Experimenting with Answer Streaks to Help Make Learning Awesome
Hello world. Hello Medium. It’s first post time, so here’s a quick introduction. My name’s Dom and I’m the Product guy in the Gameplay Squad at Kahoot!. As a team, our job is to help our users create and play awesome learning games by constantly evolving the product experience. So sometimes we’ll introduce new game mechanics like Team Mode, and other times we’ll try to make it easier to play in the best ways, like Blind Kahoot!’ing or creating challenges with Ghost Mode. The possibilities are pretty much endless — and that’s what makes it so much fun!
Just like other small product teams, I work alongside a Dev Lead, a UXer and a few developers (3, to be precise). So when I say “we did this” or “we thought that” I’m speaking on behalf of the squad and not pretending to be the Queen. Cool? Cool. Well then, here’s our first little behind-the-scenes story…
Starting in Stealth Mode
A couple of weeks ago, we added a new section to the bottom of each kahoot start screen but, oddly, chose not to say anything about it. There were no tweets, no posts on Facebook and no blog post. What were we up to?
We were curious to see if anyone would spot the change, be a little intrigued and start a conversation. Turns out, a few of our most eagle-eyed game hosts were pretty excited:
Now that the cat’s out of the bag, we wanted to tell you a little bit about why we’ve introduced Kahoot! Experiments and talk about our first experimental feature, Answer Streak Bonus.
Lab Coats for Everyone
We created Experiments as a testbed for Kahoot!’ers to have the chance to play with prospective features, early and often. Our aim is to quickly learn which of our fledgling ideas are loved — and which ones aren’t — by listening to feedback and analysing behavioural data. Being experimental features, they’ll be a little less polished than our usual releases but this means we’ll be able to deliver them more quickly and get feedback sooner. By making Experiments available to everyone — it just takes a single click to activate — we’re able to generate plenty of usage data that gives us the confidence to decide whether or not we’re onto a winner.
In fact, at Kahoot!, we’re strong believers of the Marty Cagan mantra that most of our ideas won’t work because real Kahoot!’ers just won’t be as excited about them as we are. That might sound like a bit of a downer, but actually, the magic of Experiments is that it gives us a “safe place” where we can try new things and not worry when some of them fail to make the grade. When this happens, we’re happy because it means that we can refocus our efforts on building things that people really love.
Of course, Kahoot! Experiments isn’t just a means for us to make product decisions. It’s also a way for us to give back to our wonderful community, who’ve told us over and over how much they love being able to get their hands on early access features before anyone else. We hope they’ll relish the chance to don their virtual lab coats and help us shape the future of Kahoot!
Accuracy is King
Turning-on Experiments today will reveal our first experimental feature: Answer Streak Bonus. Not exactly a punchy name, we’ll admit, but this plucky gameplay modifier is a sure-fire way to take any kahoot to the next level.
Answer Streak Bonus was created, first and foremost, to encourage deeper learning by rewarding answer accuracy. The problem with the classic speed-based points system, which runs at the heart of Kahoot!’s lively gameplay, is that it’s too easy to fall into the “rush to answer” trap. The mechanic is a simple and familiar one: the quickest players to answer correctly are awarded the most points. In Kahoot!, answering straight away can net the maximum 1,000 points per question but waiting until the countdown’s dying seconds will yield only half the reward.
Inevitably then, the temptation to fire-off an answer without thinking can often become too strong. Maybe you’re struggling at the bottom of the Scoreboard and the chances of making a comeback feel like one in a million, so why not? Or, maybe the competition to keep your Top 5 spot is so intense that you’ll take the 1 in 4 odds any day of the week if it means keeping your name up on the big screen.
Taking a punt is, of course, fine when playing Kahoot! “just for fun”. Play a logo quiz with friends and you’ll eventually be forgiven if you manage to bumble your way to victory on blind luck alone. But when Kahoot! is being used in education, mechanics that motivate a strategy of guessing undermine the goal. We believe that meaningful learning involves careful consideration of the question to recall information and apply knowledge. This is especially true for learners that naturally need a little extra time to puzzle out the questions they face. Special educational needs (SEN) teachers, for instance, often tell us that their pupils require more space to think. It’s also well known that during school age, girls tend to need more encouragement to commit to their answers than boys. Inclusive learning is a core pillar of the Kahoot! experience, so it’s important to us that all our players can feel success and demonstrate their abilities.
The challenge then, was to create a new game mechanic that would reward and encourage careful thinkers, whilst keeping the social and competitive core that makes Kahoot! unique. Our solution was Answer Streak Bonus.
Turning Answer Streaks on adds an extra points system that rewards players for getting multiple questions right in a row. Once the game starts, players that get two correct on the trot are treated to a snappy Answer Streak animation on their devices and are awarded 100 bonus points for their efforts. If they then get one wrong, the streak will be broken and reset, so they must wait for the next question for their chance to rebuild it.
Those that manage to get a third consecutive question right will see their streak hit level 3, increasing the bonus to 200 points. After Answer Streak 5 the bonus is capped at 500 points to maintain game balance, but the streak level can grow indefinitely.
Our gameplay testing has shown that, perhaps counter-intuitively, the streak level is a greater incentive than the bonus points. Players just love trying to build up to highest possible number because it becomes a badge of honour to show off and treasure.
The secret sauce of Answer Streak Bonus, therefore, is jeopardy. Through their own in-game actions, players quickly learn that playing well means thinking carefully and that it is in their interest to avoid the risk of rushing to answer.
We think Answer Streaks are really cool and hope they’ll prove to be a fun and engaging way to bring out the learner that lives inside us all. Are we a bit biased? Yeah, totally. But that’s why it’s up to you to join Kahoot! Experiments and put Answer Streak Bonus to the test. We’ve got our lab coats on and have our clipboards at the ready but only your feedback will let us know if we’ve got a keeper.
If you’d like to know a little bit more about the creation process behind Answer Streak Bonus, my squad-mate Mike Ly has captured our trials and tribulations from his perspective as a developer. I can’t tell you how big his smile will be if he gets more reads than me!