Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Curriculum & Instruction

First Advisor

Leticia De Leon

Second Advisor

Maria Elena Corbeil

Third Advisor

Ignacio E. Rodriguez


Although there is high enrollment in online college courses, there are concerns about student engagement (Martin & Bolliger, 2018; Dumford & Miller, 2018). Gamification has been shown to have the potential to improve student engagement. The purpose of the study was to describe how academic student engagement is impacted by Nicholson’s Meaningfully Gamified online course compared to traditionally taught online course. An embedded multiple case study research design was employed using self-determination theory as the theoretical framework to measure engagement. The theory constructs analyzed were autonomy, competence, relatedness, and student engagement. The research was conducted at a community college in South Texas, which predominantly serves a Hispanic population. The study involved an eight-week online College Algebra course that implemented gamification and another parallel course that did not, serving as a comparison. The embedded multiple case study methods describe two overall cases. Case Study 1 utilized Nicholson's gamification approach, whereas Case Study 2 did not. Despite this difference, both cases showed comparable improvements from pre to post-tests and only slight variations in survey outcomes. However, the gamified course notably enhanced students' sense of autonomy and competence, with a slight increase in relatedness. Regarding student engagement, participants in the gamified course reported enjoying their learning experience, feeling less stressed, and being motivated by the course structure, their peers, and the instructor. In contrast, students in Case Study 2 were motivated by the fast pace of the course and exhibited higher levels of emotions associated with task-withdrawal.


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