Educational Media International, Vol. 43, No. 3, September 2006, pp.
233 3249 ISSN 0952-3987 (print)/ISSN 1469-5790 (online)/06/030233 317 © 2006 International Council for Educational Media DOI: 10.1080/09523980600641445 Online vocabulary games as a tool for teaching and learning English vocabulary Florence W. M. Yip a and Alvin C.
M. Kwan b * a Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; b The University of Hong Kong Taylor and Francis Ltd REMI_A_164123.sgm 10.1080/09523980600641445 Educational Media International 0952-3987 (print)/1469-5790 (online) Original Article 2006 Taylor & Francis 43 3000000September 2006 AlvinKwan firstname.lastname@example.org Vocabulary learning is often perceived as boring by learners, especially for those who grew up in the digital age. This paper reports a study of the usefulness of online games in vocabulary learning for some undergraduate students.
Three teachers and 100 engineering students participated in a quasi-experimental study for approxi- mately nine weeks. The experimental group learnt some vocabulary from two carefully selected web sites with games, while the control group learnt the same vocabulary through activity-based lessons. A pre-test and post- test were conducted in the first and ninth weeks.
The findings indicate that the experimental group outper- formed the control group statistically in the post-test. The students in the experimental group generally preferred online ... more. less.
learning supplemented with digital educational games to conventional activity-based lessons. The teach- ers thought highly of the online games, but they expressed concern that extra support was required if the online games were adopted as a core part of their teaching.<br><br> Les jeux de vocabulaire en ligne comme outil d 9enseignement et d 9apprentissage du vocabulaire anglais Les apprenants et surtout ceux qui ont grandi à l 9époque du numérique, trouvent souvent que l 9apprentissage du vocabulaire est fastidieux. Cet article présente une étude de l 9utilité des jeux en ligne dans l 9apprentissage du vocabulaire pour certains étudiants de premier cycle. Trois professeurs et 100 étudiants d 9ingéniérie ont participé à une étude semi expérimentale pendant neuf semaines environ.<br><br> Le groupe expérimental a appris du vocabulaire à partir de deux sites Web offrant des jeux et soigneusement sélectionnés tandis que le groupe de contrôle apprenait le même vocabulaire dans des leçons fondées sur des activités. Le pre-test et le post-test ont été effectués au cours de la première et de la neuvième semaines. Les résultats montrent que le groupe expéri- mental a statistiquement obtenu de meilleurs résultats au post-test que le groupe de contrôle.<br><br> Les étudiants du groupe expérimental ont généralement préféré l 9apprentissage en ligne accompagné de jeux éducatifs numériques aux leçons conventionnelles fondées sur des activités. Les professeurs ont une bonne opinion des jeux en ligne mais ils ont exprimé leur inquiétude quant à la nécessité d 9un soutien supplémentaire si les jeux en ligne étaient adoptés comme élément fondamental dans leur enseignement. Online-Vokabel-Lernspiele als Mittel für das Lehren und Lernen englischer Vokabeln Vokabellernen wird von Anfängern oft als langweilig empfunden, besonders von jenen, die im cdigitale Age d aufgewachsen sind.<br><br> Dieser Beitrag berichtet über die Nützlichkeit, Online-Spiele für das Vokabellernen bei * Corresponding author. Division of Information and Technology Studies, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong. Email: email@example.com 234 F.<br><br> W. M. Yip and A.<br><br> C. M. Kwan einigen Anfänger-Studenten einzusetzen.<br><br> Drei Lehrer und 100 Technikstudenten nahmen an einer etwa neun Wochen laufenden quasi experimentellen Studie teil. Die experimentelle Gruppe lernte Vokabeln mit Hilfe zweier sorgfältig ausgewählter Web-Sites mit Spielen, während die Kontrollgruppe dasselbe Vokabular durch aktivitäts- basierten Unterricht lernte. Vortest und Nachtest wurden in der ersten und in der neunten Wochen durchgeführt.<br><br> Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass im Nachtest die experimentelle Gruppe die Kontrollgruppe statistisch übertraf. Die Studenten in der experimentellen Gruppe bevorzugten im Allgemeinen das mit digitalen Lernspielen ergänzte Online-Lernen gegenüber konventionellen aktivitätsbasierten Unterrichtsstunden. Die Lehrer bewerteten die Online-Lernspiele hoch, drückten aber auch die Sorge aus, dass zusätzliche Unterstützung nachgefragt werden könnte, falls die Online-Spiele als ein zentraler Teil ihres Lehrens übernommen werden würden.<br><br> Los juegos de vocabulario en linea como herramientas de enseñanza y aprendizaje del vocabulario inglés El aprendizaje del vocabulario muchas veces aparece como un trabajo bastante aburrido especialmente para los alumnos de la generación digital. Este artículo presenta un estudio sobre la utilidad de los juegos en línea para el aprendizaje del vocabulario entre algunos alumnos de primer ciclo. Tres profesores y 100 estudiantes de inge- niería han participado en esa casi experimental investigación durante aproximadamente nueve semanas.<br><br> El grupo experimental aprendió vocabulario por medio de juegos encontrados en dos sitios web cuidadosamente seleccionados mientras que el grupo de control aprendía el mismo vocabulario por medio de lecciones basadas en actividades. El pre-test y el post-test tuvieron lugar en la primera y en la novena semanas. Los resultados indi- can que el grupo experimental cumpló mejores estadísticas en el post-test.