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Learning Science through Cloud Gamification: A Framework for Remote Gamified Science Learning Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding

Graduate Institute of Applied Science and Technology, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taipei 106, Taiwan
Information 2023, 14(3), 165;
Submission received: 1 February 2023 / Revised: 23 February 2023 / Accepted: 4 March 2023 / Published: 5 March 2023
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cloud Gamification 2021 & 2022)


In today’s world where virtual interaction is becoming more and more important, remote collaborative problem solving has become a promising teaching strategy. The motivation to promote collaborative science learning and the depth of group discussions are key research issues. The use of gamification strategies has the potential to facilitate remote synchronous science instruction. In order to promote learners’ collaborative science problem-solving skills, it is critical to design appropriate scaffolds and provide a guiding framework for teachers to integrate cloud-based interactive tools to design remote synchronous gamification activities. Based on years of research on scaffold-based gamified teaching, this study proposes a framework for gamified teaching activities that integrates a cloud-based toolset and a three-dimensional scaffolding (cognitive scaffolding, peer scaffolding, and metacognitive scaffolding). The framework can be used as a reference for science teachers to combine cloud tools for remote gamified teaching and for researchers in this field.

1. Introduction

Science and STEM teaching emphasize the analysis and investigation of scientific concepts and phenomena, and international educational trends increasingly emphasize cross-disciplinary collaborative skills in analysis and investigation, as well as critical literacy and problem-solving skills [1,2,3,4]. These collaborative activities often require hypothesis formulation, analysis, validation, and inference of scientific phenomena through group discussions in the classroom. However, due to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020, much of the physical teaching was forced to be implemented online, which has allowed more teachers and students to adapt to distance learning. Even as the epidemic subsides, the use and acceptance of distance learning in the post-pandemic era is likely to be higher than before the pandemic. According to a survey of teachers in Taiwan, more than 80% of teachers indicated that they would adjust their teaching methods even after resuming physical classes after having experience with distance learning, and more than 60% of teachers would add online interactive teaching methods for students to learn [5]. In the post-pandemic era and the meta-universe trend that emphasizes virtual interaction, the science education curriculum is moving toward a hybrid or remote model as a potential implementation direction, and the teaching strategy of synchronous remote teaching (video or synchronous discussion) may be more critical than before the pandemic, and the issue of synchronous remote teaching strategy should be explored in depth. It is critical to design appropriate scaffolds and provide a guiding framework for teachers to integrate cloud-based interactive tools to design remote synchronous gamification activities to promote learners’ motivation and cognitive thinking. This study aims to proposes a framework for gamified teaching activities that integrates a cloud-based toolset and a multi-dimensional scaffolding. The framework can be used as a reference for science teachers to combine cloud tools for remote gamified teaching and for researchers in this field.

