Restricted (Penn State Only)
Kim, Eunsik
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 15, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Andris Freivalds, Dissertation Advisor
  • Andris Freivalds, Committee Chair
  • Ling Rothrock, Committee Member
  • Conrad Tucker, Committee Member
  • Thomas Litzinger, Outside Member
  • Ling Rothrock, Dissertation Advisor
  • gamification
  • engineering education
  • self-determination theory
  • structural equation modeling
Gamification can be defined as the use of game elements and mechanics as well as game design techniques in non-game contexts. It is no surprise that in recent years the application of gamification has been used to encourage people to engage in desired behaviors in business, marketing, corporate management, and online communities and social networks. Lee and Hammer have theorized that gamification can also be applied to the education field as a tool to increase student engagement and motivate students to learn. While numerous studies on gamification have been conducted to explore its impact on students’ learning, there is little empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of gamification at motivating and engaging students. Especially little research has been conducted on the application of gamification to engineering lab activities. The overall goal of engineering education is to prepare students to practice engineering and, in particular, to deal with the forces and materials of nature. As such, lab activity is essential to an education in engineering. Beyond gaining theoretical knowledge in the classroom, vital practical knowledge and experience can only be obtained in the lab. Lab activity also improves teamwork among students, as they must work in groups while dealing with real data and case studies. The aim of this study is to develop the effective gamification system for engineering education applying User-Centered Design process and to investigate the impact of students personality trait on gamification engagement as well as the relationship between gamification engagement and each type of students motivation within SDT framework. The specific aims of this study include: (1) determining the effects of gamification on engineering lab activities in terms of motivation, engagement, and performance, (2) developing an effective gamification system for engineering lab activities based on a User-Centered Design (UCD) process, (3) determining the role of students’ personality traits in the effects of gamification and (4) Determining the relationship among gamification, each type of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic and amotivation), and learning outcomes. For the first aim, two types of websites were created to collect data from students who were enrolled in an undergraduate Introduction to Human Factors course taught at The Pennsylvania State University in the fall semester of 2015. The two types of websites were Gamification (GM) and Non-Gamification (NG). While the GM website included game elements such as a Badge System, Score, Avatar, Leaderboard, Level, and Feedback (Notification), the NG website was a traditional website without game elements. In each of these websites, students could create their own multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and answer questions authored by their classmates. The results suggest that the application of gamification as a supporting tool in engineering lab activities has a positive effect on students’ motivation, engagement, and learning outcome based on the consistency between students’ performance in and subjective satisfaction with the gamification system. In addition, the results of frequency analysis indicate that 80% of students were motivated by ‘Ranking’ and ‘Score,’ and 50% of students experienced fun due to ‘Badges,’ ‘Feedback,’ and ‘Avatar.’ Students chose ‘Ranking’ and ‘Score’ as the game elements to be retained in the new gamification system. The second and third aims were focused on the research question of how to develop an effective gamification system to improve the effectiveness of gamification on students’ learning. To answer this research question, I conducted an experiment with a total of 105 students by using two types of gamification systems: Initial Version and User-Centered Designed Version. The usability test identified a total of 25 unique usability problems across 5 categories: (1) Design, (2) Navigation, (3) Game Element, (4) Main Activity, and (5) Feedback. Applying the User-Centered Design process had a positive effect on building an effective gamification system, increasing the level of engagement for gamification website activity. In addition, a number of relationships were identified between different personality traits in students and (1) perceptions of gamification, (2) engagement with gamification and, (3) learning outcomes. Our findings suggest that the effects of gamification vary depending on individual attributes. In addition, I suggest that gamification developers apply UCD in the development process. For the last aim, I used structural equation modeling to investigate deeply the relationship between gamification and student motivation within the framework of self-determination theory. The results showed that gamification activity had a significant positive influence on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and had a significant negative influence on amotivation. I also found that motivation had a significant positive influence on learning outcome. The present study is one of the first to cover several aspects still underexplored in current gamification research. I attempted to empirically evaluate the impact on student motivation of applying a UCD process to gamification within an SDT framework, which is seldom empirically studied in gamification literature. Furthermore, this study contributes to current research as the first empirically validated study to measure results across three repetitions of the experiment. In addition, this study is also one of the first to empirically find that even reward-based gamification can increase students’ intrinsic motivation, suggesting that it is possible to change students’ behavior. However, since I did not figure out the effects of individual game elements on students’ motivation, more empirical research is necessary to determine why particular game elements play a role as extrinsic or intrinsic motivators in a given context, and how this, in turn, influences students’ behavior. I expect that these results will inform instructors who are interested in gamifying their courses and will help them in deciding how to develop gamification to use in their specific context.