Student experience of gamified learning: A qualitative approach

Andrew James Clements, Sajeel Ahmed, Bernadette Henderson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


Student engagement and student outcomes in Higher Education continue to be the subject of academic concern, and thus receive research attention. To address these concerns, we aim to explore the use of ga mification to enhance student engagement, and thereby improving student learning and performance. Gamification represents the use of game elements to enhance engagement in activities such as learning. This paper highlights the use of game elements such as: leader boards, scores for activities, and multiplayer (group) activities. The paper does this by exploring students' learning journeys, as well as their experience of modules in which gamification had been introduced. Group-based competitive activities were introduced to modules undertaken by business students, student nurses, and paramedic students. Students undertaking these modules were invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. Twelve students drawn from the three disciplines took part in these semi-structured interviews, which were digitally recorded to enable production of accurate transcripts. Thematic analysis was used to identify key themes from the interviews. To explain student responses and their learning experience, four themes were developed; challenge, difference, group processes, and competition. Students often presented themselves as enjoying challenge, although this was sometimes contrasted with enjoyment of 'easy' activities. Challenge was presented not only as a motivational factor, but also sometimes as a barrier to success. This sense of challenge was often conceptually linked to students' perception of difference within their gamified learning, which was pedagogically distinct from their typical learning experience. Most, but not all, expressed positive views of this difference. As with the theme of challenge, discussion of difference could be both positive and negative. Participants highlighted competition as a positive factor. The competition between groups influenced some group processes. Some students noted previous challenges involved in group-work, such as unequal work distribution. Participants observed the potential for intra-group friction, while identifying the positive learning outcomes of group work. Taken together, the analysis suggests that competitive group work is a beneficial strategy for enhancing student engagement and performance.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 11th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2017
EditorsMaja Pivec, Josef Grundler
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781911218562
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2017
Event11th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2017 - Graz, Austria
Duration: 5 Oct 20176 Oct 2017

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 11th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2017


Conference11th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2017


  • Gamification
  • Group work
  • Higher education
  • Pedagogy
  • Student engagement


Dive into the research topics of 'Student experience of gamified learning: A qualitative approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this