Faculty Advisor

Kristen DiCerbo

Faculty Advisor

Charles Rich

Faculty Advisor

Ivon Arroyo

Faculty Advisor

Joseph E. Beck




While games can be an innovative and a highly promising approach to education, creating effective educational games is a challenge. It requires effectively integrating educational content with game attributes and aligning cognitive and affective outcomes, which can be in conflict with each other. Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS), on the other hand, have proven to be effective learning environments that are conducive to strong learning outcomes. Direct comparisons between tutoring systems and educational games have found digital tutors to be more effective at producing learning gains. However, tutoring systems have had difficulties in maintaining students€™ interest and engagement for long periods of time, which limits their ability to generate learning in the long-term. Given the complementary benefits of games and digital tutors, there has been considerable effort to combine these two fields. This dissertation undertakes and analyzes three different ways of integrating Intelligent Tutoring Systems and digital games. We created three game-like systems with cognition, metacognition and affect as their primary target and mode of intervention. Monkey's Revenge is a game-like math tutor that offers cognitive tutoring in a game-like environment. The Learning Dashboard is a game-like metacognitive support tool for students using Mathspring, an ITS. Mosaic comprises a series of mini-math games that pop-up within Mathspring to enhance students' affect. The methodology consisted of multiple randomized controlled studies ran to evaluate each of these three interventions, attempting to understand their effect on students€™ performance, affect and perception of the intervention and the system that embeds it. Further, we used causal modeling to further explore mechanisms of action, the inter-relationships between student€™s incoming characteristics and predispositions, their mechanisms of interaction with the tutor, and the ultimate learning outcomes and perceptions of the learning experience.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Computer Science

Project Type


Date Accepted





causal modeling, gamification, game elements, intelligent tutoring systems, educational games