Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: My PhD Year


2015 is near the end. 2015 is the year I finished my PhD, on November, 27th:

I hope to continue my research around gamification and e-learning in 2016.

For now, this is the thesis abstract:

This thesis addresses the problem of students’ disengagement by investigating if gamification can make a contribution to solve the problem and how. Gamification is a new trend that aims to improve people’s engagement, motivation, loyalty or participation. It started as a marketing tool but widespread to several different areas where peoples’ involvement is a key issue. Gamification is inspired by the success and popularity of video games and looks for ways to use game’s features in non-game contexts, as a way to drive game-like engagement. 

While schools are struggling with the lack of motivation and engagement of many of their students, technology is part of most children and teenagers lives in today’s societies. They are heavy users of several media that, through mobile and wireless technologies, are almost permanently present and available everywhere. Schools have to compete for students’ attention and time and find the ways to use technology in their favour and fill the gap between school and the outside technological world. Also, most of today’s students are video game’s consumers. Games have been used in educational and training scenarios for a long time. But building full-fledged games with learning purposes has high implementations costs. 

Gamification is a way to take advantage of the games’ power with lesser costs and effort. An initial research on gamification revealed that education was precisely one of the main fields that could benefit from this new trend. As a main goal, the thesis proposes a framework to help teachers using technology-enhanced learning environments powered with gamification. It is expected that these environments can improve students’ behaviors towards school and learning. The framework also defines what should be the high level architecture of gamified digital systems. This architecture is platform independent and is proposed as a way to help developers in the implementation of gamified systems, by highlighting what their main building blocks should be. Based on a broad literature review, this thesis presents the most used game elements and game techniques found in already existing gamified applications. A set of those elements and techniques were included in the proposed framework. 

Further research was needed to investigate the impact of gamification and how to measure that impact. The tendency to experience flow was chosen as a measure of engagement. Flow is a psychological state felt by people when they act with total involvement. People can experience flow when performing an engaging task. A high tendency to experience flow means high intrinsic motivation and a better engagement. The thesis addressed these issues by conducting an empirical study with primary education young students. The study investigated if a social learning environment with gamification tools would be more able to increase students disposition to experience flow than a non- gamified version. In this experiment, some gamified learning activities were set following the guidelines of the proposed framework. 
The results from the empirical study showed that there was an improvement in the students’ disposition for flow when using the gamified version of the social learning environment. The students’ average score had an increase and the statistical test taken allowed to conclude that the average score increase has statistical significance.

Soon, the all thesis will be on-line.

Happy New Year!

Friday, October 09, 2015

COIED 2015 - Conferência Online de Informática Educacional

A COIED 2015 - Conferência Online de Informática Educacional tem início já na próxima segunda-feira, 12 de outubro. O programa completo e detalhado está disponível aqui. As inscrições ainda estão abertas (até 11 de outubro).

Participação no programa de workshops com 

Vamos ver o que dá ...

Para já, aqui fica a sessão de abertura:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Gartner's 2015 Hype Cycle and a Year of Research on Gamification of Education

This year, gamification was not included in the Gartner's Hype Cycle. In the last four years, gamification was part of the cycle: see this post. This gave rise to some comments, like this one: The Hype is Over – Gamification is Here to Stay.

What really happened is that Gartner moved gamification to a digital marketing hype cycle:

As Jorge Simões points out, gamification hasn't gone - it's simply been downgraded from a major "game changer" theme to being a component of another one - in this case 'digital marketing'.  It's worth noting that few gamification practitioners really agree with Gartner's view that gamification is a purely digital technology.

In 2014, Gamification was on the "Through of Disillusionment", with a prediction to reach the "Plateau of Productivity" in two to five years. In 2015 in seems that Gamification reached the bottom and was kept out of the cycle. No problem with that. It will probably move to the "Slope of Enlightenment" but Gartner is now considering it just as a digital marketing tool and probably will keep it out of the cycle. But gamification is not relevant just for marketing purposes and it can even be used in non-digital environments (which is not the Gartner's opinion).

Gamification is still considered as relevant in Education and several other contexts. Darina Dicheva and Christo Dichev submitted a paper to E-LEARN 2015 (Gamification in Education: Where Are We in 2015?) where they present a follow-up of an initial study - Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study (see this post). 

