Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies


Instructional Design and Technology

Committee Director

Tian Luo

Committee Member

John Baaki

Committee Member

Helen Crompton


Despite the advantages and increase in popularity of self-directed e-learning, this mode of learning is still reported to suffer from low voluntary enrollment rates, high learner dropout rates, as well as low retention of learning. Although there is a paucity of motivation research with regard to self-directed e-learning, a considerable number of studies identify shortfalls in factors related to learner motivation as the most prevalent factor contributing to these pitfalls.

The current study investigated the effect of digital badges, an extrinsic reward, on learning effectiveness, persistence and self-regulation in a corporate self-directed e-learning environment. The study employed an experimental between-subjects design with one independent variable, the opportunity to earn digital badges. The dependent variables for the study included learning achievement, learning retention, persistence to course completion, and self-regulation. Participants completed one required e-learning module and had the opportunity to engage with two elective ones. The experimental group had the opportunity to earn digital badges while the control group did not. The study sample (N=76) consisted of new or existing employees working in various roles in a corporate organization.

A series of Mann-Whitney U tests were performed to determine group differences in learning achievement, learning retention, persistence to course completion and self-regulation. The results of these analyses found significant median differences in all four dependent variables on the basis of group, suggesting a consequential relationship between the use of digital badges and the variables examined.

This study contributed to research on the use of gamification as a motivational strategy within the e-learning context. It also helped establish the impact of digital badge use on learning effectiveness and engagement in adult self-directed e-Learners.