Case Studies - July 12, 2021


Some of the people who struggle the most, when it comes to motivation, are definitely students. As subjects become more complicated and specific, the hours one must dedicate to study rise, while motivation and focus sink

That’s when you see the most whimsical and tortuous methods being invented: somebody uses an app that plants trees for every straight-studying hour; somebody else writes schemes over schemes, hoping to remember evrerything by the exam date; some others eat a candy bar for every 200 pages read…

The pandemic made it even worse, if possible.

How am I supposed to focus in the coziness of my room, with so much food available and studying from the same device that I use to check my Instagram page or my emails?

An effective studying method is due to engender motivation. Can we find some interesting tools in gamification, maybe?

While in the previous article we sought and found many advantages of gamification techniques in retail business, in this article instead we try to understand if the same benefits can be expected in educational matters. 

Spoiler alert: it’s not as easy as it seems. 

Not sure about what gamification really is? Go back to the start with our article about Gamification Definitions to know more!

So far we’ve explained how gamification has sparked a controversy amongst academics, UX designers, researchers etc. Not only is it hard to pinpoint the right definition, but given the wide spectrum of sectors the technique has already been applied to, theoretical and empirical studies are still struggling to keep pace.  

Nevertheless, one of the key sectors where gamification could have high potential to boost motivation is precisely education. 

What are the potentialities of gamification in learning?

Hypothetically, its use could be applied to many activities and behaviors, such as collaboration, self-guided study, assignments, making assessments easier and more effective as much as strengthening student creativity and retention. The hope and the aim is to make the student fall in that “immersive phase” that is typical of video gaming (or board gaming etc). 

Wouldn’t it be grand if you had to drag your son to dinner, because he’s too caught up in studying?

baby crying wanting to study

Yet, successful gamified learning techniques that engender these behavioural changes are still more of a guessing practice than science.

That’s due to several factors, for example:

  • Current studies focus more on higher education students and especially CS and IT,  for some reason. Maybe college students are more suitable for gamification than other grades?  But this makes the outcome not applicable to groups with different features. 
  • Education is too wide and diverse and so have to be the studies that want to prove the usefulness of gamification in every single one of its folds.
  • Most case studies used simple game elements to prove their point, but didn’t try to apply deeper game elements such as mechanics and dynamics. Those would make the study more accurate.

Having said that, let’s dive into a practical case study of gamified learning in higher education

The example that we want to talk about is a case study developed by the Lublin University of Technology in Poland. Sixty-two students of the course of Computer Science were chosen and divided into 2 groups. To one of these groups, gamified teaching techniques were applied while the rest followed the traditional academic grading system. The test was held for a whole semester and the results were examined at the end of it. Among the KPI evaluated for this test, the researchers considered attendance, number of additional tasks completed and grade average.

The purpose of the test was to answer two simple questions:

  • Does gamification improve or downgrade students’ engagement and performance in class?
  • And which gamification technique has the biggest influence on students and why?

The students of the first group would gain points for some specific actions, such as attending classes, doing homeworks, completing a project and taking bonus tasks.

points to the students according to a specific action taken

By the end of the semester, grades would be given according to the number of points gained through the above-mentioned actions.

equivalent grade of the students 
according to their score

The results of the experiment were surprising, both in a negative and positive way. It was interesting to notice that gamification techniques worked perfectly on some KPIs, but were detrimental for some others.

For example the students of the first group, recorded a higher attendance level (over 97%) then the regular group (around 85%). Besides the students were more willing to take in extra tasks (first chart).

However the researchers could not find a correlation to the fact that the gamified group average marks were lower than the traditional-method group (second chart) .

comparison between gamified class and non gamified in terms of homeworks completed
comparison between gamified students and on gamified according to their grades.

Does this mean that gamification is not suitable for education? Absolutely not!

As we mentioned earlier, the education sector is so big and vast that these results can be applied only to this small and specific type of users. That is to say college students with computer knowledge from computer science courses. Moreover the results consider only a few game elements that were used (such as points and leaderboards)  and that we consider to belong to extrinsic motivation rather than deep design elements of games.

In conclusion, the subject of gamification applied in education has not yet been studied  profusely and deeply enough to say whether gamification is useful or not to boost students’ motivation. 

More to come

We made a big step forward in gamification knowledge but considering the huge potential of game mechanics and dynamics…there’s still more to learn!

Stick around to find out the last case study about loyalty programs and gamification. 

Stay tuned!

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