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Episode 31

transformed: Gamifying Student Engagement, with Shaunak Roy

Higher Digital has just published the next episode of its podcast, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promises represented by both.

In this episode, Joe Gottlieb, President and CTO of Higher Digital, sat down with Shaunak Roy, founder and CEO of Yellowdig, to discuss how gamification and social learning technologies are helping to facilitate greater student engagement and competency mastery within curricular and co-curricular settings.


Shaunak Roy, founder and CEO of Yellowdig:

Yellowdig, a community building platform designed to facilitate social learning, primarily within curricular and co-curricular settings at higher education institutions. Learn more at

Joe Gottlieb: (00:02)

Welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s, what’s required to truly transform. 

Joe Gottlieb: (00:35)

Hello and welcome to transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, president of Higher Digital. And today I am joined by Shaunak Roy, founder and CEO of Yellowdig a community building platform designed to facilitate social learning, primarily within curricular and co-curricular settings at higher education institutions. Shaunak, welcome to transformed 

Shaunak Roy: (01:04)

Joe. Good to be here. What should we talk about? 

Joe Gottlieb: (01:08)

Glad you asked Shaunak. I wanna talk about the science behind the methods used within and the results being achieved with social learning, but first tell me a bit about your personal journey and, and, and how it shaped your perspective and passion for the work that you’re doing. 

Shaunak Roy: (01:25)

So I, you know, grew up in India, engineer by training and I started Yellowdig back in 2015. So the last seven years we have been solving this problem of digitizing higher education. Um, and my passion in social learning is essentially kind of this whole idea that learning can be done better when we learn together. Um, and that has taken me to this journey where we have been fortunate to work with hundreds of institutions who have worked with us over the last seven years to build a product that we have and scale it, uh, with our clients. 

Joe Gottlieb: (02:05)

Exciting. So let’s, let’s talk about the science behind social learning, you know, what do we know about how it works? 

Shaunak Roy: (02:15)

So social learning has been around for a long time. Um, you know, this idea that the whole idea that we have campuses where, you know, students sit together in a classroom and learn from one another, hopefully they’re interacting and kind of asking questions or to the instructors to the peer group has been there for a long, long time. The idea to replicate that in a digital environment is new. Um, especially as you know, with COVID online, blended high flex, these kind of new models are coming up faster than ever, but how do we make these models a lot more engaging? Like you would, you know, imagine when you’re sitting with your instructor, that instructor who truly engages you kind of gets you activated kind of, you know, make sure that, you know, you are not only just reading the materials, but you’re actually trying to consume it and connecting it with the world that you’re living in. But how do you do this? Online is an unsolved problem. And that’s kind of an area that we are focusing on. 

Joe Gottlieb: (03:14)

Well, I know you’ve looked at the methods employed in gamification and, uh, while gamification may take a lot of forms to me, it it’s all about making something more motivating because there are some well understood rules and perhaps rewards for progressing. And maybe gamification is also about making it a bit more safe, right. But I know you’ve taken away from that world. Um, some of the science that works there and applied it to what you’re doing with Yellowdig. So let’s talk a bit about that. 

Shaunak Roy: (03:51)

So game full learning, or, you know, gamification broadly, I mean, there is a big science to that and we can talk about that, but I think there is another interesting aspect, which is, you know, centered around behavior and behavior change. You know, if you have seen a young person, like I have two kids, um, and I’ve seen them how excited they are when they’re playing their games. Like there’s so many games these days. I mean, if you just go online and there’s so much out there, they would love to play games and not go to school or take their courses. So that tells us that what kind of impact game for learning or gamification has, uh, or potential it has in transforming what they want to learn. The, the only question is we don’t know whether that those games are good or bad for them. 

