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Gamification Design in Self-Paced Online Courses for Adult Learners: A Mixed Methods Study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Lin Zhang
Publication date08/2021
Number of pages242
Awarding Institution
Award date19/08/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This convergent mixed methods study examines the gamification implementation of seven self-paced online professional development courses focusing on adult learners. The quantitative and qualitative data used in this work was derived from three sources: a survey of 741 participants in gamified online courses, course records exported from the Learning Management System (LMS), and follow-up interviews conducted with 36 participants.
The results from the integrated data analysis reveal an overall positive attitude among the participants toward the gamification implementation. However, there was a mixed view on various game elements. For example, game elements belonging to the aesthetics category in the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework received the highest ratings, followed by those in the dynamics category, while the ones in the mechanics category received the lowest ratings. Through the quantitative comparison of various demographic clusters using the nonparametric Kruskal-Wallis H test, also called the one-way ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) on ranks, this study revealed that learners' perspectives on gamification are similar overall across demographic groups, with a few exceptions. Course-related factors, such as the length, type, and cost of the course, highlighted more significant differences than learner-related factors, such as gender, age, job profile, and nationality. The quantitative analysis records also indicated that participants' perception of game elements did not correlate with their course engagement and performance data, with a few exceptions. Analysis of the qualitative data gathered from the interview and survey comments yielded six categories pertaining to participants' perceptions of gamification: psychological, andragogical, technical, instructional design, user experience and game design.
Based on the study results, I developed a gamification strategy framework demonstrating the multilayer interconnected relationship among the various disciplines associated with gamification design. This gamification strategy framework can offer instructional designers and developers with some insights and considerations while designing and implementing gamification in self-paced online courses for adult learners.