Device Agnostic Learning Design: Are You a Believer?

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist. Find her on Twitter @andreamay1.

device-explosionHow many different electronic devices do you interact with on a daily basis? My guess is that most L&D professionals will say at least two, perhaps a computer and a smart phone. Some will add several more to that total. Tablets, smart TVs, gaming systems, smart watches, e-readers, and many other devices have made their way into our daily lives. I’ve even seen wi-fi enabled refrigerators that can hunt for coupons and notify you when you are running out of milk.

Now consider the two or three devices you use most often. For many of us, those three devices are a computer/laptop, a smart phone, and an iPad/tablet. We use each device for different purposes based on its strengths and weaknesses. Your smart phone is ideal for dashing off quick texts, providing turn by turn directions to your destination, getting answers to questions while on the go, and even for making an occasional phone call. But the screen size is less than ideal for doing actual work or taking a course online. Tablets provide a nice hybrid for some tasks, but they don’t fit well in your pocket and it is still challenging to use it for the tasks that would seem best suited for a PC with its full keyboard and mouse and much larger screen.

But what if more content was designed in such a way as to be device agnostic? eLearning courses, for example, that work just as well on a smart phone as they do on a PC, could set users free to interact with that content exactly when and how they choose. The user could choose a device based on their preferences rather than on the needs of the content. Exciting stuff!

The trends are heading in this direction. So what do we, as L&D professionals, need to consider in order to design content that is essentially device blind? Join us this Thursday, March 24th 09.00 PDT/12.00 EDT /16.00 GMT on Twitter for #chat2lrn and share your ideas on enabling device agnostic learning content.

 

The Business of Learning Evaluation

#Chat2lrn is delighted to have a guest post from @AjayPangarkar.  Ajay M. Pangarkar CTDP, CPA, CMA is founder of CentralKnowledge.com and LearningSourceonline.com. He is a renowned employee performance management expert and 3-time author most recently publishing the leading performance book, “The Trainer’s Balanced Scorecard: A Complete Resource for Linking Learning to Organizational Strategy” (Wiley 2009), award-wining assessment specialist with Training Magazine, and award-winning writer winning the 2014 prestigious TrainingIndustry.com Readership and Editors’ Awards for the Top 10 most read articles. Help him start a, “Workplace Revolution” at blog.centralknowledge.com.

Learning practitioners are under tremendous pressure from business leaders to demonstrate that their learning efforts and initiatives are worth the budget they allocate. This has to be one of most daunting challenges facing those involved with any aspect of workplace learning.

There are many reasons why learning practitioners are unable to connect their efforts with actual workplace applications. One that stands out is that learning practitioners focus on the “learning” rather than on how learning “results” impact business performance.

Reality Check

Learning practitioners like to talk about being ‘accountable’ but behind the talk is an unfortunate reality where, like the three monkeys, this pesky ‘accountability’ issue will go away if we do not speak, see, or hear it. What learning practitioners really want to say to business leaders is, “Leave us alone to focus on the learning and stop bothering us with your trivial business issues!”

Regretfully, many learning practitioners remain under the impression that if proper learning takes place then everything else will take care of itself. Intuitively, this makes some sense but this causal relationship is too weak to be effective. Following this logic is the same as saying that, if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly, but there are many other reasons that also apply.

“If proper learning takes place then everything else will take care of itself is similar to saying that if you eat ice cream you’ll be cold; possibly but many other reasons also apply.”

Those involved with learning discover early to integrate and apply Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation. Yes, your organization explicitly hires learning practitioners for their expertise with level 1 (develop effective learning) and level 2 (learning retention). There isn’t one business leader that expects anything different. What’s more, however, is that they also expect their learning practitioners to ensure that the first two levels contribute to improving job performance (level 3) that will lead to business improvement (level 4).

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Here lays every Learning Practitioner’s challenge…getting employees to learn the right skills and, ultimately, apply these skills to the job, again, ‘accountability’. In an attempt to answer this need, there are those proposing what appears as relevant solutions to this dilemma including measuring learning’s “return on investment” (training ROI) and how well learning meets business expectations (ROE). Again, the shortsightedness of these methodologies is just like the analogy of “ice cream making you cold”. The causal relationship is too weak to prove and too often inappropriate or irrelevant.

These solutions fall short to actually measure and evaluate how well learning contributes to on-the-job effectiveness and its role to achieving business objectives. With a growing need for innovation, creativity, and managing continuous market changes, business leaders are also under tremendous pressure to foster a knowledge-driven business environment. Leaders are increasingly depending on organizational knowledge to develop a strategic and business advantage that will help them to maintain relevance, let alone survival, within their market space.

“Rather than being viewed as a secondary role, workplace learning has quickly risen to the top of many business leaders to-do list.”

