Quizlet and the ‘online’ gamification of learning

When I was in my first year of high school, I took a typing class. In this typing class, I was meant to learn how to type blindly and quickly. Even though something like typing on a computer is a pretty modern concept, this class was the direct antithesis of that. The woman who taught the class was probably the strictest and uptight person I had ever met, she would walk around in circles and would say the following: F…Rust…K…Rust(Rust meaning space). And this would go on for about an hour. It is then barely a surprise that I loathed this class, and also barely passed the final exam. Looking back at it now, for as much as I disliked it. There were some valuable things being taught, for example, she always made a big deal about our posture, something that was annoying at the time. But honestly is probably one of the most valuable lessons she could have taught, cause long-time computer use is a certified back destroyer. While in this class, I tended to wonder if this is truly what learning to type is like, or if there were better alternatives.

Well to answer my question: this is certainly not the only way to teach typing. If you switch over to one of the kid’s channels on tv, there is a chance you might come across one of these commercials:

This is a commercial for LOI kidzz and it promises an exciting typing adventure where they get to be a super spy and learn typing along the way!4 Obviously, this sounds a little bit more enticing than the type of class I had. This then leads me to the question, is this way of learning better? Does making the learning process into more of a gaming experience turn out better results. Or is it just a gimmick and is it the traditional way, I experienced, the most effective?

To try and shed light on this question I chose one of my favorite educational websites: Quizlet. Quizlet is a website in which you can create digital flashcards (called sets), that you can learn and share with others.5 What makes Quizlet special, is the way in which these sets can be learned. With the traditional flashcards (a piece of paper), there is basically one way of learning them. That is with writing the term/question on one side and the definition/answer on the other and just constantly repeating the cards until you have memorized the definition/answer to the term/question.

With Quizlet, you can do this too, but you can do also much more. The most used feature is simply called ‘learn’. With this feature, the most basic function of flashcards is present, but this time, the way you answer is not by just guessing. You can answer with multiple-choice, by flipping the card or by writing down the answer. Further, the questions are asked in small sessions, so that by the end of each of those sessions you can review those couple of questions.2

The one thing in my opinion, that Quizlet has that makes learning on it just a better experience, is that your progress gets tracked. While learning you can see on the side of the screen, how many questions you still have to go, how many you got down, and how many you still need to focus on.3 This way of presenting your progress is found everywhere on the site. The more you learn your ‘sets’ the more your progress bar fills up. Seeing yourself getting better and better at memorizing these flashcards, is quite motivating. It makes it feel like less of a chore and more of an achievement.

In a 2021 study done by researchers of the Walailak University, a group of students who at first did not pass the needed English exam and had to take the English remedial course. In this course, the goal was to acquire 500 new words in an effort to improve their English. In the first 5 weeks, the students learned without Quizlet and the last 5 weeks with the use of Quizlet. In each class there would be a vocabulary test, to test their progress. The results show there is certainly an increase in vocabulary acquisition when Quizlet was used.1

This result goes to show that the gamification of learning can be quite a positive improvement on the way we teach our students, especially the younger ones. As I said before, in my experience even though I was basically cramming these flashcards, the process seems less daunting and more inviting, because it has these added “game functions”.

There is a drawback to this online gamification of learning and that is that it is not accessible for everyone. To be able to use Quizlet, you need either a computer or a smartphone, an internet connection, and if you want to use all the features available you will need a premium account, which costs money. To use the traditional flashcards, you only need a piece of paper and a pen, which are much more accessible. So this begs the question, that even though this trend of online gamification seems to positively impact the learning progress, it will certainly leave the ones without the necessary resources behind. So is leaning towards this type of teaching something that should be encouraged?

Sources:

  1. Waluyo, B., & L Bucol, J. L. (2021). The Impact of Gamified Vocabulary Learning Using Quizlet on Low-Proficiency Students. CALL-EJ, 22(1), 158–179. http://callej.org/journal/22-1/Waluyo-Bucol2021.pdf

2. https://quizlet.com/en-gb/features/study-modes

3. https://help.quizlet.com/hc/nl/articles/360030986971

4. https://www.loikidzz.nl/typecursussen/spionnenavontuur

5. https://www.techlearning.com/how-to/what-is-quizlet-and-how-can-i-teach-with-it