It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Learns Something: Assessing the Learning Outcomes of Two Educational Games


  • Jennifer McCabe James Madison University
  • Steven Wise Northwest Evaluation Association



games in education, information literacy, game assessment


Objective – To determine whether educational games can be designed that are both fun and effective in improving information seeking skills.

Methods – Two skills that are known to be particularly difficult for students taking a required information literacy test were identified. These skills are the ability to identify citations and the ability to search databases with keywords. Educational games were designed to address these two skills. The first game, Citation Tic Tac Toe, placed commonly used bibliographic citations into a tick tac toe style grid. Students were required to play the Tic Tac Toe game and subsequently given citation identification exercises. The second game arranged key concepts related to search phrases in a Magnetic Keyword interface. Students were observed searching databases before and after playing the Magnetic Keyword game and their pre- and post-play searches were analyzed.

Results – Students who played the Tic Tac Toe game improved more from pretest to posttest than students who only took an online tutorial. In addition, students who played the Magnetic Keyword game demonstrated quicker database searching for their topics and expressed increased satisfaction with their results.

Conclusions – Games can be created which have measurable educational outcomes and are fun. It is important, however, to establish the educational objective prior to beginning game design.


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Author Biographies

Jennifer McCabe, James Madison University

Libraries and Educational Technologies Associate Professor

Steven Wise, Northwest Evaluation Association

Vice President of Research and Development




How to Cite

McCabe, J., & Wise, S. (2009). It’s All Fun and Games until Someone Learns Something: Assessing the Learning Outcomes of Two Educational Games. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 4(4), 6–23.



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