2. Background: Remote Science Classrooms in the Post-Pandemic Era

The trend in science teaching and STEM education is increasingly focused on developing students’ ability to collaboratively solve cross-disciplinary science problems. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has identified collaborative problem solving (CPS) skills as a key assessment point [2]. Many studies have found the benefits of using CPS group discussion activities for science instruction on learning [4,6,7]. In the field of science teaching that emphasizes scientific inquiry and hands-on tasks, collaborative and distance synchronous teaching in groups is an important and worthwhile research topic because group collaboration can develop learners’ CPS skills in science. Research has also found that collaborative problem-solving instructional strategies are beneficial to learners’ cognitive thinking and knowledge construction [8]. Remote collaboration and problem solving is also a current trend in the online society, for example, crowdfunding can provide users with the opportunity to collaborate on ideas or projects and collect resources online [9]. The advantage of distance synchronous teaching is that it can break through the time and space constraints and allow learners from across countries or regions to experience the scientific inquiry process together in groups. The discussion of scientific arguments and simulated manipulatives in distance science teaching may need to be easily implemented in a distance synchronous group teaching environment, which is more difficult to achieve with unidirectional lecture-based synchronous or non-synchronous videos.
The implementation of synchronous distance learning has challenges and limitations in terms of technology use, learning process, and quality of learning interactions compared to physical learning [10,11,12,13]. In addition, more importantly, the lack of motivation and attention due to the lack of interaction or attraction at a distance has been identified and emphasized by more scholars during the pandemic [14]. In the case of flipped classrooms with a mix of distance and physical learning or a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, there is a strong emphasis on learner motivation [15,16]. In addition to students’ motivation, teachers’ quality of instruction in synchronous distance learning is also related to their classroom interactional competence (CIC), technological competence, and online environmental management skills [17]. An Italian study during the COVID-19 pandemic also found that effective online teaching relies on the use of technology, collaboration among teachers, and online teaching strategies; in particular, teachers must create individualized activities for students through asynchronous or synchronous interactions, preferably in small groups and individually, to guide students to focus and engage in activities [18].
To summarize the above, the following are two important issues in distance science education today:
Promoting the motivation of science learning through distance and synchronous teaching using gamification.
In distance science teaching, it is a challenge to promote learning motivation and to facilitate learner interaction because of the anxiety that may arise from abstract science concepts and science learning [3,19,20,21]. Gamification emphasizes the use of game elements and game mechanics in non-game contexts, i.e., the combination of fun elements and participation-enhancing elements commonly found in games into interactive mechanisms that are applied to non-game activities (including teaching activities) [22,23]. The use of gamification strategies (e.g., points, levels, badges, competition, etc.) in instruction is also increasingly being used by teachers. Research has also found that the use of gamification in teaching activities has a positive effect on the engagement of learners [24]. Gamification strategies are also beneficial for distance online discussion instruction [25,26], and a social network analysis revealed that students in gamification-based courses had more intensive interactive networks than students in the control group. More students were active in the network compared to the control group. Content analysis also revealed that students provided higher quality peer feedback comments than students in the control group [26]. In addition, studies have found that games help develop problem-solving and reflective skills [3,27,28], which contribute to the motivation of learners in the key competencies of collaborative problem solving in science and further enhance students’ discussion of scientific arguments. Therefore, the use of gamification strategies has the potential to facilitate distance synchronous science instruction. However, previous studies have focused on gamification in physical teaching settings or the gamification of online discussions, but less on the construction and analysis of gamified teaching contexts for distance synchronous science teaching, and this topic should be explored in depth. In addition, various remote cloud tools will be needed to provide a cloud-based gamification environment for teaching and learning [24].
Facilitating classroom group interaction in distance synchronous science instruction.
A study by [29] found that designing a successful remote course requires more planning than in traditional physical instruction. However, the study found that teachers are rarely trained to use this instructional technology and are often ill-prepared with strategies for projecting presence, developing relationships, facilitating interactions, managing lessons, and teaching content at a distance when screens are the primary connection tool [30]. In addition, group collaboration and discussion are crucial factors in promoting science learning. Research has found that collaborative problem-solving teaching strategies are beneficial to learners’ cognitive thinking and knowledge construction [8]. The effective facilitation and design of distance synchronous group science instructional activities is a key teacher professional development competency to promote learners’ collaborative science problem-solving literacy. Well-designed remote group synchronous interactive activities also have the potential to perform functions that are not possible in a physical science classroom, such as developing students’ ability to analyze remote virtual synchronous scientific investigations, online learning that automatically records students’ actions and data in science simulation software, and content or behavior pattern analysis of student problem solving or argumentative discussions. In addition, one-person, one-machine distance learning allows for more efficient remote and simultaneous scientific data retrieval and exploration among the group, as well as training for collaborative scientific inquiry across national distances in a future post-pandemic world. In the global workplace, problem-solving skills among cross-disciplinary members are of great interest [31,32]. Therefore, the design and development of strategies to facilitate teachers’ interactive classroom group instructional activities in distance synchronous teaching, especially for collaborative problem solving in science, would be of immediate benefit in the science education teaching field. In this case, distance group discussion teaching requires mechanisms that facilitate the quality of collaborative problem solving by learners, for example, the use of scaffolding to facilitate group discussion in science learning activities [33].

3. Trends: Gamification Activities for Remote Synchronous Science Inquiry

From the above two key issues, it is clear that the use of gamification strategies has the potential to facilitate remote synchronous science instruction and that the ability of teachers to facilitate and design remote synchronous group activities is critical in order to promote learners’ collaborative science problem-solving skills.