In this follow-up (covering the period from July 2014 till June 2015), the authors found that there is "... inconclusive and insufficient evidence for making valid claims about the efficacy of gamification in education". They also point for " ... the drop of the empirical studies reporting positive results and the big jump of the studies with inconclusive or negative results".

It seems that, also in education, gamification is reaching the "Through of Disillusionment". Or it means that we still need further research on how to apply gamification effectively.

The paper also includes a definition for Gamification in Education: "the introduction of game elements and gameful experiences in the design of learning processes" (I have my definition of gamification in education: the use of game elements and game techniques in technology-enhanced learning environments in order to improve students’ motivation and engagement).

Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., and Angelova, G. (2015). Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study (in press). Educational Technology and Society, 18(3). 

Dicheva, D., Dichev, C. (2015). Gamification in education:Where we satnd in 2015?. E-LEARN 2015 - World Conference on E-Learning, Kona, Hawaii, October 19-22, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Workshop @CHI PLAY 2015

Submission Deadline: 01.09.2015

  • Theoretical explorations of the differences and communalities of the notions personalization, customization, adaptation and tailoring.
  • Contributions exploring factors for personalization, e.g. personality, cognitive abilities, gender, persuadability, player types, gamification user types, different states, customization of game input/output devices, preferences in regard to the game interface, game preferences as well as contextual and situational variables.
  • Studies showing the effect of personalization, especially on several relevant dependent variables, e.g. holistic player/user experience, emotional and cognitive appeal, usage frequency and cultural background.
  • The development and validation of new and improved models for personalization e.g. advanced player/gamification user type models.
  • Contributions exploring design practices, guidelines and challenges as well as procedures and patterns, around personalization of serious games and gamified systems.
  • (Industrial) case studies and (commercial) examples of personalized serious and persuasive games and gamified systems (benefits, risks, practical impact).
  • Success stories and stories of failure with regard to personalization of serious and persuasive games and gamified systems. Limitations and requirements of personalization.
  • Studies on the return of investment and costs-benefits analyses of personalization in serious and persuasive games and gamified interactions.
  • Other market- and industry relevant considerations of personalized serious games and gamified systems as well as new business models and opportunities for personalization (e.g. personalization as premium feature).

Monday, August 03, 2015

An Experiment to Assess Students’ Engagement in a Gamified Social Learning Environment

New paper published in issue 43 of eLearningPapers - Applied Games and Gamification – Drivers for Change:

An Experiment to Assess Students’ Engagement in a Gamified Social Learning Environment 

This paper presents a research work conducted to address students’ disengagement by investigating if gamification can make a contribution to solving this problem. The disposition to experience flow, a psychological state, was used as a measurement of engagement. An experiment allowed testing a research hypothesis concerning flow in a gamified environment.

co-authored with Sérgio Mateus, Rebeca Redondo a Ana Vilas.

The overall purpose of the experiment was to test the hypothesis that a gamified version of a Social Learning Environment (SLE) causes in its users an increase in their disposition to experience flow (see this other post) than the non-gamified version. The disposition to experience flow was assessed by using a questionnaire based on the Portuguese version of the DFS-2.

The experiment tested a group of subjects (a class of 3rd grade students) before and after the treatment (using the gamified version of the SLE). A pre-test, using the DFS-2, indicated how the subjects did prior to administration of the treatment condition and a post-test evaluated the subjects after the treatment. The effect was taken as the difference between the pre-test and the post-test scores.

Although small, an increase in the students’ tendency to experience flow was observed, particularly in the flow dimensions related to flow outcomes.

Issue 43 of eLearning Papers has two other gamification papers:

To Game or not to Game – a pilot study on the use of gamification for team allocation in entrepreneurship education 


What really works in gamification? Short answer: we don’t know, so let’s start thinking like experimenters

Thursday, July 16, 2015

gEducation 2015: 2nd International Workshop on Gamification in Education

Call For Papers for the Second edition of “gEducation: Gamification in Education” workshop, co-located within the 4th edition of the Gamification World Congress, that will be held on 10th – 13th November 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.

Important Dates:
  • Submission deadline: Deadline Extended to September 15th 2015
  • Notifications: October 5th 2015
  • Workshop: November 13th 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ICERI2015: Call for Papers

ICERI2015, the 8th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation will be held in Seville (Spain), on the 16th, 17th and 18th of November, 2015. 

