From Gaming to Computational Thinking: An Adaptive Educational Computer Game-Based Learning Approach

Danial Hooshyar, Margus Pedaste, Yeongwook Yang, Liina Malva, Gwo Jen Hwang, Minhong Wang, Heuiseok Lim, Dejan Delev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Educational games have been increasingly used to improve students’ computational thinking. However, most existing games have focused on the theoretical knowledge of computational thinking, ignoring the development of computational thinking skills. Moreover, there is a lack of integration of adaptivity into educational computer games for computational thinking, which is crucial to addressing individual needs in developing computational thinking skills. In this study, we present an adaptive educational computer game, called AutoThinking, for developing students’ computational thinking skills in addition to their conceptual knowledge. To evaluate the effects of the game, we conducted an experimental study with 79 elementary school students in Estonia, where the experimental group learned with AutoThinking, while the control group used a traditional technology-enhanced learning approach. Our findings show that learning with the adaptive educational computer game significantly improved students’ computational thinking related to both conceptual knowledge and skills. Moreover, students using the adaptive educational computer game showed a significantly higher level of interest, satisfaction, flow state, and technology acceptance in learning computational thinking. Implications of the findings are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-409
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Educational Computing Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported by the University of Tartu ASTRA Project PER ASPERA, financed by the European Regional Development Fund; the MSIT (Ministry of Science and ICT), Korea, under the ITRC (Information Technology Research Center) support program (IITP-2020-2018-0-01405) supervised by the IITP (Institute for Information & Communications Technology Planning & Evaluation); and the Institute for Information & communications Technology Planning & Evaluation (IITP) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (No. 2020-0-00368, A Neural-Symbolic Model for Knowledge Acquisition and Inference Techniques).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • adaptive educational computer game
  • adaptive gameplay
  • adaptive learning
  • computational thinking
  • experimental research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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