Can Learning Earth Science be Competitive and Fun? Results of a Gamified Online Course in Earth Sciences Conference Paper uri icon


  • Online courses are great for providing time and space independent learning to students, but they face an increased challenge in staying motivated, staying on task and developing self-efficacy. This was particularly noticed in the first iteration of a fully online "Introduction to Earth Sciences" course. The subsequent course offerings were redesigned leading to an increase in student motivation and retention at the cost of increased burden on instructor time, but they still faced challenges when compared to a traditional in-class course.

    In a bid to solve the problem of motivation and retention vs. instructor load, we redesigned a section of a course by applying game design thinking to enhance the students' desire and ability of learning within an asynchronous online course. Gamification is defined as the use of game elements (competition, immediate feedback and reward and multiple achievement paths) in course design. Borrowing from these principles, we developed and deployed gamification strategies to keep students motivated through the use of competitive elements and self- directed learning pathways for skills acquisition. Our goal with gamification was to (1) increase student motivation and learning (2) Provide students with multiple pathways of learning (3) create efficiencies in the instructor workload in managing the online course.

    Our preliminary data showed that the students in this gamified course outperformed students in the traditionally designed online course. In addition to the student learning outcomes, we were able to achieve a high degree of student engagement without requiring the instructor to spend more time on the course, even when the course was larger than previous courses. These performance data were used to redesign subsequent versions of the course delivered online. The gamification concept increased student enrollment and retention compared to previously taught online courses and showed better performance as compared to a face to face course. This session shares the design strategies used in the course, the student performance data and future steps.

published proceedings

  • AGU Fall Meeting Abstracts

author list (cited authors)

  • Palsole, S

complete list of authors

  • Palsole, S

publication date

  • December 2019