Hack Education

Currently online courses are burgeoning out of control. These courses are becoming the new way of learning. But online courses are not as effective as we would like. Less than 10% of students complete the course, only 5% show satisfactory results. Researchers are trying to understand why students drop out, but actually everybody knows the answer. The answer which leads us to one of the main problems of education.



Did you know that only 2% of high school students say they are never bored? And 2 out of 3 students in high school say that they are bored in class every day. Thats the result of a big study of Indiana University, high school students from 110 schools in 26 states participated.

Compare two headlines, the first one is from 2007 about high school education and the second one is from 2013 about online education:

“Students are bored, many skip school, lack adult support”

“The dirty little secret of online learning: Students are bored and dropping out”

Very similar, isnt it?

Most courses mirror the same traditional teaching style that students experience in the university setting. The same tedious and monotonous rhythm continues week after week. It’s no surprise that the number of participants continually drop. How can we improve the situation?

Consider education process as a computer system which you want to hack. Find weaknesses and use them. Not for harming the system but to fix the problem and get rid of the boredom. We already have lifehacks, lets have eduhacks too.

Eduhack #1: Play to Learn

Game based learning is the future of education. Bill Gates

We should have started to use this principle a long time ago. Playing is a natural mechanism for learning. Remember animals which play with each other and learn how to fight or to hunt. Play is one of the basic instincts. If you’re around small children a lot, you would probably know that they start to play even before they start to talk.

Good games are entertaining, enticing, and addictive; therefore gamification of education is the answer. Not only does it increases interest but it increases the effectiveness of learning.

An educational game needs a right balance. If it follows traditional ways of learning then it is too boring, but if goal has an over emphasis on entertainment then it will not teach or train students efficiently. Finding the balance is the most difficult part. There are a few number of new games which are reaching for that balance.

Treefrog Treasure allows players to explore different worlds as a frog and learn fractions and number-line concepts.

Tynker aims to teach kids to code and introduce them to computer programming.

Games are usually associated with children and teenagers, but can educational games be more serious? Yes, they can. The fact is the gaming industry grows every year, many adults play computer and video games. The question is how to make games entertaining and useful at the same time.

Heres an example. Craft is a game which helps 15–20-year-old students learn mechatronics, technology combining electronics and mechanical engineering. The serious part is that students perform tasks which are similar to real tasks, the game prepares students for a real job. For performing tasks, they earn credits, with credits they can build their own roller coaster, this is a fun part.

Eduhack #2: Interact

Passive learning is the past. According to case studies, students only retain about 20% through audiovisual methods of input compared to 75% retention gained by practicing what is taught. The more student involved the better education is. So interaction is another key.

Here’s an example of transforming traditional content into interactive application. Think about studying chemistry from a textbook only compared to an interactive application which shows you the animations and 3D models of those elements you were studying.

A traditional story like “Alice in Wonderland” transforms into a whole new experience when it is created into a interactive book. It could be done with textbooks too.

Eduhack #3: Socialize

The social aspect pulls people in. Interaction is good, gamification is involving, but socialization is what can bring education to the next level. Let’s forget about traditional models where students listen to a teacher and don’t interact with each other. When you help each other in solving tasks or compete with other students to achieve good results, that’s another level of motivation.

Look how it works along with gamification. Classcraft is combining gamification and socialization to transform classrooms into games. It is played with students throughout the semester or school year.

The next step

Try to imagine whats the next big step in online education after massive online courses. Interaction, gamification, socialization or combining all three could be a new approach. Education shouldn’t be just useful, it should be useful and fun. All we need is to find a good balance.

This article was originally posted on Learzing blog on March 4, 2015