Identifying Student Types in a Gamified Learning Experience

Identifying Student Types in a Gamified Learning Experience

Gabriel Barata (INESC-ID, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal), Sandra Gama (INESC-ID, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal), Joaquim Jorge (INESC-ID, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal) and Daniel Gonçalves (INESC-ID, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8200-9.ch026


Gamification of education is a recent trend, and early experiments showed promising results. Students seem not only to perform better, but also to participate more and to feel more engaged with gamified learning. However, little is known regarding how different students are affected by gamification and how their learning experience may vary. In this paper the authors present a study in which they analyzed student data from a gamified college course and looked for distinct behavioral patterns. The authors clustered students according to their performance throughout the semester, and carried out a thorough analysis of each cluster, regarding many aspects of their learning experience. They clearly found three types of students, each with very distinctive strategies and approaches towards gamified learning: the Achievers, the Disheartened and the Underachievers. A careful analysis allowed them to extensively describe each student type and derive meaningful guidelines, to help carefully tailoring custom gamified experiences for them.
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Videogames are being widely explored to teach and convey knowledge (de Aguilera & Mendiz, 2003; Squire, 2003), given the notable educational benefits and pedagogical possibilities they enable (Bennett et al., 2008; O’Neil et al., 2005; Prensky, 2001). Research shows that video games have a great potential to improve one’s learning experience and outcomes, with different studies reporting significant improvements in subject understanding, diligence and motivation on students at different academic levels (Coller & Shernoff, 2009; Kebritchi et al., 2008; Lee et al., 2004; Mcclean et al., 2001; Moreno, 2012; Squire et al., 2004). As found by Gee (2003), good games are natural learning machines that, unlike traditional educational materials, deliver information on demand and within context. They are designed to be challenging enough so that players will not grow either bored of frustrated, thus allowing them to experience flow (Chen, 2007; Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).

Gamification is defined as using game elements in non-game processes (Deterding et al., 2011a; Deterding et al., 2011b), to make them more fun and engaging (Reeves & Read, 2009; Shneiderman, 2004). It has been used in many different domains, like marketing programs (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011; Zichermann & Linder, 2010), fitness and health awareness (Brauner et al., 2013), productivity improvement (Sheth et al., 2011) and promotion of eco-friendly driving (Inbar et al., 2011). Gamification can also be used to help people acquire new skills. For example, Microsoft Ribbon Hero ( is an add-on that uses points, badges and levels to encourage people to explore Microsoft Office tools. Jigsaw (Dong et al., 2012) uses a jigsaw puzzle to challenge players to match a target image, in order to teach them Photoshop. Users reported Jigsaw allowed them to explore the application and discover new techniques. GamiCAD (Li et al., 2012) is a tutorial system for AutoCAD, allowing users to perform line and trimming operations to help NASA build an Apollo spacecraft. Results show that users completed tasks faster and found the experience to be both more engaging and enjoyable, as compared to the non-gamified system.

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