Spendency: Students' Propensity to Use System Currency

Erica L. Snow, Laura K. Allen, G. Tanner Jackson, Danielle S. McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Using students' process data from the game-based Intelligent Tutoring System (ITS) iSTART-ME, the current study examines students' propensity to use system currency to unlock game-based features, (i.e., referred to here as spendency). This study examines how spendency relates to students' interaction preferences, in-system performance, and learning outcomes (i.e., self-explanation quality, comprehension). A group of 40 high school students interacted with iSTART-ME as part of an 11-session experiment (pretest, eight training sessions, posttest, and a delayed retention test). Students' spendency was negatively related to the frequency of their use of personalizable features. In addition, students' spendency was negatively related to their in-system achievements, daily learning outcomes, and performance on a transfer comprehension task, even after factoring out prior ability. The findings from this study indicate that increases in students' spendency are systematically related to their selection choices and may have a negative effect on in-system performance, immediate learning outcomes, and skill transfer outcomes. The results have particular relevance to game-based systems that incorporate currency to unlock features within games as well as to the differential tradeoffs of game features on motivation and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-427
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 International Artificial Intelligence in Education Society.


  • Game-based features
  • Gamification
  • Intelligent tutoring systems
  • Seductive distractors


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