, ,

Unlike the quantitative research, which is interested in testing a hypotheses and statistical generalizations, qualitative approach focuses on understanding the nature of the problem (Creswell, 2008).  One implementation of the qualitative research is a case study.  A case study is an intensive analysis of a specific object, a person, group, or an organization.

A case study can help to describe or explain the research problem.  This is an effective way to use some quantitative techniques to collect data.  The data helps to describe the environment and the subject of study.  The qualitative techniques allow for the analysis of the data and observations.

A case study has “many more variables of interest than data points”.  Also it relies “on multiple sources of evidence, with data needing to converge in a triangulating fashion” (Yin, 2009).  These are significant strengths in researching and exploring a subject matter.

When a complex situation is studied the process of deduction helps to confirm certain expectations.  At the same time, the process of induction, or explanation, allows to clarify behaviors and findings.  This allows the researcher to take a subject matter and view it from many angles and approaches.

Case studies help to answer questions of how and why (Yin, 2009).  This is because time is needed to explore the relationships between operational links in a situation.  A point in time measurements may not provide the necessary data to understand the behaviors.

Case studies can be exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory (Yin, 2009). Exploratory case studies are often established even before identifying research questions.  They help in building a theory.  Descriptive case study explains new characteristics of a phenomenon.  This type also helps in building a theory.  Explanatory case studies are used for testing a theory and answering questions of how and why.

Case study benefits from multiple sources of evidence to ensure it is robust (Green, Camilli, & Elmore, 2006).  The triangulation in this case study will take place by converging data based on student grades, student surveys, student interviews, course reviews, and statistics of student activity in terms of non-credit assignments.  Seidman (1991) highlights the importance of interviews in case studies, “I interview because I am interested in other people’s stories.  Telling stories is essentially a meaning-making process.  When people tell stories, they select details of their experience from their stream of consciousness”.

Seidman’s (1991) Interviewing as Qualitative Research suggests the need to question the meanings of lived experiences.  Seidman states, “interviewing provides access to the context of people’s behavior and thereby provides way for researchers to understand the meaning of behavior”.  He suggests that:

A basic assumption in in-depth interviewing research is that the meaning people make of their experience affects the way they carry out that experience … Interviewing allows us to put behavior in context and provides access to understanding their action.

The study of gamification requires the investigation of engagement, which is a human emotion most likely to be captured by a case study.  There may be many reasons why students are engaged and the feeling may be very subjective (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, and Paris, 2004).  It is necessary to survey students about the changes in their perception of being engaged (Ravitch & Riggan, 2012).  It is also necessary to survey faculty in their perception of class engagement.  Some data on engagement may be provided by attendance and participation of classroom activities, especially if attendance in scheduled activities is not required or graded.  Perhaps the most accurate metric of engagement is the participation and level of completion of activities, which are not graded, self-guided, and optional in the course.  Such activities reflect the desire of a student to do more than what is required and indicate an emotional investment in the course.

Gamification of activities in the classroom affects the motivation of students.  As students compete, explore, and socialize, they involve more skills and behaviors than in a lecture or discussion environment.  Student progress is tracked in a greater detail.  This produces a more fine-grained and timely feedback.  There are opportunities for advancing through the material quicker for some students and deeper.

Not all academic environments lend themselves to gamification.  Some environments are meant to develop grit through highly regulated performance.  However, introductory courses, which aim at introducing new broad content to lower level students, is a prime area for focusing on both content and motivation.  When the goal is to give a good start in academic pursuit and fuel exploration of unfamiliar content, gamification provides tools to engage the mind and the passion of the student.

Albert Einstein said: “Games are the most elevated form of investigation.” To avoid the risk of being boring, teaching to the middle of the class, and not challenging students according to their abilities, gamified activities provide an alternative.

Organizations may have goals of student retention, degree completion, and growing academic programs with strong job market.  Gamification aligns with these goals by building engagement and motivation to improve academic performance.  Most importantly, it allows for excitement, attention, and building positive emotions when exploring unfamiliar content.



Bromley, D. B. (1990). Academic contributions to psychological counselling: I. A philosophy of science for the study of individual cases. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 3(3), 299-307.

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Designing Gamification in the Right Way. (2015). Library Technology Reports, 51(2), 29-35.

Fredricks, J. A., Blumenfeld, P. C., and Paris, A. (2004). School engagement: potential of the concept: state of the evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74, 59–119.

Green, J., Camilli, G., & Elmore, P. (2006). Complementary methods in educational research. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

Ravitch, S., & Riggan, M. (2012). Reason & rigor: How conceptual frameworks guide research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Seidman, I. E. (1991). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Yin, R. K. (2009) Case Study Research: Design and Methods. 4 ed. Los Angeles, SAGE