 Important dates:
  • Abstract Submission Deadline: July 16th, 2015. (included)
  • Final Paper Submission Deadline: October 1st, 2015. (included) 
  • Registration deadline for authors: October 1st, 2015. (included) 
  • Conference Dates: Seville (Spain), November 16th-17th-18th, 2015.
Game-based learning and Gamification are some of the conference topics.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The 7 Most Used Game Elements and Game Techniques in Education

A literature review can show what are the sets of game elements and game techniques that are commonly used in gamified educational environments. Points, badges, leaderboards, levels and progress bars seem to be the most used elements. Recent research confirms this notion.  

Dicheva et al. (2015) conducted a systematic mapping study covering existing empirical work in gamification in education. One of the research questions behind this study was “What game elements have been used in gamifying educational systems?”. The study considered 34 articles and conference papers published from 2011 and until the first semester of 2014. Most of the publications occurred in 2013 (19) and 2014 (12). In their study, Dicheva et al., first found what were the most cited game design principles and game mechanics. These terms are considered here as “game elements” and “game techniques”, respectively. 

The study reached the following conclusions: 
  • The most used game elements were points, badges, leaderboards, levels, virtual goods and avatars (this one mentioned only in one publication);
  • The most used game techniques were “visible status”, “social engagement”, “freedom of choice”, “freedom to fail”, “rapid feedback” and “goals/challenges”;
  • These game elements and techniques were mostly appplied to blended learning courses; 
  • Only two papers considered K-12 education. The remainning publications concern higher education and training;
  • Computer Science and ICT educators are the early adopters of gamification;
  • There is a scarce empirical research on the efectiveness of gamification in learning
  • The authors of the reviewed papers share the opinion that gamification has the potencial to improve learning.
Also Seaborn and Fels (2015) surveyed 31 gamified systems and find that the most employed game elements elements and game techniques were points (18), badges (15), rewards (11), leaderboards (11), challenges (6), status (5), progression (3), achievements (3), avatars (3), mini-games (2), roles (2), narrative (1), time pressure (1), and feedback (1).
Farber (2015), refers some "gamification mechanics"  (game elements), used in gamification and quest-based learning. Those elements are leaderboards, badges, modding, avatars, in-game economies, game geography and Easter eggs.
Literature reviews revealed that, although several articles and conference papers have been published since 2010, there is still a lack of empirical research on the use and the benefits of gamification. This happens not also in education but also in the other fields of application of the gamification approach. Nevertheless, according to Hamari et al. (2014), education is the most common context found in research

Regarding gamification for the K-12 education more empirical research is needed. Another important conclusion is that gamification does produce positive effects and benefits and gamification of education, in particular, has a potential impact on learning. This review also shows that there is a set of common game components used in most learning settings.

Hence, the most used game elements and techniques, mainly according to the studies from Dicheva et al. (2015), Seaborn and Fels (2015), Thiebes et al. (2014) and Hamari et al. (2014), are shown in the following table:

Dicheva, D., Dichev, C., Agre, G., and Angelova2, G. (2015). Gamification in education: A systematic mapping study (in press). Educational Technology and Society,, 18(3). 

Farber, M. (2015). Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York.

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., and Sarsa, H. (2014). Does gamification work? – a litera- ture review of empirical studies on gamification. In proceedings of the 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, pages 6–9, Hawaii, USA.
Seaborn, K., Pennefather, P., and Fels, D. (2013). Reimagining leaderboards: Towards gamifying competency models through social game mechanics. In Lennart E. Nacke, K. H. and Randall, N., editors, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Gameful Design, Research, and Applications, pages 107–110, New York. ACM.

Thiebes, S., Lins, S., and Basten, D. (2014). Gamifying information systems - a synthesis of gamification mechanics and dynamics. In Twenty Second European Conference on Information Systems, Tel Aviv.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

CURSO b-learning: "Gamificação: Estratégias de Jogos Aplicadas ao e-Learning"

Motivar através de desafios e incentivos é essencial na Formação, dinamizando a aprendizagem.

A GAMIFICAÇÃO aplica elementos característicos dos jogos a ambientes não lúdicos, como é o caso da formação e-learning, potenciando a aprendizagem.

