Getting Started with the Sci-napse Project

1. About the Project: 

The Sci-napse project is a nationwide project aimed at testing the use of games in the classroom. Sci-napse is run by Project teams at the University of Bristol and Manchester Metropolitan University, who will act as your contacts throughout the project and will make sure you have all of the resources you need to run the project successfully. The project is funded by our partners, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Wellcome Trust. The success of the project will be evaluated by the York Trials Unit at York University, who will be in occasional contact with you to schedule pre- and post-testing of students.

2.  Before you begin

The project uses a quiz tool called Q-fire, which can be found at:

To make an account, simply click on “Teachers”. This will take you to a page with a “create a TEACHER account” button.

To get Q-fire up and running on the school network, it is very important to contact your IT team and have them ensure that the network firewall will allow the following:

  • Usage of port 443
  • Connecting to (or * in general)
  • Allow Websocket connections

Most schools experience no difficulties using q-fire on their school network after these settings have been adjusted.

If you do experience any problems (after first checking that the network settings are correct), please go to the troubleshooting section (Section 11).

3. How the project will work

Each class will be allocated one of three different teaching conditions for the entirety of the 2016-2017 academic year, which are as follows:

Test-based Condition

You will be randomizing students to teams of 3, then using the Q-fire system to select/create questions for lessons, and presenting questions using Q-fire. You will be using Q-fire with the game-based option turned off, and teams will receive a fixed number of points for each correct answer.

Game-based Condition

You will be randomizing students to teams of 3 once a week, then using the Q-fire system to select/create questions for lessons, and presenting questions using Q-fire and so use Q-fire to create a game-based lesson. In this condition, teams will also receive points for each correct answer but you will escalate the number of points during the lesson and provide occasional bonus rounds and opportunities for individual to take a chance on doubling or losing their points.

It is important that teachers in this condition to apply what we know about effective pedagogy using the game-based approach – such as exploiting the teachable moment of revealing answers, which builds on our understanding of the brain’s reward system.

“Business as Usual” (Control) Condition

You will be teaching in whatever way you would normally teach your class. Please do not use materials, resources or methods created for the Sci-napse project.

4. Timeline of the Project

All teachers taking part in the project should train by reading through this webpage and following links for further information as necessary.


5. Preparing your lessons:

Select or create questions suitable for teaching from the Q-fire bank of questions, and add them to a quiz of your own.

You will also need to randomize your students by entering your class list into the Blank Randomising Template.
We ask that you randomly select your teams using the following steps once a week:

  1. Download the Randomising Template and cut and paste in your class list.
  2. Save a copy of this template, since once the names have been fixed, you won’t be able to re-randomize them again.
  3. Press the “Randomly sort names” button.
  4. If you spot teams whose membership raises concern (e.g. hostile enemies have been teamed up) then you can press the button again, or just tweak a little – e.g. swapping one student with another.

6. During the lesson:

Presenting questions using Q-fire

  1. At the start of the lesson, ensure that students are aware of who their teammates are, and the number of the team they will need to join. They can either be seated in these teams, or come together for the purposes of answering questions.
  2. To play your quiz you need a session to play it in, so click “new session” and then give it a name, e.g. “First Session” (note that once a quiz is committed to a session it cannot be edited – this is so we know which quiz has been played when. You can still copy it and edit to create a new version)
Start or Resume Session
  1. Click the “Resume” button next to your session, and add teams to the number required. Before you press “play”, you will see a game code (e.g. 231)under the title of your session on this page. If you students are using devices to respond, ask them to go to, to click on “Join the game” and to enter this code.
  2. Students will then be prompted to join a team, and they should join the team that they have been randomly allocated to. When a team has been selected, an icon of a mobile phone will be displayed next to the team name.

An almost blank screen with just 3 options will now appear – and will also appear after any question has been completed. On this screen you can choose to go to your “slides”, see the next question, or have a bonus round.


  1. Your slides have 2 arrows to go back/forwards with, and a “X” that takes you back to the game.


  1. On “Questions”, you will see you question and its 4 options in a randomized order.  There is a +/- to adjust the number of points for a correct answer. As soon as the question is displayed, students can start responding with their devices, and/or the teacher can enter their responses by pressing A,B, etc next to their team. When a response has been received, the word “Answered” appears that when clicked on deletes the answer.

Using Q-fire with the game-based option turned off:

If you are presenting questions in the test-based condition then uncheck “gaming enabled” at the beginning of the session.

