How to Welcome First-year Students: Best Practice of a Gamified Orientation Day
Keywords:gamification, higher education, first-year experience, first-year students, orientation day, university transition
Various difficulties characterise students’ adaptation to university. It is crucial to engage first-year students from the first moment of university entrance, to support their transition from secondary to higher education, and to facilitate their learning experiences and learning outcomes. This study starts from the dual premise that orientation activities offer first-year students important transitional support to cope with the stressful challenges while enabling a sense of community, and that, as students sometimes consider orientation activities as tedious, gamification might make participation more enjoyable, while stimulating students’ motivation and information retention. Based on educational literature on gamification of learning settings, this study presents the design, implementation, and evaluation of a gamified orientation day, organised for first-year students. The design of the gamified orientation day is based on the eight gamification features of Apostol, Zaharescu and Alexe (2013): players, story, goals, rules, problem solving, feedback, safe environment, and sense of mastery. The objectives of the orientation day and its practical implementation are explained on the theoretical basis of these eight features. Qualitative survey data (N=1326) were collected to evaluate the strengths of the orientation day and the areas for further improvement. The data show that students perceive the gamified orientation day as a pleasant learning experience. Students appreciate collaborating with peer students and their active participation in knowledge acquisition. This study provides evidence-based best practices for the gamification of orientation days, and aims to inspire other universities in adapting their strategy on facilitating the transition and orientation of first-year students.