Serious games for Higher Education mathematics: Quest for Wisdom - The Horn of Odin

Octavian Taralunga, Pia Heidtmann, Mel Krokos

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


We present the conceptual design, implementation, testing and initial validation results for the Horn of ODin (HOD), a new generation mobile learning object for undergraduate mathematics in the form of a viking age adventure. Our serious game is specifically designed to encourage extended student engagement with the mathematical topics to be mastered, thus permitting prolonged reflection upon the subtleties of the often abstract concepts involved and through this making it more possible that the students reach the deeper levels of learning needed to meet the underlying Learning Outcomes (LOs). HOD is a novel learning object developed within our scalable, modular and extensible software framework Quest for Wisdom (Q4W), built on smart amalgamation of cutting edge web technologies. Virtual community building technologies in particular play an important role in Q4W for synchronous and asynchronous learner collaboration, enabling students throughout immersive gameplay to interact individually with the maths on a cognitive level, but also in a social setting. Our framework follows open access principles and can potentially be knowledge-transferred to other subjects. Traditionally, undergraduate mathematical topics are taught through self-study of books, supported by lectures, workshops on well-chosen illustrative problems and sometimes formative assessment. Students often criticise textbooks as boring or not helpful in their learning, class attendance is not always at ideal levels, and it is not uncommon for the majority of a cohort to fail one or more LOs on a course due to lack of student engagement. Well-constructed serious computer games are widely accepted as good learning tools for student engagement and deeper learning. However, it is a challenge to construct such games so they methodically cover all aspects of complex LOs in tertiary mathematics without the resulting object resembling a common maths lesson. A multidisciplinary team of games specialists and educators have designed the learning activities of HOD so they make up an immersive game for sustained student engagement while still aligning with all aspects of the LOs regarding the topics covered. HOD teaches mathematical relations, a common subject in first year undergraduate mathematics throughout the world. The game is based on an original story in which players get to be heroes and go on a quest for wisdom where they interact with colourful characters and creatures from Norse mythology. Players progress through the game levels by learning more and more about relations and work towards a final goal of assembling a magical horn. On their way they prepare potions, find runes in a maze, defeat giants in strength contests and more. Each game level is a story chapter and involves puzzles and problems designed to illustrate one particular bite-sized aspect of a LO. HOD gives continuous personal feedback on all hero actions, and formative assessment is integrated in the narrative with correct answers giving the player advantages for game progression. For testing, a group of first year discrete mathematics students were invited to play HOD as an add-on curricular activity. Initial results are very encouraging, showing students persevering with HOD until the quest is complete, thus actively engaging with all aspects of the LOs covered. Analysis of exam results achieved also shows that student attainment in relevant exam questions compares favourably to that of earlier cohorts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICERI 2021 Proceedings
Place of Publication9788409345496
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2021
Event14th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation: ICERI 2021 - Online
Duration: 8 Nov 20219 Nov 2021

Publication series

NameICERI Proceedings
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development
ISSN (Print)2340-1095


Conference14th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Internet address


  • Undergraduate Education
  • Mathematics
  • Serious Games
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Next Generation Classroom
  • Student Engagement
  • Virtual M-Learning Communities


Dive into the research topics of 'Serious games for Higher Education mathematics: Quest for Wisdom - The Horn of Odin'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this