Rather than being viewed as a secondary role, workplace learning has quickly risen to the top of many business leaders to-do list. Furthermore, even though this is a learning practitioners dream, it also comes at a price…the need for accountability. So, what should learning practitioners do? How can they prove that their learning efforts actually improve employee and business performance? Is there anything currently available that works?

Let’s discuss these and other related questions to measuring and evaluating workplace learning impact at our next online gathering of #chat2lrn, Thursday 27 November at 16:00 BST / 12:00 EDT / 09:00 PDT. Come prepared, we look forward to seeing you!

eLearning Trends: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Today’s post comes to us from #chat2lrn crew members, Andrea May and Lisa Goldstein. Andrea is the Vice President of Instructional Design Services for Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN and Lisa is the founder of www.LDGlobalEvents.com and currently works for Nielsen. You can find Andrea and Lisa on twitter at @Andreamay1 and @LisaAGoldstein

Happy New Year!Happy-New-Year-Copy

It is the start of a new year and we would like to spend a little time looking back at what we learned in 2014 and looking forward to what we hope to learn in 2015.

As we first look back at the year that was, some of the most common trends we saw discussed included MOOCs, video, performance support, social learning, adaptive learning and the science of learning. Read more here:

Learning Technologies 2014: Eight Key Trends for Learning and Development

Learning Technology Trends in 2014

As we look forward to 2015, some new trends on the horizon seem to be wearable learning, School as a service (SaaS), Microlearning, Personalization and Minimum Viable Courses (MVCs). Read More Here:

Top 8 eLearning and EdTech Trends for 2015

What will be big in workplace learning in 2015?

Technology-Enabled Learning: What Will 2015 Bring?

Join us on January 15th for #Chat2lrn to discuss what we learned and accomplished in 2014 and what we hope to achieve in the coming year.

What Spooks Us and Others about Social Learning

As Halloween approaches, we’re thinking about what spooks us and others about social learning.    Often, we’re scared of the unknown as we’re thinking about creating social learning.  Getting social learning set up properly and then gaining traction can be a real challenge.  And, what if launching and marketing isn’t your problem – what if your social learning efforts are wildly successful and then you lose control – is that OK?

Well, don’t be too frightened since social learning can come to the rescue for many of these questions.  As we support each other in our learning network during #Chat2Lrn, we’ll help each other think about these challenges and the best ways to overcome these fears and make social learning work for all of us.  We’ll be thinking about:

  • What scares you about getting social learning started and keeping it going?
  • Who and what needs to be at the social learning party in order for it to be successful?
  •  What makes social learning fail?
  • What is your scariest social learning (mini) story and what did you learn from it?  
  • What scares participants, lurkers and non-participants about social learning? Can you make them feel safe?
  • What spooks stakeholders about social learning? How can we reassure them?
  • What keeps SMEs from participating?  What can we do to do encourage them?
  • What is the secret sauce in a successful social learning brew?     
  •  How do you measure the effectiveness of your SoMe effort?

Whether you’ve never considered social learning, if you’re hearing stirs of social learning on the horizon, you’re in the middle of trying to set up social learning or if you’re an experienced coordinator – join us for #Chat2lrn this Thursday, October 30th (the day before Halloween) 9:00am PDT/12:00pm EDT/4:00pm GMT to share your fears, ideas and learned solutions.

Under the hood of gamification

Today’s post comes to us from #chat2lrn crew member,
shutterstock_161270936_Small2Fiona Quigley. Fiona is Director of Learning Innovation for Logicearth Learning Services, an Irish based learning services company. You can find her on twitter at @fionaquigs

The potential of gamification

I’m a gamer. There I have admitted it – and it is good my secret is out! But I have never really been convinced of the application of games to eLearning content. Not because I don’t think it is a good idea in principle – but mainly because of the time and cost involved to do it well. And I have seen so many poor eLearning projects wrapped up in so called gamified concepts, which actually just turn out to be fancy quizzes with colourful badges.

It seems cost and time prohibitive for the average client and learning project to properly apply game thinking. However, my opinion has slowly changed over the last few months. I am very lucky to have started some work with industry gamification gurus Karl Kapp and Brenda Enders. Both of these folks come with wholly formed gamification credentials – they have been there and got the t-shirt. Brenda and I are about to start working on a gamified solution for a Sustainability project. Convincing people to use less water and turn out the lights is worthy of a gamified effort – right?

So for this week’s post, I asked Brenda to give us the practical low-down on what real gamification might look like in a learning project. Thanks so much Brenda for helping us out with this. I hope you’ll join us for further discussion on Thursday 18th September #chat2lrn at 8am PDT, 11am EDT, 4pm BST.

