94% of game design teachers say the pandemic has impacted lesson effectiveness

With lockdown restrictions preventing students from accessing specialist computer suites, it’s no wonder student motivation and engagement levels have suffered

An overwhelming majority (94%) of game design teachers admit that the shift to remote learning has negatively impacted the effectiveness of lessons.

With the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent school closures forcing schools to adopt a fully or partly digital offering, educators have spent the last 12 months adapting to a hybrid or blended approach, delivering lessons to smaller class sizes while students are learning from home.

It goes without saying that game design is an inherently technological discipline, traditionally taught in a computer suite setting. Here, students have access to the same hardware, software, guidance and support, making it easier for the teacher to track progress and outcomes. But with a study by YoYo Games – creators of the 2D game development engine GameMaker used by schools across the UK and US – finding that 76% of game design teachers have been forced to move at least half of their classes online in the last 12 months, the shift has inevitably had a negative impact on student outcomes.

“The main downside for learners affects those who do not have the correct hardware at home and therefore are not able to keep up to date. There is a disparity of those that have equipment at home and those that don’t,” said Aaron Haggery of USP College in Southend-on-Sea, UK.

Mike Sagan from Rodriguez High School in California, US, commented: “The biggest problem is deploying the software and providing one-on-one help. Since I cannot be with the student, and seeing the student’s screen isn’t always very effective, this is a challenge.”

Pre-COVID, YoYo Games surveyed 150 teachers who overwhelmingly (77%) agreed that teaching game design was ‘extremely effective’ when it came to engaging students. To unravel how the pandemic has altered those views, the company recently surveyed those same schools again.

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The second survey revealed that, while teachers have encountered many challenges since the outbreak first struck last year, the overall teaching process for the subject hasn’t changed that much. Most teachers reported experiencing positive results across various metrics, including 78% of teachers reporting an ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ impact on improving student confidence, and 63% saying that blended game design lessons boosted class behaviour overall.

Since the nature of the subject requires skills in creativity, problem -solving, planning and more, more than a third of teachers said the discipline has been ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ at approving student performance across other disciplines.

However, almost half (47%) of teachers claimed COVID-19 has hindered the assessment process, forcing many to substitute collaborative team assignments and in-class Q&As for individual progress checking and addressing individual student concerns.

“Having spoken with teachers from across the world, I’ve heard first-hand how hard the last year has been,” said Stuart Poole, general manager of YoYo Games. “Reduced class sizes and remote learning, combined with disparate access to hardware and support have created a unique set of challenges for game design lessons.

“However, given these major challenges, it’s incredibly reassuring to learn that overall, teachers have continued to be able to teach game design in school, meaning students can continue to enjoy the many positive benefits that learning gam design can have on their education.”

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