Modern education systems tend to focus on the use of external pressures to motivate students to learn. Intrinsic motivation - motivation to do something because it is enjoyable in and of itself – by contrast, is more valuable in these environments as it has multiple benefits, such as better conceptual understanding and more sustained learning behaviour. The primary way to facilitate intrinsic motivation is to meet the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Games are inherently effective at satisfying these needs and have in recent years begun to be used in non-game contexts, like education, in order to attempt to improve motivation. This is commonly known as gamification, although gameful design is the more beneficial counterpart thereof since it is directly based on a deep understanding of what makes games good motivators.
This study addresses the question of how gameful design can be used to facilitate intrinsic motivation in a tertiary education setting. This is done through an examination of existing literature in order to inform the design of a gameful intervention, which is the focus of this research. This intervention includes a new website, additional exercises on course content as well as changes to lectures. The intervention (in the form of a pilot study and a final implementation) is used in a first year undergraduate module in the Multimedia degree at the University of Pretoria.
When the intervention has been used by the students for a full semester, data are collected in the form of questionnaires, focus groups, Google Analytics, website database logs and observation. The results indicate that the gameful intervention meets the three basic psychological needs of those students who interacted with it. As a result of this, students are more intrinsically motivated to interact with the intervention and therefore spend more time engaging with the course content.
This study contributes a list of guidelines for educators wishing to use gameful design in their own modules. It also provides the details of the design of the intervention in order to aid the understanding of how gameful design can be used to facilitate intrinsic motivation. This approach to “gamifying” education is rare in the existing literature and can therefore be considered a valuable contribution.