From Hiscore to High Marks: Empirical Study of Teaching Programming Through Gamification

Panagiotis Fotaris, Theodoros Mastoras, Richard Leinfellner, Yasmine Rosunally

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationECGBL 2015 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning
Place of PublicationReading, UK
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International Limited
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781910810590
ISBN (Print)9781910810583
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2015
EventECGBL 2015 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning - Nord-Trondelag University College, Steinkjer, Norway, 2015
Duration: 8 Oct 2015 → …


ConferenceECGBL 2015 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning
Period8/10/15 → …


  • Gamification
  • Game-Based Learning
  • Learning and Teaching
  • Technology-Enhanced Learning
  • Virtual Learning Environment
  • Classroom Response System


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