Gamification of MOOCs and Security Awareness in Corporate
Serafeim A. Triantafyllou
and Christos K. Georgiadis
Department of Applied Informatics, University of Macedonia, Greece
Keywords: Gamification, MOOCs, Security Awareness Training, Gamification of Training.
Abstract: The rapid development of digital technology in today's times can enrich distance learning in the corporate
sector, in a variety of ways. Nowadays, instructors have the capability to incorporate gamification into their
teaching and make use of digital tools to create powerful online learning environments for research and
problem analysis and simulation projects to improve training. Gamified MOOCs (Massive Open Online
Courses) can enhance the motivation and engagement of trainees in a meaningful way to achieve learning
goals. This paper aims to present innovative insights on the content of gamified MOOCs in the corporate
training context, to enhance Security Awareness Training. Our methodology is based on Deterding’s 2015
framework for gameful design, the lens of intrinsic skill atoms and we go a step further in our paper to propose
a new approach, that is a structural model as a variation to Deterding's framework, that can find practical
implementation in Integrated Development Environments (IDE) for gamified MOOCs. Gamified MOOCs
when used as part of a cyber security awareness program, can play a significant role in the improvement of
the overall training program as we describe in our case studies for Security Awareness Training.
Digital technology is part of our everyday life,
research, and teaching. Gamification can be used to
facilitate training in every educational process.
Gamification has strengthened the role of instructors,
while at the same time offered great opportunities for
distance learning utilization in the learning process
(Beblavý et al., 2019; Bates, 2011; Nicholson, 2012).
The employees that participate in a training program,
using technological tools, tailor the course to their
needs, analyze and evaluate the information they
receive directly and learn how to learn by developing
critical thinking (Reigeluth et al., 2015).
Gamification, when used as part of a cyber security
awareness program, has a significant role on the
improvement of the overall training program. A
common implementation of gamification adopts
game-like features such as points, levels, badges,
leaderboards, and achievements and rewards, and
applies them to an educational context (Nicholson,
MOOCs are a very rapidly developing field and the
main reasons for learners to participate in such online
courses are motivation for learning and previous
relevant learning experiences (Lock & Kingsley,
2007; Yang, 2014; Hew & Cheung, 2014). However,
there are some key points of MOOCs that should be
taken into consideration regarding their educational
use (Ramesh et al., 2013; Milligan & Littlejohn,
2017; Egloffstein & Ifenthaler, 2016), that is: (i)
Familiarity with the use of ICT is essential, (ii) The
trainees have to invest time and effort for their
learning, (iii) Each course is a continuously evolving
environment, following its own course without being
tied to a curriculum, (iv) The trainee should have the
necessary skills to self-regulate his/her learning.
Gamified MOOCs when used as part of a cyber
security awareness program, can strengthen the
overall training program and this paper aims to
present innovative insights on the content of gamified
MOOCs in the corporate training context, and answer
to a basic research question, that is how the properly
gamified MOOCs can enhance security awareness.
For a more detailed presentation of the subject the
Triantafyllou, S. and Georgiadis, C.
Gamification of MOOCs and Security Awareness in Corporate Training.
DOI: 10.5220/0011103000003182
In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2022) - Volume 1, pages 547-555
ISBN: 978-989-758-562-3; ISSN: 2184-5026
2022 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
paper’s structure consists of the following basic
sections: 1) Introduction, 2) Focusing on the central
importance of Cyber Security Awareness Training, 3)
Efficacy of gamification, 4) Methodology and 5)
In December 2020, the European Commission, and
the European External Action Service (EEAS)
introduced a new EU cybersecurity strategy
("European Council", 2020). Often, companies think
that cybersecurity is exclusively an IT activity.
However, numerous studies show that risks in a
company's security sometimes stem from insiders.
Insider threats even if they happen by accident, can
cause financial damage, and affect the reliability of a
company. To effectively treat user-caused problems
inside the company, IT professionals need to
implement security awareness training to all
employees (Silic & Lowry, 2020).
In terms of software security, threat modeling is
the most important part of software design and
development. It is impossible to develop software
applications that comply with corporate security
policies and privacy requirements without evaluating
and reducing threats. Threat modeling can help us to
determine the threat environment and take the
necessary measures and security controls to secure an
organization. Threat modeling should study potential
vulnerabilities and check for malicious code because
these threats could damage financially an
organization ("Deloitte", 2021).
