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The social learning network OpenStudy has unveiled some new rewards for active participants on the site -- namely, medals and achievements -- a first step in adding game mechanics to the site.

OpenStudy provides a place where learners can find others working in similar content areas in order to support each other and answer each others' questions. The site is a recipient of one of the Gates Foundation's recent Next Generation Learning Challenges for its work building out a global study network around open courseware materials .

The gamification elements aim to meet a couple of OpenStudy's goals: to make education more accessible by distributing the responsibility of teach among an online group of peers and to make education more enjoyable by making it game-like.

Ideally, of course, the best reward for helping peers would be that altruistic satisfaction of helping a fellow student. And even without the new rewards for helping, plenty of users on OpenStudy already do just that. Some of the most loyal users of the site, in fact, are some of the most active with offering assistance.

The gamification elements will help recognize these helpful users, and hopefully encourage the behavior to spread.

Medals: If a student finds a peer helpful, they can give that person a medal. Medals are tracked at the study group level, so users will be able to see how helpful they are across different subjects.

Achievements: These will reward students for asking questions, socializing, engaging in particularly elaborate dialogue, and more. These will be rewarded both within study groups (for interacting with a particular subject) and across the site as a whole.

Fans: This will be OpenStudy's version of testimonial, so users can become "fans" of people who've helped them. As you amass fans, you can unlock new titles and move from being a "pupil" to a "hero."

After just one day in action, the site already has users who are "Super Heroes" with over 300 fans.

Look for a story from me later this week on MindShift that explores OpenStudy's new features and how gamification features like these can help encourage participation and success in OCW and OER endeavors.

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Audrey Watters


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