Practice makes perfect – Gamification of a competitive learning experience

Antonio Kheirkhahzadeh, Christian Sauer, Panagiotis Fotaris

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


The ability to provide and implement software solutions is a fundamental component of a computer scientist curriculum. Commonly referred to as the ability to program, this task involves the development of programs to address everyday problems. Over the last decade teaching practices have evolved alongside programming languages to facilitate the learning process. While abstracting the level of understanding has helped students with the fundamentals of software development, issues related to students’ engagement and motivation are still not adequately addressed. With motivation being a vital component of the students’ life cycle and at the basis of their engagement, the concept of software engineering introduced in the class needs to be revised and become more engaging so as to be practised thoroughly by the students. To address these challenges, educators have devised numerous frameworks to allow students to hone their programming skills. The idea of embedding gaming aspects into the learning cycle has led to the development of techniques such as serious games and game-based learning, while more recent techniques have been unified under the term gamification. Several researchers have incorporated the gamification concept into computer science classes in order to improve students’ engagement with the teaching material, with early evaluations confirming the effectiveness of this approach. The present study focuses on the use of a gamification platform to create stimulating content and increase motivation. Students were presented with a new gamification system designed to attract and hold their attention through a number of programming challenges in the form of a contest. The results of the experiment demonstrate the students’ behavioural changes towards a deeper cognitive engagement. The paper then further discusses the challenges that have arisen in this new learning environment, such as demotivation of students with low contest rankings. Teaching how to write good software has been part of an ongoing debate for the last decade. With student motivation being a central component, this paper discusses the use of a gamification environment to engage students with the teaching material and reinforce the concepts of software engineering introduced in class.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of The 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning
Place of PublicationReading, UK
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International Limited
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9781911218098
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2016
EventProceedings of The 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning - The University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, Scotland, 2016
Duration: 6 Oct 2016 → …


ConferenceProceedings of The 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning
Period6/10/16 → …


  • Gamification
  • Motivation
  • Engagement
  • Programming Education


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