User surveys like the following lay the foundation for both our P-8 project on Interaction, Gamification, and Analysis (Development | KlickerUZH) and our P-8 project on Game-Based Learning (GBL@UZH - <!-- -->Roadmap).
See KlickerUZH v3.0: Concept and Request for Feedback for developments in the KlickerUZH that we are taking on based on these initial conclusions.
Current research in the field of gamification and game-based learning shows that conveying complex topics through hands-on games and realistic simulations improves overall learning success among students (Plass et al. (2020)). Even simple gamified elements embedded in a lecture can improve engagement and learning success by a substantial amount. According to Mayer (2014), games are defined as rule-based play just challenging enough to invite players to join, but not too unrealistic. While some elements are often left to chance to instill a certain excitement and unpredictability, game outcomes should reflect the players’ decisions and skills; motivating them to work hard. This increased motivation in students is often regarded as the main benefit of incorporating games in teaching environments (Plass et al. (2020)).
As part of two complementary projects at the Department of Banking and Finance, University of Zurich (P-8 Interaction, Gamification, and Analysis and P-8 Game-Based Learning), the aim is to foster the interaction and engagement between lecturers and their students by providing foundational resources for the usage and development of gamified elements. The two surveys summarized in this document help to identify what lecturers need in terms of skills and resources so that they can more easily incorporate interaction, gamified elements and learning games in their teaching.
Description of the Surveys
This report discusses the results and contrasts of the two online surveys on the application of interaction and game-based learning in teaching.
- The survey on classroom interaction is based on the KlickerUZH project  and records participants’ stance towards various types of interaction in the classroom, both digital and face-to-face.
- The gamification and game-based learning survey is inspired by the Game-Based-Learning project and examines participants’ interest and experience with small gamification elements (e.g., competitions in class) as well as larger elements in a game-based learning setting (e.g., educational board games or digital learning games).
Both surveys inquire about the reasoning behind participants’ current interaction levels and the constraints (such as time) keeping them from tailoring existing interaction tools like the KlickerUZH (1) to their needs, finally introducing relevant gamification concepts to their teaching. Ultimately, the goal is to further interaction through different methods to increase retention and enjoyment among students, while simplifying the lecturer’s teaching process.
Sent to university professors, teaching assistants and the departments of the faculties of business, economics, and informatics, as well as the KlickerUZH and teaching community at the University of Zurich and further lecturers, the two surveys received a total of 117 responses as of October 24, 2022. 42 people participated in the interaction survey and 75 in the gamification survey. The majority of participants taught social sciences (2) or arts and humanities in lectures with 20-50 students in tertiary education institutions such as universities. More than 60% of participants work as lecturers and a minority as teaching assistants in tertiary education.
In Which Settings do Participants Interact?
Both surveys differentiated between the following five teaching scenarios:
- Frontal teaching : more than 50 students with little interaction. The teaching materials are set by the lecturer and are not influenced by the students.
- Interactive lectures :between 20-50 students, whose input is incorporated into the lecture contents.
- Exercise sessions and tutoring : exercises are solved and discussed with students.
- Open discourse, discussions, and group activities : students are encouraged to converse with each other while the lecturer serves more as a mediator than teacher.
- Additional scenario (3): participants mentioned seminars and online classes.
Of these participants, the majority taught in interactive lectures. While frontal teaching was the second most popular scenario in the interaction survey , it received less votes than exercise and tutoring sessions did in the gamification survey . One reason for this difference may be the fields the lecturers work in. As seen in graphs 1 and 2, blue (gamification) displays a higher proportion of life sciences and medicine; two subjects where exercise sessions may provide a better practical learning environment for students than larger lectures with little interaction. The interaction survey sees a majority in the arts and humanities which corresponds with the higher percentages of larger, less intimate lectures compared to the gamification survey. Alternatively, another explanation may be that the people who completed the gamification survey were already targeting more interactive lecture settings (or gamification elements) than the audience of the interaction survey since they may be more familiar with (digital) concepts requiring interaction.
Which Goals do Participants Deem Crucial?
To further understand the participants’ needs and priorities, they were asked to rank their perceived importance of several goals such as improving discussion skills, activating pre-existing knowledge, breaking the ice, and improving collaboration. The interaction survey listed 8 different goals to choose from, and the gamification survey 5.
While the two surveys shared only four goals, the same three were voted as most important in each survey out of all the other available options: improving participation, applying knowledge, and activating pre-existing knowledge. Applying knowledge was the top priority of 45% of participants in the gamification survey, while it was, on average, deemed less important than improving participation in the interaction survey.
