Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Academic Course Gamification: The Art of Perceived Playfulness

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Academic Course Gamification: The Art of Perceived Playfulness

Article excerpt


The inclusion of ludic elements into information systems and business processes is becoming commonplace as a means of engaging users and increasing system acceptance (Deterding, Sicart, Nacke, O'Hara, & Dixon, 2011; Huotari & Hamari, 2011; Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011). Traditionally, hedonic and utilitarian systems were treated and researched as separate entities (Van der Heijden, 2004), but in the past years they are converging into a field called gamification which is defined as the use of game design elements in non-game contexts such as, but not limited to, workplaces (Deterding, Dixon, Khaled, & Nacke, 2011). In the context of education, it can be viewed as the inclusion of game elements into the traditional classroom, existing training materials, and the Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Game elements are also referred to as game mechanics and dynamics. Game mechanics are defined as "constructs of rules and feedback loops intended to produce enjoyable gameplay. They are the building blocks that can be applied and combined to gamify any non-game context" (, 2012). Most common game mechanics are Points, Badges, and Leaderboards (PBL) (Antin & Churchill, 2011; Narasimhan, Chiricescu, & Vasudevan, 2011; Werbach & Hunter, 2012; Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011), but there are many additional mechanics (Schonfeld, 2010) that exist in games and can be designed into systems and processes. Dynamics are the run-time behavior of the mechanics acting on player inputs and each other's outputs over time (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek, 2004), and can be viewed as the pattern of play that is generated by the application of specific mechanics and in response to other player interactions or expected interactions (Brathwaite & Schreiber, 2009). Dynamics cannot be programmed into a gamified solution but the use of the right mechanics can improve the chance of the dynamic occurring. Typical dynamics found in games are constraints, emotions, narrative, progression, and relationships (Werbach & Hunter, 2012).

Games as a means of learning have been studied extensively, and, while they have been found to mostly increase learning and understanding, there are still several cases where they did not (Hays, 2005; Ke, 2009; Vogel et al., 2006). The recommendations from these studies are that " should be used as adjuncts and aids, not as stand-alone instructions" (Hays, 2005).

An important distinction exists between Game Based Learning (GBL) and gamification. GBL provides students with games that have an educational objective that are achieved through the game play (Kim, Park, & Baek, 2009). These games can supplement direct teaching or replace it, but it is clearly a game. The essence of gamification is that it occurs in a non-game context; therefore, it would be applied in such a way that would not change the existing practice of learning and instead focus on making it more engaging and challenging for students. An example that is most commonly used in education is granting badges to students who perform well in class, which in return increases their motivation as well as others in the class.

There is an increasing number of case studies and research dealing with gamification in general (Hamari, Koivisto, & Sarsa, 2014) and in educational contexts in particular (Barata, Gama, Jorge, & Goncalves, 2013; Sheldon, 2011). The objectives of gamification in these educational context studies has been to increase student motivation to attend class, download course material, participate in on-line discussions, and complete extra assignments. While the majority of studies report overall positive results as a result of adding game elements, not all have exhibited these results. Some of these differences can be explained by design and context, but even within the studies themselves there are differences in how individuals are impacted by gamification which can be explained by personality differences (Hamari, 2013; Hamari, et al. …

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