Using Kahoot! in the classroom to create engagement and active learning: A game-based
technology solution for eLearning novices
Instructional games are gaining acceptance in the classroom as the eLearning merits of student
engagement and immediate feedback are recognized. Within higher education, the use of these
tools is often limited due to lack of time, insufficient experience, or doubts regarding the
scholarly merits of such activities. Kahoot! is a popular eLearning tool that can easily be used to
add vitality, student engagement, and meta-cognitive supports to higher education classrooms
with limited instructor or student training required. The free online learning platform has gained
wide acceptance globally with more than thirty million users worldwide, and is based on current
user-centered and behavioral design methodologies. Student responses and our experiences using
Kahoot! in graduate and undergraduate classrooms indicate that students welcome the use of this
game. The real-time feedback provides opportunities for professors in various disciplines to
tailor their instruction based on student understanding on quizzes while the surveys allow for
anonymous classroom participation, which further engages all students.
Kahoot!, classroom technology, eLearning, game based learning, and student engagement
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 2
In recent years, instructors have been confronting a technological training revolution
driven by the use of digital technology to deliver instruction (Clark & Mayer, 2008). “The value
of games as a vehicle for teaching concepts while inspiring students is now well accepted at
almost all levels of education” (Becker, 2001, p. 23). The challenge is that many professors lack
the opportunity, experience, or understanding to utilize digital games within their classrooms.
Becker (2007) notes that instructors cannot be expected to embrace games as a tool for learning
unless they have a sound understanding of the potential of games and the confidence in their
abilities to employ them.
Kahoot! is free, easy for students to use, and simple for instructors to learn. In the
classroom, it is fast paced and fun, which supports creative energy and student participation.
ELearning experts state “forty years of research says yes, games are effective learning tools.
People learn from games . . . and they will learn MORE from a game than from other forms of
learning” (Boller, 2012). This article provides instructors with foundational information about
Kahoot! and suggests ways to use it to engage students and promote an active learning
Kahoot! Description: Nuts & Bolts
Kahoot! (https://getkahoot.com/) is an online global educational brand that offers a free
student response platform resembling the popular trivia game Quizzo. Kahoot! is reminiscent of
previous clicker technology with the exception that it is free and easy to learn and utilize.
Educators use Kahoot! to create game-based quizzes, discussions, and surveys. To start,
instructors register for a free account by going to https://create.kahoot.it. Once registered,
educators can select from millions of free public games, and adapt them as necessary, or create
their own. The process is easy and straightforward.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 3
Educators launch games for classroom use by going to https://create.kahoot.it, signing in,
selecting a particular game, and then clicking “play” to open the game. The game’s home page
displays a game pin at the top of the screen (see Figure 1).
[Insert Figure 1 about here]
Students sign in using the web address https://kahoot.it to access the platform. Kahoot!
can be used with smart phones, tablets, or laptop computers. Students can chose one device per
person or select team mode to use one device per team. All they must do once they access the
web address is enter the game pin displayed on the instructor’s screen. Students do not need to
register for an account or download an application, which can waste time and further complicate
the use of technology. All of this makes the set up time and process easy and efficient; both
important considerations for classroom instructional use.
Generally, we use Kahoot! as a supplemental teaching tool in classes no larger than
30 students, approximately once a week, and for about 15 minutes. Kahoot! can be played by
over 4,000 players at a time, however, the company recommends instructors contact its support
team for advice if they plan to use it with more than 1,000 participants
Once everyone has answered the question, or the time the instructor set for answering the
question expires, the correct answer is displayed on the instructor’s screen and the aggregate
results shown in bar graph form (see Figure 2). The game keeps track of each student’s or team’s
answers, awards points, and ranks players based on speed and accuracy. The top five leaders are
displayed after each question (see Figure 3).
[Insert Figures 2 & 3 about here]
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 4
Instructional experts Gagne & Driscoll (1988) explain that one of the first elements
needed for learning is to gain students’ attention. The music, colors, and excitement brought by
Kahoot! encourage student focus and can excite a classroom. Singer (2016) notes that Kahoot!’s
game-like features have helped turn it into a classroom phenomenon with about 20 million users
during May 2016. The features of the Kahoot! platform are the culmination of years of studying
user-centered and behavioral design by Jamie Brooker and Johan Brand (Inclusive Design,
There are three creation options offered by Kahoot!: multiple choice quizzes, discussion
questions, or surveys.
