Classcraft: Product

2013 - 2021


Classcraft's app supports educators, students, and parents by using video game mechanics in the classroom to promote positive behavior and social-emotional development. I designed and built the first beta with my co-founder and continued refining it over eight years with different teams. We eventually scaled it up to +9M users, in 11 languages, across 165 countries.



Developing Classcraft's app was a formative experience. The original concept came out of the CEO's classroom. As a high school physics teacher, he was looking for a way to gamify his instruction to foster greater student engagement and accountability. After a few years of fine-tuning a prototype, he built a simple blog to share his work online. It ended up trending on reddit, with 250,000 people visiting the site in the first week alone. That's when we decided to join forces and start the company.

We built the first beta from the ground up. I designed the app while my co-founder coded it. Eventually, as the team grew, I led our design and storytelling teams (we had a storytelling team to develop the IP and artwork) and he led the engineering team. Years later, we transitioned to a dedicated product team and delegated its leadership to a new Chief Product Officer. At that point, the CEO and I worked with the CPO on a weekly basis to advise on product strategy, the road map, the overall design system, wireframes and designs for individual features, user feedback research, and technical issues.

Main App

Classcraft's app gave each student an avatar and placed them in a team with their fellow classmates. They earned points to level up based on how they behaved in class and did academically. As they progress, they unlocked real life powers (like getting to hand in homework late or listen to music in class), skills to help their fellow teammates when they were struggling (like giving them a health boost), or cool new gear (visit the storytelling page to see the gear).

What made the experience particularly effective was how subtle game mechanics were used to move beyond techniques that drive extrinsic motivation (badges, leaderboards, etc.) to ones that drive lasting intrinsic motivation (nurturing relationships between students, creating collective win states, giving them more voice and autonomy in their own personalized learning journey, etc.).

Additional Class Features

Over time, we built out more features to support the core experience and make instruction more interactive and fun. Formative quizzes became collaborative Boss Battles, where students were working together to overcome a common enemy by answering questions correctly. The Volume Meter used the mic in the teacher's computer to monitor class volume and help them manage focus periods. Random Events were drawn at the beginning of class to create a unique condition for the duration of that class (like the pirate one below where everyone needs to speak with a pirate's accent).

Classcraft Quests

Classcraft Quests was a unique approach to personalizing learning that allowed teachers to take their existing lesson plans and turn them into narrative driven adventures. Students would uncover their unique learning pathways based on their level of competency with any given subject matter. In tandem, the Quest's story would also branch to follow that individual student's learning journey. The experience incentivized students to "binge watch" they homework and assignments to find out what would happen next in the story, leading to stronger academic outcomes.

I led the team that developed a rich story world to support the app which you can explore in more depth on the storytelling page.

Mobile App

A companion app was built to allow teachers to be more mobile in the classrooms and give out points to students as they observed different behaviors. It was also adapted for students to interact with the platform.

Administrator Analytics

Classcraft generates millions of unique data points every month. We created dashboards for administrators to better understand behavioral trends and student engagement within their schools and districts, both at a macro and micro level. We also developed systems to customize the use of Classcraft for groups or individual students who were struggling so that interventions could be tracked over time and adjusted based on the results. These tools were incredibly powerful in managing student behavior at a systemic level.

User Research and Data Driven Approach

We worked closely with educators to develop the product and make sure that what we were building had product-market fit. We initially worked with UX research firm Build Empathy to establish best practices and then eventually brought someone in-house to lead our efforts. They gathered feedback by creating prototypes we tested in classrooms, ran surveys and focus groups, and worked on an ongoing basis with a more dedicated group of teacher ambassadors. We also integrated Mixpanel into the app to capture a ton of data which helped us better understand how our users were engaging with the app and what we could do to increase conversion and retention.

Evolution Over Time

Building out an app and iterating on it over eight years was an invaluable experience that has given me a much deeper understanding of how to achieve product-market fit, optimize performance, and make better decisions that generate meaningful longterm impact.


What made Classcraft effective in the classroom was that it leveraged what students loved, games, and connected it to their day-to-day experience in school. We got countless testimonials from teachers, students, and parents validating that the approach was game-changing for them, ultimately leading to more efficiently run classes, better academic outcomes for students, and everyone generally having a lot more fun in school. I had the privilege to see the product live in dozens of classrooms. It was incredibly gratifying to witness this transformation first hand.

Other work