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Why Games Won’t Cure the Common Cold, but They Will Solve a Lot of Other Problems

by Rich Mesch

Welcome to the next stop on the blog tour for Karl Kapp’s new book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction! Hop off that blog bus and shake the dust off.

When reading Karl Kapp’s new book, I was pleased to see reference to Jesse Schell, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. I remember seeing Jesse deliver the keynote at last year’s Learning 3.0 conference where he, too, discussed gaming and learning. One of the points that Jesse made was you don’t need to “gamify” learning—games have inherent properties that lead to knowledge, growth and behavior change.  So to gamify learning, what we really need to do is identify what makes games such effective tools, and incorporate that into our design.

His point was that games are good, but applying games to every kind of learning won’t automatically make them better. And to drive his point home, he asked: what if we focused on Chocofication—adding chocolate to everything? Chocolate is tasty, so wouldn’t it make everything better? And to illustrate, he offered many things you could dip in chocolate—some delightful, some unusual, and some downright disgusting.

 

You can see Jesse’s presentation from Learning 3.0 here: 

http://www.slideshare.net/jesseschell/when-games-invade-real-life

It won’t have much impact without Jesse’s narration (like most good presentations, it’s mostly pictures with very few words), but you can enjoy looking at all the things that Jesse wanted to dip in chocolate (including his stapler).

Schell briefly made many of the same points that Kapp makes in-depth. Gaming isn’t for every learning experience. Simply dipping learning in game sauce does not automatically make it better;  in fact, randomly applying vaguely game-ish attributes to learning (like points, badges, and levels) can trivialize the content.

So why all this talk of gamification? Like most aspects of learning, it comes down to motivation, engagement, and behavior change. There’s a reason we’ve been playing games for thousands of years. They engage us, they draw us in, they make us want to gain skills and improve our performance.

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by Austin Kirkbride, M.A.

Austin Kirkbride, M.A., is a Project Manager, certified in Scrum and waterfall project management approaches, and an Organizational Change Management specialist with 20 years of domestic and international experience working in the people side of technology and change. This is the first in a series of posts on how Scrum can enhance learning organizations. written in collaboration with the colleagues on her team.

Scrum is an iterative, incremental framework for project management. Originating in the IT software development world, the scrum methodology has translated well to other industries as it emphasizes functional deliverables, the flexibility to change and adapt along with emerging business realities, and provides a high level of communication and collaboration across the team.

Some of my more purist Scrum Master colleagues have challenged me that the learning development methodology – ADDIE, or Assess, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate – cannot survive in a Scrum world and that it needs to be eliminated. They argue that ADDIE lives in the old world of waterfall project management, complete with silos and hand-offs that make the methodology an antiquated notion of how training should be developed.

I beg to differ.

One of the more elegant aspects of Scrum is that it is a framework, not a dogma. I’ll admit that ADDIE reeks of waterfall project management and implies that there are hand-offs and linear thinking required to apply the methodology. But with a little open-minded application, I see no reason why ADDIE can’t live in the Scrum world.  Here’s how:

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by Reni Gorman

In the first part of this series, we talked about the role of the individual in learning. It’s hard to make someone learn if they’re not willing. But what if they are willing but are not encouraged or worse are discouraged by the person who judges their performance: their manager? What is the manager’ attitude toward the new knowledge and skills learned?

Challenge 3: My manager does not encourage me to apply what I have learned on the job. This is by far the worst, deadliest challenge. People must know that they will be enabled and empowered to put what they learned into action on the job. If they feel for any reason that they can’t… maybe because their managers don’t know what they learned and can’t or won’t help them apply it. Sound unbelievable? It happens all the time. For example, if the manager doesn’t believe in the new sales model and doesn’t encourage its use, it is not very likely his or her team will adapt it and give it a try. We, training professionals, take folks out of their jobs, put them in training, throw them back into their jobs and expect them to perform. We forget that people will usually listen to the person that manages them. If their manager isn’t committed to applying the new skills learned, it most likely will not happen.

Solution 3: Make sure the manager is aware of and reinforces the learning. I point out raising awareness because I have seen many situations where managers did not even know what their employees learned when they went to training. In this case, it may not be that they don’t actively support it, but rather that they don’t know. One idea is to supply managers with a one pager summary of what their people learned that includes things like tips on how to help their employees pull through the learning into application on the job. It could include questions to ask employees to reflect on and talk about the learning and coaching opportunities. Once the managers are aware how do we get them to be supportive? Setting clear expectations through executive sponsors, following up with measurement that results in recognition, rewards and even consequences are all critical for success. First managers have to be told it is expected that they use the new sales model—if that is the case. This message has to be delivered to them through their own leadership so they take it seriously—it can’t and shouldn’t come from the training department. Once they know what they are supposed to do, like coach to the new sales model, we have to make sure they know how to do that—here is where more training may come in. Then we have to measure whether or not they are doing it with the understanding that their actions, both positive and negative, have consequences.

Last but not least it is important to remember that you can’t stop at the manager, you must look to see what the manager’s manager is doing—is he or she supporting new behavior on the manager’s behalf. In other words, if the consequences above aren’t really going to be enforced by the manager’s manager, if he or she doesn’t really believe in the new selling model either, they you need to go through the same process with them: make them aware that it is important, show senior support, and back it up with consequences both negative and unfortunately, if needed, negative.

At the end of the day we all have to be held accountable for our actions. When we are at work and sent to training, we are paid to learn and to action that learning. Let’s make it easy for people to do so by removing any barriers to learning and reinforcing the “right” behavior.

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by Reni Gorman

As learning professionals we spend so much time designing just the right kind of exciting learning intervention that we sometimes forget to think about other factors that may prevent learning. For example, no matter how great the learning experience is, if people are unmotivated to learn then the reality is that they won’t. Let’s explore some of the reasons why people might be unmotivated and figure out what we can do to combat it.

