The game implies at least two players, which means that everyone gets to learn something new from another player and share their knowledge in return. Peer coaching can be a powerful tool for language learning.
LinguaPolis Esperanto is more than just a game. Based at University College London, LinguaPolis is a research project that investigates the relationships between educational gamification and foreign language speaking anxiety. We welcome prospective participants to take part in our linguistics experiments, where we play games in foreign languages and share our thoughts about it.
Stas Kapustin is an illustrator and photographer working on a wide range of international projects from visual advertising to illustrating books and designing board games, and a co-author of the language-learning board games LinguaPolis New York and LinguaPolis Moscow.
The purpose of this paper is to provide a literature review on how computer-based technology influences student engagement within higher education settings. We focused on computer-based technology given the specific types of technologies (i.e., web-conferencing software, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and digital games) that emerged from a broad search of the literature, which is described in more detail below. Computer-based technology (hereafter referred to as technology) requires the use of specific hardware, software, and micro processing features available on a computer or mobile device. We also focused on student engagement as the dependent variable of interest because it encompasses many different aspects of the teaching and learning process (Bryson & Hand, 2007; Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Parks, 1994; Wimpenny & Savin-Baden, 2013), compared narrower variables in the literature such as final grades or exam scores. Furthermore, student engagement has received significant attention over the past several decades due to shifts towards student-centered, constructivist instructional methods (Haggis, 2009; Wright, 2011), mounting pressures to improve teaching and learning outcomes (Axelson & Flick, 2011; Kuh, 2009), and promising studies suggesting relationships between student engagement and positive academic outcomes (Carini, Kuh, & Klein, 2006; Center for Postsecondary Research, 2016; Hu & McCormick, 2012). Despite the interest in student engagement and the demand for more technology in higher education, there are no articles offering a comprehensive review of how these two variables intersect. Similarly, while many existing student engagement conceptual models have expanded to include factors that influence student engagement, none highlight the overt role of technology in the engagement process (Kahu, 2013; Lam, Wong, Yang, & Yi, 2012; Nora, Barlow, & Crisp, 2005; Wimpenny & Savin-Baden, 2013; Zepke & Leach, 2010).
Our review aims to address existing gaps in the student engagement literature and seeks to determine whether student engagement models should be expanded to include technology. The review also addresses some of the organizational barriers to technology integration (e.g., faculty uncertainty and skepticism about technology) by providing a comprehensive account of the research evidence regarding how technology influences student engagement. One limitation of the literature, however, is the lack of detail regarding how teaching and learning practices were used to select and integrate technology into learning. For example, the methodology section of many studies does not include a pedagogical justification for why a particular technology was used or details about the design of the learning activity itself. Therefore, it often is unclear how teaching and learning practices may have affected student engagement levels. We revisit this issue in more detail at the end of this paper in our discussions of areas for future research and recommendations for practice. We initiated our literature review by conducting a broad search for articles published within the past 5 years, using the key words technology and higher education, in Google Scholar and the following research databases: Academic Search Complete, Communication & Mass Media Complete, Computers & Applied Sciences Complete, Education Research Complete, ERIC, PsycARTICLES, and PsycINFO. Our initial search revealed themes regarding which technologies were most prevalent in the literature (e.g., social networking, digital games), which then lead to several, more targeted searches of the same databases using specific keywords such as Facebook and student engagement. After both broad and targeted searches, we identified five technologies (web-conferencing software, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and digital games) to include in our review.