Shaunak Roy: (04:37)

So I think this whole idea that we can use some of the concepts of game full or  gamification and apply to learning is quite powerful and quite attractive. That got me excited about this whole topic. Uh, because one of my ideas that we initially started with is that how do we change this whole experience around learning, which is traditionally not that exciting. Like if you have a student and you ask them to do an exercise or some assignment, I mean, the typical behavior is to wait till a deadline, which could be like Sunday, midnight, and they’ll open the laptop like five minutes before and just fill up the homework and just get done with it. That’s I would say is a predominant behavior by a lot of our students. And, you know, too often we may blame them saying that they’re not excited about what we are teaching, but we should also take a look at and see that how we have designed that learning experience. 

Shaunak Roy: (05:26)

Why is it not more exciting for them just like the way they play their most favorite games? Right. So that’s the behavior side where gameful learning has a, has a lot of opportunity and on the science side of things, um, and you know, this all started with this whole idea of this, um, intrinsic motivation. There are two researchers or two psychologists. Um, I think Edward, Edward Desai and Richard Ryan, you can probably get the names from, you know, they were the names, if not wrong, uh, in the eighties, they started this whole area. And what ended up happening, what they found is that, you know, if the students are much more motivated by their intrinsic desires, it leads to much better outcome in terms of they follow through. And, um, and, and kind of, you know, learning something new or kind of really being passionate about the subject. And there are concepts behind these, this whole theory of intrinsic motivation around agency connectedness and, um, and mastery, which are, which it drives and which why, what makes games so exciting. Um, and we have used some of those concepts in building a platform. 

Joe Gottlieb: (06:38)

Got it. So I, you just talked about agency, uh, connect mastery and connectedness. So I, I guess I, I could see, um, agency is all about feeling, not sovereign per se, but feeling, uh, a sense of control of their, of their own role in, in the setting and, and ability to, to engage in a way that, um, feels, um, perhaps a bit safe or, or, or specific. Um, I, I get connectedness because the whole social aspect is all about being connected to others. And we draw from that. And while it might be intimidating, it’s also the same things that make it intimidating, make it exciting and ultimately yield the, the real social benefits that we, we know the human craves , but the, I I’m wondering about mastery, um, how does mastery show up? Because that feels like, um, that feels like it it’s getting onto the real application of something that has been learned. And how do you see that actually, uh, facilitated or accelerated or improved or enhanced by, by this social learning construct? 

Shaunak Roy: (07:55)

Yep. No, that’s a great question. So, you know, when, when we think about mastery, if you think about why we need mastery in education, I think the, you know, we get grades for example, right? At the end of the course of a program that we take, we get a, a, or B, R a C that tells us how much mastery we have built in that subject. And now if you look at competency based education, now we are even breaking it down at particular skills where people can rate you on certain skills that you’re building on not building. And that kind of gives you a map of your skill sets, but the, the process of mastery is not always the way that we kind of, the outcomes that we’re looking for, which is those great. So the process is actually quite messy, like, think about when you’re playing a game, right. 

Shaunak Roy: (08:39)

When we start a new game or even, you know, learning a new subject, we often try to, we, we learn by failing. Mm, right. I mean, you know, starting a game, like, okay, you want to go to the next level, but you can fail and you try, and then kind of, you know, you kind of give up at some point and come back and you get to the next level and you find like, oh my God, I’m so excited. Now I’ve learned this one thing. Then we, then you go to the next level. So these are small incremental improvements that you make on the process. Lot of failing, lot of winning get, make a small win. And then you kind of keep on, uh, keep on the path to ultimately you kind of, you know, get whatever level you want to achieve, or maybe the, you know, grade eight. 

Shaunak Roy: (09:18)

So that’s the typical process that happens in game. You know, that very well. But if you think about classroom today, it doesn’t happen quite like that, right. Classroom experiences that you probably are given a test. And if you fail in that test, you kind of go back and maybe hopefully win the next test. And maybe at some point you might fail off. And if you failed, then you are pretty much done. And you’re demotivated by that time. So what we try to do is we try to give small wins to our learners, to our social learning platform and have let them fail. So we don’t judge them based on their contribution in that platform. So somebody says something, maybe I have a question. The question could be pretty stupid, right. May not have, but you’re not getting judged by that question. But the answer that you get may give you some information. And based on that, you make a post, maybe some people will respond to that post. Maybe you get a badge or an accolade. That’s something we have in our platform. But these like incremental small movements actually helps you build mastery towards a subject that you’re trying to learn. So that’s how we implement mastery, um, in our platform. Um, if that makes sense. 