Quizzes. In our classrooms, we have used graded and ungraded quizzes to assess
knowledge, comprehension, and retention (1) after completion of reading assignments,
(2) following lectures, and (3) to review material from several units. Burguillo (2010) speaks to
the importance of competition-based learning to achieve stronger motivation for students to
increase their performance. Gagne & Driscoll (1988) conclude that informing students of the
objective and then stimulating recall provides opportunities for learners to support their
short-term memory recall and meta-cognitive abilities.
Kapp (2012) states that for an educational game to be successful, it needs the right
context, the right cognitive activities, meaningful challenges, and feedback. Kapp (2012)
concludes that the “gamification” of education supports learning and knowledge acquisition.
To make business law more engaging and help students apply theoretical legal concepts to
real-life scenarios, we embedded short clips from Disney’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
into a Kahoot! quiz. Students watched one-minute clips and then identified the relevant business
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 5
law issue raised. After each question, there was active discussion about the correct answer, which
provided segues into course topics and how relevant concepts fit together.
Students can also create their own Kahoot! quizzes as an assignment or to study for a test.
Kumar (1999) reinforces this methodology when he notes that computer games as educational
tools have an intrinsic motivation factor that encourages curiosity and creates the impression that
students are in control of their own learning. Indeed, students remarked that they enjoyed this
assignment because they were creatively using technology within a learning environment
Discussions and Surveys. Kahoot! can also be used to elicit responses from students
related to opinions or beliefs with no right or wrong answers. Student responses can then form
the basis for further discussion. For example, in a recent class, we asked students to select who
they were voting for in the upcoming 2016 national presidential election. Regardless of public
opinion or peer pressure, students anonymously selected their candidate of choice. This in-class
survey led to further questions related to the biggest problems facing our nation. Thus, by using
Kahoot! to survey the class, students’ voices were heard and included in the larger classroom
discussion. In this manner, the eLearning tool appeared to add energy to the classroom by
provoking thoughtful classroom dialogue.
During the 2015-2016 academic year we used Kahoot! with both undergraduate and
graduate students in two different business courses. At the end of the courses, we collected
student feedback to gauge student interest. As discussed below, there was nearly universal
student support for Kahoot!
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 6
Student feedback on Kahoot! was collected using a questionnaire with a seven point
Likert scale.1 The questionnaire consisted of five questions. Questions 1 through 4 asked students
to answer questions about their Kahoot! experience using the Likert scale (see Figure 4).
Question 5 was an open-ended question that allowed for individual responses. The student
sample consisted of six classes at a northeastern university: five undergraduate business law
classes (111 students) and one graduate global management class (28 students)—a combined
total of 139 students. The overall results from questions 1 through 4 of the questionnaire are
listed in Table 1.
[Insert Table 1 about here]
Question 5 of the questionnaire asked students: “How would you describe your
experience using Kahoot! in this course?” Overall, there was an 88.7% positive response rate.
Sample positive comments included the following: “I looked forward to coming to class when I
knew we had a [Kahoot!] quiz,” “my [Kahoot!] team bonded during the semester, talked about
the course, read the material, and planned our strategy for the quizzes because no one wanted to
let the team down,” “I participated more than I have in any other class because Kahoot! made me
want to,” and “it focused class discussions in a way that made the course more tailored to our
interests rather than a generic one size fits all course.”
As for the remaining responses, 2.2% of the students did not provide any answer to
question 5 and 9.1% reported negative comments. Negative responses included the following
concerns: “It was difficult to stay motivated once I got a couple questions wrong because I could
not win the game,” “the same students won each time, which wasn’t fun for the rest of us,” “it
was stressful because I had to read the question and answer it so quickly I didn’t have time to
1The numbered scale contained the following designations: 1 = Strongly disagree, 2 = Disagree, 3 = Slightly
disagree, 4 = Neither disagree nor agree, 5 = Slightly agree, 6 = Agree, 7 = Strongly agree.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 7
think,” and “it seemed a little gimmicky.” Professor Neil Selwyn from Monash University
recognized a similar potential limitation of Kahoot! when he noted that being ranked doesn’t
appeal to every student similarly (Singer, 2016).
Overall, utilizing Kahoot! was a positive experience that imbued our classes with activity
and focus, and provided a way for all students, not just the extroverted students, to participate
and contribute to the learning environment. Bergin & Reilly (2005) reinforced our experience
when stating that “the use of games to promote students’ learning has been done to capture
students’ interest as all of us learn better when we are motivated” (p. 294). The immediate
feedback demonstrating how many students got the right answer was invaluable. The results
often contrasted with our impressions and assumptions about what the students knew and
understood. It allowed us to provide additional clarification and explanation and to see learning
trends in ways that traditional assessments do not. In addition, students often debated the correct
answer and related their own interpretations. This allowed for more student input regarding the
learning environment and more opportunities for us to discuss the nuances of certain issues.
