By Angel Green, senior instructional strategist | @LearnerAdvocate
Last week, I hosted a webinar on the Gamification of e-Learning. In this webinar, I discussed how instructional designers and organizations can (and should) incorporate game mechanics and design into their training programs. To help facilitate this process, I presented the Allen Interactions Taxonomy Alignment for Gaming (TAG). TAG is a model, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which helps instructional designers and organizations begin to brainstorm game types based on learner and organizational needs.
During the webinar, I paused several times for question and answers, and I wanted share several of the questions that were asked and my responses to them.
SMEs develop content and love the e-read format. How do you introduce them to games? – Alice
Alice, I hope you know you’re not alone! I’m not sure there is an instructional designer that I’ve met who can’t share a story of a time when a Subject Matter Expert (SME) went “content crazy” on a course. It happens to all of us. But, we have to demonstrate that we, as instructional designers, are the experts on how adults learn and what motivates them to change performance. Now, this means we actually have to do some homework ourselves, staying abreast of new research, participating in continuing professional development, etc. We have to be consultants and offer them insight on these topics.
We have to believe strongly enough to convince others that people won’t just read content and apply it to their job unless they are motivated to do so. Then, we have to learn how to increase learner motivation and engagement in the courses they are taking. If you need proof or to do some background investigation yourself, there is no shortage of things for you to review. There is an abundance of reliable white papers, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, books, and research reports that point to evidence of how game play engages the mind, several of which I sited in the Practitioner’s Guide to TAG, which was part of the webinar package.
If your SMEs really want to ensure their content is available to employees, you can also suggest alternative delivery formats of that content. One of the major advancements in the modern corporate environment is the mechanisms by which we are now able to share content. While once an e-learning course packaged on the LMS was a reliable method of sharing version-controlled content source, today’s corporations have many other, better-suited methods of content sharing. These include portals, SharePoint sites, intranets, and other server-based document repositories. There are even really cool, interactive methods of allowing learners to navigate through content, such as infographics, interactive timelines, or even 3D exploration experiences. The benefit of holding content in these places, rather than in an e-learning course, is two-fold:
- First, you reduce the burden on the learner. These delivery mechanisms are often easier to search and navigate, they are easier to access, and they are (usually) readily available from multiple platforms.
- Second, you reduce the burden on maintenance. When a new version of the document is available, you replace the old one. You don’t have to spend time and money updating an e-learning course containing all this information.
How did your clients know if the games were successful in changing employee’s behavior vs. instructor-led training or boring e-learning? – Nancy
Ah, the coveted measurement question. We have a few very strong examples of when clients measured existing business metrics before and after the implementation of a new approach to training. Essilor, the world’s leading eyeglass lens manufacturing company, is an example of measured success. Essilor saw approximately 7 million dollars in annual savings of lab breakage and error-redos at their plants after implementing a blended training initiative. AutoNation is another prime example where we were able to take a pilot group through the new training experience and leave a control group in the existing 100% ILT training. The pilot group outshined the control group on every measure. We have a case study on this program available here.
How do you justify costs for gaming it up when text-based can work? – Melissa
Well, I suppose if you genuinely believe that text-based can work to change the performance of the learner, then it would be a difficult justification. There is a wealth of research on human behavior and motivation that points to the fact that unless a learner is intrinsically motivated to learn the content and understands how he/she can apply that knowledge to the behavior you are looking for, they likely won’t. In my answer to Alice, I suggest alternative methods by which organizations might share content with an audience that are better suited for information sharing. We believe that e-learning (and all training in a corporate environment) should be focused on getting people to do the right thing at the right time. And, that training events need to focus on performance, not on content. When you believe in those, then you look for ways to provide instructional interactivity in your courses—the gaming methods in the webinar align very nicely with our CCAF-based Design Model consisting of Context, Challenge, Activity, Feedback.
Of course, if it’s just a matter of semantics (if you feel the word game has some negative connotations of being too frivolous for the work environment), you can call these “activities”, "interactions” or, in some cases, “role-plays.”
