Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Towards the Gamification of Learning: Investigating Student Perceptions of Game Elements

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Towards the Gamification of Learning: Investigating Student Perceptions of Game Elements

Article excerpt


Due to the ubiquity of games and the uptake in playing games, researchers have investigated the application of games to domains other than pure entertainment for quite some time. Gamification is a recent trend that involves the incorporation of game elements into non-game applications or domains. That is, the use of elements from games to "gamify" things such as systems or activities. This emerging concept has been applied in domains such as marketing for some time, and is being increasingly applied to learning (Landers and Callan, 2011; Lee and Hammer, 2011; Muntean, 2011).

One objective of gamifying learning is to stimulate the same motivation and engagement that gamers have towards games in learners toward education. By increasing learner motivation and engagement, it is envisaged that learning will improve. Gamification, however, is not a simple process and can be quite complicated to implement correctly. It is not simply a matter of adding common game elements, such as points, badges, and leader boards, to existing processes or systems. Such a surface approach of gamifying existing systems translates to superficial benefits, if any. This approach has vilified gamification and has led it to be derisively termed "pointsification" (the simple addition of points to processes or systems) (Robertson, 2010).

Three important aspects of proper implementation of gamification are: (1) to understand the target audience (i.e., the "players"), (2) determine what these players should do (e.g., the objective of the activity/system), and (3) use the appropriate game elements to motivate the players to act (Aparicio et al., 2012; Werbach and Hunter, 2012). In the case of learning, students are the "players" in the system and, thus, to be able to successfully gamify learning for improved motivation and engagement, it is necessary to understand students and their perspectives on this matter.

The work reported herein forms part of a larger study in which students' perspectives on game elements were obtained and analysed, and the results were used to design, develop, trial, and evaluate a gamified multiple choice quiz software tool, named Quick Quiz. However, in this paper, we focus our discussion on students' perspectives of game elements and gamification. Specifically, we investigate a group of undergraduate students studying business information technology to obtain details about their game experience, their expectations of gamification in education, and the gaming design elements they believe will make learning more enjoyable. We analyse their responses and based on our findings we provide some recommendations for gamifying learning activities.


In this section, we provide background material necessary to appreciate the context of our work. Specifically, we discuss: (1) gamification, games and learning and (2) game elements. We also discuss other gamification-related work that has been carried out to contextualise our own work for the reader.

2.1 Gamification, Games, and Learning

Gamification is a practice that is currently receiving increasing interest (Deterding, Sicart, et al., 2011). The concept makes use of elements from games, which are well-known for motivating and engaging players for lengthy periods, and apply them to non-game contexts in order to recreate the same level of motivation and engagement for other purposes (Deterding, 2012). Gamification is particularly useful for encouraging desirable behaviours. Examples of gamification include applications such as: (1) LinkedIn, which uses progress bars to encourage users to complete their profiles, (2) EpicWin, in which users get points for completing items from their to-do lists, and (3) Fitocracy, in which users get points for exercising.

One potential use of gamification is its application to learning, particularly when there is a lack of motivation and engagement from students. …

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