3.1 Confusions about Gamification
Gamification is the process of embodying game
dynamics into non-game contexts with the basic goal
to solve a typical problem or helping the
users/trainees to change creatively some aspects of
their behavior (Deterding, 2015; Antonaci et al.,
2018). In a gamified training program, the basic
learning goals are clearly defined for a set of activities
and game elements like points or badges are given, to
track user's behavior and give the necessary feedback
to help him/her in training (Kapp et al., 2013). Also,
we urge the users to achieve mastery to a specific task
or activity by competing each other and afterwards
when they finish their tasks/activities, we urge them
to compare their final scores by adding leaderboards
(Deterding, 2015).
In Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Game
Studies a lot of research is focused not only to the ease
of use of a graphic interface, but also to what makes
an interface to be enjoyable. The key point is to focus
on the right game design principles to design
enjoyable and playful interfaces (Malone, 1982).
Research in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) tries
to give us a better understanding of playfulness and
the design principles that can lead to playful
experiences. For example, we can mention the
following about some game-like features (Deterding,
2015): (a) Scores: We should try to provide users
with feedback on their actions as a rating score that
allows comparison to a reference point, (b) Role-
Playing: We should study the fact if the gamified
system gives users particular roles to play and gain
learning experiences, (c) Leave gaps to fill: We
should leave gaps in a gamified set of activities and
encourage users to fill them, (d) Collections: We
should study the incentives that urge users to collect
prizes, rewards, and items in a gamified activity.
Deterding help us with a detailed description to
understand some misunderstandings about
gamification (Deterding, 2015). The first confusion is
the term ‘reward’ that is used commonly about
gamification. The underlying model behind that
concept is based on Skinner’s theory where reward is
a reinforcing stimulus. In positive reinforcement, a
behavior is encouraged by rewards, leading to a
continuous repetition of the desired behavior (Vargas,
2015). According to Raph Koster, who wrote the
book titled “A theory of fun for game design”, ‘fun’
is just another word for learning (Koster, 1971).
Therefore, we come up to the conclusion that the fun
in playing games, arises just from intrinsic
enjoyment, not from extrinsic incentives (Deterding,
The second misunderstanding is that “gaminess”
is not a feature that someone simply can add
(Deterding, 2015). That means that it is not so simple
to create an enjoyable activity by just adding some
game like features or game elements. We should
focus our attention on not just adding new game
elements to a software system, but we should
emphasize on the structure of the system and see if
the system is well-structured, to generate experiences
of intrinsic enjoyment. Motivational design is a
GonCPL 2022 - Special Session on Gamification on Computer Programming Learning
promising plan that will help us to restructure a
system to support intrinsic motivation and enjoyment.
3.2 Flow Model and Structural
The father of positive psychology Mihaly
Csikszentmihalyi (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014), trying to
understand what leads to an optimal experience, he
introduced the Flow Model in his book "Flow: The
Psychology of Optimal Experience". He introduced 8
characteristics of flow: a) challenge/skill balance, b)
well-explained goals, c) complete focus on the task,
d) control, e) instant feedback, f) loss of self-
consciousness. g) an experience becomes autotelic, h)
Transformation of time. From Csikszentmihalyi's
proposed model, instructors can take in mind some of
these 8 characteristics to help trainees engage in
learning tasks (Kim, Song, Lockee & Burton, 2018).
Structural gamification according to professor
Kapp (Kapp et al., 2013) is: “the application of game-
elements to propel a learner through content with no
alteration or changes to the content." Structural
gamification provides important information to both
the trainees and the instructors as trainees complete
parts of a training program, take quizzes to gain new
knowledge and try to achieve the desirable
educational goals. Also, gamification helps to
identify the strong and weak points in the training
program. For instance, an organization when it wants
to implement structural gamification in training, it
can provide learning content to trainees through a
daily security quiz-type game for a period via email
or a mobile app. If the trainees answer correctly, they
can earn points, digital badges, and a specific place
on a leaderboard for their continuous learning
progress. If they answer incorrectly, they are
immediately given hints to retry and answer the
question (Kapp et al., 2013).
4.1 Defining the Basic Steps of Our
Our research methodology was based on a basic
research question (RQ) that is the following:
(RQ): How is gamification being designed and
implemented on gamified MOOCs to enhance
security awareness?