I hope the answers helped clarify some of the great questions we had during the webinar. If you are interested in getting access to the on-demand webinar and Practitioner’s Guide to TAG, you can find it here. To learn more about how to build the type of games we discussed, you can access the popular on-demand Serious Games for e-Learning webinar delivered by Steve Lee.
By Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards
the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.
Such a simple word.
Yet how powerful it can be in creating e-learning that works. Context is a critical component of our CCAF-based Model (Context-Challenge-Activity-Feedback) for instructional interactivity created by Michael Allen. Of course, all learning takes place in some context. But I’m afraid its very ordinariness causes context to be largely overlooked in how critical it is to designing a good interaction.
There is always context, whether you design one or not. Even the blandest context-free content presentation becomes the context, albeit a boring one, for the learner. Too often I see traditional contexts used largely by default or habit, when in truth, the design of the context is every bit as important as imagining the other aspects of interactivity.
These are among the many ways your design choices can define context.
- be completely visual, establishing relevance by creating an environment of meaning in which the lesson activities reside
- be narrative in nature, letting story elements create interest, suspense, recognition, etc.
- bring emotion, representing human feelings and identities through media and personality to create a bond with the learner
- provide structure in a way that encourages practice and repetition that might be otherwise difficult to achieve
- create a gaming environment that enhances motivation and entertainment while also achieving some of the aforementioned possibilities
But how do you come up with the right context? First off, there is no single right context. There are many great contexts for a particular challenge, and there are also many poor ones—the key to coming up with a powerful context comes from what you learn from analysis:
- What are the desired performance outcomes?
- What is the performance environment like?
- What are the conditions for success?
- What kinds of errors get in the way of learner success?
If these are the kinds of design questions you struggle with, I invite you to join me for a two-hour webinar, Unlocking the Power of CONTEXT in e-Learning Design, on Wednesday, April 2nd, for an in-depth look at creating context in your e-learning. I’ll guide participants through designing context and taking full advantage of its role in creating effective interactions. We’ll explore in more detail the various ways it can create immediate meaning and value in your e-learning courses. I’ll introduce The CCAF Context Design Matrix for e-Learning to assist you in making context-related design choices on a day-to-day basis when setting out to create future e-learning projects. Finally, we'll look at some real-world e-learning examples to see how this thinking results in stellar e-learning.
Registration information can be found here. I hope you’ll join me!
Until then, consider this insightful quote from Chef Anthony Bourdain. Although its “Context” is food, I think it applies equally if you replace “meals” with “e-learning”:
“Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life.”
Working diligently, a band of well-known learning industry authors have said “enough is enough” with the state of today's elearning. While there are a few shining examples of instructional design, a large percentage of elearning created today is woefully inadequate. Instead of deep and meaningful learning, most elearning encourages learners to stay away in droves, unless of course the training is mandatory. Many elearning developers and designers say they want to do better, but struggle to put that desire into practice. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Michael Allen, along with learning experts Julie Dirksen, Clark Quinn, and Will Thalheimer, has decided it’s time to be disruptive! “For many years, the four of us have been deeply concerned about the state of elearning,” states Will Thalheimer. “We’ve talked about it, lamented it, grumbled to each other, and wondered how things might change. Finally, we have decided to do something about it. The Serious eLearning Manifesto is the result.”
They collectively established in The Serious eLearning Manifesto what they believe is required to use instructional technology as professionals and to earn the right to absorb the learner’s time. The Manifesto is based upon what research and theory says, as well as what experience has taught them.
“We really want to be part of a movement that improves the learning opportunities everyone has. Things have to change,” stated Michael Allen, CEO of Allen Interactions. “Too much elearning is on the wrong track.”
Serious eLearning Manifesto Revealed on Thursday, March 13th!
An initial presentation of The Manifesto with all four authors will take place Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 2:00 PM (US-CT) using Google Hangouts, followed by a live Q&A session. Please join the movement by attending the presentation online, lending your support by becoming a signatory to The Manifesto at elearningmanifesto.org, and by pledging to do your best to apply the manifesto’s principles in your work.
