compared between control (conventional learning methods) and treatment group (played digital RPG) to determine the learning effectiveness of digital RPGs. Opinion-based survey and focus group interview was also conducted. Based on collected feedback, students find Virtual Designer an effective tool to assess their state of knowledge in different areas of design and apply theoretical knowledge into practical contexts. Students find the game to be an engaging alternative to conventional learning methods, but some have commented the game to be too difficult and at times frustrating to play. Lecturers have also play-tested Virtual Designer and provided favorable views on the overall feasibility of using similar digital RPGs as a teaching and learning tool to sustain students’ interest in learning their subjects – and successfully accomplishing learning outcomes.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorCraig Stewart (Supervisor), Petros Lameras (Supervisor) & Sylvester Arnab (Supervisor)


    • role-playing games
    • learning outcome
    • digital media
    • knowledge transferal
    • situated learning
    • Bloom’s taxonomy

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