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Gamification elements like badges, points, and achievements can be found in almost every application and platform these days. Born out of the video game world, these elements are designed to combine intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to engage users and encourage them to participate in various activities. But are badges and awards impactful for online learning? Let’s take a look at the research.

Finding 1.

Badges and awards can increase learner motivation, engagement, and activity, especially in those learners with low intrinsic motivation. Supported by Santos, Charleer, Parra, Klerkx, Duval, & Verbert (2013), who conducted a study that indicated that badges and other gamified elements have the potential to motivate and activate learners. Also see Aldemir et al. (2018), Ozdener (2018), Barata et al. (2017), de Rocha Seixas et al. (2016), Ding (2019)

Finding 2.

Badges and awards can positively influence learner outcomes. In a study by Dominguez, Saenz-de-Navarrete, De-Marcos, Fernandez-Sanz, Pages, & Martinez-Herraiz (2013), learners who received badges were more likely to be able to practically apply concepts they had learned in a course. Also see Sanchez-Martin et al. (2017)

Finding 3.

Badges and awards are positively correlated with higher learner interaction and socialization. A study by Ding et al. (2017) found that badges promoted learner engagement in online discussions, and Toda et al. (2019) discovered that badges improved the overall learning experience.


Aldemir, T., Celik, B., & Kaplan, G. (2018). A qualitative investigation of student perceptions of game elements in a gamified course. Computers in Human Behavior, 78, 235-254.

Barata, G., Gama, S., Jorge, J., & Goncalves, D. (2017). Studying student differentiation in gamified education: A long-term study. Computers in Human Behavior, 71, 550-585.

Ding, L. (2019). Applying gamifications to asynchronous online discussions: A mixed methods study. Computers in Human Behavior, 91, 1-11.

Ding, L., Kim, C., & Orey, M. (2017). Studies of student engagement in gamified online discussions. Computers & Education, 115, 126-142.

Dominguez, A., Saenz-de-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J.J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers & Education, 63, 380-392.

Ozdener, N. (2018). Gamification for enhancing Web 2.0 based educational activities: The case of pre-service grade school teachers using educational Wiki pages. Telematics and Informatics, 35(3), 564-578.

de Rocha Seixas, L., Gomes, A.S., & de Melo Filho, I.J. (2016). Effectiveness of gamification in the engagement of students. Computers in Human Behavior, 58, 48-63.

Sanchez-Martin, J., Canada-Canada, F., & Davila-Acedo, M.A. (2017). Just a game? Gamifying a general science class at university: Collaborative and competitive work applications. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 26, 51-59.

Santos, J.L., Charleer, S., Parra, G., Klerkx, J., Duval, E., & Verbert, K. (2013). Evaluating the use of open badges in an open learning environment. In D. Hernandez-Leo, T. Ley, R. Klamma, & A. Harrer (Eds.). Scaling up learning for sustained impact (pp. 314-327). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Toda, A.M., do Carmo, R.M., da Silva, A.P., Bittencourt, I.I., & Isotani, S. (2019). An approach for planning and deploying gamification concepts with social networks within educational contexts. International Journal of Information Management, 46, 294-303.