Jill R. Bagley, senior manager, business development operations, IEEE Educational Activities
For many mid- to large-sized corporations, global offices are an everyday reality. More often than not, the project team assignments for these organizations will include staff from around the world. For these global teams, challenges include everything from managing multiple time zones to coordinating team efforts to bringing new team members on board and rapidly getting them up to speed on projects, technology, and organizational culture. With rapid advances in development and greater acceptance of elearning as a training method, many of these challenges can be overcome quickly.
You may already be familiar with the many benefits to implementing e-learning solutions within an organization. Some of these include reduction in training costs, standardization of training materials, ‘just-in-time’ delivery, and many other tangible and intangible benefits. These are all helpful for the organization as a whole, but when it comes to global project teams, there are unique ways that e-learning can be utilized to help achieve team goals.
Based on feedback gathered from several multinational organizations that regularly form project teams from around the globe, it was evident that some very unique activities were made possible through the use of elearning.
The following overviews focus on two key success stories that leveraged the power of this learning medium to bring about success for global project teams.
- Working around the clock: A project team at a wireless communications organization was tasked with testing and documenting the assembly process for a new piece of equipment. Half of the team was located within the US, and the remaining half in the Asia-Pacific area. The time difference made it quite challenging to communicate in real-time, yet there was a deadline that needed to be met. The team members in Asia-Pacific shared the test criteria to their US counterparts. The team in the US was tasked with performing the testing and would then provide feedback based on their results back to the Asia-Pacific team members. The Asia-Pacific team would make the necessary changes, and resubmit, so that by morning in the US, the team could pick up their re-testing immediately without any delay. Work was literally being done around the clock! The final instructional tutorial was fully tested and completed, and the team ultimately met their deadline because of the flexibility that the content could be tested and updated in the e-learning environment.
- Regulations and Certifications: A mid-sized software design organization was acquired by a larger organization. In the process of restructuring, the organization implemented a requirement for all programmers to obtain a specific certification. With new projects soon to be underway, it was important that the programmers from all of the global locations prepare for the examination. In the various locations, teams of 2-3 formed into study groups to work together to prepare for the examination. On a weekly basis, two lead senior programmers who already held the certification offered virtual Q&A sessions where they could easily reference the standardized training materials. Having access to this e-learning saved a great deal of time and budget, and offered the global teams an opportunity to work together through training prior to beginning work on new projects. It not only prepared them for the examination, it also built synergies that ultimately carried forward to new projects.
While these two examples show unique situations, it’s important to bear in mind a few other data points. Most organizations have a requirement for employee professional development. Access to e-learning can provide continuous learning environment that enables employees to keep up with the demands of their jobs, increase productivity, and possibly qualify more employees to be considered for project team assignments.
Have you used online training in your global project teams? What have been some of the advantages that you’ve experienced? What challenges have you encountered?
By Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards and Angel Green, senior instructional strategist | @LearnerAdvocate
Due to the interest in, and response to, several of our blog posts
, white papers
, and webinars
on gamification, Ethan Edwards and I provide answers and insight around some of the pressing topics related to incorporating gaming into your learning programs.
Let’s set a common lexicon so that we can move beyond terms and into the heart of the topic. There seems to be some confusion about the differences between the terms of gamification and a learning game. In your opinion, what is the difference, if any?
Angel Green: There are three definitions, from the most reliable of sources, that I believe best define gamification.
Karl Kapp, in The Gamification of Learning and Instruction defines gamification as “Using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”
Professor Keven Werbach, in the Gamification course through University of Pennsylvania defines gamification as, “the use of game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts.”
Gartner’s definition: “Gamification is the use of game mechanics to drive engagement in non-game business scenarios and to change behaviors in a target audience to achieve business outcomes. Many types of games include game mechanics such as points, challenges, leaderboards, rules, and incentives that make game-play enjoyable. Gamification applies these to motivate the audience to higher and more meaningful levels of engagement.”
So, in my interpretation, gamification is the philosophy and a learning game is the product. Similarly, instructional design is the theory and the course we create is the outcome/the practical application of the theory.
