An Empirical Test of the Theory of Gamified Learning: The Effect of Leaderboards on Time-on-Task and Academic Performance

Richard N. Landers, Amy K. Landers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background. The theory of gamified learning provides a theoretical framework to test the impact of gamification efforts upon learner behaviors and attitudes, as well as the effect of these behavioral and attitudinal changes on learning. It does so by providing mediating and moderating processes linking specific game elements to learning outcomes. Aim. This article links specific game elements common to leaderboards (conflict/challenge, rules/goals, and assessment) with a focal learner behavior, timeon-task, by exploring educational research on competition and psychological research on goal-setting theory. Method. The mediating process of the theory of gamified learning is tested experimentally by assigning learners completing an online wiki-based project to a gamified version with a leaderboard or to a control version without a leaderboard. Leaderboard achievement was not tied to course grades. Results. Random assignment to leaderboards supported a causal effect. Students with leaderboards interacted with their project 29.61 more times, on average, than those in a control condition. Bootstrapping was used to support the mediation of the effect of gamification on academic achievement by this amount of time. Conclusion. The mediating process of the theory of gamified instruction is supported. Leaderboards can be used to improve course performance under certain circumstances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)769-785
Number of pages17
JournalSimulation and Gaming
Volume45
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 9 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 SAGE Publications.

Keywords

  • attitudes
  • behavior
  • game attribute taxonomy
  • game attributes
  • game element taxonomy
  • game elements
  • gamification
  • gamified learning
  • learning
  • learning outcomes
  • mediation
  • model
  • moderation
  • psychology
  • serious games
  • simulation/gaming
  • taxonomy
  • theory
  • training

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