You may have seen the ads on LinkedIn promoting coding classes for kids from BYJU’s Future School. With my kids obsessed by video games and stuck in lockdown in Sydney, I decided to explore further by taking advantage of their free first class for my 10-year-old son.
Now, 25 classes later, I am overawed by BYJU’s sophisticated application of gamification to my son’s learning journey.
Like many of you, I had not heard of BYJU’s Future School until I saw their ads on LinkedIn. According to an article appearing on Salesforce.com, BYJU’s are the world’s most valued EdTech company with 100m users and 6.5m subscriptions. This includes onboarding more than 25m new users between April and August 2020. That is a lot of students and a ton of learning.
With such large numbers of students across the globe, and young student engagement being notoriously difficult to maintain, BYJU’s have invested heavily in the use of digital gamification mechanics to ensure acquisitions turn into long-term customers.
Gamification is the use of elements of gameplay in non-game contexts to stimulate specific behaviours. It can play a key role in member engagement programs by making mundane actions fun, as well as motivating members to engage in desirable behaviours.
The term gamification was first coined by games designer Nick Pelling. He launched a company in 2003 which focused on ‘applying game-like accelerated user interface design to make electronic transactions both enjoyable and fast.’ Pelling claims his vision was a decade too early for its time, and the company was closed in 2006. To his credit, gamification has blossomed, with Pelling identifying Apple as the company which has run furthest with it by embracing ‘the underlying idea of gamification – making hard things easy, expressive, near-effortless to use.’
The Loyalty360 Expo in Hollywood, Florida in 2009 featured a presentation on gamification by Barry Kirk and Tim Crank of Maritz. ‘Games tap into competition, status, flow, play, reward, achievement and mastery—primal psychological needs’, Kirk was quoted as saying. He provided a long list of game mechanics, including points, tiers, collecting (e.g., badges), leader boards, exchanges (sharing gifts on social media), customisation (encouraging members to invest in creating their profile, as it develops exit barriers), feedback (progress tracking), randomness (elements where the member does not know when an event will occur), spectators and bosses (those who climb to the highest tiers).
BYJU’s have applied Kirk and Crank’s mechanics well. The learning journey incorporates points, leader boards, certificates, badges, tiers, communities, customisable profiles and a referral program.
Teachers, who engage with the students one-on-one via a customised video conference portal, can activate applause noises when the student completes a task or answers a question correctly. The quality of the teachers is noticeably high, with empathy training clearly a priority for BYJU’s. My son’s main teacher, Mrudula, has developed a genuine rapport with him, demonstrating patience and understanding when he is struggling, and applying deserving praise when he succeeds. For the few classes where other teachers have had to step in, they have been equally impressive.
Each class has a defined learning outcome, which usually results in the create of a simple digital game. Classes are followed by projects and quizzes to reinforce learning, for which more bonus points are earned. The games can be shared and showcased to siblings and friends to boost feeling of achievement.
Not everything is digital. My son recently received a laminated certificate via courier for achieving his latest level, something he was genuinely proud of and insisted it be stuck to the wall in his bedroom.
The member portal is easy to navigate and use to complete tasks such as booking classes, accessing projects and quizzes, viewing results and badges, and redeeming points.
Support is easily available and generally instant. There are no experiences of waiting on the line for 60 minutes to talk to a staff member. In fact, when something goes wrong, such as the Wi-Fi dropping out during a class, it is BYJU’s who outbound call to check what has happened and get the class up and running as quickly as possible.
One small design limitation is the use of points. Redemptions are currently limited to accessing avatars and backgrounds, something relatively low in appeal. BYJU’s might appeal better to their audience by allowing points to be redeemed on bespoke video games.
In summary, BYJU’s is a class act (pardon the pun). Companies looking for inspiration on how to use gamification to drive stronger engagement from their staff or customers would do well to study their model. They have taken Nick Pelling’s vision and made it their own.
If you’re interested in signing up your kids to BYJU’s Future School, click here.
 Pelling, N., 2011, ‘The (short) prehistory of “gamification”’, https://nanodome.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-short-prehistory-of-gamification/, accessed 22 May 2020.
 Loyalty Management Magazine, 2009, Loyalty 360, Vol 3, Iss 1.