Designing Learner-Centered Courses that Incorporate Social Media and Gaming

Learner-centered courses use student learning needs to create experiences where students take responsibility for their learning and make some decisions about how to demonstrate what they have learned. Incorporating technology in the course design assists with the engagement of the students and provides resources for many different ways that students can explore and verify their learning. First I will explore the key aspects of learner-centered course design, and follow up by discussing ways to incorporate different technologies, such as social media and gaming, to create learning activities and assessments.

Using a learner-centered approach, teachers create assignments that allow students to practice building connections with the content and evaluate their learning usually at a low-stakes risk. To give the learners confidence for success, learner-centered course design includes clearly defined goals and the competencies required to demonstrate proficiency beginning with formative assessment activities. Implementing technology in the course design engages the learner and allows opportunities for students to explore the content using a variety of resources, including social media outlets. Learning management systems have developed many different experiences that integrate social aspects, gaming, and a natural learner-centered vibe with content and activities, which are trends that today’s students easily relate to. 

Weimer (2013) provides the nuts and bolts for teachers to create learner-centered courses through five key changes to practice. Kitchakarn (2016) investigated to see how students perceived Facebook in terms of ease of use, usefulness, and attitude toward the use of Facebook for doing the activities in an English course. The Freeman, et al. (2014) study compares student performance in STEM courses under traditional lecturing versus active learning. These results indicate that average examination scores improved by about 6% in active learning sections and that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 1.5 times more likely to fail.

Learner-Centered Course Design 

When students are responsible for their own learning, they are required to read or watch content in advance. It helps if they think they may be required to take a pop quiz or answer question in class. This works in an online environment too. Other options include having students:

  • find academic resources including blog post and summarize and share
  • lead discussions
  • group projects
  • offer options: write a paper, post to your blog, create a presentation in VoiceThread, create a video, etc

Learner-Centered Approach

“I offer the strategy/philosophy of frequent, low-stakes (FLS) grading:
simple course evaluation methods that allow you to provide students with many grades so that an individual grade doesn’t mean much.”

Scott Warnock, PhD referenced from: Faculty Focus article at

Low-stakes evaluations increase communication with frequent feedback and allow students to evaluate and improve their own learning. These learners also need goals and competencies linked to their assignments so they recognize the importance of their work and how it applies. Learner to learner connections provides a sense of community. Having your content readily available, organized and consistent gives students the power to be in control and feel confident. 

Gamifying Components

Gamifying a course can be daunting, time-consuming and you may not get the desired results. Adding gaming components can be applied over time. You probably already have some of these components included in your course:

  • Storytelling
  • low-stake evaluation
  • immediate feedback
  • challenges
  • rewards

Social Media Tools

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook


Limited to 280 characters of text per tweet, most users share resources and news related to their business or interests.
A Tweet may contain photos, GIFs, videos, links, and text.

  • Many professionals follow their peers.
  • Tweetchat rooms for group discussions are fast-paced and require preparation.
  • Public conversation unless using direct messaging. 


Online social network for “Pinning”(sharing) links, GIFs, videos and images on a digital board. Description of a pin limited to 500 characters.

  • Boards:
    • find and follow
    • create groups
    • can be secret
    • sections
    • add collaborators
    • view without an account
    • must have an account to pin


A social networking app made for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone, emphasis on mobile use and visual sharing. Just like other social networks, you can interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and private messaging.

  • Camera lets you take photos and videos within the Instagram app and share them in Feed.
  • Home shows a feed of photos posted by you and your friends. You can like and comment on photos in your feed.
  • Activity displays likes and comments on your own posts and lets you see the photos and videos that your friends are liking and commenting on.


Online social network for users to share links, videos, and images with other users who are accepted as “Friends.”

  • Comments and text are not limited; conversational on a timeline.
  • Timeline: content shared with the owner not shown to other friends unless the owner likes or comments.
  • You must have an account to participate.


Weimer, M. (2013). ”Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice.” San
Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons

Kitchakarn, O. (2016). How Students Perceived Social Media as a Learning Tool in Enhancing their Language Learning Performance. TOJET: The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, volume 15, issue 4, p.53 – 60.

Freeman, et al. (2014). Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. Proceeding of the National Academies of Sciences of the United States of America, vol.111, number 23.

Warnock, Scott, Ph.D. (2013) “Frequent, Low-Stakes Grading: Assessment for Communication, Confidence” Faculty Focus:


Blogging and Education


Professors have found many pedagogical applications for blogging as a learning tool. Currently, most of the blogging in coursework is used to synthesize content and develop or strengthen a community of learners. As I work to complete a study on blogging, several novel ideas come to the forefront. In the following examples, students have experienced real-world applications, community bonding, professional growth, and “digital convergence” (Wilder, 2013).

David Miller and Larisa Olesova wanted to incorporate experiential learning activities to teach students majoring in media communication (Miller & Olesova, 2015). The course was called “Media Criticism,” and explained in a presentation at an annual conference for faculty and staff at George Mason University in the fall of 2014.  Their final assignment incorporated a public course blog created by the professor. The students were required to submit a paper for possible publication. The student papers critiqued and peer-reviewed, provided experience with what it would be like to go through the publication process in the real world. Continue reading “Blogging and Education”