While there is no surefire formula for building a successful and popular learning app or platform, it can’t hurt to take a look at the successful competition and extract essential elements from their products. We decided to do just that, and found that five elements stood out from the crowd. While it isn’t possible for every platform to incorporate all five of these elements (and some may not want to), a quick look at the top ranked educational apps revealed a combination of at least five of them.
Stack the States: Gamification
This educational app turns learning about the 50 states into a dynamic and colorful game. Each time the user successfully advances to a new level, he or she is rewarded with a new random state. The player is asked a set of questions and given a selection of states to select the answer from. When answered correctly, the state is “stacked” onto a pile of states, advancing the player toward the next level. As the player learns about capitals, border states, map location, flags, etc, each state earned is placed on a larger US map. Once the map is filled in, users can unlock new games.
Takeaway: Without gamification and the ability to unlock new states and games, this app would essentially be a middle school quiz. Instead, it’s both fun and highly rated.
Duolingo: Repetition & Competition
Winner of Apple’s 2013 App of the Year Award, Duolingo teaches new languages by beginning with one level on a skill tree. This introduces the player to a set of words and phrases that immediately immerses him into the new language. Words and phrases are then repeated frequently in differing phrases and contexts. This continues as the player completes a skill and moves on to the next skill level. The previous set of words are repeated, and new ones are added in.
Because the app is gamified, there is built in competition to beat the game by earning “lives” and not losing them. However, there are other tools that allow users to challenge themselves, such as timed practices, wagers, and competing with friends who also use the app.
Takeaway: This combination of repetition and competition is extremely effective and highly motivational.
Endless Alphabet: Interaction
Endless Alphabet, while not actually endless, is an interactive game that teaches young children the alphabet and vocabulary. Users learn the sounds of the alphabet and word meanings through a series of puzzles and animations, which illustrate the definition of each word. Also, there is no stress in learning these lessons, since there are no high scores.
Takeaway: The combination of multisensory interaction with movable, speaking letters and reinforcement via animation make this educational app a pleasant puzzle-solving game that just happens to teach in the process.
Class Dojo: Usability
While not technically a learning app, Class Dojo is an excellent example in the field of education for its sheer usability. Essentially a customizable student behavior management app for teachers, Class Dojo allows instant communication and updates between teachers and parents. Teachers using the app can give realtime feedback on a student’s behavior while in class, by using a “positive” or “negative” feedback icon, or messages. These messages sync with the main Class Dojo website and are instantly available for parents to view. Teachers can also use the app to send private messages to individual parents, or to broadcast mass messages to the parents of an entire class. Points are visibly added or deducted according to each student’s behavior and can be easily viewed at a glance.
Takeaway: The simple graphics, intuitive features, and scope of use give this app a high usability rating, making it easier to live with, than without.
There you have it, five elements of popular and highly rated education apps that go a long way toward making them so.
For more infomation on mobile learning check out these blog posts:Book Review: Content Strategy for Mobile