Question 1: What is your definition of gamification?
Over time, I’ve used a variety of definitions, trying to find the one that resonated best with L&D professionals. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the term but it is what it is. So, the current way I define gamification is the strategic use of game mechanics and game elements to increase your learners’ engagement within their learning curriculum.  (Game mechanics, if you are unsure, are the rules of the game experience.)

The heart of it you ask? Strategic engagement. When we gamify our solutions we are selecting and interweaving key principles and concepts from games that have been proven to engage players. As such we need to take a step back and understand how games engage us. In essence, game mechanics, game elements and game play thinking address and satisfy some pretty fundamental human needs and desires, such as: competition, reward, achievement, altruism, status and even self-expression. Think about it for a moment, these needs and desires are universal! They cross generations, demographics and cultures. The good game designers have been fulfilling these needs and desires for their game players since probably the beginning of time. By fulfilling these psychological needs and desires within our learning content we have the opportunity truly make an impact on the overall organization.

Question 2: Why do you think gamification is being talked about more and more? Just another buzzword or is it solving real challenges?
Let me start with your second question first. I’m sure you’ve heard the hype of the potential outcomes gamification can have on our organizations such as: influencing behavioral change, solving business problems, increasing letter grades in courses or even having a direct impact on the bottom line. When I hear these claims, I envision this shiny silver bullet that will miraculously solve all of our problems. Unfortunately, it’s not the end all be all solution, however, when strategically used and designed, gamification can without a doubt aid us in tackling these challenges and even more.

Why is everyone talking about it?” I think it’s because we’ve all been impacted by gamification on some level. For example your buying choices, professional networks and school systems have been “gamified”. It’s a topic that when discussed draws on both the positive as well as negative impressions. It’s personal, it’s emotional and we all have our opinions. As such, I would term it a hot topic versus buzzword or trend of the day.

That said, I’d like to believe the increased “buzz” in the learning and development community is centered around the potential of tapping into the powerful engagement potential that game elements provide and have our learners as immersed in the content as a great game experience. I’ve been in the field for almost two decades now and this has consistently been one of the top challenges we faced. By increasing engagement we can ultimately have an impact on our learners behavior and truly make an impact (assuming the content is solid).

Question 3: What common misconceptions are there around gamification?
As you can probably expect, there are quite a few misconceptions when it comes to gamification but I’ve decided to call out three that truly impact our community.

The first misconception that comes to mind is gamification is new. Many industries including L&D, have been applying gamification concepts to certain extents for decades. In fact, my first application of game elements and mechanics was in a WBT around 2000. Throughout the curriculum they earned points, rewards (virtual as well as tangible) all based on their performance. Sure it wasn’t SCORM complaint and at the time technology was a challenge but it was incredibly effective. Did we call it gamification? No. We simply knew we were reusing elements from games that engaged us when we played them within our course to engage our learners to complete and demonstrate a level of proficiency for non-mandated training.

Next on the list is that gamification is really just about using points, achievements/badges and leaderboards (the most common elements we experience in our daily lives). However, especially for learning professionals, we should dive deeper to utilize game elements and thinking such as feedback loops, freedom to fail, player control, and combine them with learning theories such as the spacing effect and scaffolding.

In my opinion this last misconception is extremely dangerous to the L&D community. I hear this all the time, “all you need to gamify your learning is some technology”. The heart of this misconception is that gamification is just plug and play. Quickly adding points, badges and leaderboards within the learning content at a moments notice. Just turn on the features and viola we have gamification! Sure, the technology is a key component however it’s strategic use and design of the game elements that result in the engagement not the elements in and of themselves. As always: “a fool with a tool is still a fool”.

Question 4: What sort of gamified learning solutions work well for adult learners in the workplace? Are we in danger of gamifying too much?
Let me start with a few scenarios where I’ve seen gamification have a positive impact. These include: encouraging or motivating your learners to research a new topic or take optional courses, encourage creativity within a team environment, teach and reinforce basic principles/concepts and even strengthen problem solving skills. This isn’t obviously a comprehensive list but gives you a sampling of the wide variety of uses within learning where they have been successes.

The other consideration with adult learners is which approach to take in gamifying your curriculum. The first approach is to overlay a game layer to your existing curriculum. For example, adding points to your existing check-on learning activities or interactions, awarding badges or other achievements based on the completion of lesson or course content and adding a leaderboard to display their status. In this approach, you are not modifying your content; so ensure it’s solid. The second approach focuses on redesigning your learning content to apply gamification techniques. In this approach, your instructional designers take a fresh look at the best approach to presenting the content leveraging game-play thinking, game elements and also game mechanics. For example, turning a boring page-turner into an interactive storyline including characters in which the learner interacts with the content and rewarding them based on their choices. Yes, using stories and characters are elements of games and as such gamification techniques!

To answer the question on can we gamify too much? That’s a simple one. Absolutely! It’s one engagement strategy and isn’t always the best solution.