Challenge 1: How does this relate to me? Can you recall a time when you were totally uninterested and unmotivated to learn? Maybe in grade school during history class? For me it was college math. I simply was not interested. Why? I did not ever think calculus was something I would use in “real life.”We know from adult learning principles that people learn best when they can see the relevance the content has to their day-to-day jobs, and to their lives. So, one would think the answer is simple: show people how the content is relevant to them, and they will be open to learning it. As important as this concept is, it’s something designers forget to do as they get all caught up in designing the learning.

Solution 1: Point out the WIIFM. It is really important in the beginning of every learning experience to point out why it is important and relevant for the learner to absorb this new information. The “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM) should be present at the start of each learning piece.

What else may prevent you from learning?

Challenge 2: I already know this. For example: “I’ve learned several sales models in the past. This sounds like the same stuff.”  If people think they already know something, their minds are shut and they won’t allow in new ways of thinking—because of course they don’t need new ways of thinking about something they know inside and out.

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by Kiersten Yocum, M.Ed.

At an organizational level, agility is the ability to grow, change, or innovate at or above the speed of one’s own market. Anything less cannot be considered agility.

   –Timothy R. Clark & Conrad Gottfredson

 We have all heard of corporate agility. We hear the term “agile” all the time related to today’s corporate environment: agile processes, agile practices, agile leadership.  In our rapidly changing world, agility is one of the most important skills an organization can have if it is to stay competitive. Agility is the ability to move quickly, change rapidly, and respond to crises, threats and opportunities at the point of need. Of course, the ability to be agile relies on the ability of the organization to quickly gain the knowledge they need to do so. Rapid access to knowledge and information drives the learning agile organization, as defined by Clark and Gottfredson  in In Search of Learning Agility. But what does it mean to have Learning Agility? What does a Learning Agile organization look like?

Imagine being able to get the knowledge you need at the moment you need it. That’s not too much of a stretch today, is it? Think Google Docs, SharePoint, the Internet and intranets. If you want information, it’s out there. You simply need to find it; Google it and you end up with millions of pieces of information to sift and search through. But Learning Agility is not just the ability to find information.

Now imagine being able to find the knowledge you need quickly and easily and then being able to actually apply that new knowledge immediately. What would that look like? Just being able to find information does not make it useful, and certainly does not make it learning. Information only becomes learning when we connect it in our cognitive structures and are able to apply it in context. Google “ADDIE” and you find all kinds of information on instructional design. But will that give you the learning you need to be able to create an instructionally sound course for your target audience?

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by Rich Mesch

Please join Reni Gorman and I at mLearnCon 2011 in San Jose, CA from June 20-23. Reni and I will be speaking on June 21; our topic is “Mobile Learning is SO 10 Minutes Ago… Mobile Performance is NOW!” Here’s a summary of our session; we hope to see you there!

Imagine going out and buying a shiny new sports car. Now imagine hitching up a horse to it, and having the horse drag your car to work every day.

Sound crazy? Sure it does. So why are people still using mobile devices to deliver e-learning courses?

Years ago, Nicholas Negroponte insisted that in the not-too-distant future, we would all be wearing our computers. He was envisioning complex eyepieces and finger sensors with wires running up your sleeves. He had the right idea but the wrong form factor; he didn’t foresee that we’d be carrying our computers in our pockets and calling them “phones.”

Mobile learning is on everybody’s to-do list, and why not? Who wouldn’t want learning that could follow an employee no matter where she went? But like so many emerging technologies, we need to look past the gloss of the possible to the reality of the useful. Today’s smart phones have nearly as many capabilities as our desktop computers, but that doesn’t mean we use them the same way. And when we try to deliver learning to a mobile device the same way we deliver it to a desktop computer, we miss the point of having a mobile device to begin with. (more…)

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by Reni Gorman

We all intuitively think in a linear fashion because the brain can only really focus on one thing at a time, then another, and another. Therefore, even when we think we are jumping around in our thoughts, we are still thinking one thing after another. Perhaps as a result of this, many of us also write in a linear fashion. Therefore, it is not surprising that many instructional designers create course content linearly; it is difficult to think of a course or a story any other way.. However, when people use newer technologies, they tend to be very non-linear, be it surfing the web, using mobile devices or (especially) performance support systems. You never know where learners are coming from when they land on your web page—or your module. You also don’t know how much they already know. So, how do you to anticipate all of this when creating content, and, ideally, create content that addresses multiple learner types who arrive there from any place without any pre-existing knowledge?

When the web first went commercial (.com), I teamed up online magazine web producers with instructional designers and together they were able to create very interactive, instructionally sound, non-linear content. However, that was in the 90s, the stone age of interactive technology. In today’s world, we need to run as lean as we can. So let me share some of the techniques that worked for me when teaching how to design non-linear content; which, remember, is totally counterintuitive to what many instructional designers have been doing for years.

Ask your instructional designers to create a storyboard with modules that are truly context independent (in other words, that can be accessed from any path with any existing knowledge and will still make sense). Tell them to try to create the smallest possible modules; think online magazine publishing: one article is usually one page. Once they come back with their storyboards, pull out a module from the middle and see if it makes sense out of context. Does it indicate where you can go to “backtrack” and catch up?  What would happen if a learner would go into just this piece of content without the benefit of the previous content? Then, think about modifying the content in a way that makes it easy for anyone with links to go backwards in the content for explanation (if needed), and links to get more deep/advanced. This is commonly referred to as a layered design—once again, very non-linear. You will not know who the learner is when you design; she may be the target audience or a manager of the target audience or an assistant. No matter who the learner is, the content should make sense, and guide the learner to other content where they can catch up or explore further.

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