The Effects of Using Gamification Techniques on Graduate Students

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The Effects of Using Gamification Techniques on Graduate Students’ Motivation in a Face-To-Face Training Environment


Gamification can be expressed as the application of gaming mechanisms within a non-gaming environment. Its underlying aim is to enhance processes enacted as well as the experiences of all those involved. In the past few years, gamification has become very important in education and training since the concept has all the techniques that can be used to make the learning process more engaging and motivating. In this research paper, we attempt to understand how training teachers can help them implement gamification and how it will enhance the motivation and engagement level of the students in their learning process. The paper also reports the results of the literature review that has been conducted and analyzed up till now; however, more research needs to be done on the aspect of gamification within the context of education.

These researches are done in different countries and compliance with both gamification in training and formal education – primary to higher education. The present situation on gamification in training and education is still in its initial stages, in which every study aims to improve the effectiveness of the learning process by incorporating gaming elements. There are certain gaps in the research made and which have been identified in this paper as well. The various benefits associated with gamification in education have been explained as how it can enhance the motivation and engagement level of the students. The paper also outlines different research made in the context of gamification in education and what implications it has on a wider range of learning processes.

Engagement and motivation are considered to be prerequisites for the encouragement of a specific behavior or for completing a task. With respect o education, the major reason for low performance or drop-outs is associated with lack of engagement which is a pattern of increasing absenteeism where each absence makes the student less willing to return to school, and the worst effect is that they are distracted by technology like the internet and smartphones. This eventually hinders the process of information absorption and negatively impacts the effectiveness of training programs.

In today’s digital world, gamification is considered an effective technique for encouraging specific behaviors and increasing engagement and motivation. Gamification concepts are being implemented in educational aspects as well as it helps educators maintain a balance between their goal achievement and catering to the needs of their students as well.

This report aims to explain gamification, review the successful implementation of the process and understand its limitations. The analysis reveals that the dynamics of the process have made the game engaging and broadly recognized and utilized within modern pedagogical practices; however, they are under different designations. However, this offers a certain level of legitimacy to the practice, which is dismissed as being superficial, and provides a way of formulating useful guidelines for educators willing to incorporate the power of games for student motivation.

The method used to conduct the survey is experimental, where two groups – control and experimental group – were used, and the participants were teachers who were put into training to help students understand gamification and implement it effectively within the learning environment. The effects were measured through instructive objective cards on both groups that were applied with the gamification approach. The results are analyzed in terms of increased motivation and engagement in students who were learning in a gaming environment and those who were not.

The measuring device used to conduct the study is the intrinsic motivation inventory, which aims to measure the participants’ subjective experience related to a targeted activity in laboratory experiments.

The results emerging from this study point toward the increasing popularity of gamification techniques that are being applied in various educational settings. It has also been defined that in the recent few years, the concept of gamification has become more common in the minds of researchers and practitioners, and many have fairly adopted game artifacts as their educational tool and which enhances the overall learning process.



Many students consider traditional methods of schooling to be boring. Although educationists are constantly seeking novel techniques, there is widespread consensus that today’s educational institutes are facing many issues related to student engagement and motivation (Lee & Hammer, 2011). Using educational games as a tool for learning is an approach that promises guaranteed learning because games have abilities to teach along with reinforcing knowledge levels and promoting important skills like collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. Games tend to have extraordinary motivational powers since they utilize various mechanisms through which people are encouraged to engage quite often without any reward, to enjoy playing and probably to win.

Creating a highly engaging game that is a complete instructional source of learning is difficult, costly, and time-consuming (Kapp, 2012a). In addition to this, games should not only be interactive, but they should have certain technical infrastructures as well as suitable instructive integrations. Unlike the traditional approach, where games include many development efforts and designs, the gamification process suggests incorporating game designing and game thinking elements to improve the motivation and engagement of the learners (Ott & Tavella, 2009). 

Gamification is described as the process of using game-designing elements in a non-game context; this concept is new and increasing rapidly (Deterding et al., 2011). The underlying concept of gamification differs from an actual or educational game as the latter is a full-fledged game used for non-entertainment purposes, and elements that have been gamified include only certain elements of a game.


Literature Review

Researchers point out that to be successful. The game should include elements that offer some value to the participants, provide various playing forms, offer easy and early access to content, and provide a prize for participation (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011). In addition to this, some arguments indicate that games can train players mainly for performing different tasks and collecting items of points rather than the academic aspect. However, this is only sometimes true in the international higher educational scenario (Tulloch, 2014). The learning strategies of the students and their varying cultural and educational backgrounds are considered when planning and conducting the courses. 

The fact is that a suitable game is introduced to the right target group. Adult learners can use their education and work experience to develop new solutions, and integrating a game environment will help them test risky strategies and analyze competitors’ responses. Like younger players, even adults are excited to give good performances. Moreover, their decisions are more calculated and careful as they draw conclusions based on their real-life expertise. Here the most significant challenge for the educator is selecting pedagogically suitable methods for adults to play the game seriously.

