Following up on my previous post on social media as a tool for learning, I want to write something about social learning and gamification. Because really, this is so relevant these days – we spend hours and hours on social media and gamers spend billions of hours leveling up on their favorite video games. And who wouldn’t like the idea of learning by socializing and gamifying the learning experience?

Video games, by principle, are purely for entertainment purposes only. Major titles such as Need For Speed, Call Of Duty and the critically-acclaimed Grand Theft Auto series have little to do with education. Likewise learning, by principle, is purely about learning. Teachers would think twice before integrating a video game design into their instruction content, because said teacher would want his/her content delivery to be formal – no badges, no point systems, no nothing. So, have you ever heard of a gamified social learning experience?

A gamified social learning experience is something quite new. Yes, there is gamification and, yes, there is social learning. But, mix those two up and what do you get? Learning, with a social media context, delivered in a gamified experience. Sounds interesting right? It’s not just a plus for students because content delivery is more engaging, but also a plus for the teachers because they see inter-class interactions and collaboration.

According to nogginlabs.com, we humans have a natural desire to acquire, defend and bond, and video game companies have successfully created games based on these desires. Whether defending yourself against a horde of zombies in the Left 4 Dead series, acquiring (or more properly, conquering) enemy bases in Command and Conquer, or bonding with other sims in The Sims, you are fulfilling your natural desires. And video games by design, allow us to fulfill these desires by unlocking levels, racking up points and leveling up based on a storyline progress. That game design coupled with a social learning environment will make learners think that learning doesn’t have to be based purely on academic metrics alone.

Learning platforms are already starting to integrate social media elements such as adding friends and news feed features, so why not integrate gaming elements like gaining points such as finishing an online course, which translate to real-life incentives. Or, a lesson could become a quest/level where students have access to unlockables, gain “power-ups” and basically make the learning experience feel like they’re really playing a game.

If it isn’t enough, students can team up to finish a level and gain shared experience points. The more there are in a team, the faster they can unlock the level and gain access to the next level/lesson.

The possibilities can be furthered out by allowing students to initially start at level 1 where they have zero badges. They progress throughout each quest/lesson and at the end of every quest, like in games, comes a “boss” level which can be linked to a major exam or quiz. Each lesson progress, whether partial or full, entails students to experience points where they can then consume such points for badges, or they can specifically target a side quest/mini-game to earn a specialty badge such as “Low Light Photography Master” in a photography class. If a student fails an exam, he/she can repeat the boss level but at the expense of being left behind by the others. Learning platforms can integrate a level meter to track progress, monitor experience points and “purchase” additional items to easily finish a course. Also, learning platforms can let teachers create lessons based on genre such as a sandbox type of lesson where students “roam” in a free world but will have to complete certain levels/missions in order to progress. These lessons will have a central social hub where the teacher and his/her students can interact with each other.

Learning doesn’t have to be a all-in-one formal learning design. It has to be fun and engaging not just for the learner but for the teacher as well. Enjoyment is just as important as learning – after all, children learn from playing. Gone are the days of thinking that video games are purely for entertainment only. There are myriads of simulation games which focus on educating gamers on a particular interest such as aviation (flight simulators) or automotive engineering (racing simulators).

As always, don’t forget to post your feedback below. We’d love to have you open up healthy debates and discuss your opinions.

Author: Enzo Froilan

Enzo is a marketing consultant by profession and a passionate e-learning blogger. He’s also a Microsoft Education Ambassador and an advocate for education, so his articles discuss e-learning not just from the insights of a student but also a from a teacher’s perspective, by leveraging his experience to deliver helpful posts.