3.1. Gamification for Remote Collaboration and Interaction

Because remote gamification involves remote interaction control, and because of the limited attention and motivation often found in distance synchronous instruction [14], distance synchronous gamification requires more motivation-maintaining strategies than physical gamification, such as enhancing learner flow [34,35]. In addition, even if gamification promotes motivation and concentration, it may not be effective if the game objectives are not linked to the learning objectives through appropriate instructional design, and therefore requires appropriate integration of game mechanisms with cognitive mechanisms [36]. In addition, teachers often lack systematic training in interaction management under synchronous distance learning [30], and classroom interactional competence (CIC), technological competence, and online environmental management competence are all important keys to synchronous distance learning [17]. Therefore, the first problem to be overcome in designing such teaching activities is how to design effective gamified group-based interactive collaborative problem-solving (CPS) activities for distance science teaching that not only promote interaction, but also enhance the quality of the learners’ scientific inquiry. There are two key points in this, one is the game mechanism for facilitating social interaction. The second is training to promote the quality of CPS learning outcomes and higher-level cognitive thinking in the inquiry process.
In terms of facilitating social interactions, there is some potential to refer to board game mechanics, which have the advantage of facilitating face-to-face interpersonal social interactions more than digital games. Board game mechanisms are often seen to promote social interaction and facilitate learning [37,38,39,40,41]. Distance learning with video communication software can provide more online interactive activities that can lead to a better quality of learning for students [42]. By combining game mechanics with gamification using cloud-based tools, it is expected to be possible to build both remote interactions and gamification mechanisms (e.g., points, badges, leaderboards, etc.) that promote interpersonal interactions online.

3.2. Three-Dimensional Scaffolding for Collaborative Problem Solving in Science

Scaffolding plays an important role in promoting not only peer interaction, but also quality discussion and inquiry in the CPS learning effectiveness quality and inquiry process. Scaffolding is a variety of appropriate guides and aids given during the learning process [43]. Scaffolds should be considered and designed based on the prior knowledge, metacognition, and task complexity of the learning task [44]. Scaffolds include various types of scaffolds, including cognitive-conceptual, metacognitive, procedural, and strategic scaffolds [45]. Examples of scaffolds are: cognitive scaffolds that provide prompts, clues, and supplemental information; metacognitive scaffolds that provide guidance for reflection and planning; and peer scaffolds that provide peer interaction mechanisms. For example, cognitive scaffolds, metacognitive scaffolds, and peer scaffolds can be considered as three-dimensional scaffolds, which can optimize the cognitive experience of learners in distance learning activities. As a result of numerous action research studies, researchers have proposed various multi-dimensional scaffolds in educational games, for example, the dual scaffold structure of educational games based on board games [39]. This mechanism uses the dual assistance of peer scaffolding and cognitive scaffolding to guide learners’ cognitive interactions in physical AR board games, and the effectiveness of this framework on learners was found to be demonstrated in the analysis of players’ behavioral patterns. In the field of STEM and science education, our team has designed scaffolding structures to assist learners’ cognitive thinking in science concept-solving games and found that different types of scaffolding (scaffolding with multiple senses or different representations) have multiple aids for learners [24,46,47]. For higher-level cognitive processes (e.g., strategy planning and problem solving), multi-dimensional scaffolds are needed to provide support [19]. However, these educational game scaffolding frameworks are for face-to-face interactions in physical classrooms, rather than for distance-synchronous online instruction, where learner focus is a challenge for teachers [14]. Research has found that the pattern of role division has a critical influence on the higher complexity and difficulty of inquiry tasks in the collaborative problem-solving process of distance synchronous learning [48]. Groups with a high degree of collective flow engagement tend to have deeper learning interactions [39]. Therefore, the design of scaffolds to facilitate remote interactions and scientific discussions deserves deeper and more innovative strategies, and is an important and less explored topic. The design of multi-dimensional scaffolds specifically for interactive learning in a distance synchronous learning context to simultaneously facilitate flow engagement and the division of labor is an important issue. The design of such scaffolds will be very different from the physical board game and is a challenging new research topic because of the gap and the difference in the form of interaction in the remote interaction.