There is a common assumption that most learners are motivated by computer games. This may be true for younger students; adults tend to be more demanding. Integrating gamification in an adult learning environment requires well-designed and fair games and an effective learning environment. In addition, involving interactions will facilitate the learning process (Whitton, 2011, p. 597). The best point of gamification in education is that both the teachers and the learners are so deeply engaged in the game that they experience a flow (Benyon & al., 2005). A flow is explained as a state in which people are much involved in an activity that no other thing matters and the experience is so pleasing that they will do it even at a greater cost only for the sake of doing it (Csikszentmihalyi, 1992).  

Adult learners are not motivated towards learning by computer games as they want them to be challenging, curiosity awakening, well-designed and should be designed to provide a deeper understanding of the topics included in the curriculum. Moreover, adult learners should also be able to solve real-time business problems based on their curriculum and anticipate the actions’ results (Whitton, 2011, 596-597, 604-606, Malone and Leppert, 1987). A game having poor tutoring or malfunctions will have a controversial impact on the learners.

There have also been identified some factors which have a negative impact on learning. First, understanding the game rules takes a lot of time. Learners will need help starting the game. Secondly, if there is sufficient support in the game when they get stuck, learners will come into a state of trust in the game itself. Thirdly, the game should embed in the overall learning environment and should have characteristics to enhance the learning process (Whitton, 2011, pp. 602-603)


Intrinsic Motivation and Goal Theory

Intrinsic motivation increases students’ learning performance, enjoyment, and persistence. The link between motivational need and gamification principles is very important for designing an effective gamification process, identifying of intended players, and gearing the game toward fulfilling their needs(Cordova & Lepper, 1996; Mills & Blankstein, 2000). The study aims to understand that implementing the gamification process increases students’ motivation and engagement, and the results can be associated with various motivational theories. Using cards and measuring their influence on students’ motivation is explained in the light of the goal-setting theory (Ma, Jain, & Oikonomou, 2011, p. 409). Given the situation where students have a choice over what activities they want to perform and when gamification can also be linked with mastery orientation and performance (Ames & Archer, 1988; Pintrich, 2003).

Security and physiological needs

Although games do not impact the player’s physiological state, they can impact the brain’s need for them through gaming elements like ownership and scarcity. Scarcity within games can be explained as the artificial limiting of an in-game resource. This is very common in mobile applications where the player is delayed by imposed limits upon actions he can do in a given time. The player is motivated to pay for the game to reduce the delay and overcome their fear of scarcity. On the other side, game ownership refers to the in-game possessions a player can accumulate. Games are designed in this format to allow players to collect items.

Belongingness needs

Social elements like chat rooms, forums, and groups are suitable at this point, and incorporating these social elements within games directly appeals to the belongingness need of a player. Game elements that appeal to the player will motivate them to participate in the game, along with the in-built social aspects.

The popularity of gamification is rising continuously. According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle, which is a research methodology outlining the viability of emerging technologies for commercial success, gamification was at the top position in the Hype Cycle of 2013 (Gartner, 2013), having an expectation of reaching a productivity plateau in the coming ten years. However, this is mainly associated with business contexts. The trend of gamification techniques within educational settings is still struggling to get on the top.

There is not enough current research on gamification approaches in educational contexts, and this is particularly true in the teachers’ training sessions for using and implementing effective technologies to apply the TPACK framework and how to integrate the gamification process within their teaching strategy. 

TPACK is based on Shulman’s idea of PCK and includes some essential qualities of knowledge that are required by educators for integrating technology into their teaching, along with addressing the complex and multifaceted nature of teacher knowledge. It is a complex interplay of primary knowledge forms – Content (CK), Pedagogy (PK), and Technology (TK). Here content knowledge means acquiring the necessary information about the subjects, pedagogical knowledge refers to understanding how to teach this information to the students, and technological knowledge refers to the effective incorporation of technology in the lesson plan.

For every teacher, it is important to understand the concept of TPACK since the world is increasingly becoming technologically advanced. Nowadays, technology has become an essential aspect of classroom learning. Students are using technology in their daily lives, and for this purpose, it would be unwise for teachers to ignore this factor. However, technology should be integrated purposefully and wisely. It should be part of a lesson plan that helps enhance students’ learning.  

TPACK is not only about technology. Technology still needs to replace the content or pedagogical knowledge. Instead, it adds a new dimension to the learning process. Teachers should know about their subject along with the way how to teach it to the students. Teachers can perform more effectively when they understand and use the concept of TPACK in the classroom. 