Joe Gottlieb: (10:27)

Yeah. Wow. I love the idea of a breakthrough in first recognizing, but then second acting on what it implies. This notion of you learn by failing small and fast. You, you, you, you optimize and accelerate your learning by, and that’s what good games do. Right. Good games. And I can only speak to games maybe because I’ve, I’ve played, ’em do, right. Like we’ve all, maybe we’ve all played games, but a really well designed game allows you to, there’s not too high, a penalty to suffer the failure. In fact, it’s, it’s narrowed the, the, the, the, the, the, the units of game that you’re consuming are small enough. So that even though you’ve made a, you’ve made a mistake, and now, you know, that this round, you’re not gonna win. It’s relatively short and painless before now, you get to apply what you just learned and try again. And, um, I love the idea of that showing up in a form that is now, uh, orchestrating a series of these fail small and fast. So you can accelerate learning and not to mention the idea of like the social component. 

Shaunak Roy: (11:45)

that, that that’s, that’s, that’s absolutely right. I mean, I’m glad that you can really, you know, summarized it so nicely. Uh, there, Joe, and, and the other thing I’ll say is that what happens in this process of failing and winning is that you go deeper in that subject, because the way to learn anything new is not by getting it right all the time, and actually getting it wrong. And also learning about how many ways it can go wrong. That gives you more information about how to get it right. So this whole idea that going deeper, and that is one of the issues we have, you know, not just broadly in education, because the way it’s structured is the industrial model, right. Is kind of pushing through people through a certain way. And it’s almost like some people fail off. And if they, you know, you fail. 

Shaunak Roy: (12:30)

So sorry about that. And some people gonna win to this newer model where you can actually, you know, go deeper into any subject by trying by trial and error and in a safe way so that you don’t get judged. Part of the reason it doesn’t happen in, in regular learning design is that people get judged when they fail, like, think about if I’m a learner sitting in a classroom. And if I have a question raising my hand and asking a question, which I might look kind of bad or stupid in, in front of my peers, there’s a lot of pressure to actually be right all the time. And I’m being judged to be getting that a or B or a plus, whatever it is, right. I wanna pass. But hopefully with a good grade creates this whole incentive structure, which is well designed well intended based on the industrial model that we are coming from, but it doesn’t, it’s not really suitable for how human beings learn and get motivated. 

Shaunak Roy: (13:23)

So, and what I say there is this whole idea of social gameful learning is, um, is, is a model, which is only possible using technology, right? Without technology, you can’t even think of doing it right, because, you know, you know, there’s no way of measuring it because our entire learning design is based on the whole way of doing it, which is mostly manual. So using technology, you can bring in this competence of game, full social, and kind of merge it together, look at the data, look at the actual performance of the learner, because you have data now to kinda see who is winning, who is not, who’s struggling and help them towards getting whatever mastery they’re looking for in that subject area. And if, if somebody could not get to that level, I mean, it happens in games, right. You never get to level to a level three, but you know that, and you know, that which level you’re stuck so that you can now take that data and kind of actually help them achieve their potential. 

Joe Gottlieb: (14:17)

Gotcha. Okay. So let’s now talk about how the, how the platform actually works. So let’s break it down and it’d be great. If, if you could, you could describe the platform with some examples. Cause what my, where my head’s racing towards this is exciting is wow, this comes down to really thinking about the layering of a topic. And when you said go deep, right, go deep through these fail, fail iterations. But also these, this, this effort to engage socially, to maybe get other opinions and perspectives, right. I imagine the layering of the rules of economics, you know, like, and you discover a foundational rule and you start to apply it universally, and then, oh, no, it doesn’t apply to this. Let me give you the, the secondary rule that kicks in, in that situation. And now you’re, you failed because you over applied the first rule, I’m making all this up. Of course, cuz I have, I do not have a degree in economics, but um, tell me about how it works. 