<br><br> En general los estudiantes del grupo experimental preferían el aprendizaje en línea entremezclado con juegos educativos digitales a las lecciones convencionales basadas en actividades. Los profesores tuvieron una excelente opinión de los juegos en linea pero expresarón su preocupación frente a la necesidad de conseguir extra soporte si los juegos en línea estuviesen adoptados como componentes esenciales de su enseñanza. Introduction For many learners studying English as a foreign language, vocabulary learning is considered as boring, as they have to memorize unfamiliar words and spelling (Nguyen & Khuat, 2003) and are typically asked to complete lots of exercises.<br><br> Learners find it hard to engage in such rote learning of vocabulary activities. In order to alleviate the problem, computer-assisted language learning (CALL) systems often use multimedia to engage learners more in the learning process. Game playing is another popular way to engage learners in language learning (Schultz & Fisher, 1988).<br><br> Prensky (2001, p. 106) listed 12 elements as to why games engage people. To name a few, games motivate players (to achieve goals), gratify the ego (when winning), are fun (through enjoyment and pleasure) and spark the players 9 creativity (to solve the game).<br><br> The use of interactive games has impacted on the mode of learning (Foreman et al ., 2004). Krasilovsky (1996, p. 20) claimed that young learners tend to 8favor cedutainment d applica- tions-academics-oriented games 9.<br><br> Wood (2001) investigated the use of learning games as a learning tool and concluded that game-like formats could be more effective at capturing learn- ers 9 attention than traditional media such as textbooks. In accordance with reported statistics (Commission on Youth, n.d.), computer gaming is the preferred pastime of many Hong Kong students. If the benefits of digital game-based learning were to be realized in Hong Kong, its value could be considerable.<br><br> This paper reports research conducted in the spring of 2003 on the usefulness of online vocabulary games in English vocabulary building for some Hong Kong undergraduate engineering students in terms of the learning outcomes. Feedback from students and teachers who had participated in the new teaching and learning environment was also collected. Online vocabulary games 235 Before reporting the details of our research, several remarks are worth noting.<br><br> First, the English vocabulary course was not part of the curriculum of any engineering programme. Many students aimed at improving their English by enrolling on the course so as to prepare for the common English proficiency assessment for students graduating from a government funded institution. The assessment was introduced in the academic year 2002 32003 in response to concerns about the poor level of English of both incoming students and graduates in recent years.<br><br> Second, most students participating in the research were male, due to the subject disci- pline, and the study to a great extent reflects their opinions and attitudes and the impact of games on them. Third, the authors assume no significant difference in the quality of instruction among the three teachers involved. Fourth, vocabulary games typically provide no or limited content to assist in learning as they are usually embedded as a part of the vocabulary web site.<br><br> Thus the online English vocabulary games examined in this research were assessed as an embed- ded component of vocabulary web sites. In other words, the vocabulary games are expected to be used together with other content materials and resources provided by the respective web sites. Before investigating whether the selected games could facilitate learners 9 English vocabulary building, it is important to ensure that the chosen vocabulary web sites were satisfactorily designed for educational purposes.<br><br> In the next section relevant studies on vocabulary learning and web educational resources evaluation are reviewed. In particular, a checklist of features for the evaluation of educational web sites that contain vocabulary games is proposed. The two vocabulary web sites selected for this research are next introduced.<br><br> In particular, we apply the proposed checklist to evaluate the selected sites and argue that both sites are of a satisfactory standard. Afterwards, details of the subjects, methodology and procedures of the study will be given. Data collected are then analysed and, finally, a conclusion to the study is provided.<br><br> Related research This section reviews the literature on vocabulary learning and evaluative criteria for educational web sites with games. Vocabulary learning pedagogies Channell (1988) argued for the need for teaching approaches for vocabulary learning as a sepa- rate learning activity since the lexicon that organizes the mental vocabulary in a speaker 9s mind appears to be an independent entity in processing. A similar view was expressed by Carter (1992, pp.<br><br> 152 3153), that 8the need for much more vocabulary to be taught and learned as a separate activity rather than, say, part of a grammar or reading lesson 9. However, Carter did not suggest separating vocabulary learning from communication and pointed to the need for both a static approach (i.e. word semantics) and a dynamic approach (i.e.<br><br> word usage) in vocabulary teaching and learning. The importance of learning word meanings as well as words in contexts has also been stressed (Allen, 1983; DeCarrico, 2001). As Taylor (1990) pointed out, receptive and productive skills are both within the domain of vocabulary learning.<br><br> However, a learner may be overloaded if she/he is asked to learn both word meaning and form simultaneously. Thus learners may start off with learning word meaning by stressing receptive skills. After gaining a firm grasp of the word meaning, the learners may then 236 F.<br><br> W. M. Yip and A.