Abstract Details

Designing A Digital Gamified System To Motivate Research Students In Encouraging
Study Progression And Social Relatedness.

Self-determination theory (SDT) (Deci and Ryan, 1985a; Deci and Ryan, 1985b) hypothesizes that there are three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy means the sense of having the choice to assess one’s societal atmosphere and deliver choices to perform a task. Competence is the sense of managing a task to completion and relatedness is the desire to be connected to others (Deci and Ryan, 2000).

SDT-driven research has been utilized in motivating students (Trenshaw et al. 2016). In the context of postgraduate research students, the level of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are frequently low within them. They are often confused about their research work, which is causing the feeling of progression in their study goal and the feeling of isolation. Furthermore, they are more likely to feel less connected with supervisors and colleagues.

There is limited research on applying SDT three basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness to the area of postgraduate research students (Hegarty, 2011), i.e., more progression in their daily research tasks submission over the daily hurdles in achieving their long-term research goal and peer-networking for better social interaction with supervisors and colleagues about their research program. This study applied these SDT’s three needs to develop a digital gamified system followed by a proposed gamified system model and then will conduct an empirical study to measure behavioral outcomes in the context of daily progress in task hurdles and connectivity of students when submitting tasks.

The main research interest of our study is to better understand the difference in utilizing a digital gamified system on postgraduate research students’ degree of (i) autonomy, (ii) competence, and (iii) relatedness needs between the daily task hurdles compared to usual daily routine on their postgraduate journey. This leads to answering the following sub-research questions:

  • RQ1) To what extent do game elements in our digital gamified system affect autonomy need satisfaction?
  • RQ2) To what extent do game elements in our digital gamified system affect competence need satisfaction?
  • RQ3). To what extent do game elements in our digital gamified system affect social relatedness need satisfaction?

It can be hypothesized that our digital system will have students’ subjective experience of motivating them intrinsically to progress in achieving their long-term research goal and socially connect with others. To answer the research questions, a “within-subjects” design experiment will be carried out on a group of research students within the E.U. Participants will have two different conditions (a digital gamified system and their daily routine) for eight weeks (four weeks for the experimental group and another four weeks for the control group). After using the digital system, face-to-face interviews will be conducted based on questionnaires (which are formulated and tested based on students’ feedback and recommendation). Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) measurement (Ryan, 1982) using a 7-Likert scale will be applied to generate users’ quantitative data output. This will demonstrate the effect of a digital system on SDT three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness.


  • Deci, E.L., and Ryan, R.M. (1985a). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.
  • Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (1985b). Toward an Organismic Integration Theory. In Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determination in Human Behavior, Springer US, 113-148.
  • Deci, E.L. and Ryan, R.M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
  • Hegarty, B. (2011). A framework to guide professional learning and reflective practice. Doctor of Education thesis, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, NSW.
  • Ryan, R.M. (1982). Control and information in the intrapersonal sphere: An extension of cognitive evaluation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 450-461.
  • Trenshaw, K.F., Revelo, R.A., Earl, K.A., and Herman, G.L. (2016). Using Self-Determination Theory Principles to Promote Engineering Students’ Intrinsic Motivation to Learn. International Journal of Engineering Education, 32(3), 1194-1207.

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