Este e-curso focará técnicas e estratégias de gamificação, ou elementos de jogos, que, combinados, podem contribuir para que os cursos online sejam mais motivadores e envolventes, tornando-os mais eficazes.
Formador: Jorge Simões

  • Compreender o conceito de gamificação e a sua aplicação na formação e ensino;
  • Conhecer as principais técnicas e estratégias de aplicação do conceito em situações reais de formação;
  • Desenvolver capacidade para conceber atividades pedagógicas gamificadas com o auxílio de plataformas de apoio à aprendizagem e de ferramentas digitais de gamificação.

Início: 26 de fevereiro.
Duração: 30 horas (2 horas presenciais, 5 síncronas e 23 assíncronas).

Conteúdo Programático:
  •   Módulo 0: Introdução ao curso e ao ambiente e-learning - 2h presenciais
  •   Módulo 1: Dos Jogos à Gamificação - 1h assíncrona, 5h assíncronas
  •   Módulo 2: Elementos de Jogos - 1h síncrona, 5h assíncronas
  •   Módulo 3: Psicologia e Gamificação - 1h síncrona, 5h assíncronas
  •   Módulo 4: Cenários de Aplicação - 2h síncronas, 9h assíncronas
Formador: Jorge Simões
TecMinho – interface da Universidade do Minho
Centro e-Learning - 
Tlf: 253 510 590

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Gamification on the Future of EdTech

On Future Of EdTech 101: Automation, Curation And Gamification by Nathan Deardorff:

By the year 2050 higher education will be transformed by three trends: automation, curation, and gamification
(...) gamification, the act of turning something that is traditionally not a game into one. It’s like getting a gold star for a good job, but better. A contemporary example of this is the web app, HabitRPG. It takes after other Role Playing Games by giving characters magical abilities, experience points and health. The users can gain powers and experience by completing self assigned tasks. If the tasks are not completed by the due date, the user looses health. This system could be implemented for homework assignments. But the in-class application is far more exciting. Imagine automated tracking of class participation, class grades, and work speed. This carrot-and-stick system would motivate students to earn points by actively engaging in the classroom, and finish their quizzes as quick as possible with highest accuracy. Performance is public via game points or badges. A student who can actively brag that he outscored his classmates in attention, or is the fastest quizzer in the school will feel the euphoria of a job well done, and the other students will feel the stick of motivation to out score their competitor.

I don't agree with the definition of gamification (turning something that is traditionally not a game into one) but this article shows the importance of gamification for the education sector.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Leaderbords and the Gamification Gurus

This month I reached the top 12 of the Gamification Gurus (I don't know exactly how, but that's ok). A big climb since last month ranking. And in good company.

Leaderboards are a powerful game element that can have different flavors: single player or multiplayer, relative or absolute. To be more exact:
  • Single player, that compare the players latest score to previous scores;
  • Multiplayer that display rankings of near performing peers;
  • Multiplayer that display rankings of high performing peers;
  • Multiplayer that display rankings of near performing friends
Single player leaderboards are simple individual lists of scores, showing the performance of one player. Multiplayer leaderboards displaying rankings of near performing peers are a usual approach in social games. In rankings of high performing peers, players with a lower score may not be present. That may lead to demotivation, which is a drawback for this kind of leaderboards. Multiplayer near performing peers leaderboards are recommended for use in learning contexts.

In education, leaderboards can be an important social game element if correctly used to foster social interactions and avoid the downfalls of competition in this context. Competition is probably the reason explaining why gamified systems in the education sector do not use leaderboards so often. Alternatively, the leaderboard can be anonymous, where each player can only see other players’ scores, but not their names, reducing competition among players.

See also Leaderboards: A Social Game Element and Leaderboards: A Social Game Element (Part II).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

GamifIR 2015

The Second International Workshop on Gamification for Information Retrieval (GamifIR’15) focuses on the challenges and opportunities that gamification can present for the IR community.

