I’ve always been an education hothead. Mostly because I’m profoundly disappointed by how bad it is in Nigeria. So when the Co-Creation Hub called for people who wanted to help think up ideas for the Tech-in Education hackathon slated for February of 2012, I was one of the first into the building.
Although I didn’t participate in the actual hackathon, I’ve been following the progress of some of the ideas that emerged out of that 48 hour session. Eleven months later (isn’t that sort of a long time?), the team that finished in first place has finally launched a mobile application about two weeks ago, an educational quiz app called Efiko.
Efiko’s makers say it is designed to inspire students to take charge of their learning process. Of course, it comes with all the usual buzzword features — leaderboards, social integration, geographical mapping, reward systems and things. The development team enjoy support from the Co-Creation Hub and Evans Brothers Nigeria Publishers Limited
The idea is sound in principle, I like it. A quiz is a great way to take stock of current knowledge and identify where the learning gaps are. So at the first opportunity, I downloaded the app for a test drive. I have a few things to say about it.
The (web) app itself works well enough. It’s built with HTML5, but handles in such a lightweight and responsive manner that you’d hardly know it. Except if you lose your data connection, that is. Going the HTML5 route allows them make the app available on virtually every mobile platform there is, fairly quickly and cheaply. The only, and perhaps most significant drawback of that strategy is that without the internet, the app is rendered pretty much useless.
After a while with the app, one appreciates the idea…and also begins to notice flaws. I came away not liking the idea less, but realising how much farther its implementation (in this case, the app) needs to go to be truly successful. I should say that I’m currently using a couple of educational apps like Memrise and Duolingo, so I’m likely holding the makers of Efiko to a really high standard. Even so, I don’t think Efiko is anywhere near where it needs to be, if it’s going to be something that will really and truly make a difference. They’re gonna have to pay a great deal more attention to the quantity and quality of the content, interaction logic and user experience, and pedagogy.
To begin with, there isn’t a lot of content to speak of. At the moment, quizzes in three subjects are available — Mathematics, English and Government — and only in the senior secondary school category. Say, isn’t this where Evans is supposed to weigh in?
Then there are a few user interface quirks (which I’ve already made known to the developer). And quite a few typos. Those are relatively minor and can be easily fixed.
After completing a few quizzes, I’m of the opinion that a number of important interaction hooks are missing in the app’s current iteration, and their absence robs it of stickiness and staying power. For example, It squanders valuable engagement opportunities at the end of each quiz — you reach the end of a session and you’re like “what next?” The app offers no clue, except options to share your score or view the leaderboard. What about making the user feel good by levelling them up, or awarding them achievement badges? What about pointing them towards recommended reading? (Evans, I’m talking to you). Or at the very least, an option to take the quiz again? You know, gamification techniques, usage cues and hooks that keep the user in the app and give them a reason to come back again?
I also think there are some fundamental gaps in the app’s pedagogy. Yes, it’s a quiz app, so it wasn’t like I was expecting it to carry exhaustive course material or anything like that. Even so, I think it’d make a lot of sense if the app did have a light learning syllabus that breaks the ice just before the quiz and reinforces learning after it. That aside, what I did find to be really confusing is that at the end of the quiz, the app will tell you what questions you got wrong — but not why you got them wrong. It doesn’t even volunteer the correct answer. How many students can stay motivated enough to try and fill the gaps in their knowledge if the app doesn’t even give them a clue of where and how to start?
One last thing, albeit minor. I used to think I detested comic sans, until I saw the typography on Efiko’s website. It is just ghastly. And that’s putting it mildly. I can understand the intention, to appeal to the playful, casual side of the kids they are trying to reach. But even so, there’s ways to do it — even Dora the Explorer’s website for seven year olds uses clean typography without losing the playful, childlike feel for one second. Efiko’s current design language (the website) is in poor taste. I’m glad the font didn’t make it into the app.
The idea behind Efiko is great, one that I endorse with all my heart. However, the thought that needs to go into creating a revolutionary educational experience is immense and requires a significant consideration of educational psychology and learning theory…even if all you’re doing at the moment is presenting multiple choice quizzes via mobile. It is important to recognise that most of the work that needs to be done here doesn’t have much to do with code. Rather, they’ll need to somehow enlist the help of educationists with domain expertise in the above said fields, as well as forge strategic partnerships with public and private stakeholders in the education sector. If you fit any of these descriptions, Efiko could really use your help.
Kudos to the Efiko team and I look forward to subsequent updates and improvements. You might want to start with changing that darned font.