How gamification can transform education

If courses were designed in the form of a game, students would be focused on mastery as opposed to rote memorization and getting a grade. When implemented correctly, gamification can result in higher levels of engagement, retention and completion, believes Arjun Nair, Director, Operations and Learning Experience at Great Learning. 

Some edited excerpts from an interview:

1. In the field of education, how does gamification help? Can you share some examples where the application of gamification has helped?

Games are addictive and you can’t help but play till you master the game. You try multiple times and through trial and error and figure out the underlying principle and get better. If courses were designed in such a manner, students would be focused on mastery as opposed to rote memorization and getting a grade. When implemented correctly, gamification can result in higher levels of engagement, retention and completion. Students also feel a sense of achievement when they complete key lessons and get recognized for their effort, which in turn motivates them to keep going for a longer time. This is a very powerful psychological response and one that has been successfully employed by ed tech companies such as Duolingo, the language learning app. Through the use of game mechanics such as points, levels and badges they were able to get students to be engaged and motivated over long durations, ultimately leading to 110 Million learners using the app today.

At Great Learning also,we were able to use gamification to inculcate good learning behavior. In the beginning, students are incentivized to follow a desired learning behavior and once the behavior becomes a habit, students start experiencing better learning outcomes.Prior to the introduction of gamification, many students would work only on assessments on the day of the submission to get a grade and pass. By rewarding desirable behavior and introducing competitive dynamics, we were able to get students to go beyond what was expected to get a certain grade and put in more effort, which ultimately leads to deeper understanding and better learning outcomes.

2. What do you believe is the market opportunity for your brand? Is there a white space that has not been targeted by other similar ed tech firms?
Great Learning is focused on enabling working professionals to build new competencies in business and management (e.g. in Business Analytics, Product Management, Digital Marketing and so on) and make career transitions. Traditionally, executive education in India has been undeserved and quality education (that is industry relevant) has been completely missing. What exists in the name of executive education is mostly just content with very poor control on delivery, pedagogy and assessments.

We at Great Learning are changing that by making Executive Education highly engaging, industry relevant and rigorous in terms of assessments and learning. Our focus is on providing working professionals with programs that help them develop competencies that are needed in the workplace today.

To develop new skills, working professionals would need to invest a significant amount of time and energy in understanding new concepts and application of the concepts in real life scenarios. Consequently, our programs are not superfluous and generally take 6 months to 1 year to complete. Most other ed tech firms offer content and training in a highly commoditized manner, which while useful for certifications, may not result in deep and meaningful learning.

3. From a technology perspective, what is the unique differentiator you have over other firms
Most Ed Tech firms primarily focus on content creation and dissemination. This is important, and MOOCs have shown that millions of learners can access and learn from content when they want it. However, content today has become commoditized and most MOOCs have poor engagement and completion rates.

At Great Learning, we think of technology as a mechanism that removes friction in the learning process. Great Learning has completion rates of 90%, which is much higher than industry standards. Our technology not only enables students to access content, but also provides key insights to students, teachers and program managers on how students are progressing and where they are struggling. By tracking student behavior and through the use of analytics, we are able to predict and show who are on track and who are likely to fall behind. We then use this information to provide meaningful feedback and interventions as necessary.

4. How successful has Great Learning been? Some numbers on the growth and journey would be helpful
We started with just one blended mode program in Business Analytics in Gurgaon, but now offer multiple blended mode programs in Gurgaon, Chennai, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad in addition to completely online programs. Our Business Analytics program is ranked as India’s best Analytics Program for working professionals, even ahead of programs offered by IIMs and ISB.

In the past 3 years, we have seen our enrollments grow to over a 100 times and revenue grow to more than 20 timesfrom what it was in the first year. Our team has also grown 10x and we now have offices in Gurgaon and Bangalore.

Moreover, we are one of the few startups in recent times that have focused on bootstrapping our business operations and growth by focusing on basic business economics. This approach has made us chase sustainable growth, executable scale and immense customer success by focusing on the customer always.

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