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What Teachers can learn from Candy Crush

New research reveals how the strategies of Candy Crush can be embedded into course design to motivate students

Boston, MA, August 4 2015 – Engaging and motivating students in their studies is one of the biggest challenges faced by teachers today, with recent statistics* stating that over 40 per cent of full time four-year college students in the US fail to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years and many never complete their education.

A potential solution to this problem has been identified by a mother and daughter research team from the University of Akron, USA, in a new study from Emerald Group Publishing, global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society.

Evangeline Marlos Varonis, Instructional Designer from the university’s Design and Development Services department, and Maria Evangeline Varonis, English teacher, are both casual players of King Digital Entertainment’s game Candy Crush Saga. This led them to question what it is about the game that drives them to keep playing.

The article, ‘Deconstructing Candy Crush: what instructional design can learn from game design’ from Emerald’s International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, reveals how the strategies used in the game can be applied to academic course design in order to motivate students to persist and to enhance learning outcomes.

Evangeline Marlos Varonis explains: “As our students can become disillusioned with traditional course design methods, a major part of my role as an Instructional Designer is to research alternative ways of delivering course content. Gamification, using game design elements in non-game contexts, is a growing trend which has influenced our work in recent years. This led us to question how Candy Crush motivates players to continue. What began as participant observation soon expanded into a full ‘deconstruction’ of the game's features.

“Our study identifies the key strategies used by the game and illustrates how these can be embedded into course design in order to help keep students focussed and engaged, and to motivate them to continue through their course right up until completion.”

As part of  Emerald’s dedication to highlighting current research through informative and thought provoking content, we have produced an infographic inspired by this study called ‘Designing an academic course? Five tips from Candy Crush you need to know’which is available to view and share on a dedicated web page together with related research articles.

Complimentary access to the original article is also available until the end of August 2015.

Notes to editors: *Source -National Centre for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research’s report: ‘Understanding the College Dropout Population’, Jan14. Data correct as of 29.07.15

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Emerald Publishing was founded in 1967 to champion new ideas that would advance the research and practice of business and management. Today, we continue to nurture fresh thinking in applied fields where we feel we can make a real difference, now also including health and social care, education and engineering. We publish over 300 journals, more than 2,500 books and over 1,500 case studies, via our dedicated research platform


Dawn Williams
Content Communications Executive
Emerald Publishing Limited
Phone: +44 (0) 1274 785226