Q-fire Student Device Interface (click on the picture to expand)

student interface

Q-fire Teacher Interface (click on the picture to expand)

Q-fire teacher interface

7. Understanding the brain’s reward system: Sci-napse Pedagogy

Educational researchers have had difficulty finding a relationship between the rewards offered and the learning achieved. On the other hand, learning is predicted by how much the brain’s reward system is activated. We are trying to increase this brain activation in using a game-based approach that includes

  • Making rewards better than expected (so please constantly escalate rewards during the game-based condition)
  • Making rewards uncertain (so the game-based condition allows students an option to “game” their winnings for a correct answer on a wheel of fortune)
  • Peer presence (so the game-based condition comprises competition between teams)

Using Q-fire to teach a game-based lesson

  1. When presenting question with gaming enabled (the default condition), the participants have the option to decide (after entering their response to the question and before the correct answer is revealed) whether they wish to game their points, should their answer be correct. The words “Not Gaming” appear and changes to “Gaming” as they choose this option. If the teacher clicks these words, this will manually reverse and override their decision.
  2. Clicking “Show Timer” at the top of the page reveals a timer that can be incremented in periods of 5 seconds and activated. This produces an audio alert– nothing else – but it can be handy to keep things paced.
  3. After clicking “Continue”, the teacher can reveal the incorrect answers by clicking on them, until the correct answer remains. Teams with correct answers are highlighted. Of these, those who were not gaming have their points allocated immediately. Clicking “Continue” again reveals the wheel of fortune, with teams highlighted who have correctly answered and have chosen to game. Click “Start” to spin the wheel.
  4. The wheel of fortune is the standard round for the game-based learning approach, but other types of round should be used occasionally, for example:
  5. Pressing “Bonus Round” at the between-question screen allows students to win points randomly – useful for upsetting the scoreboard and raising emotions. This works in a similar way to a round with questions, but teams simply pick their “lucky colour” and pressing start causes one of these colours to be randomly selected. All teams who have selected that colour received the points available.
  6. Pressing the Team Selector icon in the tool box, makes an app appear that randomly selects a team. This team can then, for example, receive a special “golden opportunity” for themselves (although other teams have to be instructed not to participate – they are not withheld from doing so by the technology)
  7. Pressing the Magic Wand icon when about to reveal the correct answer allows the teacher to spontaneously choose which option should receive points (This allows points to be awarded on the basis, for example, of a who wins and argument in a debating round)

8, Effective pedagogy using the game-based approach

There are a variety of ways in which we suggest that this approach can be used in order to fully exploit the learning opportunities that it presents.

The introduction of questions are opportunities to:

  • Explain, revisit or discuss concepts featured in the question;
  • Link concepts featured in the question to other/previous examples/concepts, including those related to students’ own experiences;
  • Use additional verbal questions and answers to explore, monitor and reward understanding of the question;
  • Elicit students’ own questions prompted by the content of the question.

The answering of questions are opportunities:

  • To encourage discussion among students;
  • For students to experience challenge but… for the teacher to ‘scaffold’ understanding of concepts when students are suitably challenged.
  • To differentiate support according to the ability of the class and, where possible/appropriate, individual teams (who might, for example, also be supported by additional information and resources).

Revealing of correct and incorrect answers to questions provide opportunities for:

  • Exploiting ‘teachable moments’ as dopamine is ramping up – explaining why answers are correct/incorrect, usually in reverse order.
  • Formative feedback, identifying and correcting misconceptions.
  • Reminding about terms.

It’s important, for maximum effect, to refer to actual answers here and not the colours or letters that are used by Q-Fire to identify each of the distractors.

Special rounds available in Q-Fire provide other opportunities:

  • Golden Opportunitiesfor individual teams help explore more advanced/challenging concepts.
  • Bonus rounds help raise excitement levels and general uncertainty over who will win the game.

9. Completion of student and teacher surveys

Educational outcomes are likely to be influenced by many factors, and so we asking for teachers in all conditions to help us collect data on student backgroundteacher background and style, and teacher reflection on their experience.

All student surveys MUST have the full student name and date of birth completed.


10. GL Assessments (Pre and Post test)

GL assessment pre-tests will be distributed by the Evaluation Team to schools that have signed up to participate in trialing them. These assessments will take around 45 minutes, and must be completed under exam conditions.

GL assessment post-tests will also be provided to all schools by the Evaluation team. As with the pre-tests, these will take around 45 minutes, and must be completed under exam conditions

11. Troubleshooting

Hopefully you won’t need this section…but if you are experiencing problems with Q-fire, please work through these flowcharts to see if the problem can be resolved (click to enlarge):

step 1 flowchart

step 2 flowchart

*If you experience persistent problems with Q-fire that can’t be resolved, please contact the Project Team, and we will assist you in setting up a fully offline classroom approach.*

Project team contacts: