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  • Writer's pictureJolie Radunich

3 product and marketing tips edtech companies should take away from the teacher Kahoot! criticism

Is Kahoot! no longer a worthy edtech tool for teachers?

I'm part of a group of millions of kids who perked up when my teachers projected the platform onto a screen.

From my years in middle school all the way through college, I'd evaluate the game-based learning unicorn as:

  • Competitive. Getting ranked against my classmates after each round made me want to reach #1

  • Engaging. Not in a buzzword way, I was mo-ti-va-ted!

  • Interactive. Playing as a class led to more than a few laughs and a sense of connectedness

Benefits aside, I wasn't shocked to learn how teachers criticized Kahoot! in a recent EdWeek article.

Many admitted that the multiple-choice quiz platform raised student engagement.

They also said it wasn't good for deep learning, among other things.

Here are 3 things edtech companies can learn from EdWeek's review.

About the EdWeek survey

An unknown number of teachers responded to EdWeek's request for feedback on Kahoot! Here are a few issues they raised:

  • The timer stresses some students out

  • The same students tend to win

  • Some students have difficulty reading questions when they're projected

  • User-created quizzes can be low-quality or inappropriate

You should also know how far the company's come since starting as a little multiple-choice quiz platform in Norway:

  • Established in 2012 as part of a joint project at a local university

  • Reached 1 billion cumulative players in 2017

  • Went public on the Oslo Stock Exchange in 2021

What does the resume of Kahoot! have to do with its controversy?

It reminds us that popularity won't stop users from experiencing product roadblocks they come across.

Buzzwords only go so far. Stretch their impact

No matter how important it is to engage students, EdWeek's survey shows why edtech companies can't hang their marketing hats on creating this type of experience.

How quickly a student can click a button is not a good indication, to me, of what they actually understand. Recognition and recall are just very different from application and analysis. —Adam Sparks, former teacher & Co-founder & CEO of Short Answer

Kahoot! didn’t pass the deep learning test with teachers. So if part of your marketing strategy includes showing off how engaging your product is, think of ways you can beef it up.

  • Connect the engagement factor to essential outcomes like improvement and proficiency

  • Stress its impact on sustaining motivation and the joy of learning

Engagement is a buzzword. Describing it in more meaningful ways can help you avoid Kahoot! comparisons.

Like Kahoot! —listen to your customers and update the product

For all of the flaws the platform has been criticized for, you can't say Kahoot! isn't making the effort to get better.

Here are some updates the company has made or is working on:

  • T̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶r̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶e̶s̶s̶e̶s̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶u̶d̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ Timers can be turned off to stop rewarding speed

  • T̶h̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶m̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶u̶d̶e̶n̶t̶s̶ ̶t̶e̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶ Students aren't limited to multiple choice-style questions

  • IN PROGRESS: Making the platform accessible for multiple learning styles

  • IN PROGRESS: Improving the accuracy of performance data

Product changes are an undertaking. The size and bandwidth of backend teams is critical.

An extra dose of empathy is required of edtech professionals who don't have this experience.

But well worth it if you ask me.

Be careful of changing at the risk of losing your place in the market

The Kahoot!'s of the industry have their place in the market. The platform might not be great for deep learning, but that doesn't mean it's invaluable for students.

Take it from someone who cares enough to write about it 10 years later.

Notice how none of the improvements Kahoot! is working on include making the experience more rigorous.

For now, they're continuing to lean into what made the platform popular to begin with.

One literature review found that using Kahoot! positively affected:

  • Learning performance

  • Classroom dynamics

  • Attitudes

  • Anxiety

Common Sense Media, a company that rates the impact of edtech on children gave Kahoot! a star rating of 4 out of 5.

For all intents and purposes, maybe this is enough.

Kahoot! could simply be the deep learning break kids need every now and then. The experience that breaks up the textbook reading, essay writing, and formal presentations.

I know I needed it.

There is definitely the dopamine hit of, ‘I gotta go fast and I gotta get it. Did I get it?’ It does put you on the edge of your seat. When you walk into a room with kids playing Kahoot!, you will see all the physical signs of engagement. —Adam Sparks, former teacher & Co-founder & CEO of Short Answer

There's a whole edtech marketplace for teachers to find the deep learning tools they need for their students.


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