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Gamification: the game changer for student surveys

May 19, 2016

A few weeks ago, aXcelerate wrote a blog about the future significance gamification will have on the education and training industry.  Now the National Centre for Vocational Education (NCVER) has released the findings of their latest study on the benefits gamification provides to student survey participation.

The results from this survey were released earlier this month and demonstrated the significance gamification and mobile devices play in the participation and completion rate of surveys.

An overwhelming majority of the study’s participants were able to complete the survey sent to them, which involved both gamification aspects and was conducted on a mobile device. When given the same survey without any gamification elements (a standard survey), these participation and completion rates dropped significantly.

NCVER describe gamification as the process in which you add visually appealing and gamified elements, including scoring, rules, leaderboards, progressive indicators, goals, barriers and competition to a process. This process could be anything; a survey, a piece of assessment or a marketing email.

Interestingly, NCVER isn’t the only organisation to embark on the benefits of gamification. There have been multiple studies recently, which explore the practice of gamification and how the elements of entertainment and interaction it provides lead to higher engagement levels.

In a separate study conducted last year, head researcher Professor Puleston discovered “that just by telling respondents from the outset of a survey, that we would like them to play a survey game - as opposed to doing a survey - that there is a transformation in the respondent’s attitude and approach to the survey” (2011, P.22).

Furthermore, Puleston said his study revealed no inconsistencies in motivation of respondents according to age, gender, tenure on the participant panel and prior game experience.

Because training companies regularly send surveys to students as part of their quality and improvement processes or specific compliance requirements, these findings from NCVER present an exciting opportunity. Furthermore, due to the importance and prevalence training organisations now place on  surveys, it has become a key requirement for student management systems to provide the ability to create and send custom surveys to training organisation’s contacts.

However, even with the ability to create and send custom surveys, it is still an uphill battle to engage survey respondents and yield a big enough sample size to ensure higher quality data.  Consequently, NCVER’s latest findings could be the missing puzzle piece training organisations need to yield better results from their student surveys.

The ‘affects of gamification’ is a relatively new research area and consequently, there is not enough data currently to make conclusive findings. Despite this, recent studies from NCVER and other research companies are showing positive results.

“The literature gives an overall impression that optimising for mobile platforms and adding visually appealing elements to web surveys can increase respondent satisfaction thus leading to better quality data,”  NCVER concluded in the report.

The organisation went on to suggest ways to implement gamification elements into student surveys for training organisations wanting to utilise this latest trend. They clarified, however that when implementing gamification elements, a company firstly needs to consider the role of the context being gamified (the social environment, nature of the system, involvement of the user); and qualities of the respondent (play motivation, experience, competition) to deem if it’s an appropriate tactic to take.

Some of the key recommendations NCVER provide revolve around the question design of a survey and that the survey is more game-like, by using imagery and creative layouts, adding selection rewards and feedback mechanics, and using playful question formats.

Once question design is finalised, game playing elements/applications can be added. These include:

-sending respondents on quests or missions that induce a hunter gather mindset

-evoking scenario planning processes (for example, ‘what if’)

-adding a competitive element

-adding in reward mechanics (considered one of the most powerful applications)

-making tasks more complex, fun, enjoyable and rich in subject matter for respondents

-ensuring whatever challenge set is accomplishable and the right balance between easy and difficult

To explore these recommendations in greater depth or to read NCVER’s full report on the affects gamification has on student participation, visit their website.

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