Shaunak Roy: (15:14)

Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, you kind of hint, you know, you kind of like touched on some of the things that we do in the platform, but let me explain the way it works is let’s take the example that you are teaching economics to a group of students, right? And you’re not using Yellowdig. And then what happens when you use Yellowdig, if you’re not using Yellowdig, what typically happens is you have your subject, you have your materials, you have your course plan, your assignments that you can teach on a cadence like on a weekly to biweekly basis and you give their assignments out so that students can come respond. Sometimes these are discussion assignments. They have to write something up on some topic that they’re excited about or they are learning about and they get feedback. They get a grade on it. That’s your traditional way of teaching? 

Shaunak Roy: (15:57)

The challenge in that is of course it’s a very one size fits all it’s designed for the average, right? And it has less flexibility around the edges. You can’t really talk about things that you are excited about. You can’t really talk about things that you’re reading in the popular press or something happened in the real world, such as our inflation rate is 8%. Like what does that mean in all the things that we are discussing, right? Those connections actually get you motivated about the topic, right? Otherwise you’re just kind of going through the motions. That’s what happens today. Yellowdig is essentially a lightweight way. It’s almost like a plug and play to add yellow dig in your course, which is technically dropping, adding in, you know, in learning admin system. If you’re using a system or you can also use as a standalone platform, which adds in this social discussion layer around it. 

Shaunak Roy: (16:44)

So as an instructor, you are still providing the fundamentals or the, you know, what are the basic things that you want to teach or your course materials. You still have your assignments because that’s how you’ve designed it. You are getting your feedback whichever way you have done it. Right? All the analytic does is that provides that community layer around it so that the, the students can be more active in discussing whatever is coming up, could be questions that they have like week one, Hey, I have no idea what is being taught. Like I just don’t understand the basics. So you can ask those dumb questions, get feedback from the instructor or more importantly, your peer group, because a lot of people probably know that what you’re asking about, right? And it starts creating those bonds with people that doesn’t happen. And you, it kind of also brings in all these like dimensions, like you’re not being judged. 

Shaunak Roy: (17:32)

We are kind of really kinda engaging with one another. And as the weeks progresses, you are getting into the higher order of thinking where now you are discussing deeper topics. You’re bringing in examples. You are, you know, and the, the instructors can run simulations where you actually can create simulations. Like think about week three. We are now really going to analyze a problem from three different points of views. One third of the class can discuss this point of view. One third can discuss this point of view. The other third can discuss this point of view, right? This kind of dynamic information sharing and kind of really analyzing asynchronously. It does. It’s not bound to your class time. It’s very hard to do. There is no platform to do it. So that’s what YOIC does and how we make sure that everybody’s engaged is through gameful learning, where people get points. 

Shaunak Roy: (18:19)

So the very simple rule is all the expectation is that if you’re taking my course, if I am a teacher, you ought to participate. That’s the basic rule. Like just like raising your hand and you’re just not listening. You gotta ought to participate, but there are various ways you can participate. There’s only one way and you can participate any time, essentially, right from your dorm 9:00 PM in the night, doesn’t matter, open yellowing and actually engage with your classmates. Uh, that’s the basic rule and you earn points through a variety of activities like posting, commenting, reacting, getting accolades, because you’ve shared something interesting. All of that is automated. So the instructor doesn’t have to do much other than setting up the rules of the game, which is something we have in the platform. It’s highly customizable and watching the data in the back end to see who’s engaging, who is not engaging because that tells a lot, you know, if, if you have a student who is kind of sitting in the back and then not at all engaging in the platform, even though that maybe there’s something needed, like maybe that person has struggling or not at all interested, maybe there is a need for a conversation, or you may have another student who is not speaking in the classroom. 

Shaunak Roy: (19:27)

That happens a lot, but very active in the discussions, which is great sign because that, that doesn’t mean they’re not engaged. They’re actually deep, but they’re not baby speaking up, which is fine. Uh, you know, in some cases. So, so it provides you all sorts of data to kind of really make your learning a lot more dynamic. 

