Climbing Up the Leaderboard: An Empirical Study of Applying Gamification Techniques to a Computer Programming Class

Panagiotis, Fotaris; Theodoros, Mastoras; Leinfellner, Richard and Yasmine, Rosunally. 2016. Climbing Up the Leaderboard: An Empirical Study of Applying Gamification Techniques to a Computer Programming Class. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 14(2), pp. 94-110. ISSN 1479-439X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Conventional taught learning practices often experience difficulties in keeping students motivated and engaged. Video games, however, are very successful at sustaining high levels of motivation and engagement through a set of tasks for hours without apparent loss of focus. In addition, gamers solve complex problems within a gaming environment without feeling fatigue or frustration, as they would typically do with a comparable learning task. Based on this notion, the academic community is keen on exploring methods that can deliver deep learner engagement and has shown increased interest in adopting gamification – the integration of gaming elements, mechanics, and frameworks into non-game situations and scenarios – as a means to increase student engagement and improve information retention. Its effectiveness when applied to education has been debatable though, as attempts have generally been restricted to one-dimensional approaches such as transposing a trivial reward system onto existing teaching materials and/or assessments. Nevertheless, a gamified, multi-dimensional, problem-based learning approach can yield improved results even when applied to a very complex and traditionally dry task like the teaching of computer programming, as shown in this paper. The presented quasi-experimental study used a combination of instructor feedback, real time sequence of scored quizzes, and live coding to deliver a fully interactive learning experience. More specifically, the “Kahoot!” Classroom Response System (CRS), the classroom version of the TV game show “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, and Codecademy’s interactive platform formed the basis for a learning model which was applied to an entry-level Python programming course. Students were thus allowed to experience multiple interlocking methods similar to those commonly found in a top quality game experience. To assess gamification’s impact on learning, empirical data from the gamified group were compared to those from a control group who was taught through a traditional learning approach, similar to the one which had been used during previous cohorts. Despite this being a relatively small-scale study, the results and findings for a number of key metrics, including attendance, downloading of course material, and final grades, were encouraging and proved that the gamified approach was motivating and enriching for both students and instructors.

Item Type:



gamification, game-based learning, learning and teaching, technology enhanced learning, virtual learning environment, classroom response system, Kahoot, assessment, higher education

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Computing > Goldsmiths Digital Studios


1 May 2016Accepted
1 May 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

25 Sep 2017 11:56

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:34

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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