Hidden Costs of Using Gamification to Improve Students’ Study Behaviors in an Engineering Course
This thesis examines students’ homework behaviors and their relationship to academic achievement in an introductory-level mechanical engineering course. Prior work has shown that engaging in effective study behaviors such as distributing study effort over time rather than camming, can have a positive effect on learning outcomes. In the present study, we investigate the use of gamification as a means of motivating students to engage in effective study behaviors such as completing reading assignments, taking notes in lecture, and starting homework assignments early. The study employed a web-based dashboard system that provided students with quantitative measures of study effort. Effort on written work was measured with smartpens that digitize students’ work in real time, and an instrumented document viewer that measured reading effort. The dashboard also included games that provided points for completing study tasks as measured by the smartpen and document viewer. This thesis examines how gamification affects students’ learning behaviors and learning outcomes. The results demonstrate a strong and consistent relationship between students’ learning behaviors and learning outcomes. Additionally, this work demonstrates that gamification is effective at changing students’ study behaviors, but is ineffective at improving students’ performance in engineering courses.