The Effect of Achievement Badges on Students’ Behavior: An Empirical Study in a University-Level Computer Science Course
Keywords:achievement badges, e-learning, gamification, motivation
Achievement badges are a form of gamification that are used in an attempt to increase user engagement and motivation in various systems. A badge is typically a graphical icon that appears as a reward for the user after reaching an achievement but that has no practical value. In this study, we describe and evaluate the use of achievement badges in the TRAKLA2 online learning environment where students solve interactive, automatically assessed exercises in a Data Structures and Algorithms course throughout the semester. We conducted an experiment where the students (N=281) were randomly divided into a treatment and a control group, with and without achievement badges. Students in the treatment group were awarded achievement badges, for example, for solving exercises correctly on the first attempt, doing exercises early, or solving all the exercises in a round with full points. Grading was the same for both groups, i.e. collecting badges did not affect the final grade, even though the exercise points themselves did. Students’ activity in TRAKLA2 was logged in order to find out whether the achievement badges had an effect on their behavior. We also collected numerical and open-ended feedback in order to find out students’ attitudes towards the badges. Our results show that achievement badges can be used to affect students’ behavior. Statistically significant differences were observed in the time used per exercise, number of sessions, total time, and normalized total number of badges. Furthermore, the majority of the students reported being motivated by the badges. Based on our findings, achievement badges seem to be a promising method to motivate students and to encourage desired study practices.
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