Shedding further light on the learning experiences incorporating gamification, there have been recently conducted a literature search by the authors which reviewed the current status of the relationship between education and gamification, and the results indicated that there are very close relationships between the two (Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa, 2014). The relationship states that players experience a kind of engagement with the games, which is translated into the educational context for the goal of facilitating learning and influencing students’ behavior. Some literature reviews have been published on gamification (See Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa, 2014; Xu, 2012; Nah, Zeng, Telaprolu, Ayyappa, & Eschenbrenner, 2014). Among these researches, only the previous research focused on gamification in education. In this paper, we will study the aspect of training teachers to help them acquire skills for innovating teaching strategies through gamification.


Dynamics of gamification

Past literature revealed certain dynamics of integrating gameplay within learning processes, which have been proven to provide consistent and successful results.

Freedom for failing

The game design allows players to experiment without any fear of any irreversible damage by providing them with multiple lives or allowing them to start from the beginning. Integrating the freedom for failing within a classroom atmosphere is a compelling dynamic in enhancing student motivation and engagement (Gee, James Paul, 2008; Lee, J. & Hammer, J. 2011; Kapp, K. M. 2012 Salen, Katie 2008).

Rapid Feedback

Feedback is considered to be a critical element in the learning process (Kapp, 2012). Feedback is a crucial element in education even if game design is not integrated; however, incorporating the elements of game design in the form of continual feedback to the learners in the way of visual cues, self-paced exercises, and question and answer activities is another dynamic progression (Kapp, K. M., 2012).


Another positive dynamic that impacts the learning process in the classroom is using narrative and storytelling. Most of the games include some form of storytelling (Kapp, 2012). For example, Monopoly tells the story of being rich through owning property. The researcher is of the opinion that people tend to learn facts faster when they are embedded within a story rather than in a list (Kapp, 2012)


Challenges Associated With Gamifying Education

Although gamification of education has several positive aspects that can make the education process effective and interesting. However, there are certain challenges associated with using games in an educational environment. The first challenge is the development of gaming elements that will engage adult learners without condescending them. The other challenge is training teachers to integrate gaming elements meaningfully within curriculum activities. Another challenge is making games for educational purposes include more sophisticated content. 


Purpose of the Research

The purpose of the research is to promote the development of teachers through the incorporation of innovative and unique teaching strategies like gamification within training programs. The purpose is to facilitate teachers’ acquisition of effective technology integration skills. This can be done by providing them with adequate training for effectively applying the TPACK framework. By integrating the gamification process in the educational context, the intrinsic motivational level of the students will be assessed. 

Technology integration skills in teachers are very important in this technologically advanced era. This is important to improve the learning process along with making it fun and enjoyable for adult learners. In order to make the classroom an effective place to teach, where students learn about their curriculum through gaming elements will help teachers improve their performance and help students deeply understand their subjects.


Methodology and Data Collection

The experimental research was conducted on two groups – one being a control group and the other the experimental group. Students in the control group were 24, and students in the experimental group were 25. All students’ participation was purely voluntary, and they participated in the study with their willingness. The research participants are teachers enrolled in a graduate instructional technology program. The age bracket of these teachers was between 25-33 years old.

The control group comprises students learning in a traditional learning environment. The group was divided into sub-groups of 4-5 students per group. All the students were provided with the rules of the training session. The session aims to help graduate students understand and apply the TPACK framework. The materials comprised cards prepared by the researchers, and every card had an instructional objective which is related to certain disciplines like science, math, geography, history, and religion. Every instructional objective has a set of technologies and different teaching strategies from which the students are required to select.

The first group was provided with the cards, and they were asked to work together to match the parts of the cards. The researchers also gave the group useful instructions to make their best match and convince at least two other groups. After the first group finishes, the round is passed to the second group, who will perform the same task. The researchers need to provide badges or points as a result of making a correct match.

The other group is the experimental group that has applied the gamification approach. Similar rules were applied to this group, and students were divided into 4-5 students group. Every student was again provided with the rules of the training session, and the researchers gave one member of the first group the instructional objective card. Students within the same group can help their members to make the best match.

The member will then present her best match to the other groups and convince them of their choice. If the member can convince at least two other groups of their match, they will proceed to a board game of snakes and ladders and throw the dice to go further in the game. The member given the card will also be provided with a point for making the correct match by using Class Dojo, a gamification application. The round is then transferred to the next group, and the entire process is repeated again. The winning group will be the one that reaches 100 points first. The winning member will be the one who will accumulate more points.

The two groups were also formed to understand their level of intrinsic motivation inventory by using a validated instrument, the intrinsic motivation inventory (IMI). The intrinsic motivation inventory is a measurement instrument that aims to measure the participants’ subjective experience related to a targeted activity in laboratory experiments. The instrument aims to assess the participants upon six subscales which include:

  • Relatedness 
  • Interest/Enjoyment
  • Value/Usefulness
  • Perceived competence
  • Pressure/tension
  • Effort/Importance

The subscale of perceived choice was not included in the data collection process since it does not apply to the study purpose. All research participants of the research were made part of the study because they wanted to, and are purely voluntary. 

Figure 1: Student Engagement and Motivation: Before and After Gamification


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