Our research methodology is based on review of
previous works and the following basic steps show
our basic research plan (see Figure 1):
Figure 1: Steps of our methodology.
Step 1: Initial Search in Bibliographic Databases
The basic aim of our research methodology was at
first to direct our research in order to find relevant
studies about gamified MOOCs that can enhance
security awareness in the corporate training context.
We ran an initial search in Google Scholar database
(a search with 'Skill atoms, security awareness and
gamified MOOC' in the field including titles,
abstracts and keywords, accessed 21 November,
2021) in order to find relevant publications about
gamified MOOCs that can enhance security
After the initial search process, we continued with
a more detailed and focused search process in other
relevant bibliographic databases such as Scopus
database, SpringerLink and Science Direct (Elsevier)
(a search with 'skill atoms, security awareness and
gamified MOOC' in the field including titles,
abstracts and keywords in the Scopus, the
SpringerLink and Science Direct (Elsevier)
databases, accessed 22 November, 2021) in order to
find more publications of high scientific rigor.
Step 2: Defining Selection Criteria
To select our papers, we defined the following
1. Peer-reviewed full-text papers published in an
international venue that focused on gamified
MOOCs to enhance security awareness were
selected for review.
2. Research methods in the papers are clearly
Gamification of MOOCs and Security Awareness in Corporate Training
Step 3: Selected Studies
The number of selected papers is presented in Table1:
Table 1: MOOC studies.
Papers type Studies
Research articles
(Bashir et al., 2015;
Blohm, I., & Leimeister,
J. M. (2013); Cabaj et al.,
2018; Fini, 2009;
Mirkovic & Benzel, 2012;
Murphy et al., 2015;
Paulsen et al., 2012; Paja
et al., 2015; Salah, 2014;
Vaibhav & Gupta, 2014)
(Ferrer Mico, et al., 2016)
Books (Dalpiaz et al., 2016)
We have decided next to examine four online learning
platforms that could be the basis for gamified
MOOCs in order to enhance security awareness. With
a spreadsheet, we have conducted a comparative
analysis for four platforms (Khan Academy, Stack
Overflow, Codecademy and Microsoft Virtual
Academy) across two basic factors identified in the
gamification literature area: (i) gamification
mechanics and (ii) basic elements that enhance
interaction. Within each of two factors, specific
points were awarded. Specifically, we awarded one
point for simple implementations aimed to enhance
interaction and two points for a more advanced
implementation. Next, we tried to make a plot of the
final results in the following graph (see Figure 2):
Figure 2: Graph of reviewed platforms.
To verify how gamified MOOCs can enhance
security awareness, we tried to identify metrics for the
success and effectiveness of eLearning platforms.
There are two basic types of metrics for eLearning
platforms: those for success and those for
effectiveness. Metrics that emphasize on success,
stem from the DeLone and McLean model of
information systems success (D&M model) (see
Figure 3) (DeLone & McLean, 2003; Manisi et al.,
2018). Also, it is important to be measured to what
extent trainees accept and adopt eLearning platforms
as technological tools that can help them construct
their knowledge (Lin, 2007;Fleming, Becker &
Newton, 2017). The satisfaction of trainees is a strong
motivator that urges them to participate in the training
Figure 3: Updated D&M model (DeLone & McLean,
Manisi et al. (2018) have proposed a literature review
summarizing the basic categories of the D&M model.
The first category is ‘Intension to Use/Use’. Manisi et
al. (2018) describe that the users’ intention can pre-
exist before the real usage of an eLearning platform.
This specific category measures the frequency of
usage of an eLearning platform, that means in simple
words that if the eLearning platform is useful the user
would recommend the eLearning platform to others.
(Wang, Wang & Shee, 2007). The following category
is ‘User Satisfaction’. The D&M model describes the
satisfaction of the user after the process of interaction
with the system. The following category ‘System
Quality’ describes that the quality of the eLearning
platform stems from the real quality of its hardware
and software (Tate et al., 2014). The category
‘Information Quality’ is defined as the overall quality
of the outcomes of the eLearning platform
(Hassanzadeh, Kanaani & Elahi, 2012). Hagen,
Albrechtsen & Ole Johnsen (2011), mention also that
security should also be carefully taken into
consideration when trying to measure information
quality. Users should ask if the eLearning platform's
educational content is right and matches the teaching
material that is taught in the course (Lin, 2007).
