Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

Gamification is a teaching technique that uses social gaming elements to deliver higher-education courses. In three courses in Computer Science, one B.Sc and two M.Sc courses, gamification was used to activate students. The factors of differentiation among students were explicitly considered: different skill levels and different motivations. For the latter, the use of gamification enables in this case four major motivation profiles: explorers (students curious about all sorts of information), achievers (ambitious, high-achieving students), socializers (in class because others are too), and winners (want to win at the expense of others).

Objective and expected outcomes

Different gamification tools were implemented to suit these different motivations:

  • 10,000 points were required for a grade of 10.
  • Students get a small but significant reward (5% bonus to final grade) if they successfully complete the entry quiz to get them started and stimulate them to keep participating.
  • All students who reach a good level get access tokens to bonus assignments (part of the final grade).
  • The top students get access tokens to bonus material, lectures, and assignments (not part of the exam material).
  • Students can win badges, e.g., a “manga cum laude” for students who add graphics to the solutions of regular assignments, a “late but smart” badge for late students who can answer a question when they first enter the class.
  • Students participate in teams for lab work and for self-study, through which they can achieve points but also satisfy their social expectations.
  • An anonymous leaderboard was presented to the students.

Results and learnings

Game analytics were used during the courses to adapt the lecture content to the performance of the students. An ICT-based approach for this is under development at TUD.

  1. All students, with varying personalities and skill-level, are motivated, whereas only specific types of students are motivated via the one-size-fits-all approach of traditional education. Therefore, more students complete the course successfully.
  2. Students are activated to pursue learning activities, not just activities that can increase their grade.

Theoretical framework: This innovation was based on game studies, theory of fun, and education methodology.

Widely tested: Gamification was implemented in Bachelor and in Master education for a total of over 600 students (until 2014).

High study success: Gamification is correlated with increased percentage of passing students. 75% of the students passed their course on the first attempt (65% on previous years).

Activates the classroom: Gamification is correlated with participation in voluntary and challenging assignments. It fosters interaction in the classroom and actives students to think more carefully about the course and their own goals.

Positive student reactions: The in-class participation and attendance is high – even for extra lectures, which do not count for the grade – and student assessments were very positive. The lecturer received the Teacher of the Year award.

Recommendations

  • Create paths for all types of students to gain points
  • Do not make the link between the grade and the points achieved via the gamification tools too explicit, e.g., by expressing points in a different scale (in our case, times 1,000), so that students may lose bad habits (e.g., “zesjescultuur ”).
  • Implementing gamification does require additional time from the lecturer—designing the new course, and managing the gamification elements.
  • Only add points to students’ scores; do not subtract points.
  • Unannounced formative tests may offer stronger incentives to stay focused than announced tests.