A team of students led by Albert Ritzhaupt, associate professor of educational technology has been awarded the AERA SIG Instructional Technology award for Best Student Paper. Their paper, “The impact of gamification in educational settings on student learning outcomes: A meta-analysis,” focuses on the impact of game techniques in the classroom.

The team; Tammy Huang, Max Sommer, Jiawen Zhu, Anita Stephen, Natercia Valle, John Hampton, and Jingwei Li; analyzed how 14 game techniques are used in the classroom to incentivize learning. They found that while “pointification” like leadership points and badges can be beneficial, other game design ideas are equally important. This is one of two papers out of Ritzhaupt’s lab to compete for this year’s AERA SIG IT Best Student Paper.

“Game design is really big, often we think about it as keeping points or having a leaderboard but our findings show that that might not be the most promising avenue to go down,” Ritzhaupt said. “There are other features of gamification like a rich narrative and in depth-feedback that were used far less frequently than others in the studies.”

After attending a conference, Ritzhaupt realized he wanted to do deeper research on what works in education technology and felt that he wanted to see a larger data set to generalize a wider dataset than he would be able to get on his own. He decided to look at gamification in existing primary research to gain a robust overview of what works in classrooms. The team saw a positive effect on classrooms that used gamification techniques over those that didn’t throughout the primary research they studied.

“You’re trying to extract what’s good about a game and wrap it into technology-enhanced learning environments in general,” he said. “What makes a game so addictive and fun to play.”

The team of students feel that through working on this project they were able to connect their individual passions and grow as researchers through this project. This was Huang’s first research project as a Ph.D. student.

“This really shows the quality of work we’re doing,” Huang said. “This was a great opportunity to enhance our collaborations and create this learning opportunity. I was doing another literature review at the same time so working on this allowed me to think more critically. I feel very lucky to have had this opportunity.”

Albert Ritzhaupt