Deep assessment: an exploratory study of game-based, multimodal learning in Epidemic
In this study, we examine what and how intermediate age students learned from playing in a health-focused game-based digital learning environment, Epidemic. Epidemic is a playful interactive environment designed to deliver factual knowledge, invite critical understanding, and encourage effective self-care practices in dealing with viral contagious diseases, using a social networking interface to integrate both serious games and game-like multimodal design projects. Epidemic invites a playful approach to its deadly serious core concern – communicable disease – in order to see what happens when students are encouraged to critically approach information from multiple or contradictory perspectives. To identify what participants learned while interacting within Epidemic, we deployed two instructional and assessment models, noting the differences each instructional approach could potentially make, and what approach to assessment might help us evaluate game-based learning. We found that each approach provided importantly different perspectives on what and how students learned, and on the very meaning of student success. Recognizing that traditional assessment tools based in print-cultural literacy may prove increasingly ill-suited for assessing emergent multimodal literacies in game-based learning environments, this study seeks to contribute to a growing body of work on the development of novel assessments for learning.