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Computing Sciences Professor Lillian Cassel, PhD, Part of NSF-Funded Collaborative Research Studying Gamification in STEM Education

Lillian (Boots) Cassel, PhD, is professor and chair of Villanova's Department of Computing Sciences.

Gamification uses game-related elements—such as badges, levels and leaderboards—to facilitate learning, and it has gained prominent application in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education. A number of studies exist to understand the effectiveness of gamification in the classroom, but little research has been done to understand what combination of game elements can effectively engage and motivate students. That is what Lillian (Boots) Cassel, PhD, professor and chair in Villanova University’s Department of Computing Sciences, seeks to understand as part of a collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Funded by two NSF grants totaling $600,000, Dr. Cassel and Winston-Salem State University researchers led by Darina Dicheva, PhD are working together on the project using OneUp Learning—a customizable platform developed by Dr. Dicheva and her team that uses game elements to facilitate learning. Dr. Cassel, along with her fellow researchers, will use the OneUP platform to test the application of game elements in different learning contexts, add new game elements to the platform and develop instructional materials for faculty to use the platform to develop interactive modules for their courses. The goal of their research is to determine the best ways to encourage student engagement with course material.

Dr. Cassel plans to include graduate students from Villanova Master’s programs in computing sciences as research colleagues and to employ some Villanova undergraduate students to test combinations of game elements. As part of the study, the research team will solicit participants from the community via workshops, crowdsourcing and other strategies.

“We will work with university-level instructors at a variety of institutions. Some workshops will be done at relevant conferences and others will happen locally, including one at Villanova in 2019,” said Dr. Cassel. “We will also use the system in some classes here at Villanova and compare those results with what we observe at other institutions.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenging and changing world. With more than 40 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.