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From hiscore to high marks: Empirical study of teaching programming through gamification

Fotaris, Panagiotis; Mastoras, Theodoros; Leinfellner, Richard; Yasmine, Rosunally


Panagiotis Fotaris

Theodoros Mastoras

Richard Leinfellner


Unlike conventional taught learning, video games are very successful at keeping players constantly motivated and engaged on a set of tasks for many hours without apparent loss of focus. Additionally, when playing, gamers solve complex problems without experiencing the fatigue or frustration, which would normally accompany a comparable learning task. Any methods able to deliver deep learner engagement are naturally of interest to the academic community, thus resulting in an increasing interest in adopting gamification – the integration of gaming elements, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations and scenarios – as a means to drive student engagement and improve information retention. However, its application to education has been a challenging task, as attempts have generally been restricted to a one-dimensional approach, such as transposing a trivial reward system onto existing teaching material. The empirical evidence presented in this paper suggests that a gamified, multi-dimensional, problem-based learning approach may yield improved outcomes even when applied to a very complex and traditionally dry task like the teaching of computer programming. This quasi-experimental study employed a real time sequence of scored quizzes, instructor feedback, and live coding to deliver a fully interactive learning experience. By using a combination of the classroom version of the TV game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, the “Kahoot!” Classroom Response System (CRS), and Codecademy’s online interactive platform on a Python programming course, students were allowed to experience multiple interlocking methods similar to what would be found in a top quality game experience. Empirical data on learning outcomes from the gamified group were compared with a control group that followed a traditional learning path, which had been used during previous cohorts. Whilst this was a relatively small study, the results were quite interesting in a number of key metrics, including attendance, downloading of course material, and final grades.


Fotaris, P., Mastoras, T., Leinfellner, R., & Yasmine, R. (2015, October). From hiscore to high marks: Empirical study of teaching programming through gamification. Paper presented at 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning ECGBL 2015

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning ECGBL 2015
Start Date Oct 8, 2015
End Date Oct 9, 2015
Acceptance Date Oct 9, 2015
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords gamification, games-based learning, technology enhanced learning, class response system
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Proceedings of the 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning ECGBL 2015


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