<br><br> C. M. Kwan try other means, such as choral repetition, to help with understanding of word forms.<br><br> This will assist them in using the learnt words correctly in new contexts. Visual stimulation Appropriate use of sensual stimuli is believed to be beneficial to learning, not only for ordinary learners but also for learners with learning difficulties (Schmidt, 2005). Allen (1983) believed that the more coherent sensual stimuli a learner is exposed to in a learning process, the higher the chance that she/he will learn successfully.<br><br> Taylor (1990) added that 8a combination of stimuli is desirable, with written consolidation for adults, in order to facilitate transfer from short-term to long-term memory 9 (p. 17). Heidemann (1995) expressed a similar view in relation to three main concerns guiding the design of the visual materials on learning web pages, namely learner-oriented principles (e.g.<br><br> maintaining learner motivation), picture features (e.g. presenting vocabulary items in semanti- cally related groups) and picture functions (e.g. pictures are remembered better than words and can therefore act as mediators of new knowledge).<br><br> The research community generally agrees that visual elements like pictures help learners remember and recall the words they have seen. Evaluative criteria for educational web sites Two evaluation models, namely CARE (Yuen & So, 1999) and WSE (Kim et al ., 2001), were adopted in this study for the evaluation of educational web sites. Educational perspective.<br><br> 8CARE 9 is an acronym for the information quality (IQ) categories in contents, accessibility, representation and education. Each IQ category is associated with a number of IQ dimensions, such as completeness, uniqueness, motivation and creativity, to name a few. Other dimensions which may be relevant are not discussed in this paper.<br><br> Note that most of the IQ dimensions in the accessibility and representation categories are of a technical nature and are not detailed here. Kim et al . (2001) further described in their web sites for education (WSE) model that 8A web site for education (WSE) should present explanation about how to utilise it in education, and about the web page regarding educational courses 9.<br><br> The authenticity of the information source is stressed. A specific dimension that WSE addresses which is not covered by CARE is whether an education web site can facilitate the formation of a learning community. Technical perspective.<br><br> The CARE model offers several important guiding principles on the technical aspect of education web site development. First, navigation should be user friendly and it should always offer clear, quick and direct links to the main content. It is preferable that materials can be easily accessed within a few clicks.<br><br> The language used should be clear, simple and correct to facilitate navigation. Second, with a stress on the quality of expression, the look and feel of the web site should be consistent. The layout and location of different frames should be the same whichever level the learners go to.<br><br> This gives uniformity and consistency to the web site. Any plug-in software, if Online vocabulary games 237 required, should be made clear to users, either when users visit the home page of the web site or when the concerned software application is executed. Third, it is important to ensure that the use of multimedia is an enhancement, not a distraction.<br><br> Last, but not least, web site interactivity can be achieved not only by the presence of games, but also timely feedback. A means of communication between the users and the web master would be a desirable bridge for giving and collecting opinions as to how the web site can be enhanced. Evaluative criteria for vocabulary web sites Five guidelines were described by Wood (2001) to help design effective vocabulary learning soft- ware from an educational perspective: Ï relating the new to the known; Ï promoting active, in-depth processing; Ï providing multiple exposures to new words; Ï teaching students to be strategic readers; Ï promoting additional reading.<br><br> With regard to the desirable technical features of a vocabulary web site, Wood (2001) suggested the following: Ï animations; Ï sound components; Ï hints or clues related to word meaning; Ï multimodal presentation of information; Ï online definitions, glossaries or thesauruses. We believe that the above features are also applicable to the design of educational games. Cowan (1974) listed some other evaluative criteria for assessing vocabulary games.<br><br> Ï Relevance. The tasks to be achieved in a game should be 8readily related by the student to the tasks required in the study course 9 (Cowan, 1974, p. 57).<br><br> Ï Peer interaction. The games should be accommodated with sufficient interaction between various players to increase the group dynamic and promote peer learning. Ï Continuous motivation.<br><br> The games should ensure continuous motivation for learners. This can be achieved by providing a sufficient challenge and the scope to mature to players. Ï Minimum equipment.<br><br> Although the use of some 8games-like 9 equipment, such as joysticks and steering wheels, may increase the excitement of the games, too much may distract the learners 9 attention from the learning goals. Selected vocabulary web sites Two vocabulary web sites developed by the English Centre at the University of Hong Kong, namely Professional Word Web (available online at http://ec.hku.hk/vocabulary/tutorial/ index1.asp) and University Word Web (available online at http://ecourse.hku.hk:8900/public/ xwords/) were used in this research. Professional Word Web enables university students to learn those words needed for their professional studies in business and economics, engineering, law, 238 F.