Hassanzadeh, Kanaani & Elahi (2012) mention that
the ‘Service Quality’ category is responsible for the
analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of the
technical support provided to the eLearning platform.
This category is crucial to the overall success of the
eLearning platform. The last category is ‘Net
Benefits’ and describes after a total check if the
eLearning platform brings real benefit to users
(Aparicio, Bacao & Oliveira, 2016).
GonCPL 2022 - Special Session on Gamification on Computer Programming Learning
4.2 A Proposed Structural Model for
Game elements synthesis includes a certain goal that
the trainee has in combination with a certain set of
skills that is asked from the trainee to develop by
participating in structured gamified tasks of a
software system with main aim to succeed and
achieve the desirable learning goals. Also, there is a
rule system with transparent rules that determines if
the final actions of the trainee were successful or not.
Afterwards, immediate feedback about the trainee’s
progress can help him/her to go to the next level and
achieve mastery of competence when he/she
completes a challenge with success. We propose as a
variation to Deterding's structural model, the
following structural model (see Figure 4) inspired by
the concept of skill atoms (Deterding, 2015).
Figure 4: Structural Model for gamified MOOCs.
In our proposed structural model for gamification,
skill atoms constitute the basic elements that clarify
the feedback repetitive cycle between the user/trainee
and the system that is based on a basic challenge or
skill (Deterding, 2015). A game atom contains
smaller particles that cannot be divided into smaller
entities without the game system to lose his
“gaminess” (Deterding, 2015). Through the repetitive
and continuous interaction via multiple run-throughs
of the atom, the trainee gains the necessary
knowledge and masters new skills. The above-
mentioned structural model's utility is apparent, when
we focus on trainees with basic competence that
participate in a gamified MOOC to develop new skills
through motivating and enjoyable learning
challenges. For example, Codecademy trains users to
program by using game-like features such as points
and digital badges. The core of this structured model
of Codecademy is the programming editor where
users can learn to code by typing the code and check
the repetitive cycle of programming process in a
gameful way by running the code and seeing the final
4.3 MOOCs and Gamification Tools
for Enhancing Security Awareness
4.3.1 Conceptualizing MOOCs and
Gamification Tools
MOOCs have been qualified as the revolution of
online learning and training. Therefore, many
researchers focused their research on why learners
still face difficulty in studying the educational
material of these courses. Researchers to answer this
question carefully studied theories of motivation,
because motivation is acknowledged to be one of the
most important predictors of learners’ performance in
learning. Self-Determination is a theory of human
motivation developed by psychologists Edward Deci
and Richard Ryan. The key point of this theory is
motivation that drives a person to act. According to
this theory each learner has three basic needs and only
when these needs are satisfied the individual can have
a better performance in learning. These needs are: (a)
autonomy, (b) competence, (c) relatedness (Deci &
Ryan, 2002; Niemiec & Ryan, 2009).
Self-regulation strategies in MOOCs are mostly
based on self-regulated learning (SRL) theory, which
describes how learners can take control of their
learning (Jonassen et al., 1995). In our paper, we
determine to choose the combination of self-regulated
learning with collaborative learning. Collaborative
learning is considered to bring many benefits ranging
from better learning outcomes to improved social
skills because it creates the conditions for effective
interactions between team members (Staubitz et al.,
2015; Dillenbourg, Järvelä and Fischer, 2009;
Jonassen et al., 1995; Jonassen, 2013 ; Thornton &
Francia, 2014; Antonaci et al., 2018).
4.3.2 Valorization of Gamification for Cyber
Security Awareness Training
Empirical evidence shows that gamification has the
potential to drive user engagement and cause
behavior change (Silic & Lowry, 2020). The idea of
using gamification in security awareness training
programs derives from many studies. Thornton and
Francia (2014) have focused on their study on
designing two games for security awareness training.
The first Brute Force game was designed with the
main aim to teach and persuade users to use strong
and complex passwords while the second Friend or
Foe game was designed for phishing awareness
training. Employees unintentionally make actions
without realizing the damage they can cause to the
organization’s cybersecurity (Silic & Lowry, 2020).
Gamification of MOOCs and Security Awareness in Corporate Training
Most common human errors are related to account
passwords (Scholefield and Shepherd, 2019).
