Profiling users in educational games

Patrick Felicia, Ian Pitt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


For a long time, users' emotions and behaviours have been considered to obstruct rather than to help the cognitive process. Educational systems have based their learning strategies almost solely at a cognitive level and the internal state of the learner has often been ignored. Even if it is now recognized that learners' personalities and learning styles influence greatly their cognitive process (e.g. Multiple intelligences), very few systems have managed to profile users and adapt the educational content accordingly. Part of the reason for this is the difficulty to measure learning styles reliably and to establish a valid model that accounts for most of the major factors contributing to learning. Furthermore, since the introduction of formal education, it can be argued that learning has lost its playful and emotional aspect, whereby information was transmitted through story telling and play. On the other hand, video games have become a very popular medium among our digital natives. They provide a rich sensory and emotional environment in which they can experience a state of flow and are willing to stay for extended period of time. Despite of initial preconceptions on the negative effect of video games on young adults, it is now admitted that video games implicitly include many instructional design strategies (collaboration, exploration, Socratic dialogues, zone of proximal development, etc.) that could be harnessed to make formal education an experience that is more interactive and rewarding. One of the key features of video games is the ability to provide a content that matches players' emotional needs (e.g. recognition, social bounding, self-esteem, etc.) and that provides a wide range of interaction. The authors believe that this potential can be harnessed to create an educational content that matches users' learning styles and motivations. They propose the PLEASE model (Personality Learning styles, Emotions, Autonomy, Systematic Approach and Evaluation). This model addresses some of educational games design issues (e.g. choice of instructional strategy, type of feedback required, etc.); it categorizes and profiles users' learning styles in the light of educational and personality theories and defines a set of practical strategies for educational games designers in order to match students' learning styles and provide a user-centred content that is both motivating and educational. The authors explain how the Big-5 can be a more reliable alternative to measure learning styles, how emotions and personalities can be accounted in the cognitive process (e.g. information retrieval, memory retention, etc.) and also describe experiments they carried out in Cork to assess the effect of user-centred approaches in educational game design. Results are analysed and contrasted with current practices to show that unless personalities are accounted for in educational games, the educational outcomes could be different or even opposite to the one expected.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGames-Based Learning Advancements for Multi-Sensory Human Computer Interfaces
Subtitle of host publicationTechniques and Effective Practices
PublisherIGI Global Publishing
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9781605663609
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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