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Generation Y is hitting the job market and this generation might be hard to educate. The hyped solution to this is called gamification, the use of gaming elements in a non-gaming context. What does this hype do? On the one hand, it helps users stay motivated. On the other hand it boosts user experience. Even though generation Y does not motivate themselves differently than any other generation, gamification can influence education for the better, but it has to be used mindfully. The theory provides arguments to implement gamification into education, but generation Y is not exceptionally excited for it. This generation is not more aware of it nor have they encountered it more often. They surprisingly were most averse to adding game elements to courses, with the exception of adding turns, limited resources or time constraint to digital education.
Teaching the angry birds?
The company of today is preparing itself for generation Y to hit the job market. Innovative technology is a logical next step, since the main characteristic of this generation is that they are devoted to technology. Companies are plagued with a bunch of new ICT methods to help motivate their employees, without a scientific background to refer to when making a choice. Using the unique characteristics of games outside of the gaming context, or gamification in a scientific term (Raymer, 2011, p. 52), is such a hype. In this paper, the aim will be to analyse the power of games for teaching, with a focus on generation Y. So what can gamification do for professional learning? To answer this question, the leading research question throughout the paper is: How can the use of gamification make professional training more effective from the viewpoint of generation Y? To resolve this question, there is first and foremost the need to know what to understand when talking about gamification. This is ultimately a question towards a complete and scientific definition of the phenomenon. Next, the characteristics of this newly defined phenomenon need to be explored. Lastly, a closer look needs to be taken at this intriguing generation Y and their relation towards gamification.
Gamification is adding a game-design element to just about anything outside of the gaming context (Raymer, 2011; Deterding, Dixon, Khaled & Nacke, 2011, pp. 1-2). Not everyone agrees that gamification is unique, however when looking at its roots, it is clear the scope differs from previous research (Deterding, Khaled et al, 2011, p. 2). The idea of gamification first came about in the Human Computer Interface (HCI) tradition (Deterding, Dixon, Nacke, O‟hara & Sicart, 2011, p. 2). HCI was concerned with the ergonomics of
interfaces, and resorted to gaming techniques. Their aim was the same as that of gamification: making ordinary things fun, whilst doing the job. In 2000, HCI started developing models describing the effect of certain game components. Gamification took the idea that games elements can be used for a specific purpose from this movement. (Deterding, Khaled et al, 2011, p. 2) Although HCI is the school of thought gamification grew from, other movements also helped shape gamification. In the late 20th century, the US military developed serious games that learned soldiers to operate machinery (Deterding, Khaled et al, 2011, p. 2). This shaped gamification by lifting games outside of a gaming context for purposes that reach beyond entertainment. Pervasive games, e.g. Foursquare, take game play into the public sphere by adding an additional „game -layer‟ to real life (Deterding, Khaled et al, 2011, p. 2). Accordingly, gamification is also a „game-layer‟ on top of ordinary things. The only question is now: what does gamification actually do? (Deterding, 2011, p 1). In short: 1. Gamification increases user experience, i.e. gamification is fun. 2. Gamification enhances user engagement, i.e. gamification motivates.
Is it fun?
How a game is perceived can be viewed from the perspective of the user and that of the designer (Deterding, Khaled et al, 2011, p. 3). To help understand the implications a game has on the user, designers developed the MDA frame. MDA stands for the process in which the mechanics (= particular design components) lead to dynamics (= the way the game „behaves‟ during play) to finally end in aesthetics (= the desirable emotional behaviour, i.e. fun.).
Recently, gamification shifted away from a technological approach towards a social context (Deterding, 2009, p. 1). So, when translate this diagram into the viewpoint of the user, we get the following: the most important factor is fun and to get there, the user has followed the system by obeying the rules.
So what makes a game fun? Hunicke, LeBlanc and Zubek (2004, pp. 1-2) define 8 different types of fun: sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression and submission. Some of these aesthetics, e.g. challenge and discovery are almost natural to the learning experience. Thriving on the same idea, game designer Raph Koster (2004) says: “Fun is just another word for learning.” (p. 46). Sebastian Deterding supported this statement (2011). He states that fun in games comes from mastery and comprehension. In other words, we feel games are fun because they allow us to learn.
Does it motivate?
