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Harrisburg, PA – A team of researchers from Harrisburg University has published a groundbreaking study on the use of mobile serious games to facilitate science learning in middle school students.

The paper, titled “Winning Could Mean Success, yet Losing Doesn’t Mean Failure” -Using a Mobile Serious Game to Facilitate Science Learning in Middle School, is authored by Sa Liu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Interactive Technologies, Interactive Media Program (IMED); Brian Grey, instructor of Computer & Information Sciences, and Mina Gabriel, Instructor of Computer Science.

The study, published in the prestigious open-access Frontiers in Education journal, section Digital Learning Innovations, investigates the impact of a mobile serious game called SpacEscape on middle school students’ science learning. The researchers aimed to understand how the game’s design elements could lead to effective science learning, with the paper’s main message being that winning in the game might indicate success, but losing does not necessarily mean failure.

Researchers have recognized the potential of using Mobile Serious Games (MSG) in teaching various subject matters. However, it is not clear how MSG impacts students differently based on their in-game performance. To fill this gap, the current study examined the MSG “SpacEscape” that teaches middle school students about the solar system through problem-solving activities. To understand whether SpacEscape could facilitate middle school student science learning based on their in-game performance, this study adopted a randomized experimental design and collected pre-test, post-test and game play data from the participants. Independent sample t-test and MANOVA with repeated measures (N = 228) were conducted.

“The results showed that SpacEscape significantly improved science learning for middle school students. In addition, the game significantly improved students’ science knowledge test scores regardless of their in-game performance. Furthermore, students enjoyed playing SpacEscape in the class, and we hope this study will inform the direction of future study in the field,” says Liu.

The research project was generously supported by the 2018-2020 Harrisburg University Presidential Research Grant, which is awarded annually to professors who partner with and engage students in innovative research projects.

Frontiers in Education is the 3rd most-cited and 6th largest research publisher, with a mission to accelerate scientific discovery by making science open. Founded in 2007 by Kamila Markram and Henry Markram, two neuroscientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Switzerland, Frontiers focuses on placing researchers at the center of its operations and enabling the research community to develop solutions needed for a healthy planet and its inhabitants.

The article can be accessed online at:


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