Joe Gottlieb: (19:46)

So it would occur to me then. Well, I, I, it, it, it prompts me to wonder how, what the, what the success and failure modes look like when you, when you roll this out at an institution, I gotta believe that one part of this is how receptive and able, uh, various instructors are at, at now starting to utilize this channel, this, this, this aspect of the learning experience so that they can be the, the instructor, the professor, like they were in complete, you know, control of the, the, the original domain, the face to face domain, right? Like I imagine there’s some better than others. I imagine some folks, you know, don’t want to be taught new tricks. How do you see this playing outed institutions and, and how can institutions, how have they, um, helped along the adoption and, and, and results, uh, with your platform? 

Shaunak Roy: (20:47)

You know, so as you pointed out, it’s only not the technology, but I think the bigger thing is the change in higher education, because, you know, higher education did not really need these kind of technologies, right? You would still get your students, you can still get them through, but now increasingly they’re more competitive, you know, competing with lots of other options that are available to the students. So that is driving some of these need for change. Um, and, and the other thing that we find is that, you know, teachers or people who get into teaching always wanted to actually provide very engaging experiences. Like nobody gets into teaching saying that I’m, I don’t want to interact with anybody. But if you think about the traditional model, it is very hard to do, like getting students engaged in the classroom is a lot of work. There’s a lot of preparation needed. 

Shaunak Roy: (21:34)

What we are doing essentially is that giving them this opportunity to kind of, you know, be more creative and explore their teaching ability with, with our digital platform, which opens up this new window, which wasn’t there before. So the way we typically find is that we have these group of faculties who are typically the earlier author. They are always looking for this opportunity. Now they have this to do that. Um, and we always go for them first so that they can be the example for the rest of the faculties and the rest of the institution that this can be done at scale. So that’s how we get started. We kind of get them going. We track that we provide do studies with them to kind of show them that the impact on the students that it’s having. And the other aspect we see is that once that happens, then it’s a, it’s a change management for the institution, especially the higher ups to kind of see that value and, and, and kind of taking that and kind of adopting across the board, uh, pretty much like all their courses. 

Shaunak Roy: (22:34)

And we have clients who’ve gone from a few courses to thousands of courses. They’re using us now to scale, especially the online institutions are moving much faster. Um, and, and that can happen through leadership right from the top to kind of really adopt this new model of teaching. Um, uh, but, but that’s not easy as you’re pointing out. I mean, that is where we are spending a lot of time to talk our institutions to our clients to kind of really make that change happen. Uh, so that they’re not afraid of technology afraid of not, you know, digital enabled teaching and learning, which is a new thing for a lot of people. 

Joe Gottlieb: (23:07)

Yeah. It feels like it’s part of this broader set of trends and opportunities and challenges revolving around how do we, how do we evolve the student experience? How do we evolve the quality of teaching and learning? And COVID, I think it’s been offset that it, it accelerated the need to figure it out, but ultimately I think left us in a better position to really capitalize upon the unique combinations of face to face and digital teaching and learning that where there’s, they, they have respective strengths and, and when used in concert can be very powerful, especially when you consider asynchronous, when you consider different, um, social behaviors and, and different people have different comfort levels. Right. I think I see, I see this as back to the agency, right? And the connectedness, those are two things that work for you in probably all the scenarios. And so you can lift, you can lift the whole tide, um, with some mechanisms that take advantage of that. 

Joe Gottlieb: (24:17)

But now let’s talk a little bit about the potential dark side, like social media platforms, if I may just call out a whole category that, that you aren’t in, but you are, you’re tapping into some constructs that have been wildly popular in the social media world, but I’ve also come with some dark side, some trade offs. Right. And so I’m wondering about how you’ve either designed around or how you navigate some of these sensitivities things like FOMO, right. And, or some people may not wanna have everything, um, translated to a score and that be visible for all to see, right. Because they were probably more, maybe safe and comfortable with, um, let’s just say, failure in isolation, it’s confidential. Right. If I’m struggling, it’s my, you know, my thing, and in a face to face classroom, I may might be able to hide that more easily. So talk to me about how you’ve grappled with that. Um, and some of the, some of the trade offs with social media. 

