Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

Ginger Watson

Committee Member

Shana Pribesh

Committee Member

Jill Stefaniak


In 2012, there were 2.9 million students enrolled in graduate degrees and 22% were taking strictly online courses (Kena et al., 2014). Many students are not motivated to participate in collaborative learning experiences in online courses (Dirkx & Smith, 2004). Gamification, the inclusion of game elements in non-game contexts, has been shown to have a positive impact on motivation (Deterding, 2012; Kapp, 2012). Prior work has focused on structural gamification including elements such as points, levels, and badges as extrinsic motivators to traditional course activities. The current study explored content gamification including narrative, role-play, interactivity, and feedback in an online collaborative learning environment. Thirty-nine master’s degree students enrolled in an online educational technology program participated in a six-week, collaborative project as part of their online research methods course. Within two sections of a research methods course, students were randomly assigned to either a collaborative project with no gamification or a collaborative project with gamification. Outcome measures included motivation, learning, and student perceptions. Results were not statistically significant but indicated a trend for increased motivation, higher levels of satisfaction with the collaborative experience, and greater improvement from pre- to posttest scores among those experiencing the gamified treatment. Discussion will focus on considerations for utilizing specific types of gamification in online collaborative projects.


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