Gamified approach to teaching introductory astronomy online

Daniel F. Barringer, Julia D. Plummer, Julia Kregenow, Christopher Palma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


[This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Astronomy Education Research.] An increased interest in using video games in educational contexts has led to many innovations in both formal and informal environments. Educational researchers, instructional designers, and educators have sought and developed ways to incorporate video games or gamelike elements into a curriculum. We present a study of a web-based college-level introductory astronomy class in which content is delivered entirely in a digital world setting through nonplayer characters and built-in minigames. Based on prior research on the potential benefits of video games for use in education, we expect that topics covered in the minigames, the most gamified aspects of the course, should be particularly effective. Using data collected through pre- and post-testing of two sections of ASTRO 001V (the designation given in Penn State's course catalog) with the Test Of Astronomy Standards, we focused our analysis on six questions that pertain directly to minigame topics. We found that two of these questions showed encouraging gains, while the other four demonstrated that students continued to hold on to common alternate conceptions within those topic areas. This finding suggests that more work is required to understand how to improve the games in ways that will further support student astronomy learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number010140
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 15 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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