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8 Apr 2020

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How Kahoot! impacts learning in higher education: research roundup

Kahoot! co-founder and professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, shares a recap of research looking into the impact of Kahoot! on higher education.

I’ve been using Kahoot! in my university lectures for many years and found it very helpful to pre-assess knowledge, review topics, collect feedback, and lower the threshold for discussions even in a large class. It also works great in a distance learning setting when I have to connect with my students virtually.

Recently, one of the most respected journals covering technology in education – Computers & Education (Elsevier) – published an article on the effect of using Kahoot! for learning that I co-authored with Rabail Tahir. Our article investigated studies that researched how Kahoot! affects learning performance, class dynamics, students’ and teachers’ attitudes, and student anxiety – especially in higher education.

Our review covered 93 studies published in the last couple of years. 84% of them described experiments, surveys, case studies, cross-sectional, and mixed studies in the context of higher education. The most frequent themes we found were students’ perception of using Kahoot! for learning (88%), learning performance (39%), and class dynamics (35%). Our literature review also revealed a rapid increase in the number of scientific articles on Kahoot! since 2015.

The main conclusion from this selection of studies is that Kahoot! has a positive effect on learning compared to traditional tools and approaches in higher education.

Better learning outcomes compared to traditional instruction

The main conclusion from this selection of studies is that Kahoot! has a positive effect on learning compared to traditional tools and approaches in various contexts and domains. Examples of traditional teaching can include the use of a blackboard and slides, as well as non-gamified quizzing tools.

Motivation for attendance and better grades

Other positive Kahoot! effects mentioned in the studies include improved attendance, generally fewer late arrivals to lectures, higher downloads of course material, and higher final grades. Most reported experiments measured learning performance by comparing pre- and post-tests or comparing grades on exercises and examinations.

In one of the examples, researchers ran an experiment with 400 students at the University of Florence, where they compared traditional teaching with game-based teaching using Kahoot!. The research concluded that the game-based approach performed significantly better than the traditional (p=.001, effect size large). A comparable result was also found at Purdue University in the USA, where the group using Kahoot! over seven weeks performed significantly better on the final exam (average of 79.56) than the control group (average of 56.83).

Similar results have been documented at other higher education institutions in Greece, France, Portugal, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Turkey.

Used in a wide range of subjects

Some of the studies we reviewed also looked into specific subjects where Kahoot! added value. They found out that using game-based learning improved student performance in language learning, information technology, bioengineering, media & communication, electric engineering, business, math, physics, chemistry, animal science, academic writing, educational technology, nursing, vocational training, programming, and earth science.

Researchers concluded that Kahoot! helps improve class dynamics through higher motivation to participate, better atmosphere in class, and lower threshold to ask questions.

Students and lecturers connect better

In addition to an improvement in learning outcomes, different researchers concluded that Kahoot! helps improve class dynamics, including lecturer-student and student-student interaction. Benefits mentioned in various studies include higher motivation to participate, better atmosphere in class, and lower threshold to ask questions.

Additionally, one of the studies found that the use of audio and music in Kahoot! contributed to dynamics and helped create a culture of discussion even in large classes.

Most students and teachers referenced in the studies have a very positive perception of the use of Kahoot! in learning. They highlighted an improvement in motivation, engagement, concentration, perceived learning, attention, enjoyment, and confidence. Among lecturers, the main benefits were ease of use, better student motivation, ability to assess knowledge in real time, better motivation, and reduced workload.

Playing Kahoot! reduces anxiety and stress

The most surprising result revealed in our roundup of studies was related to how Kahoot! affects student anxiety. Some teachers are wondering whether the competitive gameplay in Kahoot! will increase student anxiety.

However, the ten studies that investigated this topic found that Kahoot!, in fact, decreases anxiety related to asking questions, reduces stress and tension, encourages participation without being judged, adds humor to learning, and enables students who are a bit shy to get involved. Two studies even calculated a statistically significant reduction in student anxiety.

Most of the studies we analyzed were set in higher education, and their conclusions show how impactful game-based learning can be in this setting. It adds value both to lecturers and students:

  • helps improve instruction
  • contributes to better learning outcomes
  • creates a good learning environment
  • increases student motivation
  • reduces student anxiety.

Watch my free webinar on using Kahoot! in higher education for distance learning.

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