The idea is that gamification satisfies motivational needs and stimulates retention (Deterding, 2012, pp. 14-17). Two motivational types are to be distinguished: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is motivation the user obtains from internal factors, e.g. ethical values. Extrinsic motivation is motivation that is external to the individual, e.g. material rewards (Deterding, 2011, pp. 2-3). To enhance motivation, the initial extrinsic motivation should be boosted, but intrinsic motivation should stay intact. This does not always happen with gamification (Thom, Millen & Dimicco, 2012, p. 3). For example, time constraint helps the student get extrinsically motivated, but can harm internal motivation if the pressure is too high to accomplish anything. This does not mean every attempt at extrinsic motivation is doomed (Thom, 2012, p. 4). There are other sources of motivation such as self-efficacy, group identification and social approval that can also be supported by gamification techniques. These result in long-term engagement as it makes people feel good about themselves (Thom, 2012, p. 16). A badge, for example, is not new. The U.S.A. boy scouts have made badges a tradition, because they understood that rewarding someone with a badge functions both as extrinsic and as intrinsic motivator. Extrinsic because it is a material reward for an act. But on a deeper level, the badge is stimulating the intrinsic motivation of the scout by providing him with a feeling of belonging (Deterding, 2012, p. 14). The same goes for gamified badges (or any other gamification technique for that matter). This example is called the achievement principle, basically meaning that even though the object used to motivate is purely external, the motivation it generates might affect both internal and external gratification (Gee, 2007, p. 64).
Generation Y, born between 1980 and 1994, lives submerged in technology. “They are held to be active experiential learners, proficient in multitasking, and dependent on communication technologies for accessing information and for interacting with others.” (Bennet, Maton & Kervin, 2008, p. 777) Digital natives learn at high speed because of the vast amount of information in their life and this challenges traditional education (Brown, 2000, p. 13). Visual information is processed more quickly and as a result generation y “prefer(s) discovery-based learning that allows them to explore and to actively test their ideas and create knowledge.” (Brown, 2000, as cited in Bennett et al, 2008, p. 779). However, these ideas are controversial. Multitasking is not unique to digital natives. When we look back, similar claims about the television generation exist (Schramm, 1961, p. 14). Furthermore, multitasking is not necessarily beneficial to learning. And finally, liking games for entertainment does not automatically translate into liking them for education (Bennet et al, 2008, pp. 777-778).
About the survey
The empirical study was conducted via an online survey, launched on 19/03/2013 and concluded on 25/04/2013. The survey contains three segments. The first segment considers demographic information. The following segment deals with the concept user engagement. The last segment
concerns the notion of user experience. The aim is to find out whether gamified education is more engaging and or more fun to generation y. The survey was completed by 336 respondents. Of all respondents, 5 respondents did not complete demographical information (1.5% system missing). Out of the total, 35.6% are male and 64.4% are female. In order to be representative, the goal was to survey 68 respondents for the younger and older groups and 166 respondents for generation y, or respondents born between 1980 and 1994. For both the younger and the older group, this wasn‟t achieved (respectively 59 respondents - 17.8% and 63 respondents - 19%). For generation Y, the target was not only met, but exceeded. 209 respondents (63.1 %) participated. Firstly, awareness of gamification was questioned. Out of the total, 34,9% of generation y was
aware that gamification exists. The awareness lies remarkably higher in the older age group (42.4%). The youngest age group is least aware of the phenomenon. This raised the question whether there is a difference in awareness between those who work and those who do not. There is a small positive correlation between the awareness and whether the respondent is working or not (Cramérs V = 0.145). A possible explanation for this, is that there is more talk about using gamification in a professional environment. This might mean that there is an interest of companies and employees in using gamification. However, this hypothesis needs to be further examined. Then, respondents indicated if they had ever encountered gamification. Out of generation y, 18.2% had done so. These rates go up when looking at the youngest generation: 27.1% indicate having encountered gamification before. The older generation scores lowest, with 14.5% indicating a previous encounter. When solely looking at these data, one could state that the older the respondent is, the less likely it is that they have had an encounter with gamification. However, other data add a nuance. When looking at the percentages of respondents that indicated they were unsure if they ever encountered gamification, this trend is reversed. From younger to older respectively 25.4%, 34% and 51.6% indicated they might have encountered gamification. When taking into account that the older generation had a higher awareness, they might be more critical in calling something “gamified”.
The survey asked to rank teaching methods. The options given were a classroom course, e-learning and an online course with teacher. Out of generation Y, 71.3% most preferred a classroom course, followed by an online course with teacher (15.8%) and e-learning (12.9%). The same ranking was found in the other generations. Next, the survey asked to evaluate the same teaching methods, but using badges, e.g. e-learning with badges. Classroom education remained the favorite. E-learning took over second place and online courses came third. What was surprising, is that generation Y had the largest group of respondents that would rather have no gamification (27.7% versus 25.4% for the youngest and 16.9 for the older group.) This did not change when repeating the same exercise, now adding challenges and fantasy elements.
