“Ludwig” is being evaluated as part of the Sparkling Science project “Spielend Lernen” (learn through play). This involves having to distinguish between two approaches: on the one hand, accompanying quality assurance workshops are held in which a gradual improvement of the game is the main focus. On the other hand, since October 2011 an evaluation has been ongoing at Austrian schools, which is concerned with possible transfer effects in relation to interest, motivation and knowledge. Common to the two approaches is that feedback is obtained from pupils and teachers. This feedback flows actively into the development of “Ludwig”. In this way, the game can be adjusted in respect of target groups. Not least, the opinions of experts are drawn on.
Which variables are used? In the quality assurance workshops, these are principally play-related values such as enjoyment of play, level of difficulty, control, graphics and play motivation. The process of analysis feedback is iterative: this means that recommendations are, if possible, implemented and passed on in the next update of the game. In the first iteration of the game, there were, for example, difficulties with control and navigation through the game world. On the basis of this feedback, the tutorial was developed, interaction with game objects simplified and control adjusted to the needs of pupils.
On the other hand, the evaluation primarily checks whether pupils experience changes in interest in physics, in the perceived quality of teaching, in motivation to learn and in self-effectiveness (self-confidence in their own capabilities). Here, however, the focus is clearly on promoting the intrinsic motivation of pupils. The aim is to get pupils to approach physics independently and voluntarily.
The methodology comprises different strategies for obtaining feedback: both quantitative (questionnaires) and qualitative methods are applied (interviews, learning diaries, screenshots). The quality assurance workshops take place at “ovos” and at schools in Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Styria. These last about 2 school hours. The evaluation workshops are held at the start and end of the current school term. In between, teachers use “Ludwig” in teaching. By comparing the values prior to the use of “Ludwig” with those after its use, possible transfer effects can be checked. For example, it can be established whether pupils take more interest in the subject of physics as a result of the game. At the end of the ongoing project, the sample will comprise in total approx. ten school classes for the quality assurance and four school classes for the evaluation.
The scientific background is based on constructivist learning theories. Learning should be an active process and take place in an authentic context. Learners approach the teaching material autonomously and derive their knowledge themselves. Modern learning games are particularly well-suited to initiating this process. For such a learning process to take place at all, some prerequisites must, however, be fulfilled: an open game world, which offers many interaction possibilities and exciting tasks, smooth integration of an exciting background story and teaching material, a reward system as well as the possibility to exchange with other players. The role of the person doing the teaching is important here too: without feedback or a meaningful embedding of the learning game into teaching, no success can be expected. Digital learning technologies can never replace classic teaching methods, but are rather a catalyst for individual learning success.