The table below ranks the percentages of the total number of participants which selected the goals shared across both surveys to be crucial. The question was phrased slightly differently in the two surveys; participants of the gamification survey could select one goal for each rank, while those of the interaction survey were simply asked to list all goals crucial to them. For this reason, applying knowledge received the highest votes for both first and second place in the gamification survey. This also explains the low percentages compared to the interaction survey, where participants could name more than one goal as crucial.
|Goal||Interaction Survey||Gamification Survey|
|Improving Participation||1. with 87%||( 1. with 30% and 2. with 23%)|
|Applying Knowledge||2. with 70%||1. with 40% and 2. with 30%|
|Activating Pre-Existing Knowledge||3. with 65%||3. with 23%|
|Improving Collaboration||4. with 55%||4. with 32%|
The interaction survey differentiates between the various teaching scenarios, and priorities change accordingly. The two goals which participants consistently deem important are improving participation and applying knowledge. Only very few participants chose the goal of fostering an open environment in the first three larger scenarios, but 100% of those who teach in an open discourse scenario select it as critical. Since many lecturers noted students to be rather apprehensive when asked to share in class, prioritising a judgement-free classroom can be assumed a reasonable approach to working against this issue. The results for improving collaboration follow a similar pattern, with the goal only becoming crucial in the open discourse scenario and the additional scenario (a seminar, for example).
The ranking of these four most critical goals per teaching scenario is displayed in table 4 below.Improving participation is the goal the highest number of participants see as most important, even those in larger lectures (frontal teaching and interactive lectures) with an average of 86.5% of participants selecting it. This shows a high demand for improved interaction; especially those in the exercise sessions and tutoring group were very conscious of their aims with the highest average ranking of the three top goals across all five scenarios. Additionally, over 85% of all participants state they would like to include more interaction their teaching scenarios. On average, only 13% of lecturers believe they need more digital resources or skills to achieve this, making the researcher’s path to improvement simpler. Most note the main obstacle to be a lack of time along with the students’ apprehensive attitudes towards speaking out loud in class. This suggests that providing simple, fast solutions may be most appealing to lecturers.
Many lecturers feel that students would prefer anonymous Q&As, which presents a dilemma since teachers largely agree that face-to-face interaction is more meaningful. According to the lecturers, students, however, tend to avoid such scenarios and rather remain quiet than risk a public mistake. A digital and anonymous Q&A tool may make students feel more comfortable and thus encourage more frequent interaction .
Applying knowledge has the highest variance due to its low importance in the frontal teaching scenario. Participants of the exercise sessions and tutoring scenario report particularly high rankings of the three goals, leading to the assumption that they value interaction and are keen to further develop it.
On the whole, the two surveys indicate that applying knowledge and improving participation are lecturers’ top priorities between the given alternatives. Especially improving participation links directly to interaction, be it in-person or online. Thus, most participants would like to further increase the exchanges in the classroom and provide students with scenarios where they can apply their knowledge learnt.
Interaction Survey: How Interactive are Participants?
On average, the trend for more in-person interaction is found to decline in the graphs below as the number of students increases, with the additional scenario receiving the highest average score of in-person interaction. Participants defined this scenario as a seminar with 18-25 students, frontal teaching in large classes with live streams in several classrooms and teaching 20 students at an institution of a slightly lower academic level than a university.
Both Q&A options were the most popular: on average, more than 80% claimed to ask questions as lecturers, while a staggering 92% allows students to ask questions themselves. These scores further emphasise the lecturers’ preference for regular exchanges with motivated students, especially since the latter option received more votes than that of the lecturer asking their own questions. Such high scores were only found for face-to-face scenarios: only 58% of participants claim to use live digital Q&A tools, which further implies that real-life interaction is preferred over digital interaction. Several comments about aiming to make students feel (more) comfortable asking questions and instilling a genuine interest in them only emphasise this. Polling, which an average of 91% of participants use, is still less popular than allowing students to ask questions themselves.
More than half of the participants use live Q&As and polling. According to a survey (4) based on such a digital Q&A tool, students too, tend to agree that such tools further their understanding of the lecture and would favour more interaction in the classroom.
Comparing the average number of votes for digital vs. in-person interaction methods in the following graph below renders a clear confirmation of the patterns discussed above. On average, in-person interaction is more popular with lecturers than its digital counterpart. This difference is most prominent in smaller, more personal teaching scenarios such as open discourse, discussions and group activities where the anonymity of digital tools may be seen as disadvantageous by lecturers. Interestingly, digital tools have become so useful for lectures of a grander scale that they are even slightly preferred to traditional in-person interactions, as seen in the slightly higher score in the frontal teaching scenario.