Shaunak Roy: (25:17)

Yeah. No, that’s a great topic. Um, and you know, if you think about like what’s happening in the world right now, if you think about the news, Twitter is in the news right now, because, you know, it’s, you know, it’s less about how much value it’s providing, but it’s more about like who is winning, who is losing. And clearly there are different polarities happening and for good reasons, because people feel that they’re not being heard or maybe they’re whatever their posting is getting suppressed. So I’ll categorize this into two areas for us to think about. And I’ll kind of talk about how we are kind of combating both of them. And it’s a process that we are under the first area is who has control one of the big problems of social media. If you think about Facebook, Twitter, you know, Snapchat and, um, you know, LinkedIn for Alexa stand, we have TikTok now, which is also kind of, you know, the question there becomes is who has control on those platforms. 

Shaunak Roy: (26:08)

So that it’s fair for the audience, right? So that’s a big question in social media in general. And there’s no clear answer because they’re trying to centralize all control, like one person going to dictate what kind of an experience you’re gonna get in that platform. People understand the value of social media intuitively it connects people, it gets ideas, it drives new ideas and it, you know, gives exposure to people. I think those benefits are all seen, but there’s a huge debate around control in our platform. We decided that we, as a company are not going to dictate control. We are going to the tooling, meaning how you want to deploy. What kind of, what are the configuration of the feed that you see? What are the changes that you want to see in the platform is to the institution and to the instructors mm-hmm . 

Shaunak Roy: (26:55)

So there’s a whole bunch of administration in our platform where the institution can decide how they want to deploy yellow deck, who gets access within those environments. Like for example, when you’re using in a classroom, like the data is not shared outside of the classroom, there’s no way for anybody to get access to that. Unless you come from the LMS and you’re authenticated as a student and the instructor in that environment can decide what kind of controls are available. There are a whole bunch of tools and functionalities. We just, the instructor can decide, like, for example, you know, what should be my point system? What kind of activities will get points? Can you post anonymously? Right? And we have a functionality that you can be anonymous when posting, but is that on or off, the instructor decides. So we as a platform provide the capability, but we don’t decide for you. 

Shaunak Roy: (27:41)

That is one thing we decided, but I think that’s needed for learning because that is the instructor or the teachers know best. That’s kind of our philosophy. And then of course the institution has the next layer of control around it because they are the, the governing body for that, you know, institution. So number one, and the number two is, you know, a big topic that I am personally passionate about this whole eco chamber impact, which is depending on which side you are in social media, you only get, see posts and comments around it, right? So you have seen in Facebook, you like something, you get three other articles, just exactly like that, that kind of puts you in one direction. And you know, the other thing can happen in the other direction. And the reason they do that is because they are maximizing clicks. 

Shaunak Roy: (28:27)

That’s the business model, right? I mean, if you have more clicks, you have more advertisement dollars and that’s okay. Get funded. We don’t do that. Our business model is licensing a platform to the institution. So we are not maximizing engagement in that fashion, but we are only maximizing for learning outcomes. We have a internal research team that looks as data across the platform and looks for feedback from instructors. What kind of functionality drives a best learning outcome in terms of more listening, more interacting, more sharing, um, and the better NPS course that we measure. Um, and we decide like that. So I think there are a bunch of things, but these are the two big areas, uh, how we are distinguishing from those platforms out there 

Joe Gottlieb: (29:10)

Both make a lot of sense, John. I, I, I really, I mean, you, you took that thing. That could be a real challenge and it, it you’ve related it well to what remains a challenge with these social media platforms, but, uh, presents an opportunity for each institution and instructor to make this their own and to have, um, and to have a, a, a local fairness steward, someone who’s facilitating outcomes. And I love the disconnect from the business model of advertising. Okay. Briefly, what can you, what, what sort of results that you’d say, what are some of the best stories that you could, uh, share about the impact that, that this platform is having on, on learning? Cause that’s really what this is all about transforming learning and, uh, in this space. 