<br><br> W. M. Yip and A.<br><br> C. M. Kwan medicine and social work, whereas University Word Web is designed for students who wish to learn how to increase their English vocabulary.<br><br> The learning materials for each introduced word include an explanation of its meaning, an example of the use of the word in a sentence or a passage and its pronunciation. Vocabulary games are also available. These games can be classi- fied into three types.<br><br> The first type of game requires no particular skills of the players other than vocabulary knowledge. Games that fall into this category include tile moving games (which are similar to the well-known 8 puzzle game) and crossword puzzles. In order to finish the second type of game, players require good motor skills.<br><br> Games like 8space invaders 9 (which is a shooting game), 8return to earth 9 (which requires the players to control the landing of an astronaut on a number of moving planets) and 8snake 9 belong to this group. Some of these games require the players to act within a time limit or the games terminate. Players are required to apply their cognitive skills to finish the third type of game.<br><br> For example, players must have a good memory in order to finish the 8card matching 9 game, while they must also have a logical mind to finish the 8treasure hunting 9 game. In spite of the apparent differences between the games, all of them are of the drill and practice type. We draw upon the evaluative criteria discussed earlier (see Tables 1 and 2) to assess the educational and technical perspectives of the two vocabulary web sites selected.<br><br> These criteria are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. Table 1. Evaluative criteria for online vocabulary sites with games from an educational perspective Game criteria Web criteria Relating the new to the known Completeness Promoting active, in-depth processing Uniqueness Providing multiple exposures of new words Motivation Teaching learners to be strategic readers Relevance to daily life and interest Promoting additional reading Creativity Articulation about relevance to course Self-regulation Emphasis on meanings, forms and usage in contexts Orientation to learning process Learning of words as related groups Authenticity Appeal to senses Clarity Second language (L2) consideration Upgrading and updating Table 2.<br><br> Evaluative criteria for online vocabulary sites with games from technical perspective Game criteria Web criteria Animation Clear navigation Sound Clear hierarchy Access to hints or clues related to word meanings Simple language Multimodal presentation of information Consistent look Access to online definition, glossaries and thesauruses Technical requirements specified Minimum 8game-like 9 equipment Text mode support Support interaction between players Interactive tasks Clear game instructions and learning objectives Provide means of communication Online vocabulary games 239 It is important to ensure that the web sites (and their games) are of acceptable quality before investigating whether online vocabulary games can be used as an effective teaching and learning tool. In our study a criterion may be fully fulfilled (1 point), partially fulfilled (0.5 points) or not fulfilled (0 points). The degree of fulfilment of each criterion was decided by the authors.<br><br> The results are summarized in Figure 1. Figure 1. Evaluation of University Word Web and Professional Word Web The two web sites are alike in many ways, although University Word Web has slightly higher scores because it contains clearer pedagogical instructions for its viewers as to how to use the web materials, specifies detailed technical requirements and offers e-mail services as a commu- nication tool.<br><br> Both sites selected achieved good and satisfactory scores on three evaluative dimensions but only a fair score when evaluating the games from an educational perspective. Overall, the vocabulary sites were considered to be of acceptable quality. Research methodology The research methods employed in this study include a quasi-experiment, survey questionnaires and interviews.<br><br> Figure 1. Evaluation of University Word Web and Professional Word Web 240 F. W.<br><br> M. Yip and A. C.<br><br> M. Kwan Subjects The subjects in this study were 100 freshmen majoring in engineering in the Hong Kong Univer- sity of Science and Technology in the academic year 2002 32003. They were arbitrarily placed in six groups.<br><br> Three of the groups, classes A, B and C, were arbitrarily selected as the experimental group, which was required to learn a selected vocabulary of words from the selected vocabulary sites essentially by themselves. The other three groups, Classes D, E and F, formed the control group, which was required to learn the same vocabulary through activity- based lessons. Each class in the control group had a size of 18, whereas the size of each class in the experimental group was 15 or 16.<br><br> Each of the three teachers involved in this study was responsible for teaching one class in the control group and one class in the experimental group. Such an arrangement helps reduce any potential impact on the subjects 9 learning outcome due to the varying teaching styles of the different teachers. In terms of age, educational background, level of English mastery and vocabulary knowledge, the subjects were regarded as homogeneous.<br><br> Note that 87% of the subjects were male and 13% were female, as engineering is traditionally a predominantly male discipline. Study procedure All subjects were required to take a pre-test and a post-test. The experimental procedure used by Groot in his CAVOCA study (Groot, 2000, p.