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'Beaker, Don't Set the Lab on Fire!': A Muppet-Based Lab Preparation Game to Enhance Student Preparedness and Engagement for Laboratory Sessions

Mr Yuri Banens, Dr Jennifer Wilson

Griffith University


Background: Laboratory work enriches the bio/ chemistry learning experience but requires maximum input and engagement from teacher and learner. Students are generally underprepared for labs, leading to confusion, wasted time and expense. Traditional means of encouraging students to engage with pre-lab materials were unsuccessful. Our solution was to develop a series of adaptive video games that lead students, step-by-step, through the laboratory experiment to integrate, streamline and simplify their pre-laboratory preparation.

Methods: The pilot game was based on a Gel Filtration Chromatography laboratory exercise presented in the Smart Sparrow adaptive learning platform (2018). Students engaged in a job interview scenario with Muppets assisting in the process. Students entered three doors sequentially: theory, equipment and procedures, and quizzes. In the final door, Beaker must be saved from the clutches of Kermit’s evil nemesis, Constantine. Each summative question releases his chains and contributes towards the assessment.

Screens contained images and text from the lab manual, embedded videos, clickable information buttons and formative quiz questions. When a student submits responses to the questions, tailored feedback is provided. Once the game is complete, a record of completion is returned to the LMS and the student receives a small number of summative marks towards the subject.

Findings: Median time and % completion: 1 hours 28 minutes , 94% ; 77% average grade (n=220). Feedback was exceptional; students enjoyed the lesson and reported that they felt much better prepared, however they identified issues with pacing and question logic that weren’t optimal.

Discussion: The application of fun gaming concepts such as relatable characters and having a high-stakes ‘mission’ is effective in improving student engagement and laboratory outcomes.

One valuable aspect of Smart Sparrow is its ability to report student pathways through the lesson,

(A copy of this presentation is unfortunately not available).