An interesting meta-study from researchers at Texas A&M looked at instruction delivered through videogames, simulations, and virtual worlds. While all were found to be effective, educational videogames were found to be the most effective.
Here is the abstract:
The purpose of this meta-analysis is to examine overall effect as well as the impact of selected instructional design principles in the context of virtual reality technology-based instruction (i.e. games, simulation, virtual worlds) in K-12 or higher education settings. A total of 13 studies (N = 3081) in the category of games, 29 studies (N = 2553) in the category of games, and 27 studies (N = 2798) in the category of virtual worlds were meta-analyzed. The key inclusion criteria were that the study came from K-12 or higher education settings, used experimental or quasi-experimental research designs, and used a learning outcome measure to evaluate the effects of the virtual reality-based instruction.
Results suggest games (FEM = 0.77; REM = 0.51), simulations (FEM = 0.38; REM = 0.41), and virtual worlds (FEM = 0.36; REM = 0.41) were effective in improving learning outcome gains. The homogeneity analysis of the effect sizes was statistically significant, indicating that the studies were different from each other. Therefore, we conducted moderator analysis using 13 variables used to code the studies. Key findings included that: games show higher learning gains than simulations and virtual worlds. For simulation studies, elaborate explanation type feedback is more suitable for declarative tasks whereas knowledge of correct response is more appropriate for procedural tasks. Students performance is enhanced when they conduct the game play individually than in a group. In addition, we found an inverse relationship between number of treatment sessions learning gains for games.
With regards to the virtual world, we found that if students were repeatedly measured it deteriorates their learning outcome gains. We discuss results to highlight the importance of considering instructional design principles when designing virtual reality-based instruction.
Merchant, Z., Goetz, E. T., Cifuentes, L., Keeney-Kennicutt, W., & Davis, T. J. (2014). Effectiveness of virtual reality-based instruction on students’ learning outcomes in K-12 and higher education: A meta-analysis. Computers & Education, 70, 29-40.