Gamified courses from Course Hero and Bunchball boost student engagement

In some circles, the phrase “gamification” may have gone out of fashion, but Course Hero and Bunchball are intent on showing that it can still pack a punch in education.
In April, Course Hero, which uses free online resources to offer students digital study guides and other tools, launched a series of full-length online courses infused with game mechanics from Bunchball’s gamification platform. The companies Tuesday revealed some of the initial results from the partnership.
On average, users spend three times more time on the gamified courses than on all of and total time on the platform has increased five percent since the Bunchball integration, Course Hero reported. The company also said that social sharing of achievements, which are awarded as students progress through the courses, has climbed nearly 400 percent since the Bunchball partnership.
These results only revealed student engagement, not retention of material, and in the future I’d be curious to see more data showing how gamification really contributes to learning. Other innovators in education, such as Khan Academy, recognize that while gamification can be incorrectly integrated with education, when incorporated in the right ways, game mechanics can be a positive force in learning.
Bunchball, which launched in 2007, has worked with companies from NBC to Cisco to Ford. But Rajat Paharia, Bunchball founder and chief product officer, said gaming techniques can be taken out of the gaming world to motivate any kind of behavior.
Gamifying Course Hero’s courses involved breaking down long lectures into smaller, digestible pieces, granting badges for passing quizzes and progressing through the course, awarding points for logging into the site over consecutive days, letting students share achievement through Facebook and Twitter and more. As students earn points and achievement, a leaderboard tracks the performance of the top 20 students on the site.
For now, the courses, which target high school and college students, as well as lifelong learners,  focus on entrepreneurship, business and web programming. CEO Andrew Grauer said that given changes in the greater marketplace, in which people work at a company for a few years, as opposed to a few decades, the demand for continuing education is even greater. He sees Course Hero as a place where people can acquire the knowledge they need to move on to their next step.
“We think there’s a gap between the skills needed in the market and the skills employees have,” he said. “We see a huge opportunity for [teaching] tangible skills that students need to learn to be more marketable.”
Given increasing momentum behind other online education startups, such as Coursera, Udacity, Udemy and others, Course Hero will face a good amount of competition as it moves forward. But the traction it’s already enjoying will certainly help. The company, which offers a free basic membership and a paid premium package, said it receives about two to three million visits a month and has been profitable since 2o1o.