Existing studies provide support for the influence of digital games on cognitive engagement, through achieving a greater understanding of course content and demonstrating higher-order thinking skills (Beckem & Watkins, 2012; Farley, 2013; Ke, Xie, & Xie, 2016; Marriott, Tan, & Marriott, 2015), particularly when compared to traditional instructional methods, such as giving lectures or assigning textbook readings (Lu, Hallinger, & Showanasai, 2014; Siddique, Ling, Roberson, Xu, & Geng, 2013; Zimmermann, 2013). For example, in a study comparing courses that offered computer simulations of business challenges (e.g, implementing a new information technology system, managing a startup company, and managing a brand of medicine in a simulated market environment) and courses that did not, students in simulation-based courses reported higher levels of action-directed learning (i.e., connecting theory to practice in a business context) than students in traditional, non-simulation-based courses (Lu et al., 2014). Similarly, engineering students who participated in a car simulator game, which was designed to help students apply and reinforce the knowledge gained from lectures, demonstrated higher levels of critical thinking (i.e., analysis, evaluation) on a quiz than students who only attended lectures (Siddique et al., 2013).
Motivation is another cognitive engagement indicator that is linked to digital games (Armier et al., 2016; Chang & Wei, 2016; Dichev & Dicheva, 2017; Grimley, Green, Nilsen, & Thompson, 2012; Hew et al., 2016; Ibáñez, Di-Serio, & Delgado-Kloos, 2014; Ke et al., 2016; Liu, Cheng, & Huang, 2011; Nadolny & Halabi, 2016). Researchers found that incorporating gamified elements into courses, such as giving students digital rewards (e.g., redeemable points, trophies, and badges) for participating in learning activities or creating competition through the use of leaderboards where students can see how they rank against other students positively affects student motivation to complete learning tasks (Armier et al., 2016; Chang & Wei, 2016; Hew et al., 2016; Nadolny & Halabi, 2016). In addition, students who participated in gamified elements, such as trying to earn digital badges, were more motivated to complete particularly difficult learning activities (Hew et al., 2016) and showed persistence in exceeding learning requirements (Ibáñez et al., 2014). Research on emotional engagement may help to explain these findings. Studies suggest that digital games positively affect student attitudes about learning, evident in student reports that games are fun, interesting, and enjoyable (Beckem & Watkins, 2012; Farley, 2013; Grimley et al., 2012; Hew et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2011; Zimmermann, 2013), which may account for higher levels of student motivation in courses that offered digital games.
Student engagement is linked to a number of academic outcomes, such as retention, grade point average, and graduation rates (Carini et al., 2006; Center for Postsecondary Research, 2016; Hu & McCormick, 2012). As a result, universities have shown a strong interest in how to increase student engagement, particularly given rising external pressures to improve learning outcomes and prepare students for academic success (Axelson & Flick, 2011; Kuh, 2009). There are various models of student engagement that identify factors that influence student engagement (Kahu, 2013; Lam et al., 2012; Nora et al., 2005; Wimpenny & Savin-Baden, 2013; Zepke & Leach, 2010); however, none include the overt role of technology despite the growing trend and student demands to integrate technology into the learning experience (Amirault, 2012; Cook & Sonnenberg, 2014; Revere & Kovach, 2011; Sun & Chen, 2016; Westera, 2015). Therefore, the primary purpose of our literature review was to explore whether technology influences student engagement. The secondary purpose was to address skepticism and uncertainty about pedagogical benefits of technology (Ashrafzadeh & Sayadian, 2015; Kopcha et al., 2016; Reid, 2014) by reviewing the literature regarding the efficacy of specific technologies (i.e., web-conferencing software, blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and digital games) for promoting student engagement and offering recommendations for effective implementation, which are included at the end of this paper. In the sections that follow, we provide an overview of the findings, an explanation of existing methodological limitations and areas for future research, and a list of best practices for integrating the technologies we reviewed into the teaching and learning process.
Use technology to provide authentic and integrated learning experiences. In many studies, instructors used digital games to simulate authentic environments in which students could apply new knowledge and skills, which ultimately lead to a greater understanding of content and evidence of higher-order thinking (Beckem & Watkins, 2012; Liu et al., 2011; Lu et al., 2014; Marriott et al., 2015; Siddique et al., 2013). For example, in one study, students were required to play the role of a stock trader in a simulated trading environment and they reported that the simulation helped them engage in critical reflection, enabling them to identif