Ethan Edwards: That’s exactly right. In the rush to embrace gamification, the risk is that superficial aspects of gaming are applied without attending to the underlying philosophy of true challenge and engagement. I actually dislike the term “gamification” as it implies that it is simply a process that is applied to an instructional lesson, much like applying a coat of paint. Lessons touted as “learning games” remain largely passive and linear in spite of having been “gamified.” Designing learning games must start with a firm sense of desired outcomes at the core, relying on elements of game design to enhance that experience.
Why is it that now, more than years prior, organizations are jumping on the game bandwagon?
Angel Green: Angry Birds, Farmville, and Candy Crush. I think that employers are looking at what their employees are actually engaged in—sometimes even at work. According to Gallup, only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged at work. Anything touting the promise of engagement is seen as salvation and gamification offers hope. Business leaders may also remember learning through educational games they played when they were growing up. One of the first highly successful educational games, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? was launched in 1985―nearly 30 years ago—making folks who grew up playing games to learn in their mid to late 40s. This is, of course, the age of many corporate leaders today. We make learning fun for kids, but when we get to the work world learning becomes a chore. Gamification offers the opportunity to motivate, engage, and teach learners in a new and interesting way.
Ethan Edwards: I like to think that organizations are finally waking up to the fact that the traditional content-centered e-learning in which they’ve invested for years is not working. There is much to recommend a learning games approach as an improvement.
What do you feel is the biggest danger in the trend to gamify learning?
Angel Green: Gaming for the sake of gaming. It’s all too often that instructional designers throw a Jeopardy-type game in an e-learning course and call it a learning game. Or, they assign a leaderboard for the person who scores the highest in a course on a multiple-choice in the LMS. The addition of superficial game components will not improve performance and they certainly won’t motivate anyone to change their behavior. Gaming elements should be relevant to the learners and used in conjunction with a strong instructional strategy.
Ethan Edwards: Unfortunately, we are still at a stage where many have bought the hype without measuring the cost, and as a result, there are plenty of learning games that miss the mark just as much as the boring e-learning they are meant to replace did. Good games appear simple on the surface but are almost always deceptively complex in their design and implementation.
When you look at the landscape of corporate learning, how do you think gamification can help?
Angel Green: Dr. Michael Allen and those of us at Allen Interactions have been proclaiming the benefits of using game design principles in our learning for the past 20 years. The similarities between our Seven Magic Keys to Motivating e-Learning, CCAF-based Design for reaching what we’ve coined as learning that is Meaningful, Memorable, and Motivational to game design are striking. We know incorporating these elements (risk, context, consequences, action, story) are key to delivering performance-changing learning. If we can get those who design and develop training around the world to believe that simply because you tell someone something doesn’t mean they are going to act any differently, we can transform the industry. Call it gamification, call it CCAF, call it a learning game, it doesn’t matter to me. Whatever “it” is called it will motivate learners, it will engage them, and it will get them to perform their job better. WIN-WIN.
Ethan Edwards: Games do two things very naturally that are hard to achieve in traditional e-learning:
These two results that good games achieve effortlessly makes me optimistic about how much e-learning might be improved by careful adoption of learning game design principles.
- Games encourage the learner to be comfortable and to learn from mistakes, and
- Games allow the learner to spend sufficient time in practice and repetition.
chief instructional strategist
senior instructional strategist
by Richard Sites, vice president - training and marketing | @rhillsites
Think back to the last time you were in a meeting which planned to create, define, or discuss a new approach, design or strategy. A conference table surrounded by probably too many people with a wide range of enthusiasm for this event.
There is always that moment when someone asks, “So what are some ideas?” Everyone looks around at each other with the slightly overwhelmed, partially panicked look of someone who has just been asked to explain the meaning of life to a group of fourth graders. Where do you even begin?
The reason that this question is so tough to answer, even worse yet agree on, is that it is a question which seeks an inclusive answer. That is, this question provides the responder with little direction or insight into what a targeted response might be, so all responses are acceptable.
This same phenomenon occurs in project kick-off meetings for learning projects. Often these meetings center around content, like a procedure manual or operations guide. The team begins with this content in mind and asks, “So what should we do?” All too often the answer is, “Take this and add more.” And why not? The implicit challenge underlying many instructional design projects is how well was the content covered.