3.3. Cloud-Based Interactive Tools for Collaborative Problem Solving in Science

Another issue is how to assist science teachers to overcome the burden of synchronous remote tools and provide an environment that can facilitate teacher–student interactions in remote synchronous group activities (including the interface between various tools and the design of template cases). In this section, many cloud-based interactive tools (e.g., online communication tools, co-creation whiteboards, cloud-based interactive tools, etc.) can be considered to promote visualization and real-time communication, and to facilitate the development of more real-time interactive peer scaffolds to compensate for space limitations in interactions. However, this also tests the ability of teachers and students to use technology and remote classroom management [29,30]. There are many cloud-based distance learning tools available on the Internet, including:
  • Synchronous communication tools (e.g., Meet, Team, Zoom, Gather, Spotvirtual, etc.).
These tools can provide remote and synchronous interactive teaching activities, including online lectures and group discussion rooms for online collaborative discussions (including video and text-based discussions). Some tools can even provide customized role-playing (e.g., Gather, Spotvirtual), allowing instructors to build virtual spaces that fit the learning context and allow learners to interact with realistic situations online to facilitate the analysis and learning of scientific phenomena.
Synchronous co-creation whiteboards (e.g., Google Jamboard, myViewBoard, Miro, etc.).
These tools can provide students with the ability to collaboratively edit remotely, or to implement interactive activities or games on the whiteboard. Many whiteboards can also be embedded with multimedia and a variety of real-time interactive features that allow for the presentation of multiple scientific clues and provide interactive manipulation during science learning investigations.
Project planning/data analysis tools (e.g., Miro, Google Analysis, Google Sheet, etc.).
These tools provide learners with the ability to plan projects (e.g., mind maps and flowcharts) or to analyze, compute, and document scientific data for planning and analyzing scientific projects.
Therefore, a framework that combines and mediates these cloud-based interactive tools with game-based point mechanisms, formative assessments, and multiple scaffold implementations will help to provide remote science teaching sites.
In summary, based on a long-term series of distance learning action research [49,50,51] and educational game scaffolding framework [19,39], this study proposes a framework for integrating online co-creative interactive toolsets and scaffolding for distance learning. This framework also addresses all the above-mentioned needs of distance science education, including gamification, collaborative science problem solving, multi-dimensional scaffolding, and tool combinations. Based on this framework, it is useful for teachers to directly apply and design remote synchronous gamified CPS activities.

