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Gamification in Statistics Teaching

David Griffin - Oct 11, 2021

Gamification describes a way of designing systems, organizations, services or activities in a particular manner with the goal of generating similar experiences and motivations to those found while playing games. It also has the goal of affecting user behaviour (Huotari and Hamari, 2017). Gamification has been applied in a range of different fields and demonstrated to have the potential to improve learning outcomes (Koivisto and Hamari, 2019; Seaborn and Fels, 2015). It has been used in a wide range of education subjects as well as other areas such as informal language learning (e.g., Duolingo has 300 million active users) and software learning (e.g., Microsoft’s Ribbon Hero).

An understanding of statistics is becoming ever-more important to understand the world we inhabit. According to the authors, a lack of competence in understanding statistics and forecasting is one of the primary reasons the public struggle to act against challenges like climate change, reach consensus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and generally comprehend science. The requirements for students to gain statistics and analytical forecasting skills is increasing due to the acceleration in both data production and storage capacity in everyday life. While there is a longstanding tradition of using educational games in business, gamification for the purposes of teaching statistical forecasting is rare.

This paper describes research into the effects of adding gamification to a statistical forecasting lecture. The authors took 365 students composed of undergraduate and postgraduate students studying either computer engineering or business administration programs at two Greek universities. All students first attended a 15-minute statistical forecasting lecture based on research by Petropoulos et al. (2014). They were then divided into four groups.

  1. Group Control; no treatment received,
  2. Group Read; tasked with reading the research paper which formed the foundation of the lecture content (Petropoulos et al., 2014),
  3. Group Play; tasked with using a gamified application specifically created around the lecture content. This application incorporated motivational aspects of gaming such as reward points, levels, challenges and a participant leader-board.
  4. Group Read & Play; tasked with the assignments of both Group Read and Group Play.

Students were then given 15 minutes to complete the respective task of their assigned group, or 30 minutes (15 + 15) in the case of Group Read & Play. After completing their group task, students were asked to spend 15 minutes completing an evaluation questionnaire on the lecture topic as a means of evaluating their grasp of the content.

Based on the mean score achieved within each group, Group Read & Play performed best, followed by Group Play, Group Read and Group Control, respectively. A mean improvement in evaluation scores of almost 35% was seen when gamification was added to the learning experience. This increase was as high as 89.45% in some cases. An increase in evaluation score was shown to be independent of variables such as education level, computer expertise or field of study. However, for students studying computer engineering, the improvement was significantly higher than the improvement seen in business administration students. This may be due to this cohort finding the subject in question more manageable (Markopoulos et al., 2015). Female students also saw a higher level of improvement compared with male students. This may be due to female participants generally finding more motivation in challenge than in competition (McDaniel et al., 2012).

There are several important take-aways from this study. Firstly, that challenge-based gamification can improve learning outcomes in statistical forecasting courses. Secondly, the greatest improvement in student performance was observed when gamification was combined with the traditional teaching method of an assigned reading task. Thirdly, female and engineering students were shown to benefit most from gamification.

The authors conclude that gamification could be employed in a range of different subjects, particularly those requiring high levels of motivation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), statistics or software engineering.

References

[1] Huotari, K., Hamari, J., 2017. A definition for gamification: anchoring gamification in the service marketing literature. Electron. Markets 27 (1), 21–31. DOI: 10.1007/s12525-015-0212-z

[2] Koivisto, J., Hamari, J., 2019. The rise of motivational information systems: a review of gamification research. Int. J. Inf. Manage. 45, 191–210. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2018.10.013

[3] Markopoulos, A.P., Fragkou, A., Kasidiaris, P.D., Davim, J.P., 2015. Gamification in engineering education and professional training. Int. J. Mech. Eng. Educ. 43 (2), 118–131. DOI: 10.1177/0306419015591324

[4] McDaniel, R., Lindgren, R., Friskics, J., 2012. Using badges for shaping interactions in online learning environments. 2012 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference. IEEE, pp. 1–4. DOI: 10.1109/IPCC.2012.6408619

[5] Petropoulos, F., Makridakis, S., Assimakopoulos, V., Nikolopoulos, K., 2014. Horses for courses’ in demand forecasting. Eur. J. Oper. Res. 237 (1), 152–163. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2014.02.036

[6] Seaborn, K., Fels, D.I., 2015. Gamification in theory and action: a survey. Int. J. Hum. Comput. Stud. 74, 14–31. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2014.09.006