Social learning and gamified learning – everything you need to know

Rosie Nicholas /

Here’s how different learning methods could help employees retain important information they learn in teaching sessions – and improve your business’s performance

Think back to your childhood: how many times did you want to play your favourite computer game before finishing your homework? On those occasions, the reason why may have been because playing a game was more entertaining and engaging than completing schoolwork. You might have even watched someone playing the game, or read a review, and wanted to find out more about it and how to play – so you wanted to try it.

It’s something you may now find in the workplace: employees may not prioritise digital learning activities or eLearning courses, or find they don’t get much from these sessions. So how can you change this perception, , and encourage people to engage with virtual learning?

Gamified and social learning could be great options for your business and your employees. Here, we’ll highlight the details of these two learning methods, the benefits of each and how they can be incorporate into your employee training programme

What is gamified learning?

Gamification is when game-design elements and principles are used within a non-gaming context. It can also include activities and processes to solve problems using the characteristics of game elements. So applying this to learning means including game-based elements – and that can be anything from points and tables to teamwork and competition.

The reason behind this? It not only helps someone to understand this new information, but it also helps test their knowledge.

When gamifying learning, there are three principles you may wish to consider:

  • Rewards: positive reinforcements will help build someone’s confidence when learning. This could be a points system, or a leaderboard to encourage competition within a group
  • Progress status: a learner will engage more, and feel more empowered, if they know where they are on the learning journey
  • Feedback: instant feedback can be included here for online learning activities, so the participant can find out where they’ve made a mistake and what to do next time. The same mistakes will be made if feedback isn’t offered – leading to missing or faulty knowledge

Implementing these principles will help create a high-quality gamified learning environment for your employees.

What is social learning?

Social learning is based on the theory that we learn by watching others. We can observe anyone – such as co-workers, friends, family or educators, for example – and then copy their behaviour. Also known as social cognitive theory, it was developed by psychologist Albert Bandura and includes three parts: we learn by watching others, our mental state is important when learning, and that our behaviour may not change when we do learn.

Observational learning comprises four processes: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. It means you have to pay attention to copy behaviours, remember the behaviours, repeat them, and then be motivated to copy them.

Bandura added that a person’s motivation and mental state is important when determining if a behaviour is learned, and that external, environmental reinforcement isn’t the only factor that affects learning. Bandera stated that intrinsic reinforcement is a form of internal rewards – think of these as emotions such as the satisfaction and pride you feel when you’ve accomplished something.

Yet not all our learning will lead to a change in our behaviour. Learning to ride a bike shows if learning has occurred: you can tell this if a person can ride a bike unassisted. However, with observational learning, we can still take in new information without our behaviour being different.

What are the benefits?

There are a number of benefits to using both gamified learning and social learning. We’ll highlight how gamification can let learners feel ownership and develop skills – and how social learning improves retention and support continuous learning.

Benefits of gamified learning

  • It creates ownership: students can feel they have ownership with gamification of their learning. They’re also more relaxed because they can try again. Plus, dopamine – a pleasure-giving chemical released when doing something fun or the outcome is uncertain – happens with gamification, which encourages learning and increases retention as a student feels more connected to the teaching material
  • Teaches how to learn and think: communication, time management, competition, plus stimulating creativity and imagination, are all skills that can be applied to real-world situations. It also builds someone’s confidence by using collaborative tools and, when in groups, boost brain function and healthy brain activity
  • Everything is in one place: as a method, gamification can put a person’s education, learning and assessment into one dynamic environment for a student to use. Also, learning is more visible because of the progress indicators used here

Benefits of social learning

  • We learn this way daily: we do this both consciously and unconsciously. In the workplace, we may observe what our colleagues do and how they do it. If someone is praised for their work, their peers will analyse what happened and what they can do to get the same result
  • Improved knowledge retention: we retain more information from informal sources compared with formal ones, because we remember the voice, memories or images linked to learning from someone. Social learning also improves employee retention as they want to continue education and share ideas with colleagues – strengthening bonds and increasing loyalty
  • It supports continuous learning: it’s been reported that more than 60% of companies want employees to use learning resources every week or even every day – which may not be suitable, especially with formal sessions that may last for more than an hour. Yet social learning means employees can learn what they need with minimal interruption to their working day

Gamification and social learning for employee training

Both gamification and social learning are examples of the merging of more traditional teaching methods and practicing in real-world environments. The tools available in training environments now mean learners can practice their skills, try new things, explore their knowledge and ask questions. Instead of just reading text and completing a quiz, a learner can ask, practice, and share information.

The office environment will continue to change over the next few years – with programs such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for instance, set to become part of our daily interactions. And that may also include training, as we create groups, ask for help or share successes. Here are just some examples of both gamification and social learning that could be used in employee training.

Examples of gamified learning

  • Learning a language: Duolingo uses a number of gamification features in its app, including badges for achievements, scoreboards, collaboration with friends on Facebook, plus its own currency that can be earned when completing activities
  • Coding: the Codecademy Go app teaches software coding and development. It gives points, awards badges for certain skills, and a progress dashboard with lessons completed and next to do
  • Skills enhancement: an example from Adobe is a course it developed with multiple levels, showing the proficiency of the user as they progressed through the levels. With scenarios matching real-world situations, users go into the challenges to test their knowledge – and can ask an expert if they need help

Examples of social learning

  • Collaborate: you can work with teams to create content, and also speak with colleagues when problem-solving
  • Find and offer support: try connecting with experts in your organisation when trying to find a solution, or take part in a company mentoring programme
  • Learn new ideas: find content from other people, either online or directly. You can also try podcasts, videos and blogs

While we may already use some of these examples in our working day – sometimes without even realising it – there are benefits and uses of gamified and social learning you may not have considered. Not only can gamification encourage learning and develop skills, but social learning can increase loyalty and allow employees to learn from colleagues.

Experiencing gamification and social learning in a real-world situation will show how these learning theories will benefit both your business and employees. So request a demo of Digits LMS to find out how our solution can enable gamified and social learning in your organisation.

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