For the gamified layer time constraint, low resources or turns, the aversion of gamification is highest. The younger generation is most averse with almost half (49.2%) indicating they would prefer no gamification. The percentages for generation Y and the older generation are of equal order, respectively at 39.7% and 32.2%. To find out if any teaching method was prone to gamification, the correlation between the order generation y indicated when evaluating the teaching methods without and with gamification was calculated. For badges and leader boards this gave a positive correlation (Spearman‟s rho= 0.443, p<0.001), which means that the order picked without gamification is somewhat similar to the one with badges. When adding challenges and fantasy elements, there‟s a slight positive correlation (Spearman‟s rho = 0.315, p<0.001). This means the order picked when adding this game layer is roughly similar. Lastly, for turns, limited resources or time constraint, the correlation is only slightly positive (Spearman‟s rho= 0.227, p<0.001). This gamified layer is most disruptive to the traditional order and also the least appreciated gamified layer. This is in line with previous findings. Even if this is the least preferred gamified layer in the classroom, this type of gamification does better in digital learning environments. The only remaining question is whether these conclusions are unique to generation Y. The answer is dual. All three age groups display similar correlation values for two out of three gamified layers. The remarkable difference is that both older and younger generations show a high positive correlation for the third gamified layer (Spearman‟s rho is respectively 0.422 and 0.411, p<0.001). For both the older and the younger group, time constraint, limited recourses or turns remains the least favorite gamified layer, even in a digital learning environment. Engagement was measured using Reiss‟ motivational pattern. When taking a look at the motivational pattern of generation Y, we see that most respondents agreed with curiosity, tranquility, independence, acceptance and saving being a motivator to them (mode = 6). Other motivators did not appear to be prominently present nor absent. Only towards group social contact and power there is mainly indifference (mode = 4). When comparing this to different age groups, the shift in motivational pattern is not where it was expected. Literature indicated that the introduction of the internet would have lead to a different motivational pattern and pointed towards generation Y. This is not supported by the empirical data. The motivational pattern does change when looking at the age group younger than generation Y. However, the change is not as radical as the literature indicates. Reiss (2009) named 6 motivators that need to be boosted or tamed to be a successful student. Gamification can not affect the motivators acceptance and honour according to the literature, so let‟s take a look at those gamification can affect: curiosity, power, order and vengeance. Curiosity was included in the motivational pattern of each generation. The amount of respondents that did not include curiosity is low (respectively from young to older: 3.2%, 2.4% and 8.5%). Generation y has an asymmetrical distribution which means that more people ticked „agreed‟ or „strongly agreed‟ (respectively 54,5% and 36,4%). This would mean that generation Y is strongly motivated by curiosity and does not require gamified support.
Low scores on the motivator „power‟ can indicate a lack of ambition. This influences the learning capacity negatively (Reiss, 2009, p.222). 37,3% of the respondents of generation Y indicated power is not a motivator, with another 18,2% indicating they feel neutral towards power. Together, over half of the respondents from this group are not motivated by power. The younger the group, the more prominent the trend (respectively from older to younger 50.8%, 55.5% and 61.9% is not motivated by power). So, every generation could use a little help boosting their ambition. A side note has to be made. Stating that you are extremely motivated by power is socially frowned upon. This might be the explanation why people do not recognize power amongst their own motivators. This is also the main critique on the Reiss model. The questionnaire asks the respondents to explicitly identify their motivators. Some motivators might be latently present but not known to the individual (Reiss, 2004, p.179). Next to power, order is also important for the learning process. 29,7% of generation y do not list this motivator. These percentages lie slightly higher for the younger and older generation. Respectively 34,9% 35,6% don‟t identify it as a motivator. So even if this low score is not exclusive to generation Y, introducing fantasy elements and creativity might help with the lack of structure these learners experience. When assessing vengeance, there is a similar trend as for power: respectively from older to younger 54.2%, 65.1% and 66.7% define vengeance as a motivator. High scores on the vengeance scale can hinder the learning performance, because it fuels combativeness (Reiss, 2009, p.223). Generation Y has the most respondents that are highly motivated by retaliation, closely followed by the youngest generation(respectively 20.1% and 19%). The older generation lags far behind (3.4%). The actual percentage might be higher, because vengeance is also socially frowned upon. The most known features of gamification, being badges and leader boards, are typical examples of elements that fuel this motivator. At this point, the critique gamification can be a good thing but is currently used in a bad way, springs to mind.
After developing from a long tradition and fighting for legitimacy, gamification can be defined as the use of game elements in a non-gaming context. These game elements can affect learning on two levels, namely boosting user experience and increasing user engagement. When talking about learning, user experience is especially important. Having fun can make learning a side of play. Games are known to be addictive, so the idea is to use this mechanism to boost learners motivation. Gamification can only boost extrinsic (or external) motivation. However, intrinsic (or internal) motivation has to remain intact. In literature, generation Y is said to have changing learning behaviour. The empirical study showed generation Y is not motivated differently than the older generation. The younger generation does motivate differently, but this change is far from radical. Gamification can boost motivation partly, but this is not always beneficial, e.g. vengeance is fuelled by badges and leader boards. Even if there are arguments to implement gamification in professional learning, generation Y is not as excited as some guru‟s make out to be. Yes, they might be more familiar with games and this
might give them a head start in understanding game dynamics. However, this generation is not more aware of gamification nor have they encountered it more often. Even more so, generation Y was most averse to adding game elements to courses. The only exception being turns, limited resources or time constraint in e-learning or online courses. Even then, they still opted for the familiar classroom course.
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