<br><br> 72) was drawn upon and adapted. Five steps were involved: pre-test, learning process, post-test, survey questionnaires and, finally, inter- views. Pre-test.<br><br> All classes were required to complete an identical pre-test in class in the same amount of time under the supervision of a teacher. The subjects had to answer 30 fill-in-the-blank ques- tions in 30 minutes. The questions were set on words found in the two selected web sites at a ratio of 1:1.<br><br> The questions were designed to test their receptive and productive skills. The subjects had to fill in each blank with one of the words provided. The full score for the test was 15.<br><br> To ensure that students did not give more attention than they should to the words appearing in the pre-test, no mention was made of the subsequent learning lessons and the post-test. The teacher did not check answers with nor provide feedback to the students. Learning process.<br><br> There were two lessons each week and each lesson lasted 50 minutes. In the first three weeks the subjects in the experimental group were asked to carry out online vocabu- lary exercises regularly in class and in their own time before exploring the two designated web sites. The teachers provided guidance in class and from time to time observed the students 9 work.<br><br> The rationale behind such an arrangement was to familiarize the students with the online mode before trying the two vocabulary web sites. Starting from the fourth week the subjects were asked to explore the first five topics in Professional Word Web and the intermediate level in University Word Web and to learn the associated vocabulary. The teachers first gave a brief introduction to the web sites.<br><br> Then the subjects 9 attention was drawn to those items that contained the words to be learnt. The lessons were mainly student driven. The teachers 9 role Online vocabulary games 241 was to monitor the subjects to ensure that they were exploring the assigned web sites and the right pages.<br><br> Information provided in the web sites includes word meanings in English, word forms, examples, pronunciation and games. Instant feedback is provided in each game to check learning and to avoid misunderstanding of word meanings and usage. Lessons for the control group were teacher facilitated and primarily activity based.<br><br> Subjects in the control group learnt the target vocabulary in the following way. 1. The teachers first presented the planned teaching schedule to the subjects.<br><br> Then a list of words was presented to the students as a quick overview. The list was a collection of the words that appear in the first five topics in Professional Word Web and the intermediate level in University Word Web. This ensures that both the control and experimental groups were learning the same words.<br><br> 2. A number of activities designed to help subjects develop strategies for vocabulary learning, namely drawing mind maps or concept maps, drawing pictures or diagrams, jotting down definitions and Chinese translations, were used in the lessons. In one of these activities the subjects formed groups of four or five.<br><br> Each subject was asked to draw a word from a bag of words and to teach that word to her/his group members using whatever strategy she/he had been introduced to earlier. After a group discussion, each subject was required to intro- duce her/his word to the rest of the class. As a conclusion, the teacher randomly selected certain students to recall the meanings of some of the words.<br><br> Post-test. Although all target words that appeared in the pre-test and post-test were covered in the week 4 36 lessons, the post-test was not administered until week 9. It is believed that the results of such a test better reflect a subject 9s relatively longer term retention of words.<br><br> In order to ensure that the subjects did not do the post-test blindly by recalling the sequence of words used in the pre-test, the sequence of words and questions in the post-test was different from that used for the pre-test. Survey questionnaire. After conducting the post-test, questionnaires were given to the subjects in the experimental group in order to evaluate the online resources in terms of their design and effectiveness in helping them learn vocabulary.<br><br> They could also express their opinions of and attitudes towards the game-based learning mode. To encourage the subjects to express their opinions they remained anonymous. Interviews.<br><br> Five arbitrarily chosen subjects from the experimental group were invited to attend a group interview so as to elicit a more in-depth understanding of their opinions of and attitudes towards the online learning games. The group interview format was used to ensure that the subjects felt secure and hopefully would be more willing to express their views in the presence of other interviewees. Apart from the student interviews, the three teachers on the course were also invited to evaluate the vocabulary games at a separate group interview and to review the change in their roles, if any, after introducing the games.<br><br> Although it is arguable that more in- depth qualitative information could have been obtained had the teachers been interviewed individually, the authors decided to opt for a group interview, partly driven by the fact that the 242 F. W. M.<br><br> Yip and A. C. M.<br><br> Kwan research was conducted during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic, during which unnecessary human contact was discouraged. Results and analysis Results of the pre-test and post-test First, we investigated whether there was any difference in English proficiency between the exper- imental and control groups before and after the treatment. Table 3 shows that the difference in the mean scores between the control and experimental groups in the pre-test was small, whereas the experimental group has a much larger mean score than that of the control group in the post- test.