Skip to main content


This week I’m revisiting some of my favorite reviews of articles related to gamification. Topics we’ll cover include:

  • Gamification and motivation
  • One-time badges vs. streaks
  • Gamified learning for behavior change

Gamification and Motivation

It’s easy to fall into the gamification-motivation trap: if you want learners to do something, just give them a badge, right? Not always. In a recent article, Ding (2020) reported findings from an experiment that included an increase in discussion posts from students who were more aware of the gamified experience, but it did not increase students’ sense of community.

Key Takeaway: Gamification can increase learner engagement, but only to a certain point.

Read More ($): Ding, L. (2019). Applying gamifications to asynchronous online discussions: A mixed methods study. Computers in Human Behavior, 91.

One-Time Rewards vs. Rewarding Regular Behavior

If you’ve used the language learning app Duolingo, you might be familiar with the concept of streaks: by completing a lesson each day, users can extend their streaks and are rewarded. Those who are not “streakers” are, on the other hand, mocked mercilessly by Duo to Owl for their failures (spurring the most delightful memes). But Duolingo uses a variety of gamification elements in addition to streaks, including badges. So, which technique is more effective?

According to a study presented at the 2018 4th Annual International Conference on Computer and Information Sciences (alphabet soup version: ICCOINS), which compared streaks to badges, the answer is (drum roll, please): streaks. Why? The concept of the winning streak is more effective at “helping users enhance their regular learning activity into serious gaming activity,” and, perhaps more importantly, “increases the motivation of advanced users when the attractiveness of Badges decreases” (Huynh, Zuo, & Iida, 2018, p. 4).

Key Takeaway: Badges may give learners a one-time boost, but streaks can encourage users to make learning a regular activity.

Read More ($): Huynh, D., Zuo, L., & Iida, H. (2018). An assessment of game elements in language-learning platform Duolingo. 2018 4th International Conference on Computer and Information Sciences (ICCOINS), Kuala Lumpur, 2018, pp. 1-4.

Gamification and Information Security

What’s the weakest link when it comes to organizational IT security? Employees, despite extensive training. Researchers Silic and Lowry (2020) recognized that security training is often “not enjoyable or motivating - it is perfunctory, arcane, and outside employees’ normal practice and expertise” (p. 130). But what if security training was fun, enjoyable, AND effective? These researchers conducted a longitudinal experiment leveraging gamification techniques with promising results.

Key Takeaway: Gamified e-learning was more effective at changing learners’ behavior than informative updates sent via email and system notifications alerting users to potential phishing attacks.

Read More ($): Silic, M. & Lowry, P.B. (2020). Using Design-Science Based Gamification to Improve Organizational Security Training and Compliance. Journal of Management Information Systems, 37(1), 129-161.‍

3 Mistakes You Shouldn't Make With Gamification

I recently wrote a piece on the Intellum blog detailing 3 huge mistakes I've made when it came to a gamified learning program. Want to learn from my mistakes (or just revel in my naïveté)? Check it out here.

Data Science for Everyone

We were asked to share the following message with you related to the Data Science for Everyone campaign:

Data Science for Everyone is advancing data literacy and K-12 data science education. We are launching the next phase of the campaign at our upcoming Commitments Event on June 28th from 12-4pm ET.

Join speakers including Schmidt Futures co-founder Eric Schmidt, Freakonomics author Steven Levitt, DC Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and others as we discuss innovations and lessons learned in data science education. The event will include networking with coalition-members who have committed to action in this spring’s Commitments Campaign and announce opportunities to join the next phase of the effort. Register here.

We are a diverse group composed of industry leaders, schools and universities, policymakers, funders, and individuals who believe it's time to take action to ensure every student has the opportunity to gain data literacy skills and prepare for our modern economy.

Reminder: Paywall Articles

You may notice that a lot of the articles I review are marked with a ($) to indicate that they’re behind a paywall. It sucks, I know. But, don’t despair! Before you pay for an article, explore the following options:

  • Check with your local public library about getting the article (often for free) through their publicly-available databases or through InterLibrary Loan. You’ll generally need a library card (also usually free), which may require a visit to an actual location, but it’s so worth it -- libraries are amazing. (I speak from my own experience… but as a former librarian, I’ll admit I’m biased!)
  • Contact the researchers. Their email addresses are often included in the article information available online, and they’re usually more than happy to share -- after all, these articles often represent months (if not years) of their life’s work.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week we're featuring Captain Goose Goosenberry, ‘Editor in Chief’ of reader Liza W. She writes, "No design, formatting or grammatical error escapes his keen eye when he manages to stay awake." (Liza also confirmed: Goose is indeed a Flerken!!)

Send me (hi, I'm Julia) your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

Have something to share? Want to see something in next week's issue? Send your suggestions: