Local Students Learn Financial Basics Through the BECU mLevel™ Challenge
June 21, 2012 Leave a comment
by Justin Jarrett
“OK everyone, quiet down please. BECU and Slalom Consulting are with us again today, please give them your attention,” said Ms. Morgan as her bustling class of students at Kent-Meridian High School got settled in the classroom.
During the past three weeks, many of my mornings have started in a similar fashion. I’ve visited nine Puget Sound-area high school classrooms to help BECU augment its in-class presentations with an innovative gamification solution—the BECU mLevel™ Challenge. The educational application was built by Slalom, is hosted on Microsoft Windows Azure, and includes three 90-second financial literacy games.
Our theory was that the combination of high school students, smart phones, competition, and prizes would generate a powerful learning environment to reinforce financial literacy concepts taught by BECU educators.
After three weeks, I can confidently say that our theory was correct. More than 200 students played over 10,000 games, and improved their score an average of 170% over three games. When asked in an online survey if they felt the game helped reinforce concepts taught in class, nearly 90% of the respondents said “yes.” When asked if the game made personal financial management more interesting, 87% said “yes.”
In addition to these fantastic statistics, we learned valuable lessons about bringing gamification to the classroom.
1. Students are fast learners and quickly memorize answers and imagery associated with questions.
- Game design should have a large pool of questions to draw from.
- Use a variety of background images so that a question does not look the same every time it is asked.
2. Students compete—vigorously.
- Leverage this innate trait to drive learning.
- Be conservative with rewards. More rewards are sometimes better than larger rewards.
3. Games are not a silver bullet. They augment, but do not replace, excellent in-person instruction.
- Integrate games into existing classroom experiences.
- Educators that “connect” with students through personal experiences engage students and drive participation.
4. The Alan Jackson song, Too Much of a Good Thing (is a Good Thing) was proven false in this case.
- While response to the games was positive, some students felt there was too much activity in a compressed amount of time.
- A better cadence is 1-2 games and classes per month vs. per week in the compressed pilot.
The feedback and lessons learned from this pilot have been extremely valuable to Slalom and BECU. The BECU mLevel Challenge shows that gamification is a powerful tool for teaching valuable information in a fun and interesting way. We are excited about future opportunities to improve financial literacy with the BECU mLevel Challenge. Learn more about gamification and its many applications in the white paper by Slalom Consulting’s Dan Maycock. The BECU mLevel Challenge app is available for Windows Phones, iPhones, Android phones, and web browsers. Download and try it yourself today!