Empirical Research on Using Virtual Currency to Gamify Academic Courses


Educational gamification aims at increasing students’ engagement in learning activities to improve their outcomes. While its popularity is increasing, underlying mechanisms by which gamification elements work are not well understood. This is especially true for Virtual Currency (VC), a gamification element which is rarely used. This motivated our research on the effect of VC on learners’ motivational and behavioral outcomes. For our empirical studies we gamified several STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic courses using the gamification platform OneUp with only one element, virtual currency. The students received virtual bucks for successfully performing learning tasks which they could spend on course-related benefits. In this poster we summarize the educational contexts in which the studies were performed, the research questions addressed, and the main results. We conducted pre-test and post-test motivational surveys. A paired-samples t-test was conducted to assess the impact of gamification on pre- to post-test differences between participants’ scores on autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The results of all studies demonstrated a strong positive impact of VC on learners’ engagement, however, there was no statistically significant difference in the final course grades between the experimental and control group in one of the studies. Overall, the results demonstrated that VC could be a more effective motivator compared to other gamification elements, as it keeps learners engaged driven by their desire to obtain the intended rewards regardless of how much they enjoy the task itself. By sharing our experience, we intend to foster further research and increase utilization of VC.


Darina Dicheva
Professor, Computer Science, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina, United States

Christo Dichev
Professor, Computer Science, Winston Salem State University, United States


Presentation Type

Poster Session


Assessment and Evaluation


Educational Gamification, Virtual Currency, Student Motivation, Student Engagement