Increasing Retention and Engagement on Self-learning Apps | ReadToMe

The role of contests as student nudges on ReadToMe Student Edition


The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to inculcate tech-enabled self-learning in students. ReadToMe®, a multi-sensory AI reading and comprehension platform, was introduced as an app to enable students to continue learning their textbooks and prescribed curriculum. As schools re-opened, ReadToMe Student Edition has evolved into a medium for students to revise at home, as well as for teachers to give homework.

ReadToMe Student Edition helps students initiate self-learning. Within a few months of its launch, encouraged by their teachers, nearly 1.5M students have downloaded the app. The challenge ahead is to ensure that students engage with the app and take ownership for their own learning. Various cost-efficient methods are being explored to enable student retention and engagement.


In this paper, we are presenting the impact of ‘contests’ as a  method for motivating students. An earlier pilot has indicated a positive response from students to contests. [1] Encouraged by the response, we have developed a programmatic approach to implement and evaluate contests.

The contest that informs this paper was active from December 1 to December 31, 2022.

Awareness of this contest was created through multiple channels:

In-app notifications

Push notifications

Social media campaigns

Awareness among teachers

WhatsApp messages to students’ registered phone numbers

Presented below is the sequence of actions and events to achieve a successful response for the contest.

Figure 1: Contest Process

Figure 2: Snapshots from the social media awareness messages
Figure 3: Educational video explaining contest rules

Figure 4: Students’ view of contests on the app

The contest was targeted at students from grades 6 to 8 in Maharashtra and Punjab,  from high-density schools located in ear-marked districts. Communicating with teachers to build awareness and  WhatsApp messages to students were the targeted efforts deployed. WhatsApp messages were sent to 4,254 students per the table below:

StateNumber of students

Increased Engagement

1,655 students responded by logging into the app and clicking on the Contest button.

We examined the behavior of these 1,655 students during the one-month period of the contest (‘Period After’ in the graphs) in comparison to the one-month period before the contest (‘Period Before’ in the graphs).

Change (if any) in the number of users and engagement was examined for the following attributes:

No. of users doing any activity on the ReadToMe Student Edition app

No. of users reading a prescribed textbook on the app

> Time spent reading prescribed textbooks on the app

No. of users viewing videos on the app

> Time spent viewing videos

No. of users learning from Quick Tips on the app

No. of users doing Practice Tests on the app

The contest was successful in increasing users performing any activity on the app by 4 times (from 10% performing any activity to 40% performing any activity).

A significant increase (at 95% Confidence Level) in the number of users was observed across all activities examined.

For individual activities, students demonstrated a directional increase in time spent and the number of times the activity was performed.

Descriptive Statistics of all the activities examined are presented below:

Numerical Columns / Descriptive StatisticsCount% CountMeanSDMin25%Median75%Max
# Response Received36522.05%1.441.2511117
Contest Page Clicks1655100.00%2.493.20111344
ReadToMe Timespent 1 Month Before Contest1197.19%59.84127.020.155.9315.2562.42972.22
ReadToMe Timespent During Contest43326.16%57.71134.190.057.5820.9751.522092.35
Video_Timespent_1 Month Before_Contest342.05%2.752.930.130.441.144.359.3
Quicktips_Clicks_1 Month Before_Contest181.09%6.448.74123536
Share Button Click83350.33%2.212.10112217

App Flowthrough

We also examined how students dropped off at various points in the app after clicking the contest button. We expect contests to be the nudges that kindle flow-through behavior on the app. In the case of this contest, as stated in Figure 1, an expected student pathway would be to click on the contest button, share their information, and share their video, the video being expected to be in line with the contest rules.

The biggest drop-off of students was at the ‘Share’ button and between clicking ‘Share’ and sending their response through ‘WhatsApp’. The drop-off funnel is presented below. This will serve as the first set of benchmarks for upcoming contest campaigns.

Contest Button ClickedShare Button ClickedResponse SharedVideo SentVideo Meets Requirement
 50% (of 1,655)19% (of 1655)19% (of 1655)14% (of 1655)

Leveraging Teachers’ Influence on Participation

As part of the contest, separate incentives were also given to schools ranked on the basis of students sending responses. The intent was to felicitate, reward, and recognize the schools and teachers. The objective was to leverage teachers’ influence in creating awareness, driving student engagement, and increasing contest participation.[2]

This incentivization resulted in multiple schools demonstrating enthusiastic participation. Teachers responded overwhelmingly by having their students share videos offline (outside the app flowthrough, directly to the WhatsApp number where responses are received). 139 schools participated providing 483 responses offline.

Teachers influenced students to create videos and send these videos from teachers’ phones. This underscores the engagement of teachers in contests and their influence on students’ behaviour.


> The contest succeeded in increasing the number of students engaging with ReadToMe Student Edition.

> Students demonstrated increased engagement with various features of the app.

> Teacher incentivization led to their influence on students’ participation in the contest.

> Initial benchmarks for drop-off points in students’ app journey specifically related to contests, have been determined. These will be important benchmarks for successive campaigns.


[1] Driving Student-Initiated Learning on the ReadToMe Student Edition Mobile App – An Analysis of the Approach and its Impact,

[2] Live English Classes Influence Students’ Engagement with ReadToMe Student Edition – an Initial Study,