4. Framework: Integration of Cloud Toolset and Scaffolding for Gamified Teaching and Learning Activities

4.1. Gamified Teaching Activity Framework

The gamification teaching activity framework proposed in this study is shown in Figure 1. Using this framework, we can produce a variety of gamified teaching tool templates composed of three core interactive tools in an appropriate tool set as shown in the center of the figure. The framework diagram includes three types of cloud tools: T1 (collaborative communication tool), T2 (multimedia whiteboard tool), T3 (co-creation planning tool), and three types of scaffolds: SCF1 (peer scaffolding: e.g., providing interactive group discussion mechanism and guidance), SCF2 (cognitive scaffolding with multi-dimensional representation, e.g., providing animations or videos of scientific models that promote cognitive understanding), and SCF3 (metacognitive scaffolding, e.g., providing prompts that facilitate learners’ scientific reflection and planning on the scientific hypotheses presented).
Users can choose the appropriate cloud tools for designing teaching and learning activities by referring to the categories of tools in the framework, or adopting a platform that integrates multiple tools as several of them do. Since there are few cloud tools that integrate all the functions of the above tools, and even if there are platforms that integrate more than two tools, it is not yet possible to achieve a more optimal or flexible design in terms of the function of each tool than tools that provide that function alone; we suggest that a more flexible solution can be chosen according to the needs of teaching activities.
These tools will be paired with three game mechanisms (point mechanism, time resource scarcity, and card game mechanism) to achieve three learning goals, including LG1 (collaborative communication skills), LG2 (scientific concepts and scientific inquiry), and LG3 (innovative planning skills). Teachers and researchers can refer to this framework to combine appropriate tools, game mechanisms, and scaffolds according to the needs of different curricula in each area to achieve the most appropriate tool sets (i.e., templates) for each teaching unit of the curriculum.
Among them, the gamification mechanism of points [52,53] can be embedded in T1 collaborative communication tools (e.g., video conferencing software, such as Meet, Zoom, Teams, etc.) to stimulate the motivation of interaction among the group members. For example, teachers can conduct various activities in the video conferencing software and award points according to the level of interaction and learning outcomes, and record the points and announce them in the chat room of the communication tool. The design of the point system can be combined with appropriate guidance and cognitive design. Teachers can use the appropriate point mechanism to promote the initial cognitive engagement and motivation of the learners, and then gradually promote the internal motivation of the learners under the guidance of the scaffolds.
In addition, teachers can add peer scaffolding mechanism (SCF1) to T1. For example, using the activity mechanism of group discussion, the rules require the use of a specific cloud tool (e.g., the cloud whiteboard in T2) for collaborative group problem solving and scientific argumentation tasks. Since the usefulness of peer scaffolding is an important predictor of group performance [54], such a “cloud tool with game and scaffolding mechanism” framework is expected to help achieve the learning goal of promoting LG1 (collaborative communication skills). For example, the role-playing mechanism is used as a peer scaffold, and players can take on the role of scientists with different expertise to discuss and make decisions after analyzing different data on the online whiteboard.
In addition, the T2 multimedia whiteboard tools (co-editable whiteboards that can incorporate multimedia and provide various science representational scaffolds, e.g., Google Jamboard, myViewBoard, Miro, etc.) can embed interactive and collaborative problem-solving tasks in online card games, which are expected to stimulate learners’ scientific concepts through interactive and collaborative tasks among the group cognitive thinking, collaborative problem solving, and real-time evaluation in the game. In this part, since the multimedia and graphic cards will be embedded with cognitive scaffolds of different scientific representations (SCF2) [47], it will help learners to develop their knowledge acquisition and problem-solving skills of scientific concepts [46], achieve the LG2 (Scientific Concepts and Scientific Inquiry) learning goal, and use their understanding of scientific concepts to solve scientific problems. For example, in the implementation of card-based teaching activities on online whiteboards. The cards can present scientific knowledge related to puzzle solving as a cognitive scaffold, and can be animated, diagrammed, or videoed with a variety of representational clues.
As the above two tools require students to simultaneously plan for scientific inquiry and problem solving, including scientific argumentation, hypothesis formulation, and co-creation of hypothesis validation strategies and methods, this part can be supported by T3 co-creation planning tools (e.g., online project planning tools and data visualization analysis tools, e.g., Miro, Google Analysis, Google Sheet, etc.). T3 co-creation tools can be embedded with a gamified point system that includes gamification mechanisms such as limited time, levels, stages, or scarcity of resources [52] to motivate learners to develop effective collaborative analysis skills in a suitable challenging environment. The instructor can also provide suggestions on the direction of the learner’s analysis and planning based on the planning history in T3, as a metacognitive scaffold to assist the learner with immediate reflection and planning updates and corrections, and to help learners achieve the LG3 (innovative planning skills) learning goal. For example, learners can be diagnosed based on their learning history and planning content on the analysis tool, and the communication tool can be used to provide timely hints and suggestions to the players for corresponding solutions to facilitate their reflection and adjustment planning.
The cloud framework proposed above is expected to help connect scientific inquiry theory, scaffolding learning theory, gamification theory, and distance learning technology tools at the same time, and use scientific phenomena as game contexts to combine these connected teaching designs in various cloud gamification toolset templates to facilitate the practical application of distance learning science teaching. In addition to the point system and resources provided in GM1 and GM3 to support the distance learning activities, the interactive mechanism in GM2 can be more flexible, for example, embedding the interactive mechanism of digital educational games or serious games to provide realistic interactive space and puzzle-solving tasks (e.g., escape from a secret room) [55] to enhance more interactive fun and learning experience.

