In this paper, we present a framework for the development of collaborative design games that can be employed in participatory design sessions with students for the design of educational applications. The framework is inspired by idea generation theory and the design games literature, and guides the development of board games which, through the use of adequate stimuli, rules and props, facilitate students in extracting and expressing their needs, desires and prospects regarding future educational software. To evaluate the proposed framework three studies were conducted. The first study aimed at the design of a web learning platform with the participation of 62 undergraduate higher education students in 13 design sessions; in the second study, a structured design approach was employed (12 sessions, 54 students) with the same design objective for comparison reasons; in the third study, the framework was deployed for the design of an electronic assessment application so as to examine its applicability in different learning domains (8 design sessions, 28 students). Students were very positive regarding both their participation and experience with the design games, and the needs elicited. The games favored a quick, broad exploration of the design space and facilitated the elicitation of numerous diverse needs and ideas, almost twice as many as produced by the structured approach. They also facilitated the creation of an informal atmosphere and limited the effects of common social influences on idea generation, such as social loafing, evaluation apprehension and production blocking. The three studies indicated that the proposed framework may simplify the development and employment of effective and efficient participatory design sessions in educational settings.
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