Analyzing Gamified Solutions — Classcraft!

Classcraft’s mission is to transform the learning experience by using game mechanics to engage students and provide teachers with well-designed tools to do so.

This is an article from my Analyzing Gamified Solutions series. Make sure to check out my other articles in the series :

Welcome to the game of Classcraft!

As always I will break up my analysis as follows:

  • Why is gamification implemented?
  • How well is gamification applied?
  • What I would have done differently?

Introduction

Get familiar with the concept of Classcraft

Why is gamification implemented?

Following the exact same old model of teaching has been the “safe bet” for decades. We are aware of the pitfalls in the current education systems regarding class sizes, inequality, bullying, mechanic learning, high focus on specific subjects, students motivation in general etc. We have known how to tackle many of those issues for a while, but the current school system is so deeply embedded in our water supply that it’s very hard to make major changes.

Classcraft is one of the few solutions that can be used to tackle surprisingly many of the previously named problems without changing the way students study per se. Instead, Classcraft turns the classroom into a world of teamwork, encouragement, incentives and adventure.

How well is gamification applied?

Similarly to Memrise, Classcraft makes learning a journey of triumph and exploration and it seems Classcraft has dealt with most of the possible issues. Just look at the results below or listen to the testimonials from students using Classcraft.

Reported results from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVU0FO6G_6o&t=1s

Results speak for themselves so instead of picking on specific gamification elements, I’d be much more interested to analyze why has Classcraft yielded so great results.

Provides students with constant feedback

Loss of health and gaining experience points makes player realize the value and the consequences of an action immediately as classcraft ties studying and good behaviour to gameplay. Gamification gives students immediate feedback as they are studying.

The other crucial part is constant possibility to fail in agame. It’s impossible to fail in studying because a student either learns or doesn’t but can never become dumber. Gamification shows students the possibility of failure which is important for realizing the value in what they are doing.

Different actions can either gain or lose health / experience which are crucial to advance in the game as a team.

Teamwork

The ability to work in a team is the #1 quality employees are looking for in 20-something employees

Teamwork in Classcraft covers everything and more. Knowing how to deal with weaker team members; working with people you don’t like; support others in the group; start an initiative within a group; facing the shame of failing or glory upon succeeding — those are all qualities students will learn through Classcraft. So how gamification supports the learning of those qualities?

Falling in battle — Players “fall in battle” when they perform too many activities that the teacher deems negative. If a player falls, everyone else on that team takes damage as well. As a fallen team will have much harder time in tests and have to complete various extra tasks there's high incentive to motivate each other not to fall below 0 health.

“Falling in battle” is much better than dying!

So what makes an otherwise stubborn and rebellious student want to work with his team? Listen to what Karen Finerman says in this seemingly unrelated quote

“I’m a big investor here so I know what it feels like to lose money and that’s bad. But the feeling of losing money for someone else is far worse. There’s something about failing them, something about not being able to deliver /…/, that’s very … painful and stressful.”

The “something” in the above quote is uncertainty. After failing on your own you are aware that “you can do better next time” but failing others gives you uncertainty of how you are now perceived because of your failure which creates stress. In Classcraft the same principle applies — people in the group don't want to fail others by misbehaving and damaging the team.

Using powers — Notice how people comment on the “98% of the people can’t solve it. The rest are genious!” Facebook posts which are designed to be just simple enough that everyone with an IQ of a rock can solve them? It’s nothing more than people's’ desire to be recognized and powers achieve that in Classcraft. Everyone in the team has special powers to help out the team. People crave to be the person who can come forth and use his powers to save his team but they cannot use their powers unless they advance in the game.

“All team member gain an extra 8 min to beat an exam” sounds sweet.

Creates more relationships within class and reduces bullying

I don’t think a lot of people realise what a single “Can you help me with X?” means to a person who isn’t talked to on a daily basis. Games are a perfect way to form relationships because everything happens within the context of that game. It doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do outside the game — as long as you have the ability to help people in the game you are seen as a valuable team member and I’m sure that image means the world to some people.

Fun and exciting

Classcraft does a good job utilizing randomness and mystery. Opening 100 boxes while knowing what's behind each and everyone is boring but opening 100 boxes and knowing that one of those might have a rare item is exciting. We need some kind of certainty to plan out our actions but the right amount of mystery keeps us engaged. I fully support the idea of randomizing daily challenges and rewards that Classcraft has implemented.

Examples of random events

Efficient learning

It’s easier to remember things that create emotion and emotions cannot be generated while sitting behind a desk. Classcraft features “boss battle quizzes” where students attack a boss with correctly answered questions and students will remember that “World War II ended on September 2, 1945” was the last correct answer that destroyed the boss. Classcraft enables connecting emotions and memory which is a highly efficient method of remembering what we learn.

What I would have done differently?

Three of the suggestions are to fix the default options in the game. Although teachers can change these at any time, I believe many just follow the suggested default pattern.

#1 Revisit default powers

Opening a window or “teleporting” to another seat might sound fun but it's “what behaviour we want to promote with this power up” that should matter the most. There are multiple reasons why eating in class is usually not allowed and the game shouldn’t encourage unwanted behaviour.

#2 Revisiting default daily random events

Similarly to default powers, many of the random events just don’t fit the goal of Classcraft. Brute force which makes Warriors stand the whole class doesn’t have any value in it and Kitty Master (Everyone ends their sentences with a “meow”) or Polymorph Potion (Calling a random student butterfly — isn’t that promoting bullying?) are only fun for so long. The beauty of Classcraft is that students get immediate feedback and understand the value in what they are doing whereas the above examples lack a feedback mechanism and which makes me wonder “Why should I participate?”.

I would focus random events to be with a an outcome that can be prevented if done something fun. “All warriors lose 40 exp. If they choose a leader who has to stand during class they gain 60 exp instead.”

#3 Default punishments may not fit the crime

This is probably the greatest threat in Classcraft where sh*t might hit the fan as random punishments may be absolutely unfair for some. Falling from a random daily event and receiving detention for it is rather cruel. It’s great that falling affects both real life and gameplay but unfair punishments can demotivate students and is not viewed greatly among parents.

So the solution would be to create a certain theme around punishments and I would go with homework. It can still be fun (“Every number in your homework has to be spelled out” or “Write homework with 3 different color pens”) or serious (“Your team has to hand in the assignment 1 day earlier”). I would still keep the “Nothing” option because of the uncertainty of possibly getting lucky.

#4 Unify the class towards a greater goal

At the end of the day all students are in this together. There should be a way for them to feel united as a whole. A great place to do it is with “Epic boss fights.” For example students defeat bosses to unlock an epic boss battle adventure where everyone in the class is on the same team. It’s a great way to add intrinsic rewards to the system where upon success the whole class will be featured amongst other classes worldwide who have completed this quest. It would also add value to existing boss fights and would give students something greater to look forward to.

Conclusion

Although requiring significant UX rework, Classcraft is a revolutionizing solution that provides students with constant feedback, teaches teamwork, creates more relationships within class thus reducing bullying while being fun, exciting and highly efficient. I encourage people to give it a try and I’d love to hear feedback from people already using it.



If you found this article interesting and wish to stay in the loop about how companies are applying gamification, don’t forget to recommend this article and follow my blog

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