But there is another way―a way that focuses on performance—on the task that the learner will actually accomplish on the job. To get to this type of instructional experience, we cannot simply ask “What should we do?” We have to ask, “Why should we NOT do this?” Now that’s a targeted question.
Why should we NOT do this? This question is a powerful method of designing engaging learning for two basic reasons:
- It is always more challenging to critically evaluate an event, a strategy, or a treatment than it is to simply confirm you like it or not. Why Not gets people discussing the reasons they like or don’t like the instructional treatment being reviewed.
- The “this” in the question, “Why should we NOT do this?” means we create something for the team to review and discuss. There should be tangible events that the design team can see, touch, and react to. Giving the team the “this” further guides the discussion towards a targeted outcome. It is very difficult to suggest adding content to an instructional event when you are asked “Why NOT do this?”
SAM, as you may be aware, is an iterative design and development process for creating engaging learning events that supports asking “Why not?” For more on asking the right questions during the Savvy Start and throughout the process, get yourself a copy of Leaving ADDIE for SAM or read these blog posts listed below.
by Christopher Palm, media artist
Though I didn’t make the U.S. snowboarding team this time around, I still love the winter Olympics. Besides, that gives me four more years to practice, right?
Be honest, it’s the hat, isn’t it?
Though I watch it mainly for the snowboarding events, one of my favorite parts about the Olympics is seeing all of the teams’ uniforms and outfits. While the United States always emerges into the arena looking more fashionable than a hipster in a local coffee shop sipping a soy cappuccino, I am extremely impressed by this year’s choices.
“Are you kidding me?” you might be saying. No, I’m not. Say what you will about the opening ceremony ugly sweaters; they are brilliant—a bold, trendy statement that breaks the mold. There was no mistaking the Americans on opening night in Sochi. This got me thinking… how can this same tactic be employed in e-learning media design? Try these tips:
1. Dare to be different.
E-learning tends to fall into traditional formats or templates. Shake it up a bit! Step outside the box. Take your design in a completely different direction than you’re used to. Be the one wearing a goofy ugly sweater in a sea of beige. For example, one of our clients has a very corporate look, but we were able to approach their course with a game-like, illustrated style that helps lighten-up the content, while still maintaining a sense of branding.
2. Be memorable.
The buzz created by these sweaters was huge! Debates broke out at the water cooler—are they hideous or awesome? Whichever you think, the fact is, they stuck in your memory long after seeing them because they were unexpected.
3. Let your guard down.
In a world of rigid, structured e-learning, sometimes you need to throw a curve ball. People can spot a boring e-learning course a mile away. Break up the monotony! Perhaps it is bringing animation, new colors, a different font choice, or a contextual theme to your course. Gamification is huge and allows your learner to have a little fun, all while learning!
4. Be trendy.
The ugly Christmas sweater party is relatively new, but it has caught on faster than funny cat images on the internet. Many times, clients are concerned that a course’s look will end up feeling dated years down the road. It’s a reasonable concern—e-learning can be expensive, but with how fast the digital world is constantly changing these days, chances for a course’s content to become outdated has been accelerated. Trends generally last between one to three years, sometimes longer, which I feel is about the perfect shelf life for an e-learning course. This introduces a new opportunity to create media that is fashionable and current.
5. Return to your roots.
Part of what I love so much about these U.S. sweaters is they feel so retro, almost vintage. The U.S. snowboarding team takes this theme even further with their quilted uniforms. These uniforms play off of America’s history and heritage, giving these athletes a sense of home, when so far away. With so much rich history to pull from, perhaps your course for the future need only to look to the past. Old advertising campaigns can be an extremely inspiring resource for new design and are a useful way to tie in your client’s roots and foundation without spending time talking about it.
Am I saying make your e-learning ugly just to stand out? Definitely not! Even though the sweaters I mentioned above are most likely inspired by the ugly sweater trend, they are still well designed and thought out.
Don’t be afraid to be different! Challenge your learners, throw something new their way. There is a saying we snowboarders like to use; “go big or go home.”
