WhyReef: a virtual, educational program analysis
Jolin, Cody S.
University of Wisconsin--Stout. Research Services
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During the summer of 2012, The Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) began a collaborative project with the University of Wisconsin - Stout in order to analyze the effectiveness of the museum’s WhyReef program. WhyReef, an online, socially interactive coral reef simulation designed for youth ages 8-16, launched in March 2009 and has since reached over 160,000 unique players. The overall goal of this research project was to analyze the educational effectiveness of WhyReef. This was accomplished by a robust evaluation and analysis of WhyReef’s learning goals and gameplay mechanics. The research was made possible by a data set of player content and statistics provided by FMNH, as well as a personal trip to the museum to interview the WhyReef educational team. Research was divided into three topics and determined that 1. WhyReef is very successful in increasing coral reef attention and appreciation; 2. The best time to launch attention-grabbing, critical events is on weekdays during the summer; 3. Meaningful Motion is a key gameplay mechanic for increasing WhyReef participation and comprehension. The analysis of the WhyReef data set provided valuable feedback to the WhyReef development team, as well as opened the door for continued collaboration between FMNH and UW-Stout. Research findings were presented to the WhyReef educational team at The Field Museum and at the Games Learning Society 9.0 conference in Madison, Wisconsin.