Developing adaptive serious games for children with specific learning difficulties: A two-phase usability and technology acceptance study

Yildirim O., SÜRER E.

JMIR Serious Games, vol.9, no.2, 2021 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 9 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.2196/25997
  • Journal Name: JMIR Serious Games
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Keywords: serious games, adaptive games, specific learning difficulty, usability, system usability scale, technology acceptance model, training, development, adaptation, gaming, learning disability, children, education, teacher
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


© 2021 Oguzcan Yildirim, Elif Surer.Background: Specific learning difficulties (SpLD) include several disorders such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, and the children with these SpLD receive special education. However, the studies and the educational material so far focus mainly on one specific disorder. Objective: This study's primary goal is to develop comprehensive training material for different types of SpLD, with five serious games addressing different aspects of the SpLD. The second focus is measuring the impact of adaptive difficulty level adjustment in the children's and their educators' usability and technology acceptance perception. Receiving feedback from the children and their educators, and refining the games according to their suggestions have also been essential in this two-phase study. Methods: A total of 10 SpLD educators and 23 children with different types of SpLD tested the prototypes of the five serious games (ie, Word game, Memory game, Category game, Space game, and Math game), gave detailed feedback, answered the System Usability Scale and Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) questionnaires, and applied think-aloud protocols during game play. Results: The games' standard and adaptive versions were analyzed in terms of average playtime and the number of false answers. Detailed analyses of the interviews, with word clouds and player performances, were also provided. The TAM questionnaires' average and mean values and box plots of each data acquisition session for the children and the educators were also reported via System Usability Scale and TAM questionnaires. The TAM results of the educators had an average of 8.41 (SD 0.87) out of 10 in the first interview and an average of 8.71 (SD 0.64) out of 10 in the second interview. The children had an average of 9.07 (SD 0.56) out of 10 in the first interview. Conclusions: Both the educators and the children with SpLD enjoyed playing the games, gave positive feedback, and suggested new ways for improvement. The results showed that these games provide thorough training material for different types of SpLD with personalized and tailored difficulty systems. The final version of the proposed games will become a part of the special education centers' supplementary curriculum and training materials, making new enhancements and improvements possible in the future.