Leaderboards in Education: What are its applications?

Using game mechanics and interactive reward systems in the classroom setting has been a particularly successful case of gamification, with students showing marked gains in performance and interest compared to standard teaching methods. Using social leaderboards in the classroom as a tool for learning, though, is a little tougher. For one, leaderboards tends to inhibit competition, a quality that isn’t often welcomed in the educational community. The fact that leaderboards publicize who’s doing better than who and can also be inappropriate in some academic settings (nobody wants the struggling learner to be publicly shamed by a leaderboard), especially with younger students. I believe, however, that leaderboards have a place in the classroom as shown last year by Temple University’s successful implementation. Here are some of my thoughts about the future uses of leaderboards in education:

  • Test Prep Courses

I see this as working  both online and in-class. Completion of exercises and good performance on practice tests or section quizzes get you points. In addition to a total leaderboard, sectional leaderboards can also be created to encourage students to excel across the entire course.

  • Attendance and behavior

This is an easy one. Students who come to class on time everyday and have good behavior are given points  after every class, but this metric is pretty boring, so using it in conjunction with some other metrics could be a good idea and give a more holistic view about how a student is doing in the class.

  • Group Challenges

Groups of students are given challenges and are given points based upon correctness or rank of completion. Students could maintain their points given to the group and can work in different groups throughout the year. This type of leaderboard can distinguish the best team -workers in the class.

  • Online discussion groups and journal entries

Active commenters and comments that spark discussion can be rewarded with points given by the class instructor. Conversely, poor comments can result in a reduction of points. At certain thresholds, students are given badges for their participation to recognize their work, and are possibly able to sponsor certain comments made by others that are boosted to the top of the page.

  • School Fundraisers

Leaderboards are often used in school fundraisers to rank the amount of money raised by students or between class years, but they can go beyond that. For example, students can be given points for raising awareness about the fundraiser around the web and social networks, or entire schools can compete for the most funds raised towards the same or different causes.  More technological leaderboards could adjust performance to school size to level the playing field and allow for more schools to participate.


If you are an educator interested in using leaderboards in your classroom, or a person with ideas about how leaderboards can fit into education, please consider filling out our survey found here to help us in our research!

Patrick Schwarz

Hi everyone! I'm Patrick Schwarz, a sophomore at Swarthmore College in PA, USA studying economics and math. I'm always down to have a good talk about philosophy, technology and Starcraft II, and enjoy spending my weekends on the ski slopes if I can. I'm excited to help start leaderboarding the world!

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