An important part of serious game development is the use of analytics. Analytics, and more specifically learning analytics, involves the measurement, compilation, and analysis of data for the purpose of optimizing learning outcomes. Analytics are basically “actionable insights,” which means they allow you to take a deeper look at the overall performance of a serious game and determine whether or not it is meeting your learning objective.
Understanding what, exactly, analytics are and why they are important to serious game development will help you in the design process and also in assessing the educational value of your game.
Why analytics are important
Learning analytics and assessment data give you the information you need to measure how effectively the serious game is achieving your intended goal. There is also an additional benefit in that analytics provide you with detailed insight into what adjustments you can make to improve your results.
This information indicates which tasks, rewards, and challenges are helping the learners accomplish the overall objective, and which areas they might be struggling with. There are various methods you can use to collect data, all of which will give you a clearer perspective of how your game is performing and how your audience is interacting with it. The more data you have at your disposal, the greater your ability to make decisions that will ensure success.
Getting the data
Here are three ways to track and store necessary data to analyze your serious game:
SCORM tracks four basic metrics: time, date, pass/fail, and score. For example, when the learner begins the game, SCORM communicates that information to your learning management system (LMS). The same goes for completion; when the learner completes the training and receives a score, SCORM relays that information to your LMS. This is very limiting and does not provide you with what is actually happening within the serious game.
The Experience API (xAPI; formerly Tin Can) is an external database able to track metrics outside of what is available with SCORM. When an activity occurs that needs to be recorded, the xAPI sends that information to a Learning Record Store (LRS), which then relays the information to your LMS. The LRS can stand alone or work inside an LMS. The xAPI is a great tool, if your LMS is compatible with it. Be sure to ask your LMS provider if they are xAPI-compatible and ask for an example.
Custom learner tracking system
With a custom learner tracking system (LTS) you are able to track the metrics of your choice within your custom LTS. A custom LTS may be a good option if you are looking for more in-depth insight into your serious game and it will provide you the data you want to know about the learners. The LTS gives you the ability to track what happens within the game, as well as any additional relevant metrics.
Analytics in serious games are essential to the success of the project. There are many different methods that may fit your specific needs, and you must align the analytics to the goals and learning outcomes. By making a point of collecting data and tracking user progress and other key points throughout the game, you should then be able to determine what is working and what isn’t. With this understanding, you can determine how well your serious game is reaching the desired learning objective.