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  • Gamifying a higher education course: design guidelines for increasing students’ motivation and

    engagement

    University of Oulu

    Information Processing Science

    Faculty of Information Technology and

    Electrical Engineering

    Master’s Thesis

    Aleksi Siirilä

    23.5.2017

  • Abstract

    Games have become popular in today’s media. Along with games, gamification has

    become popular in many contexts, such as education and businesses, to motivate and

    engage people. The goal for this study was to study how gamification can improve the

    motivation and engagement of the students in higher education studies and to provide a

    set of guidelines for designing a gamified higher education course. There was a practical

    need for a gamified higher education course, and a research and development project was

    conducted for the need in September 2016. At the start, preliminary literature review was

    done to look for guidelines regarding the design of gamifying a higher education course.

    Unfortunately, design guidelines as such were hard to find from the literature but the

    development of the gamified solution for the course had to be started. A gamification

    platform for a higher education course was constructed during the project, but it was not

    evaluated. After the project, it became even more clear that there was a gap in the

    literature which is trying to be filled with this study. More thorough literature review was

    conducted on gamification literature to find constructs and purposes of gamification.

    Since the gamified course concept was created by teacher and designers, students’ point

    of view was lacking. Therefore, qualitative interview was considered as valuable next

    step in the iterative process for the design guidelines. Interviews were used to find

    matching game elements and purposes of gamification as students saw them.

    Additionally, concept of the created gamification platform was evaluated with qualitative

    interviews. As a result of this study, design guidelines were primarily done to help

    teachers to choose right elements for their higher education course and secondarily to help

    designer to design the gamification platform. A four-part guideline was built to guide

    teachers in their choices on gamifying a higher education course.

    Keywords gamification, higher education, game-based learning

    Supervisor Tonja Molin-Juustila

  • 3

    Contents

    Abstract ........................................................................................................................ 2

    Contents........................................................................................................................ 3

    1. Introduction .............................................................................................................. 4

    2. Previous research on gamification in educational context ......................................... 7 2.1 Games and learning .......................................................................................... 7

    2.1.1 Game and play ...................................................................................... 7 2.1.2 Game-based learning ........................................................................... 10

    2.1.3 Serious games ..................................................................................... 11 2.2 Defining gamification .................................................................................... 12

    2.3 Gamification in education .............................................................................. 17 2.4 Elements of gamification ................................................................................ 20

    2.4.1 Game mechanics ................................................................................. 21 2.4.2 Game dynamics ................................................................................... 23

    2.4.3 Aesthetics ............................................................................................ 25 2.4.4 Technologies ....................................................................................... 26

    2.5 Motivation and engagement in gamification ................................................... 26 2.5.1 Flow ... ................................................................................................ 26

    2.5.2 Self-Determination theory ................................................................... 28 2.5.3 Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation ....................................................... 30

    2.6 Guidelines for implementing gamification in education .................................. 31 3. Research Approach and Methods............................................................................ 35

    3.1 Design science research .................................................................................. 35 3.2 Interviews ...................................................................................................... 38

    3.3 Descriptions of the interviewees ..................................................................... 40 4. Constructing the gamification platform................................................................... 43

    4.1 Project phases ................................................................................................ 43 4.2 Project result .................................................................................................. 44

    5. Results from the interviews .................................................................................... 49 6. Guidelines for gamifying a higher education course and discussion ........................ 59

    7. Conclusion ............................................................................................................. 69 References .................................................................................................................. 71

    Appendix A. Additional knowledge base which was formed during project ................ 75

    Appendix B. Core interview questions ........................................................................ 77

    Appendix C. Interview notes and transcription ............................................................ 78

    Appendix D. Numbers of picked game elements ......................................................... 93

    Appendix E. Constructed design guidelines ................................................................ 95

  • 4

    1. Introduction

    Video games have become more and more popular in nowadays’ world (Seaborn & Fels,

    2015). People all around the world are starting to see games as part of the life and it has

    become more acceptable in public opinion. Some are even going to the extreme with their

    gaming and it has become a job for them. Not only that, but millions of people are

    following them in social media and watching the games from live streams. According to

    Simões, Redondo and Vilas (2013) development of technology has been a major factor

    in video game industry’s growth spur. Games are more realistic than ever and new gaming

    mediums are becoming in the form of smartphones. (Simões et al., 2013.) According to

    Statista, global video games market was valued to be at 75 billion U.S dollars in 2016.

    Video games market have already surpassed music industry ($43 billion) and film

    industry ($38 billion of box office sales). However, gaming industry has a long way to

    reach TV industry that has been estimated to have almost $200 billion revenue.

    Additionally, TV and film industry are usually counted together which builds their

    revenue almost up to $300 billion. (Statista, 2016.) So, gaming industry still has a long

    way to become a dominant force in entertainment market.

    Following the popularity of video games, other areas than entertainment have become

    interested in harnessing the power of games in their interests. For example, educators

    have been starting to include game elements to the learning process in order to motivate

    and engage students in their learning processes. (Simões et al., 2013.) Games have been

    used in education for a long time. Martí-Parreño, Méndez-Ibáñez and Alonso-Arroyo

    (2016) introduces serious games and gamification as currently popular ways of

    implementing game-likeliness into education. According to Deterding, Dixon, Khaled

    and Nacke (2011) gamification became popular after the success of the Foursquare

    application, which contained game elements in non-game contexts. Defining gamification

    as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” differentiates gamification

    from serious games, as serious games are a fully-fledged games. In 2012 Gartner Inc.

    (2012) estimated that the gamification was on the rise to popularity. They state that more

    than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations are having at least one gamified application

    and more than 50 percent of organizations will gamify their innovation processes.

    (Gartner Inc., 2012.)

    Figure 1 shows the amount of Google searches done by each term. Blue line is

    gamification and red line is serious games. Graph is made with Google Trends. From the

    Figure 1 ca