<br><br> The results appear to suggest that learning with the vocabulary web sites which included games is more effective that activity-based learning. To further study the validity of this claim, the independent samples t -test was applied to examine whether the differences between the mean scores of the control and experimental groups in the pre-test and pro-test were statistically significant ( P < 0.05). An equal variances assumption was adopted when applying the t -test because the difference in the standard deviations of the sampled distributions (pre-test/post-test) was rather small.<br><br> The t -test results show that for the pre-test the difference in the mean scores between the groups was not significant ( P = 0.0616). However, in the post-test the value of P was 0.0136, indicating a significant difference between the mean scores obtained by the two groups. The effect sizes (computed based on the pooled standard deviation) of the control and experimental groups were found to be 0.2373 and 1.3976, respectively.<br><br> The last number indicates a non-overlapping of approximately 68% in the score distributions of the pre-test and post-test of the experimental group, and the mean score in the post-test was at the 91.9 percen- tile of that of the pre-test (Cohen, 1988). The statistical evidence clearly indicates that the experimental group outperformed the control group in the post-test. As the three teachers each taught one class in the control group and one class in the experimental group and they were all experienced teachers and adopted the same set of teaching and learning material, the statistical results would not be expected to be particularly sensitive to teacher competence and style.<br><br> Results of survey questionnaire Responses to games. Figure 2 gives a summary of the subjects 9 opinions on various aspects of the vocabulary games on the selected web sites. It reveals that the respondents generally held Table 3.<br><br> Results of an independent samples t -test with equal variances assumed (full score = 15) Test type Group type n Mean ± SD t Significance Pre-test Control 54 7.89 ± 3.165 Pre-test Experimental 46 8.02 ± 3.054 3.576 0.0616 Post-test Control 54 8.59 ± 2.718 Post-test Experimental 46 11.78 ± 2.269 6.311 0.0136 Online vocabulary games 243 positive views about the games. Over 70% of the respondents found the games to be enjoyable. About 67% of them agreed that a wide variety of games were provided and about three-quarters of them commented that the level of difficulty of the games was just right.<br><br> The majority of them found the instructions and game rules easy to follow. More than 70% of the respondents regarded the games as effective in helping their vocabulary building. Figure 2.<br><br> Subjects 9 responses to the games in the selected web sites Although the respondents 9 views were generally positive, the respondents were not totally satisfied with the game interface. Only about 50 360% of them stated that they found the inter- face of the game pages attractive. Likewise, only about 55% of them thought the games could enhance their interest in vocabulary learning.<br><br> This may be related to the simplicity of the game design, e.g. games such as 8tic-tac-toe 9 offer little attraction to the learners. More respondents preferred the games in Professional Word Web to University Word Web.<br><br> More than 70% of the respondents found the games in Professional Word Web interactive and interesting, but the corresponding figure for University Word Web was only about 55%. When asked which web site they preferred, about 56% of the respondents opted for Professional Word Web. Later in the student interviews it was revealed that such a rating could be related to the fact that some students found the game instructions in University Word Web unclear.<br><br> Responses to vocabulary sites. As shown in Figure 3, it is rather surprising that about 80% of the respondents found the interface of the selected sites well designed, which is significantly differ- ent from their much less positive opinions about the interface design of the associated games pages. The majority of them stated that they were satisfied with the navigation and instructions.<br><br> The resources provided by the two sites were quite well received, as over 70% of the respondents found the resources helpful. The findings suggest that respondents cherish a site providing 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Enjoyable games Wide variety of games Right level of games Attractive game interface Clear game rules and instructions Interesting and Interactive games Games enhancing interest in vocab Games helping vocabbuilding Percentage Professional Word Web University Word Web Figure 2. Subjects 9 responses to the games in the selected web sites 244 F.<br><br> W. M. Yip and A.<br><br> C. M. Kwan readily available, relevant and useful resources.<br><br> These elements should be considered integral in online vocabulary game sites. Figure 3. Subjects 9 responses to the selected vocabulary web sites Online vocabulary learning versus face-to-face learning lessons.<br><br> About 68% of the respondents preferred the use of the web sites and games for vocabulary learning compared with the face-to- face learning lessons. The subjects were also asked to list the essential criteria for designing high quality online learning games, and they proposed the following: Ï Interaction with other players; Ï Comparison of scores, e.g. recording of top 10 scores; Ï Audio-visual effects, the use of animation, sounds and music; Ï Roles that can be selected and taken up; Ï A clearly defined scenario; Ï Continuous motivation, a balance between challenge and satisfaction.