Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

John K. Bennett

Second Advisor

Dirk Grunwald

Third Advisor

Clayton Lewis

Fourth Advisor

Jane Prey

Fifth Advisor

Doug C. Sicker

Abstract

This thesis investigates the impact of gamification on student motivation and learning in several introductory computer science educational activities. The use of game design techniques in education offers the potential to make learning more motivating and more enjoyable for students. However, the design, implementation, and evaluation of game elements that actually realize this promise remains a largely unmet challenge. This research examines whether the introduction of game elements into curriculum positively impacts student motivation and intended learning outcomes for entry-level computer science education in four settings that apply similar game design techniques in different introductory computer science educational settings. The results of these studies are evaluated using mixed methods to compare the effects of game elements on student motivation and learning in both formal and non-formal learning environments.

The first chapter of this thesis introduces the focus of the research. The second chapter discusses the related work on introductory computer science education and gaming culture. The third chapter introduces the conceptual and theoretical framework that forms the basis of this work. Chapter four introduces the research design. Chapter five presents the first case study, which investigated how a "gamified" class impacts student motivation and learning outcomes in an undergraduate computer science course. Chapter six discusses the second case study, which examined how the design techniques informed by the first case study support high school students learning introductory computer science in an extracurricular program. Chapter seven details the third case study, which examined how game elements influence children learning in a robotics workshop. Chapter eight discusses the final case study, which briefly examined how online tutorial websites facilitate introductory programming through gaming. The final chapter summarizes the key findings and discusses opportunities for future work in gamifying computer science education.

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