Does the emotional design of scaffolds enhance learning and motivational outcomes in game-based learning?

Antti Koskinen, Jake McMullen, Manuel Ninaus, Kristian Kiili

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Background In recent years, the importance of emotions in learning has been increasingly recognized. Applying emotional design to induce positive emotions has been considered a means to enhance the instructional effectiveness of digital learning environments. However, only a few studies have examined the specific effects of emotional design in game-based learning. Objectives This quasi-experimental study utilized a value-added research approach to investigate whether emotional design applied to scaffolding in a game-based learning environment improves learning and motivational outcomes more than emotionally neutral scaffolding. Methods A total of 138 participants, mean age of 11.5 (SD = 0.73) participated in the study. A total of 68 participants played the base version of a fraction learning game (Number Trace), where scaffolding was provided with emotionally neutral mathematical notations, and 70 participants played the value-added version of the game using emotionally designed animated scaffolding agents. Pre-and post-tests were used to measure conceptual fraction knowledge and self-reported measures of situational interest and situational self-efficacy to evaluate motivational outcomes. Results and Conclusions Our results indicate that the emotional design applied to scaffolds can improve the educational value of a game-based learning environment by enhancing players' situational interest and situational self-efficacy. However, although the intervention improved the participants' conceptual fraction knowledge, there was no significant difference between the scaffolding conditions in participants' learning outcomes. Takeaways The results suggest that emotional design can increase the educational impact of game-based learning by promoting the development of interest, as well as improving self-efficacy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-93
JournalJournal of Computer Assisted Learning
Issue number1
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • emotional design
  • fraction learning
  • game-based learning
  • scaffolding
  • self-efficacy
  • situational interest

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2


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