<br><br> Results of focus group interviews with students As a follow-up to the survey questionnaire, a focus group interview with five students randomly selected from the experimental group was conducted regarding the strengths and weaknesses they had perceived in using online games within the selected web sites for vocabulary learning. The findings are as follows. Criteria for evaluating vocabulary games rightly identified.<br><br> The informants commented that the games made it easier for them to remember a list of new words on the same theme. Since 7 0 % 7 5 % 8 0 % 8 5 % 9 0 % 9 5 % W e l l - d e s i g n e d i n t e r f a c e o f s i t e C l e a r n a v i g a t i o n a n d i n s t r u c t i o n G o o d r e s o u r c e s f o r v o c a b l e a r n i n g P e r c e n t a g e P r o f e s s i o n a l W o r d W e b U n i v e r s i t y W o r d W e b Figure 3. Subjects 9 responses to the selected vocabulary web sites Online vocabulary games 245 the words taught were in context, it was easier to guess the meaning and apply the words they hade learnt.<br><br> They also believed that learning would be more effective should relevant words be arranged in a group. Even if the words were not categorized as a related group, they could learn better if the materials were organized according to the level of difficulty. Their opinions are in line with the criteria of 8relevant to course 9, 8usage in context 9 and 8learning of words as related groups 9 that we had identified for the evaluation of vocabulary games.<br><br> Positive reinforcement. The informants had the will to win and break records and therefore would be driven to play the games again. Although some said the repetition could gradually become boring, they admitted that repetition of the words in the games helped them to remem- ber the words.<br><br> The simplicity of the games also enabled them to develop confidence. Games that demand sophisticated game skills or a timely response might distract from learning. The informants pinpointed that the results they obtained in the games might not fully reflect their vocabulary knowledge.<br><br> For example, in the shooting games they paid more attention to aiming at the moving objects than the words. Games that required players to give a timely answer might frustrate the players as they might not have sufficient time to retrieve the word meaning from their vocabulary bank. The informants commented that those games tended to distract their attention away from vocabulary learning rather than strengthen it.<br><br> Games should offer continuous challenge. The informants 9 opinions about the web sites as a whole were generally more positive than the games. This is consistent with the survey findings.<br><br> Generally speaking, they agreed that they would explore the web sites for inputs on vocabulary in the future. However, the informants doubted whether they would play the vocabulary games again, because the games could not offer them a continuous challenge. Simulation games might be a good candidate.<br><br> Among the five informants, four of them had previ- ously participated in playing simulation games like SimCity and believed that vocabulary games that offer a simulated environment within which a player could interact with the game environ- ment as well as other players would be more interesting and involving. Online vocabulary learning preferred. Despite the drawbacks of the games, all the informants admitted that if they were to choose between two options, learning online with the provision of vocabulary games or attending face-to-face activity-based lessons, they would prefer the former, because it was more fun.<br><br> Results of the focus group interview with the teachers On the whole, the teachers favoured the online sites with games for teaching and learning vocab- ulary, but they have made the following comments. 246 F. W.<br><br> M. Yip and A. C.<br><br> M. Kwan Vocabulary games to supplement classroom learning. The teachers were satisfied with the design of the drill and practice games and thought the animation, colours and sound effects were up to standard, but the games needed improvements to make them tools for long-term learning.<br><br> Most students who had shown an interest in the games in class told the teachers that they might not play the games on their own. Without further technology support, the teachers found it hard to check whether the students kept utilizing the vocabulary sites or playing the vocabulary games. However, the teachers thought online vocabulary learning games could be a self-learning tool and supplementary to classroom learning given the fact that in each semester students only have 28 contact hours with their language teachers, which was considered too short to improve one 9s English.<br><br> Teacher as facilitator. The teachers admitted that with the introduction of online learning games lessons were more student-centred and their role as facilitator had become more prominent. However, the teachers did not regard this as a 8changing role 9 because they acted as facilitators in activity-based teaching, even before using the online games.<br><br> Having said that, they still deemed honing their skills as facilitators as important. Teacher as researcher. The teachers found their role in looking for and screening materials more prominent.<br><br> They stated that they had to expend considerable time and effort selecting from a wide range of online learning games before incorporating them into a lesson. Through the screening based on students 9 needs and interests, e-learning lessons would become more involv- ing (Voogt, 2004). As a teacher commented, 8it is easy to use ready-made materials, but to find and integrate them is a headache 9.