4.2. Implementation of Cloud-Based Gamified Teaching Template

According to the above framework, teachers can combine templates for specific learning topics. The template in this figure contains a toolset consisting of three core tools, including T1 (collaborative communication tool), T2 (multimedia whiteboard tool), and T3 (co-creation planning tool). As shown in Figure 2, the teacher divides students into two groups of three students each, and students can communicate and collaborate with each other through the collaborative communication video conferencing tool. The teacher uses T1’s video conferencing tool to share knowledge presentation slides and videos, and to announce tasks and share related links and learning resources.
During games or collaborative tasks, the teacher uses the group discussion feature in the video conferencing tool as an intra-group forum for each group (other groups cannot see and hear the other group’s interactions) to provide peer interaction between groups as a peer scaffold. The teacher creates and gives each group a group-owned whiteboard (T2) assigned to the peer group (other groups will not see the content). The teacher assigns a game tasks or game cards on the student’s whiteboard, and the students are given a set time limit to work on a scientific inquiry task (e.g., combining, sorting, or matching chemical cards).
For example, in an online whiteboard teaching activity where card matching and combinations are implemented, the teacher can distribute various card images on the whiteboard so that players can play and assemble sets of cards. The cards can present scientific knowledge related to puzzle solving as cognitive scaffolds. These scaffolds can be animations, diagrams, or videos with different representational clues, and players can make the correct combinations of cards to perform the correct chemical reactions to solve the tasks. The teacher also creates an additional game status and score whiteboard (visible to all students) in this template, which contains the task objectives, group scores, and countdowns. The instructor can use the whiteboard tool to embed various multimedia information, publish the latest score status of each competing team and the time left in the game, and project the whiteboard to the learners through one of the multiple windows of the video conferencing tool.
An example of a situational mission can be as follows:
The game requires the collaboration of three intelligence officers with scientific expertise in a limited period of time to analyze the space, path, attack patterns, and various phenomena encountered in the bunker, analyze the possible causes, laws, and scientific hypotheses of the phenomena, and accordingly analyze and find the appropriate parts or chemical substances to form the correct and suitable machinery. In addition, the teacher will be able to find the right parts or chemicals to form the right machinery or make the right chemicals to achieve the task of entering the enemy camp and rescuing the hostages. The scoreboard controlled by the instructor will show the game progress, the score of each group of informants, and the status of each group’s various attributes. In the T2 whiteboard of each group, the teacher can give each group game cards and manipulative panels (e.g., chemical substance cards, experimental equipment cards, physical machine parts cards, and other cards and experimental boxes for assembly, matching, or sorting) for students to manipulate and simulate during the game. When students complete specific actions, they will be given instant feedback by the tool or the teacher as a cognitive scaffold, and the progress of each group of games will be updated on the main control panel at any time. Teachers will also provide students with T3 co-creation planning tools, which include possible planning tools, data compilation, and analysis tools (e.g., providing students with the ability to develop research hypotheses, plan research steps, and analyze research data, etc.). In order to monitor all group interactions simultaneously, teachers can participate in group discussion rooms and whiteboards for each group, display them side-by-side on the computer screen, or use paging to manage whiteboard windows and video discussion room windows for all groups for real-time feedback and evaluation of gamified group activities.
All of the above tools are synchronous tools, and the three tools provide teachers with the ability to embed three types of scaffolds between the tools: SCF1 (peer scaffolding), SCF2 (multi-representational cognitive scaffolding), and SCF3 (metacognition scaffolding). For example, in the above example, the teacher can use the game mechanism design to allow the participants to achieve the functions of SCF1 (peer scaffolding) (e.g., role-playing of group members, differences in resources and duties, etc.) by adding rounds of interaction or collaborative norms to the T1 and T2 tools to promote more interactive discussions and consensus decisions between each other rather than independently. In addition, teachers can use the teacher-controlled game-state whiteboard to provide support resources (e.g., support cards from experts containing research papers, subject knowledge examples, various representational science texts, videos, animations, etc.) to provide students with SCF2 (multi-representational cognitive scaffolding) when solving problems and assembling cards. In the co-creation planning tool T3, teachers will be able to arrange more process examples, problem-solving step worksheets, and guidebooks to guide strategic reflection as SCF3 (metacognitive scaffolding).
Overall, under the T1 communication tool, and T2 and T3 co-creation and interaction mechanism, gamification mechanisms, such as competition points, time scarcity, card combination achievement, and event uncertainty, can be linked with the embedding of the above three scaffolds. Such a template is expected to achieve three learning goals, including LG1 (collaborative communication skills), LG2 (scientific concepts and inquiry), and LG3 (innovative planning skills).

