Could Gamification Designs Enhance Online Learning through Personalization? Lessons from a Field Experiment

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

8 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-49
Journal / PublicationInformation Systems Research
Issue number1
Online published31 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of online learning. As learner autonomy is relatively high in online environments, learners must engage in self-regulated learning (SRL) to achieve optimal learning outcomes. Since most learners are unable to consistently engage in SRL, gamification interventions are being implemented to improve SRL engagement; however, mixed results cast doubt on the efficacy of this approach. Massively open online courses (MOOCs), a type of online learning environment, are currently experiencing rapid growth due to widespread adoption by many institutions. In MOOCs, there is no instructor intervention; hence, students have difficulty regulating their own learning and are easily distracted. Therefore, this study investigates whether mixed research results regarding the efficacy of gamification can be attributed to lack of attention to individual learner traits during design. For this purpose, the study analyzes MOOCs as an instance of online learning by applying SRL theory and gamification principles. We altered a traditional MOOC platform to provide different types of gamified performance feedback to facilitate learners’ SRL engagement. We also examined whether goal orientation, an individual learner trait, influenced learning outcomes. Using learning analytics tools, we tracked 760 college students’ SRL engagement on a MOOC platform over five weeks. As theorized, the SRL engagement and learning outcomes of participants who had a strong performance-avoidance goal orientation increased with positively framed performance feedback that involved no social comparisons; however, the same feedback had a negative impact on participants with a strong mastery goal orientation. Our findings add to SRL theory by demonstrating that gamification designs can enhance SRL engagement and learning outcomes in online learning, but with a caveat—this occurs only when there is a match with learner traits—confirming the gamification principle stating that task improvements and meaningful engagement can only occur through thoughtful gamification design. © 2022 The Author(s)

Research Area(s)

  • self-regulated learning, gamification, learning goal orientation, MOOC, online learning