<br><br> Users instead of developers. The teachers emphasized the great value of custom-made materials in catering for the needs of different students. However, developing online games requires a great deal of technical expertise.<br><br> All the teachers interviewed said they did not know how to develop online games and pointed out that even if they had the skills, they would not have enough time to develop online games. Conclusion Our research results show, both quantitatively and qualitatively, that learners playing online vocabulary games tend to learn better and could retain the learnt vocabulary for a longer period and retrieve more words than those who simply attended face-to-face lessons without accessing the vocabulary games. Although Kiili (2005, p.<br><br> 14) expressed serious doubt about the effective- ness of drill and practice games to learning, our research indicates that vocabulary learning can be significantly improved by their use. Students expressed a preference for online lessons. One possible explanation for this finding is that students welcome a higher degree of autonomy in their learning and they tend to be in control of their own learning when learning from vocabulary web sites with games.<br><br> Online vocabulary games 247 Vocabulary building is a long process. If the games are fun, relaxing, motivating and confi- dence boosting, the learners 9 interest is more likely to be aroused. To ensure learning continues, it is necessary to ensure the games offer continuous motivation.<br><br> Since motivation can be too abstract a concept, continued motivation can be achieved by an increased appeal to the senses, increased interactivity and an increased challenge. Although excitement is an attribute that can induce learners to play a game again, it is impor- tant to ensure that the excitement element does not overwhelm the learning objectives. In partic- ular, the kind of excitement induced by game playing is largely related to game skills.<br><br> However, a requirement for sophisticated game skills to play educational games can be overkill. Simulations where learners are actively involved in 8experience-based 9 learning are thought to have more long-term and lasting effects on learners and have the 8potential to address many of the limitations of the traditional paradigm 9 (Ruben, 1999). To make game playing far more effective than traditional learning lessons and to extend its impact, sophisticated experiential games, such as simulated tasks, are needed, as they are more interactive and collaborative and can address cognitive issues and foster active learning.<br><br> Regarding teachers, their roles should be more that of researcher and facilitator when vocab- ulary games are brought to the classroom. A possible area for teachers to explore further as researcher is information retrieval. To become an effective facilitator a knowledge of lesson plan- ning and the skills necessary to incorporate online elements into teaching and learning are deemed necessary.<br><br> Teachers have to ponder whether they will use vocabulary games as a 8warm-up 9 activity in the initial learning stages or a regular long-term learning tool. If games are used as a 8warm-up 9 activity, drill and practice games may be effective enough. However, it is different if vocabulary games are intended for long-term learning purposes.<br><br> Furthermore, should a game be adopted for long-term learning, the teachers need to ensure that a means to monitor whether their students play the game regularly and frequently, as well as their learning progress, exists. To summarize, our research has shed light on various aspects of the use of online games for tertiary English vocabulary learning and teaching. The key findings are as follows: Ï online games are regarded by both students and teachers as effective vocabulary learning tools; Ï students tend to favour online games as a learning tool when compared with face-to-face learning lessons; Ï to retain students 9 interest and ensure learning effectiveness, more motivating games that give students a sense of achievement and scope for development are needed; Ï teachers think their role as researcher and facilitator has grown more prominent as a result of the use of information communication technology tools.<br><br> It is worth noting that although our model for evaluating the educational and technical perspec- tives of online learning sites with vocabulary games was developed in the context of vocabulary learning, it appears that the model can be generalized with little effort for the evaluation of any educational web site with educational games. However, the model does not provide a link between educational theory and game design. An initial attempt to address this deficiency has recently been reported (Kiili, 2005) and it is hoped that our model can be further developed in the light of such research.<br><br> 248 F. W. M.<br><br> Yip and A. C. M.<br><br> Kwan Acknowledgements The authors are greatly indebted to Ruby Lee, Cecilia Tam and Joanne Ng and students at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology who provided support for and participated in this research. The authors also thank Bob Fox and the anonymous referees for their construc- tive comments on the paper. Notes on contributors Florence Yip received her masters degree in information technology in education from the University of Hong Kong in 2004.<br><br> She currently works as an assistant instructor at the Language Centre, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Alvin Kwan received his doctoral degree in computer science from the University of Essex, UK in 1997. 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