This one is for you, Kaitlyn Farrington.
by Ellen Burns, instructional writer/designer | @EllenBJohnson
I had the pleasure of visiting a client in Texas a few short weeks ago to kick off a new e-learning project. Not only was the weather much more pleasurable than what we’ve lately been experiencing in Minnesota, but the meetings themselves were productive and fun.
That’s right. I said FUN! The kickoff meeting (aka Savvy Start) is the brainstorming event in the SAM (Successive Approximation Model) process. It’s also one of my favorite project components. During a Savvy Start, we meet with stakeholders and SMEs from the client’s team and our goal is to uncover the desired behaviors we want to focus on in the training.
While brainstorming and discussing those behaviors, we sketch out initial ideas for interactions that might meet the needs of the learner and the organization. Then, we create prototypes of the sketches the team feels could work best. Next, we present the prototypes and gather feedback from the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), stakeholders and even learners. And, we do it all onsite so we can get to know the people involved in the project!
While I think the kickoff meetings are fun, that isn’t to say I don’t find them somewhat stressful. I do, because there’s risk involved. There’s always a chance that the client won’t like our ideas, or that we’ll struggle to communicate effectively. There’s always the lurking, irrational fear that I’ll say something so outrageously stupid that everyone in the room will stare at me, wide-eyed and aghast. (This last one never really leaves you, no matter how many Savvy Starts you’ve attended.)
But, a lot of activities that human beings find to be fun include a level of risk. Would the Olympics be fun to watch if there were no chance your favorite competitor could lose or take a tumble onto the ice? No! Risk makes things interesting and creates the space where real fun can exist.
Here are 3 ways you can guarantee your kickoff meeting will be a rewarding experience.
Fun Factor #1: Have rich conversations
One of the key parts of a Savvy Start is listening to, and getting to know, your project team. When you're trying to build behavior-focused training, you need the SMEs, stakeholders, managers and recent learners to explain the processes, actions, and ideas on which they need training.
Unfortunately, it can seem like you and your SMEs are speaking wholly different languages. If you are unable to communicate effectively with your SMEs, you may be unable to get the information you need to really move forward with your design.
You risk walking away with a distorted picture of the training needs. You might needlessly spend time in (failed) design iterations before you’re able to agree on a solution simply due to an initial communication gap.
You can avoid this by taking steps to create rich conversations at the project kickoff:
Come with a list of questions―a huge arsenal of questions. You probably won’t ask
every question on your list, and you don’t have to. If you get stuck, keep pulling from your list of questions until you start to get a picture of the realistic challenge your learners should be facing in the training.
Sometimes I find it helpful to create a CCAF map on a piece of paper alongside my regular notes. I keep asking questions until I have good ideas in each of the 4 categories. An example CCAF map is on the right.
Fun Factor #2: Prototype
Prototyping as part of your kickoff session allows you conclude your meeting with purpose. If you prototyped during your kickoff, you already tested ideas and gathered feedback. You can leave that meeting confidently knowing where your design is headed next.
The main concern about prototyping onsite during a Savvy Start is the amount of time it takes to prototype. If you have asked the right questions, you should need no more than 2-3 hours to brainstorm ideas and complete a prototype for an interaction. It is so tempting to spend more time than this. I confess that I’ve done it occasionally. The devilish little perfectionist inside me wants to spend the time necessary to get it right.
However, my internal pragmatist knows that prototypes are not meant to be flawless. All you need to do is build enough to convey an idea of the interaction and verify that you’re headed in the right direction. This is why I like ZebraZapps for prototyping. If you need to set up something fast, you can build shortcuts for yourself while also conveying the way an interaction will “feel” when it’s complete.
No matter which authoring tool you use, it’s worth prototyping during your Savvy Start. Prototypes are fun to create, and if you set your stakeholders’ expectations appropriately, the discussions you’ll have about the prototypes will be a blast.
Fun Factor #3: Get emotionally invested in the success of the project
Okay, yes. This is obvious, right? Of course you should care about the success of your project. You want it to come in on time and preferably under budget. You want it to look nice and you want your stakeholders to like it.
