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Gamification of e-Learning: an investigation into the influence of gamification on student motivation.

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Traditional teacher-centred learning is being confronted by an increasing awareness of the value of student-centred learning. E-learning, despite its limitations, is often presented as a solution to learning challenges prevalent in teacher-centred learning since it affords students greater control of the learning process. Combined with this, academics are increasingly competing for students’ attention and struggle to motivate students. However, students, when confronted with the array of games and social media platforms available, willingly dedicate several hours glued to their screens socialising, engaging and gaming. Such willingness to engage these so-called distractions whilst displaying reluctance to engage their academic work may be attributed to a lack of motivation. This is even more prevalent in the domain of e-learning. Adopting an embedded mixed methods case study design, this study explored the influence of gamification of e-learning on motivation. Herein, expectations and factors influencing experiences of gamification of e-learning were explored. Furthermore, through Self-Determination Theory (SDT) & Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) as theoretical lenses, this study explored how gamification of e-learning influences motivation. Gamification is conceptualised as an objective-driven user-centred technique which integrates game mechanics, dynamics and game aesthetics into real-world contexts to motivate behaviour. Gartner envisages that by 2020, gamification will be deeply integrated into the prevalent higher education structures. Whilst many applications of gamification aim towards enhancing classroom-based learning, the exploration of gamification of e-learning in higher education, particularly in a developing country, remains an emerging domain of research. This research found that participants experienced gamification and various game elements differently, based on their BrainHex gamer profiles. In terms of SDT, whilst progression through the gamified course was guided and consistent, with all participants progressing as a single group, they experienced a sense of autonomy. Participants also experienced a greater sense of competence and relatedness in engaging with the gamified course. In the context of IMI, participants’ experiences suggest that gamification was valuable, increased curiosity and was effective for learning. However, they reported experiencing tension and a high degree of effort required by the gamified course. Students expected transparency in terms of scoring and raised queries where required. They generally preferred visual cues whilst engaging with the gamified course, expected almost real-time feedback in terms of scoring and resolution of queries, but had varying views on which game elements motivated them. Essentially, it was found that gamification positively influenced participants’ motivation. However, it must be noted that whilst gamification motivated students, some experienced demotivation. Contributing factors include not understanding the game from the outset, being demotivated by not earning frequent rewards and losing progress in the game due to external factors.


Master of Commerce in Information Systems & Technology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2017.


Theses - Information Systems and Technology.