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Gamification in a Laboratory Course

Teacher: Prof. Cindy Lam

Department: Department of Ocean Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)


It is essential for students to study the laboratory manual to familiarize themselves with the content before field trips and laboratory sessions to grasp the concepts on the topic as well as avoid potential danger, however, students found the lengthy reading boring. Given this, Prof. Cindy Lam - Assistant Professor of Science Education in the Department of Ocean Science at HKUST, intended to revamp the pre-laboratory preparation experience by developing a mobile application for the course OCES3001 - Coastal Environmental Monitoring. Along with two students from the previous cohort, they have decided to incorporate the gamification element with laboratory simulations to induce student learning motivation in a fun and interactive way.

In the game, players are requested to complete the assigned laboratory quests on an island. The player follows the instructions, attends quizzes, and gains experience points and money in order to purchase equipment and unlock laboratory sessions. As the tasks cover the content of the laboratory manual in sequential order, students could simply go through the game as pre-laboratory preparation. Moreover, session-by-session revision materials are provided for students to utilize during revision. A leaderboard feature is also available for tracking students’ progress to boost participation and identify students who need additional support.

Prof. Lam highlighted a clear and well-developed storyboard was important since it could benefit both the players and the developers. To players, the story directs the flow of the game so that they can understand the purpose of playing and will not get lost or confused midway through. On the other hand, laboratory sessions could be logically connected so it also facilitated the further processes of the back-end development of the game. In general, feedback in the pilot test was supportive. Students appreciated the design and the visual appearance of the game in which the game could help students to achieve their learning objectives.

When asked about the plan for further development and implementation of the game, Prof. Lam replied that the full version is still in progress. She and her team will continue developing the game and enhancing students’ learning experience through (1) adding afterwards quests and case studies with examples, (2) embedding demonstration videos and course materials, and (3) collaborating with the Center for Language Education to develop/adapt report writing resources. Prof. Lam also expressed her interest in sustaining the application usage and continuing this initiative in the future.


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