But when I refer to “success” in this context, I’m not referring to budget and timeline. To me, a successful project is one that meets the original goal for the training. It’s one that actually changes how people perform.
I find it difficult to create the design for an activity without truly caring about whether or not it makes a difference. So my foremost goal during a Savvy Start is to get fired up. You are hard-pressed to find a more passionate group of people than a room full of experts who care about solving a problem. I like to think that I am as passionate about changing the behavior of learners as the SMEs and stakeholders are about solving the business problem. I use this feeling to guide my thinking and fuel my creativity.
There you have it—your Savvy Start recipe for fun. What are some ways you create a successful project kickoff meeting?
About Ellen Burns-Johnson
A former English and technology teacher, Ellen Burns-Johnson joined Allen Interactions in 2011. Since then, Ellen has designed e-learning interactions and written content for dozens of projects and clients, including Apple, Allstate, Hilton, Verizon, and the Department of Justice. Instructional topics included solution selling, software simulation, product sales, compliance training, customer service, and legal consulting skills.
Ellen’s professional interests include gamification, blended learning, interface design, and social media. A learning junkie, Ellen has been known to organize study groups in which colleagues meet to study new development software and build e-learning applications for fun. Connect with Ellen!
by Ethan Edwards, chief instructional strategist | @ethanaedwards
I recently presented a webinar on 4 Ways to Jumpstart Your e-Learning Designs in 2014. In it I presented a fresh look at the concept of Instructional Interactivity and the necessary components Context, Challenge, Activity, and Feedback for designing effective e-learning interactions. (For more detail you can download the white paper Creating e-Learning that Makes a Difference.) We had great turnout and interest, but we weren’t able to respond to some really important points participants raised and so I thought I’d answer them here.
How do you address the fact that the interactive sample does not really ensure mastery? The user can keep trying until they get it right. Many of my clients are concerned with compliance and want to know when a student fails or struggles with a task. – Sherri
Many people confuse having a score with mastery. The kind of tests that your clients are familiar with don’t really measure mastery; rather they measure memory, test-taking ability, and oftentimes, chance. There are countless reasons a learner might earn a score on a standard test that has nothing to do with his/her mastery of the desired skills. When you build interactions that require performance in a realistic context, you move much closer to being able to assess the level of mastery achieved. With interactions, you can record exactly the parts of the performance where failure is occurring; the number of attempts and the steps that cause the most difficulty actually give you useful information about where a learner is struggling.
Also, what probably wasn’t clear from the brief demo is that when mastery is desired, these interactions are usually presented at least twice. The first time the learner is free to repeat and make mistakes and ask for help as much as needed. Then to prove mastery, they must do the task (or a similar one) from start to finish without asking for help or exceeding a set number of missteps. In this way, these interactions actually provide the organization with a far more reliable indicator of mastery than traditional multiple-choice tests.
Could you compare the value of narration vs. the use of visual conversation windows? It seems that laying down & synching audio is time consuming. – James
This is probably one of the hardest choices to make, simply because both evidence and experience are inconclusive. One basic impediment is the obvious one you’ve stated: it’s a lot of trouble, in terms of effort, technology, maintenance, and expense. To undertake narration, one would like to be confident that there will be a corresponding benefit. Let’s weigh the positives and negatives:
- On the positive side, some learners express a preference for audio. It is unclear whether comprehension is uniformly enhanced or not.
- On the negative side, audio greatly reduces learner-control, which I think is essential for engagement. With audio, the sequence and pace are prescribed for the learner which greatly reduces adaptability to individual needs and preferences. Also, narration often forces a linearity of content presentation that conflicts with the demands of interactivity. In most cases in my design experience, the negatives outweigh the costs and advantages.
So when building a “conversation-like interaction”, our designs generally allow the user to choose between written speech options without supporting audio. A notable exception, however, is when you are using the quality of oral communication to convey more than just content—that is when the underlying emotional components are critical to the challenge rather than just content—then it may be absolutely essential to use voice narration.