Finally, we even noticed that students asked more questions. The students seemed more
comfortable asking questions when they could see other students got the wrong answer too.
Clark and Mayer (2008) note that the benefits gained from the use of new technologies
will depend on the extent to which they are used in ways compatible with the learning process.
Utilizing Kahoot! helps to support student metacognition by providing immediate feedback.
Kahoot! also offers the opportunity to not only assess students’ conceptual understandings but
also support the construction of new knowledge and understanding through further explanation
during or after the game. Raymer (2013) reinforces that engagement and learning go hand and
that you cannot have one without the other.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 8
Advantages and Disadvantages
In addition to some of the advantages discussed throughout this article (see Table 2), the
Kahoot! platform also contains other advantages: the ability to download, review, and save
students’ results; a “ghost mode” feature allows students to take quizzes multiple times and
compete against themselves for better scores; and a setting to allow instructors to adjust the
response time from 5 seconds to 120 seconds.
There are also some disadvantages about which educators and students should be aware:
there is a limit on the number of characters you can use in questions and responses; and
educators cannot ask open-ended questions or receive open-ended responses (although this
feature is reportedly coming soon).
Games like Kahoot! are an excellent choice for teaching university students given the
access to mobile devices, availability of Wi-Fi, and students’ affinity for computer games. Such
eLearning tools add positive energy, support concept exploration, and add fun to the classroom,
which seems to translate into increased comprehension and motivation. Perhaps most
significantly, the “gamification” of learning increases student engagement by appealing to all
students, even the most introverted, combining both a cooperative fast-paced learning
environment and friendly competition (Kapp, 2012). Bergin & Reilly (2005) conclude that to
some academics, the entire games industry is considered to contain little scholarly merit. Games,
especially eLearning games, are sometimes not believed to be the result of serious work or
worthy of attention. Our experience with Kahoot! reinforces that with some effort and a desire to
engage students, this eLearning platform can provide an engaging environment that supports
learning and adds active participation in the classroom.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 9
We wish to thank Dr. Joseph Seltzer for his encouragement regarding submission
of this article following a session we conducted at the Annual Mid-Atlantic
Organizational Behavior Teaching Conference at La Salle University School of Business
on March 19, 2016. We also thank him and the editors for their time and guidance during
the review process.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication
of this article.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 10
Becker, K. (2007). Digital game-based learning once removed: Teaching teachers. British
Journal of Educational Technology, 38(3), 478-488.
Becker, K. (2001). Teaching with games: The minesweeper and asteroids experience. Journal of
Computing in Small Colleges, 17(2), 23-33.
Bergin, S., & Reilly, R. (2005). The influence of motivation and comfort-level on learning to
program. Proceedings of the 17th workshop on psychology of programming – PPIG,
Boller, S. (2012, October 20). Game based learning: Why does it work? BLP News - Lessons on
Learning Blog. Retrieved from
Burguillo, J. (2010). Using game theory and competition-based learning to stimulate student
motivation and performance. Computers & Education, 55(2), 566-575.
Clark, R. & Mayer, R. (2008). eLearning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for
consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Kapp, K. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and
strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Kumar, D. (1999). Pedagogical dimensions of game playing. ACM Intelligence Magazine, 10(1).
Gagne, R. and Driscoll, M. (1988) Essentials of learning for instruction (2nd Ed.), Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 11
Inclusive Design: ICT – Kahoot! (1/ 2015). Retrieved from
Raymer, R. (2013). The rock stars of eLearning: An interview with Karl Kapp. eLearn
Magazine. Retrieved from
Singer, N. (2016, April 16). Kahoot app brings urgency of a quiz show to the classroom.
The New York Times. Retrieved from
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 12
Figure 1. Sample Kahoot! Home Page with Game Pin
Figure 2. Sample Kahoot! Bar Graph Displaying Results for Responses
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Figure 3. Sample Kahoot! Leaderboard Display with Points
Table 1. Results from Student Survey of 139 Undergraduate and Graduate Students
100% 98.2% 92.9%
Student Engagement with Kahoot!
Using Kahoot! in the Classroom 14
Table 2. Advantages of Using Kahoot! in the Classroom
Advantages of Using Kahoot!
Easy for instructors to learn
Simple process for students (no account registration or downloading of application)
Compatible with smart phones, tablets, or computers
Real time results help instructors provide clarification when needed
Music and colors add to student excitement and energy
Increases student engagement
Instructors can download, review, and save student results
Students can take quizzes multiple times
Instructors can creates quizzes, discussion questions, or surveys
Instructors can adjust the response time