Shaunak Roy: (29:56)

Well, I mean, you know, we, we look at, you know, from an impact center, by their three stakeholder students, faculty, teachers, and administrators, we kind of talk to all the audiences. So for students, we hear all the time that, you know, mostly students are so disengaged sometimes from these programs, they’re not talking to one another, they’re just going by the motions. And we hear from our students, um, you know, pretty often I would say every week we hear from them saying that how excited they are actually to get to their, meet their peer group. Uh, we just did a webinar last week. Um, and you know, we, we invited five students from five different institutions, which are all using us and we asked them questions around, what do you find useful? And, and they all talked about discussion boards. I mean, I sometimes go there where there’s no real actual discussion, they’re all assignments. 

Shaunak Roy: (30:44)

And here we are actually talking, we are discussing and, and they go deeper in their learning, which is what we look for, um, for the ins, for the instructors. I mean, we are looking for that energy. Um, you know, instructors tell us that one of the instructors told us that they, every morning when they wake up, they open up yellow day with the first cup of coffee. And they’re reading what the students are saying. I mean, you know, it’s exciting for the instructors to say something like that. They’re not grading and they’re worrying about it. That are, my grades are due tonight, but it’s like, Hey, I’m just reading what my students are talking about on the subject that I care about, um, exciting for us. And we want to see that more energizing them with our, with our, you know, with our social learning platform. 

Shaunak Roy: (31:25)

And for administrators, you know, it typically comes down to, uh, retention progression, which is a big problem. As you know, like one third of college students don’t graduate. They’re actually simply dropping out the, the retention rates or completion of courses, as well as persistence from coast to courses going down, especially as online and hybrid learning is growing rapidly. You know, not unsurprisingly people have more options, so they’re just dropping out for a variety of reasons. Um, and, and we know we have done research on that is, um, and, and there are studies out there, um, where we have shown that if you have more connectivity, just more social connection, those, you know, those numbers go down, so essentially have more retention as a result. Um, and I’ve been scared about it. So these are things to we measured. Yeah. 

Joe Gottlieb: (32:16)

All right. So in summary, what let’s give our listeners three takeaways to, to bring this to a close that they can, that they can think about on the topic of social learning. 

Shaunak Roy: (32:28)

So, you know, the three things that come to my mind that first I’ll say is, um, intrinsic motivation, um, you know, social learning actually creates that motivation in students, um, where, um, they are actually excited to be there and learn, uh, you know, how awesome will it be for students to actually think about their learning as their video games, where like, Hey, I want to be there. And I want to actually talk to my peers and share my ideas because I matter having that voice makes a big difference. So that’s kind of the one first point. Um, second I would say is outcomes are important. Um, even though social learning is great and you can do many of these, um, there are games available also, but always keeping an eye that is this going to be helpful for the learning experience, just because they’re engaged doesn’t mean that’s good for them. 

Shaunak Roy: (33:15)

So doing more studies and kind of looking at the data and looking at kind of what kind of, you know, correlating that data with some of the outcomes that you’re measuring in terms of better grades or maybe, um, retention improvements, uh, is important. And the third thing I would say is this whole overall experience, um, you know, learning experience, wasn’t a thing like if you, if I go back five years back and asked, uh, you know, a Dean of a business school and saying, what kind of experiences do you provide? They were like, we are a well known school, so maybe students will just come. But I think increasingly making sure that the students are enjoying whatever they’re lying, it’s a joyful experience is important. Um, and, and I think through social gainful learning, um, and ways of figuring out how to kind of connecting the learners, I think that experience can be much higher than not having it. So I think that would be my, kind of the last thing I’ll kinda share. 

Joe Gottlieb: (34:13)

Excellent, great point to end on Shawn. Thank you so much for joining me today. Really enjoyed talking to you, 

Shaunak Roy: (34:19)

Uh, same here. Uh, Joe really enjoyed this conversation. So looking forward to, uh, you know, remaining in touch and hearing your episodes. 

Joe Gottlieb: (34:28)

All right. And thanks to our guests for joining us as well, have a great day, and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.


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As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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