Question 5: What is most likely lead to design failure in a gamified learning solution?
I think the largest risk is the lack of game design knowledge on our development teams. I’m not saying we need to have game designers on our teams; however, it would be beneficial to have our team members to have an understanding of basic game design principles and mechanics. One idea for addressing this issue is to have you ID’s take the lead. Maybe have them attend a game design course. They will be amazed at the amount of overlap and synergy between the two fields. Your ID’s can then take the lead on working with the rest of the team on increasing their knowledge base and discuss modifications to the development process.

Question 6: And finally – for someone who hasn’t designed a gamified learning solution before, what first steps would you advise?
First, I would suggest investing in some professional development on game design. Take a course, read some books, attend a conference, collaborate with others on your team or within your network.

Second and this one may sound silly, but play a bunch of games. All kinds of games and really dissect them. A few things to consider could include the following. What makes them tick? How and why are you engaged with the game, how do they use game mechanics and elements? How do they incorporate the element of chance, risk and reward, the freedom to fail? Brainstorm on how you can reuse some of the concepts within one of your own courses.

Third, observe others playing games (even the one’s you would never play on your own). We can gain tremendous insights by experiencing others playing. Maybe even ask your kids to walk you through that World of War Craft game they are always playing, you may be amazed at some of the life skills they are developing in that game.

Neuroscience and Learning

Definition of neuroscience: a branch (as neurophysiology) of science that deals with the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, or molecular biology of nerves and nervous tissue and especially their relation to behavior and learning (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/neuroscience)

Those involved in designing, delivering or any other aspect of training and development in most settings will find themselves at one point or another wondering: how do people learn?

There’s theories (of course, lots of them), but it seems like there’s a lot of talk about the brain when it comes to learning lately. The subject of neuroscience is hot, but especially when connected to learning. In fact, a quick search turned up quite a few interesting hits:

Trouble is, that the field is still quite young, and there’s a lot of pop psychology and neuro-babble out there to trip us up. But, the fact remains, knowing about how brains work is pretty integral to how we might approach training and creating conditions for learning.

Unless you are a neuroscientist, you might find it hard to separate fact from fiction or struggle to understand practical applications of neuroscience. Or you may hear about things (like the “Jennifer Aniston neuron”. Really) that make you wonder if there’s any connection to your own work. Perhaps you are a neuro-skeptic that’s seen our field adopt “truths” that have turned out to be not so truth-y after all (I’m looking at you, learning styles).

Curious about neuroscience and learning? Come and join our chat! Are you an actual brain scientist? Definitely come and join our chat and help us unravel the mysteries in our heads.

Additional links:

Creativity and the brain

Neuromyths

Other links

Microlearning: Finding Learning Opportunities in the Flow of Work

Today’s post is written by Andrea May, #chat2lrn crew member and Vice President of Instructional Design Services at Dashe & Thomson in Minneapolis, MN. Andrea is an instructional designer, project manager, wife, mother, Girl Scout troop leader and theater artist.

digitalchalk-what-is-micro-learning How many times each day do you log into your computer or an online application?  10 times a day? 20 times? More?  What if you were in the process of learning a new language and each time you logged in, you were presented with a vocabulary question or two to answer before proceeding with your work tasks?  The questions might repeat at each login until you consistently answer correctly. By the end of the day you may have engaged in 20 or more instances of microlearning. By the end of the week, you may have had over 150 opportunities to practice and learn new vocabulary, all without attending a class, viewing an eLearning module, or spending dedicated time on self-study.

Microlearning uses the principle of repetition to deliver content in very small pieces over the course of time which helps the content become ultimately cemented into long term memory.  Sophisticated systems can be used to integrate this microlearning into the flow of work and track progress in a relatively unobtrusive way.  It is almost like being presented with 2 or 3 flash cards for 30 seconds several times a day. Once you get a flash card right a few times in a row, it is replaced by a new one. You can find out more about this approach to microlearning here.

I find this whole idea fascinating. We all know attending a class and receiving a content dump is not effective in terms of retention. It’s repetition and practice that really makes things stick and produce a measurable improvement over the long-term. It’s finding time for that repetition and practice where many of us stumble and we lose the knowledge we gained by attending a “learning event” of some type.  Microlearning can solve that problem by using systems to integrate repetition of content seamlessly into 

postits

the  flow of work.

I am certainly not advocating for microlearning as a solution to all our our content delivery problems. I think some topics are much more well suited for this approach than others. However, when used under the right circumstances and conditions, I think it could create a tremendous advantage in terms of learner retention.

Join us this week for a #chat2lrn session dedicated to this topic. We would love to hear your ideas and opinions. #chat2lrn will take place on Thursday February 27 at 08.00PDT/11.00EDT/16.00GMT. We hope to see you there!