Comparing badges and learning goals in low- and high-stakes learning contexts
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Digital badges (i.e., digital credentials for achievements) have been suggested as a useful and scalable implementation of gamification. Digital badges (hereafter “badges”) provide two potential supports for learning: (1) badges provide support for motivation by rewarding achievement and (2) badges provide implicit learning goals. The present paper describes two experiments in which we investigated whether badges can support self-regulated learning by comparing their impact on learning with students given explicit goals for student learning, a key factor in self-regulated learning. Specifically, we compared the effects of badges and goal setting in a low-stakes learning context (Experiment 1; online extra credit unit) and a high-stakes learning context (Experiment 2; introductory Educational Psychology courses). In these two quasi-experiments, participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: badge only, goal only, badge + goal, or control (i.e., no badge, no goal). Learning was measured by comparing performance on topics related to Turkish Culture (Experiment 1) or Educational Psychology (Experiment 2) at pre-test and post-test. Somewhat surprisingly, the results from both studies demonstrated no significant improvement in learning between groups. The discussion suggests that caution should be taken when incorporating badges in learning contexts and provides guidance on the conditions under which badges may be most effective for supporting learning.
KeywordsBadges Gamification Goal-setting Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation Online learning
The authors thank Chris Was for statistical consulting and Christine Murphy for creating the AGO and MSLQ Macros.
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