Important Dates:
  • Submission: 2 February 2015
  • Notification: 20 February 2015
  • Camera-ready: 27 February 2015
  • Workshop: 29 March 2015
Topics of Interest: 
  • Gamification approaches in a variety of contexts, including document annotation and ground-truth generation; interface design; information seeking; user modelling; knowledge sharing
  • Gamification design
  • Applied game principles, elements and mechanics
  • Gamification analytics
  • Long-term engagement
  • User engagement and motivational factors of gamification
  • Player types, contests, cooperative gamification
  • Search challenges and gamification
  • Game based work and crowdsourcing
  • Applications and prototypes

Monday, January 19, 2015

EDULEARN 2015: Call for Abstracts

Important dates:
  • Abstract Submission Deadline: March 26th, 2015.
  • Notification of Acceptance/Rejection: April 20th, 2015.
  • Final Paper Submission Deadline: May 21st, 2015.
  • Registration deadline for authors: May 21st, 2015.
  • Conference Dates: Barcelona (Spain), July 6th-7th-8th, 2015.
See the conference topics. Among them, gamification and serious games:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Gamification, Fun, Flow and Learning

Gamification: Where We Stand
Karl Kapp recently made a status report on the implementation of gamification in the end of 2014, looking particularly at the education and training field. The forecasts pointing to a much more massive adoption of this concept did not actually occur. This, however, is not surprising if we consider the gamification route in the Gartner Hype Cycle (see Gartner Hype Cycle 2014: Gamification on the Through of Disillusionment).

Kapp also points to the different perspectives of the concept that still exist. There are many definitions for gamification and that goes for a long time (see A Brief History of Gamification: Part VII - The Definitions (Again and Again)). Also, terms like “game mechanics” and “game elements” need to be clarified.

What is "Fun"?
One key issue in Kapp’s post is the notion of “fun” and how it could be related to learning. Fun is part of games and, therefore, a concept to be addressed by gamification designers. But, how to use “fun” in gamified learning contexts? And, what is to be “fun”, after all?

Watch the video below:

Is this fun? To watch, for most people, certainly. How about riding those motorbikes? For me it would be a disaster. I do not know how to ride a motorbike, and surely it would not be fun for me to try to do what the guys on the video are doing. But for them, it must have been fun. They have the proper skills; they can face the challenge, control what they are doing and have an immediate perception of how they are performing.

The concept of fun varies from person to person. Something considered fun for some can be seen as dangerous and frightening for others. An activity can only be fun if it the person sees it as motivating and it involves a degree of difficulty compatible with the person’s capabilities.

Fun and Flow
A person, who performs a particular activity with a high degree of involvement and commitment, implies that the person will feel pleasure doing the activity. Feeling pleasure, produces a wellness sensation that causes the activity to become fun, with the activity not necessarily seen as such or as containing some entertainment component.

This balance between the capabilities of the person and the challenges posed by the activity, also forcing a full concentration on the task execution, is the main ingredient of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow. “Flow” is the key to fully enjoy what we do and to achieve a full life.

The fun that arises from a flow state is what Nicole Lazzaro calls "hard fun" (see The 4 Keys 2 Fun). Raph Koster, who wrote the Theory of Fun for Game Design, also states that "when there's flow, players usually say afterwards, 'that was a lot of fun'". But he also points "there can be flow that isn´t fun". Again, the notion of fun is dubious. For Koster, "fun is about learning in a context where there is no pressure, and that is why games matter". "No pressure" means that players are allowed to fail without penalty, and they can try again and again until they succeed. Games offer a safe place to fail and, in each try, players can learn something more.

The 4 Keys 2 Fun

Fun and Gamification
Gamification designers should not primarily design things to be fun, but to be deeply engaging and meaningful. A proper balance between a person’s  skills and the challenge they face, an immediate feedback on how they are doing, a sense of control and autonomy about how to achieve the goals are what is needed to reach a flow state. If the flow state is reached, the activity will be fun for the person performing it.

Concerning gamification design, fun must be seen, mainly, as a consequence of the process rather than a design requisite. This does not mean that a user interface should not be pleasant and nice with the proper aesthetics.

Kapp advises to "position gamification as a method of engagement, not as a way to have 'fun'", but remembers that "if 'fun' sneaks in, all the better".

Learning, Fun and Gamification
For learning to be fun, we do not need to teach with cartoons or funny videos. We have to make learning meaningful and engaging and let the students reach, as close as possible, a flow state. Then, learning will become fun.

On how to apply gamification, Kapp in his report asks the right question: "one of the things gamification is doing in the learning arena is forcing us to ask the question, 'When learning occurs within a game (and it can), what elements of the game and in what situation does that learning occur?'”

Games can teach us how to keep players engaged. Games are made of several design elements and work according to specific techniques. Gamification purpose is to find out which of these elements and techniques should be used and how they should be used in non-game contexts.  The final goal is to get people feel the deep levels of  engagement experienced in games by approaching a flow state.