Gamification and How It Can Help Students Learn

Gamification and How It Can Help Students Learn

My two girls, Aarah (7 years) and Saraah (5 years), hate drinking milk but I know a way to get them to do it, as I know it’s good for them.

When I say, “Let’s see who finishes the glass first?”, the glass is empty within a flash. This is not just me, I am sure all parents do this. These things make it easy to motivate kids to do things they dislike.

The pleasure of winning isn’t just a great motivator for kids, but adults too. Last weekend, I discovered from my colleague that to top the ‘Step Tracking Weekly Leader board’ amongst her friends, she paced up and down her living room just before midnight, when the leader board resets. Don't you agree that a small competition and the pleasure of winning, has even motivated a person in her mid-thirties to walk more?

So, here’s the big question - what gets my daughters and my colleague to complete these smaller tasks which they generally don’t like? What is it that gets them to accomplish a broader objective, in this case, a ‘Healthier Diet’ and ‘Physical Fitness’ respectively, with smaller milestones?  

The answer is Gamification!

Gamification refers to use of game design and elements in a non-gaming context to drive the desired behavior. In simpler terms, it is about using the system of points, levels, badges, or leaderboards that are common in games, in real-world scenarios. 

Doesn’t it make a perfect case for gamification to be used in learning to make it fun and effective? 

It does! However, learning methods at school or even at home, face a huge engagement crisis today. The learning of today only involves learning by rote and then producing those in the exams, causing boredom among st young learners. According to a Labster study, about 60 percent of students mentioned that they love Science, however, only 24 percent among them, said that they love Science classes. See the difference? When a parent can get a child to drink milk with gaming principles, why shouldn’t parents and teachers use the same method to impart learning to kids?

Ed-tech startups have identified this need, which is why online learning tools such as Khan Academy, Quizizz and our own app, QuizNext have started using game elements to deliver learning objectives to students. At QuizNext, we are focused at gamifying the revision experience for CBSE and ICSE students by providing detailed chapter-wise quizzes for delivering formative assessments, making practice fun and engaging. 

It offers two type of revision quizzes:

  •        Practice Quizzes, which are chapter-wise solo quizzes 
  •        Challenge Quizzes, where students compete against other online users on different chapters and concepts.  

So, which one do you think has more adoption among kids? Challenge Quizzes? Are you sure?  You are right, but not completely! I will come to that shortly!  

Just going by the numbers, ‘Challenge Quizzes’ completely outnumber the ‘Practice Quizzes’, accounting for about 68% of the 300,000 quizzes taken over on QuizNext over the last five months. However, it is interesting to see the pattern in which students take quizzes. Students first take ‘Practice Quizzes’, ensure that they have understood the concepts before they go on to challenge their friends in ‘Challenge Quizzes’. 

Further, it has been interesting to see students expect stronger opponents in Challenge Quizzes. In the initial versions of the app, we would randomly pick opponents (both real users and Bots) in Challenge Quizzes. When the learners got used to winning every time, mostly against Bots, they would ‘leave feedback’ asking if they could choose opponents on own including friends.  

So why does this work? 

To understand this a little bit better, let us understand how Intrinsic Reinforcement works. Whenever you challenge yourself, however big or small, and complete that challenge, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which is a pleasurable chemical that makes the challenge achievement feel good.

Further, the more you do this i.e. the challenge-achievement-pleasure loop occurs more often, the brain secretes more dopamine and testosterone, making you want to do it repeatedly and succeed, which is also called the Winning Effect. So, in a student’s context, winning a Challenge Quiz after a stiff competition creates a good feeling and further motivates them to take more quizzes, to replicate the Winning Effect every time. 

We’re constantly observing our users’ activities on QuizNext to derive insights on what works in Ed-tech and what doesn’t. Here's what we’ve learnt so far about Gamification:  

•    Recognition motivates learners to practice more: Learners who have been among Top 15 positions on the leader board, take nine times the number of quizzes every week, when compared to other users.   

•    Virtual Badges and Points trigger intrinsic motivations: Though badges and points have no financial value, it motivates some learners to earn and accumulate them. We ran an experiment, where 50 percent of a ‘user subset’ were offered additional coins for completing practice quizzes, while the other 50 percent of the user set were offered no additional incentives. At the end of the experiment, the user group which had additional incentives had completed 24 percent more quizzes than the other group.  

•    Extrinsic triggers drive learning: Triggers such as ‘Challenge Invites’ work exceptionally well with some set of users. Grouping users based on learning objectives and placing them against each other for a challenge gets users to complete quizzes and move closer to learning objectives.  

•    Breaking a larger goal into smaller milestones makes learning less overwhelming: Breaking down a chapter or concept into smaller quizzes, keeps students motivated as they can earn rewards for every quiz and work with smaller bites of information.   

•    Time-bound quizzes improve student performances: We have seen that time bound quizzes improve the speed of students by at least 50 percent while maintaining the same accuracy levels for questions of similar difficulty and understanding levels for concepts.  

With these insights, it’s safe to say that Gamification might hold the key to a world of better education that’s been locked behind books for many parents and kids for a long time now. 


Authored by Chaiitanyaa Naik, Product Manager at QuizNext. When he is not working, you will find him reading about behavioral interventions and behavioral economics.

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