Games have reached a point in our culture that almost everyone nowadays accepts the fact they are a big deal and that, day after day, are becoming an ever more ubiquitous element of daily life. Gamification, even though not a new concept, has become a buzzword since 2010 and almost every business domain seems to urge the need to associate their name with this promising term. Meanwhile, over the last decade, we witness one of the most profound changes of our educational philosophy through the explosion of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Nevertheless, now that we have the technology to teach thousands of students online we are facing the next big challenge: student’s engagement in online settings. Despite the high enrollment rates in most MOOCs students often never reach their first assignment, which leads to a high dropout rate.
In this article, gamification is not perceived as a deus ex machina providing a solution to the roadblock of students’ engagement; instead, we are stressing the need to move towards a more meaningful and human centered gamification design framework. Research related to gamification implementation in education demonstrates that gamification can be effective and produce behavior change, but on the other hand, it may affect the internal motivation and alter the overall student experience inside or outside the online setting. These assumptions are forcing a rethinking of how gamification in education was applied. In this paper, we will investigate the potentials of gamification tapping into the sacred Trinity of intrinsic motivation that according to Daniel Pink is Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. Self-Determination Theory (SED) is a good starting point but along the way, we will be focusing on other key concept of our gamification framework as well. We strongly believe that one of the missing pieces of gamification design that has the potential to bring valuable insights into student’s motivation in a MOOC is meaning.