5. Application Guidelines and Action Research of the Framework

The framework is designed as a template for a learning unit. A template contains a game story context, a set of rules for the gamification mechanism, and some appropriate learning sheets for cloud-based co-creation documents. In this framework, teachers can optimize the combination of tools based on cognitive learning design principles (e.g., scaffolding, problem solving, contextualized learning, role-playing, flow facilitation elements, etc.) and apply them to distance science inquiry instruction and cross-country science courses.
Based on the above framework, we suggest that teachers and lesson plan planners can design and assemble their own cloud-based gamification templates by referring to the following guiding steps:
  • Set learning objectives and teaching contents according to subject units.
  • Design the mechanism of teaching gamification according to the learning objectives and teaching contents (e.g., point system, card interaction, scientific inquiry competition, etc.).
  • Select the required remote cloud tools according to the teaching activities and gamification mechanism.
  • According to the difficulties that learners may face, select tools and design scaffolds in these tools according to the above framework.
We have also conducted preliminary action research on some case studies of this template framework, including distance synchronous teaching in the areas of science problem solving [49], decision science [50], and management science decision making [51]. These teaching activities were found to have positive effects on learners’ learning, such as flow engagement, knowledge acquisition, and positive acceptance of games.

6. Conclusions and Future Research

This study is based on a long series of action research on synchronous gamified learning [49,50,51] and educational game scaffolding framework [19,39] to propose a synchronous gamification teaching activity framework. This framework is expected to meet the needs of distance science education and includes the integration of theories and tools such as gamification, collaborative science problem solving, and multi-dimensional scaffolding.
Future research will include a multi-dimensional analysis of distance learning using this game template and compare it to either general lecture-based online synchronous distance science teaching or asynchronous video-based distance science teaching. Currently, there are few multi-dimensional analyses of distance synchronous game-based learning activities, especially because distance learning during and after the pandemic includes psychological, emotional, interactive, and community issues that need to be explored [14,56,57]. Therefore, in the future, in addition to the assessment of knowledge acquisition or scientific problem-solving skills in science concept learning, it is recommended to gain insight into students’ motivations for gamified activities (e.g., motivations for teaching activities and science subjects) [58], flow experiences [34,35,39,59] in such integrated frameworks, and explore various possible positive and negative emotions [60] (e.g., enjoyment, tension) among peers. The anxiety of learners in play activities [61] and in science subjects [62] are also suggested to be explored.
Another focus of future research is to design coding schemes for gamers’ learning behaviors in games and conduct behavioral pattern analysis (including: scientific inquiry process, scientific argument discussion, scientific problem-solving behavior, and teacher–student interaction issues). These behavioral patterns [3,39] will help to triangulate with the above-mentioned motivation, flow, anxiety, and emotion to enhance the exploration of distance synchronous science teaching. Finally, an analysis of the perceived usefulness of various scaffolds [46] will also be conducted to explore students’ perceptions of the functions and effects of the three scaffolds through interviews and surveys.
In teaching practice, remote synchronous teaching may play a critical role in both unstable and post-epidemic times. The framework of this study is expected to be useful for direct application and use by field science teachers. Future research will also invite teachers to co-produce content, and through outreach activities and workshops, should help directly benefit teachers’ distance learning, and conduct surveys on the acceptance and usefulness of teachers’ use for teaching. The future study will refine the tools, scaffolds, and game mechanisms in the framework to better meet the needs of teaching and learning, based on the results of the above-mentioned multi-dimensional empirical analysis and the analysis of the usefulness of teachers’ use.


This research was supported by the projects from the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, under contract number MOST-110-2511-H-011-004-MY3 and MOST-111-2410-H-011-004-MY3.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

No new data were created or analyzed in this study. Data sharing is not applicable to this article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. A Framework for Remote Synchronous Science Collaborative Problem Solving Gamified Teaching Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding.
Figure 1. A Framework for Remote Synchronous Science Collaborative Problem Solving Gamified Teaching Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding.
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Figure 2. Implementation of a Remote Synchronous Gamified Teaching Tool Combination Template.
Figure 2. Implementation of a Remote Synchronous Gamified Teaching Tool Combination Template.
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Hou, H.-T. Learning Science through Cloud Gamification: A Framework for Remote Gamified Science Learning Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding. Information 2023, 14, 165.

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Hou H-T. Learning Science through Cloud Gamification: A Framework for Remote Gamified Science Learning Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding. Information. 2023; 14(3):165.

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Hou, Huei-Tse. 2023. "Learning Science through Cloud Gamification: A Framework for Remote Gamified Science Learning Activities Integrating Cloud Tool Sets and Three-Dimensional Scaffolding" Information 14, no. 3: 165.

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