And finally, this issue should not be confused directly with addressing accessibility. The solution for providing access to interactive multimedia for the visually impaired is a far more complicated task than simply adding voice over narration to interactions designed for general usage.
What advice do you have for pushing back onto Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) when it comes to reducing content for valuable outcomes? — Steven
This is one of the most common problems I hear about—that SMEs continually insist on including too much content. There is no immediate solution to this issue; a lot depends on your specific environment and relationship to your SMEs and your ability to work cooperatively with them. But here are some best practices that over time will improve this situation:
- Work with your SME as a partner rather than an adversary. Your content meetings should not be a one-way information dump. Work together on the analysis, include the SME in frequent and early reviews of interactivity. Their role should be more than a proofreader of your writing.
- Do not work from existing course materials as the assumed basis for your course content. Existing materials are too content-centric. Put the manuals aside for your use later as a reference. In your conversation with the SME, demand that the course be defined by specific performance objectives. Answer the question, “What do you expect learners to be able to DO when they complete this course that they couldn’t do before?” Have a formal signoff and agreement on these performance objectives before you even begin selecting “content”―then use these performance objectives as your knife to cut unnecessary content.
- Start by designing interactions, not by writing content. That in itself will make it very clear how much of the traditional “content” becomes irrelevant and can be omitted.
Thanks to Sherri, James, and Steven for submitting these questions. I suspect that these issues are ones that nearly every e-learning designer has struggled with at some point.
The most important thing to remember is that you are creating an experience for your learners, so make your design decisions accordingly. Many of the tasks that designers hold as essential are more about what you do as a designer than actually what will challenge the learner.
Have other e-learning design questions for Ethan? Submit them in the comments section below!
By Angel Green, senior instructional strategist | @LearnerAdvocate
If, like me, you’ve been in this instructional design world for some time now, you may find yourself a bit hesitant to jump on the latest bandwagon in learning. After all, if you asked me in 2004 what training would look like in 2014, I would’ve likely said, “virtual reality, instructor-led courses taught on training islands in SecondLife, and perfectly meta-tagged learning objects that align to competencies available in the corporate university.”
Enter reality. Unfortunately, it’s not looking much different than it did back then. LMS’s are filled with outdated courses collecting cobwebs, new e-learning reflects the simple cookie-cutter “text and next” format, and does SecondLife even still exist?
But, ever the eternal optimist that I am, I have hope. I hope that if you ask me today what training looks like in 2024 that it won’t look like this. Why? Because I think there is a “trend” worth your consideration to adopt – gamification.
The term gamification is new, but the concept is not. Over twenty years ago, Dr. Allen started Allen Interactions to overcome the very problem of content heavy, boring e-learning. Ten years later, in 2003, he published his Guide to e-Learning, a book that made me an instant Allen fan and introduced me to the concepts of Context, Challenge, Activity and Feedback and the Seven Magic Keys for Motivation. These instructional design models that Dr. Allen wrote about 11 years ago align strikingly well with game design. And yet…here we are today and gaming is made to sound new and fresh.
I ask that you give the trend of gaming consideration in your instructional design for the sake of your learners. Today’s learners have the information they need for virtually any subject with the swipe of a finger. Why should they continue to tolerate listening and waiting for a next button to appear 18 times to find the information they need? Learners can get information anywhere today. Therefore, we can go back to what we were hoping to do all along―help them learn something in training. And, as instructional designers, we know how people learn. We understand, through theory and research that practice, repetition, and failure help people learn. So, let’s start using those very techniques to train our workforce.
How do you incorporate gaming into your learning? How do you create something that is more than just “gaming for the sake of gaming”? How do you move beyond the cool fad of gamification and really produce performance-changing games? By aligning tried and true instructional design theories to your games, that’s how. And when you do, watch out! People will have fun, they’ll learn, and best of all―they’ll perform.
If you want to learn more about techniques to align instructional design theories to gamify your learning, join me for a two-hour training webinar on February 26th. During our time together, I’ll demonstrate the Allen Interactions Taxonomy Alignment for Gaming, a tool to help you decide the appropriate type of game to meet your performance objectives. I hope to “see” you then!