Dissertation Project

Title: The effectiveness of gamification as a problem-based learning tool on teaching agile project management

Problem-based Learning (PBL) is a learning approach centred in the student. It follows an instructional model based on active learning, a constructivist approach focused in group work and the development of specific skills (Pennell, 2009).

Students are stimulated to work on complex problems, which can only be surpassed through the assimilation of certain knowledge – identified and researched by themselves. The image beside shows a brief comparison between traditional learning and PBL.

The term “gamification” means the usage of game thinking and game-based mechanics to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems (Kapp 2013).

Game thinking is a critical element to guide the gamification process, representing the capability to identify opportunities in all kind of activities where game elements can be inserted.

Game-based mechanics, also known as game elements, are the toolbox of the gamification process. PBL and gamification of learning can be mixed to ease the assimilation and retention of knowledge.
Such combination can be of great help in the learning process where there are paradigms that have to be surpassed to acquire a new knowledge, for instance when teaching new techniques for professionals and entrepreneurs who for years have used more traditional or outdated approaches.

Agile Project Management (APM) is an iterative process that focuses on customer value first, team interaction over tasks, and adapting to current business reality rather than following a prescriptive plan. It has a set of values, principles, and practices that assist project teams in coming to grips with such challenging environment (Highsmith, 2009).

agile-manifestoThe values and principles of APM represent a big paradigm shift for professionals whom are familiar with traditional approaches for project management, where command-and-control-ism and micro-management are imperatives. This is a specific knowledge area that can take advantage of the PBL boosted by gamification to facilitate the knowledge transfer and the assimilation of the most important values. The expectancy of using PBL powered by gamification is the enhancement of the learning experience, which will help students to overcome the paradigms and establish the proper mindset as future agile practitioners.

The aim of this dissertation is to experience the use of gamification to boost the problem-based learning pedagogical approach on teaching agile project management for technology entrepreneurs.



Step Description
Hypothesis 1.    Agile project management course outcomes can be improved by applying the problem-based learning methodology enhanced by gamification.


1.1.  The active learning approach proposed by problem-based learning is effective to teach agile project management.

1.2.  Gamification of learning can enhance student motivation.

1.3.  It is possible to reap the benefits of gamification within the context of problem-based learning.

1.4.  Agile project management values and principles can be best assimilated by students through gamified learning activities.

Research Methods

Evaluate and select sources on problem-based learning, gamification of learning and agile project management.

Develop and implement a pre-exercise survey for agile project management instructors regarding the subjects on agile project management they would like to see gamified, why and how.

Analyse the pre-exercise survey results and establish the drivers for the creation of the two gamified learning activities.

Develop and implement two gamified exercises for the agile project management course collaborating with those whom completed the pre-exercise survey.

Publish the two gamified activities under a Creative Commons license, in a way that the agile project management instructors – who participated in the pre-exercise survey – can freely apply such material in their classes.

As an agile instructor, the author will teach agile project management for a class of students of the MBA in Strategic Management of Technological Innovation of the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar), experiencing myself the two gamified learning activities.

Develop and implement a post-exercise survey to collect the experiences of the instructors regarding the usage of the two gamified learning activities.

Develop and implement a post-exercise survey to identify the motivational effects of gamification among the students.

IT Artefact

Two gamified learning activities created under the pedagogical approach of problem-based learning. Such activities should be ways to enhance, through gamification, the active learning approach of PBL. The groups of students will be working together to solve a problem, where the gamified activities will support them in two possible ways:

1.    Providing a gamified context where the students can interact, do simulations, make prototypes or test their assumptions to solve the problem;

2.    Providing a gamified context to enhance the knowledge acquirement process to solve the problem;

Evaluation Provide the results of the pre-survey, the two gamified exercises, the post-survey results and a compilation of the blog interactions to the Department of Computer Science, for review and evaluation.

Two expert agile instructors, whom do not participate in the experiments, will be invited to evaluate the gamified learning activities and its results aiming to identify possible improvements for future classes.

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