To make right use of gamified techniques and
tools for security awareness training at a company or
an organization we must first clarify which are the
basic goals of the security awareness training course
(Korpela, 2015). Gamification of training programs
can help a lot to enhance employees' motivation and
engagement to the learning process (Kyewski and
Krämer, 2018; Adams and Makramalla, 2015). Along
with the game-like features and tools that are
attractive to trainees, games also provide the tools so
as the courses to be taught through trial-and-error
methods without causing any harm or risk to the
company. Successful training on cybersecurity
fundamentals should be provided in different formats
and the trainings must run across all levels of the
workforce (Jordan et al., 2011). The most effective
security awareness training programs use phishing
simulations and other practical simulations to teach
users how to protect against cyber threats like
phishing, ransomware, malware and other
cyberthreats. For cyber security awareness training,
gamification can create playful and engaging ways
that will help companies to promote and create a
security culture.
4.3.3 Case Studies for Security Awareness
To enhance the interest in security awareness,
Deloitte introduced a game-based learning
experience in the form of an escape room game. In
the escape room game, the maximum number of
participants comes to 5 to 6 participants per rotation.
The basic challenge for employees is to solve 7
challenges within 20 minutes to finish the game. In
the gamified scenario participants are asked to unlock
a laptop that is infected with ransomware to keep
secure sensitive company data. Every challenge is
designed to test participants' security knowledge and
to incentivize them to adopt a secure behavior
(Deterding, 2015).
Cybersecurity hackathons constitute a form of
training organized by using training platforms. Cyber
security training can include training exercises that
might be structured in the form of a game. Games
force players to take decisions depending on how they
perceive the game through their personal
observations. CyberCIEGE is a network security
simulation in the form of a video-game with basic
goal to inspire and teach measures that protect and
defend information (Irvine & Thompson, 2010).
Players through a three-dimensional interface, spend
virtual money for the necessary network equipment
(servers, network devices etc.) that is needed to
construct, set in operation, and defend an enterprise
network by taking instant decisions and estimating
the results of their decision, while the network is still
under cyber-attack. With this form of training,
employees are involved to effective cybersecurity
practices and extend their knowledge to the
technologies involved to cyber security.
TableTop eXercise Web Environment is a game-
based part of Cyber Security Training platform
developed at Vilnius University that defines user
roles and includes TableTop eXercises, and the best
practices to effectively handle a security incident. A
security incident has its lifecycle, and the TableTop
eXercise Web Environment provides incident
scenario simulation and online web-based software
for incident reports that help in the process of solving
the incident (Brilingaitė et al., 2017).
Gonzalez-Manzano and Jose de Fuentes have
completed an important and wide-ranging (from
beginner to advanced level) scientific work of
examining and identifying 35 free cybersecurity
MOOCs from the most well-known MOOC
platforms. Plenty of these courses (25/35) were
constructed and released by American universities,
but there were also free MOOCs that were available
to the users. These courses (33 courses) were focusing
on 52 work roles that find practical application in any
sector and 33 different areas of specialization in
cybersecurity such as Software Development (DEV),
Systems Requirements Planning (SRP), Systems
Development (SYS), Risk Management (RSK) and
others among them (González-Manzano and de
Fuentes, 2019).
This paper tries to answer a basic research question,
that is how the properly gamified MOOCs can
enhance security awareness. Gamified MOOCs when
used as part of a cyber security awareness program,
can play a significant role in the improvement of the
overall training program as we have described in our
case studies for Security Awareness Training.
However, further investigation of the proposed
structured model in gamified platforms, could help to
test its utility, because gamification is not a stagnant
but a continously evolving area of research.
In a training program, trainees have to self-
regulate their learning. Every active participant in a
team must first have himself/herself adjust his/her
learning goals and personal time in such a way that
GonCPL 2022 - Special Session on Gamification on Computer Programming Learning
he/she can then collaborate properly with the other
members of the team. Security awareness training
gives trainees the basic knowledge they need to keep
the sensitive data of a company safe, and to be
successful, this training needs to be appealing and
meaningful. Gamification with the use of MOOCs is
a user-centered approach and provides a technology-
driven learning environment for proper cyber
training. MOOCs that are well designed by using
cybersecurity scenarios can lead to better protection
against cyber-attacks. Future work will include more
research analysis with practical implementation of
our proposed structural model, in the continuously
evolving research area of gamification for security
awareness training.
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Gamification of MOOCs and Security Awareness in Corporate Training