Gamification Survey: How Familiar are Participants with Various Concepts and Tools?
The various gamification concepts and tools differ greatly in familiarity and usage between the participation pool. To evaluate the most common elements, participants were asked to choose from any one of five experience levels (5) per gamification concept. Graph 8 displays an overview of the percentage of participants who chose each option, ranging from unfamiliar to successfully applied, thus providing an insight into their teaching background. The 100% refers to the total number of participants for this question: n=46.
One of the most unfamiliar concepts was gamifying entire courses, which also received the most votes for participants wishing to implement it in the future. This indicates improving this concept’s popularity and recognition may be a sound investment since many people are willing to try it. The reason very few have done so up until now seems to lie in the lack of familiarity rather than a general aversion (also shown by the relatively low score on the ‘familiar but do not want to apply it’ option).
Various participants expressed a sense of confusion on how to incorporate gamification tools successfully and “in a simple way”, but none reported to have applied a concept and disliked it, marking a general enthusiasm towards the idea of gamification.
Of the participants who gave information about the concepts competitions in class, live action role-play as well as gamifying learning contents, more than 20% claim to have successfully implemented them. As for applying concepts in the future, gamifying entire courses and developing own (digital) games received the most votes, suggesting a preference for drastic changes. Thus, improving the accessibility and guidance for such overhauls may be the crucial element to tweak for a more gamified future.
Which Conclusions Can Be Applied in the Future?
Participants voiced a general interest in increasing their interaction levels, mostly preferring to do this personally rather than digitally. All interaction methods, however, cost (great) amounts of time which many explicitly state they cannot afford. This dampens the general enthusiasm towards introducing new concepts, even though participants favour a more gamified and interactive approach. Using the KlickerUZH tool as a practical example, several lecturers would appreciate a wider range of features to support their specific teaching scenario so as to forgo the (costly) hassle of owning multiple subscriptions for separate functionalities. This would enable them to turn to one sole provider for all their separate needs. One such additional feature was proposed as the ability to implement a link for individual questions in the teaching material. Another idea is a more extensive language setting, where students can view the questions (rather than solely the general interface) in a different language to that of the lecturer.
Constructive ideas for future research include inquiring about the participants’ opinion about the specific benefit of gamification, as well as laying out the time needed to eventually reduce the overall effort of a certain task through gamification or digitalisation to increase the appeal of such a digital overhaul. It must also be considered that results from these surveys may have been biased by lecturers’ previous experience in the field of (digital) interactive teaching. One cannot assume each participant shared the same level of knowledge or interest before partaking in the surveys.
Lecturers’ priorities are found to lie in conveying knowledge which students can apply in real life as well as improving the overall participation in the classroom. Both goals are based on high interaction levels, which emphasises the relevance of these two studies to pinpoint the best tools to improve the overall satisfaction in tertiary education. Drawing from their results, diversifying the features of tools like the KlickerUZH, and introducing time-efficient guidance to gamifying entire courses and learning materials are two approaches towards transforming lecturers’ overall attitude to teaching and see students leave with more meaningful take aways.
Mayer, R. E. (2014). Computer Games for Learning: An Evidence-Based Approach. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Plass, J. L., Mayer, R. E., Homer & B. D. (2020). Handbook of Game-Based Learning. The MIT Press.
(1) ‘KlickerUZH’ refers to the digital tool developed by the University of Zurich which introduces live Q&As with instant responses to the classroom, modernising and simplifying interactions between lecturers and students .
(2) Participants of the interaction survey listed healthcare and forensic sciences with law as their choices for ‘other’ with regards to their teaching field. Those of the gamification survey specified: special needs education, information literacy, psychology, information sciences, research of digital tools.
(3) The four participants of the interaction survey which selected the additional scenario option defined it as (1) a seminar with 18-25 students, (2) frontally to large classes divided over several rooms, and finally (3) at a secondary school with classes of around 20 students. Only two participants selected the additional teaching scenario in the gamification survey , describing it as (1) online learning and (2) helping students complete their exercises in a “flipped classroom” scenario.
(4) Following the release of the KlickerUZH, the survey conducted gathered interesting take aways from both lecturers and students regarding their preferences and experience with the digital tool. 
(5) The five experience levels: (1) I am unfamiliar with / have not thought about it, (2) I know about it but do not plan to apply it, (3) I know about it and would like to apply it, (4) I have tried applying it but did not like it, (5) I have successfully applied it.