Free Gamification Course by Kevin Werbach Returns to Coursera!

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - SmallLearning folks! If you are serious about understanding and using principles of Gamification in your learning projects, Prof. Kevin Werbach is offering his superb and FREE online course on Gamification at Coursera starting this month (November)!

Yes, this does require a few hours of work each week for the six week duration–but the assignments are fascinating and fun. You will walk away with a head full of great ideas that you can actually use. I consider this course a “don’t miss” for anyone in the learning field.

Enroll now.

No-Budget Gamification Roundtable at ATD NYC Meeting on November 17th!


These days everybody is talking about Gamification, and how applying elements or principles of it can enhance your learning interactions.  And it’s true: used strategically, Gamification can make your learning both more fun, and more memorable.

But often people think they have to sign on with an expensive external provider that offers all the bells and whistles of a gamified environment to reap the benefits.  And since most people in learning and talent development teams don’t have the budget for it, the conversation about leveraging Gamification often stops there.  But it doesn’t have to.

This November 17th, I’m offering a session I call “No-Budget Gamification” and it’s going to be a roundtable hands-on discussion and work session among meeting attendees, rather than just sitting back and listening to a speaker.

So how will it work?  As we did with my earlier session on fixing common eLearning design mistakes (which was a huge hit), we’re taking a flipped classroom approach.  I’m providing a PowerPoint deck that includes a very simple template, a simple example, and some handy reminders of the basic principles of Gamification.

All you need to do is think about one of your own projects, and complete the simple 1-slide template with ideas for how you might use elements of Gamification to enliven your learning project.  That’s it!  Then on November 17th, we’ll get together (in person and virtually via webinar) to compare solutions and brainstorm even more great ideas.

This approach is simple, fun, and genuinely effective.  By the end of the meeting, you’ll have at least a handful of great ideas for how you can leverage the principles of Gamification to enhance your own learning projects–without spending a dime!

If you’re a member of ATD NYC, or if you’re thinking of joining (non-members can audit one session for free), make sure you register for the November 17th meeting ASAP so that we can save a place for you.  The event should be listed in the ATD NYC events calendar by Tuesday, 11/3.

And be sure to download the “homework” and free Gamification info deck well in advance so that you’ll be ready to play at our meeting: No-Budget Gamification Homework Assignment  In fact–why not download it now and get started.  Even if you can’t make the meeting, you’ll find a lot of great information on Gamification in my slides.

Have fun, and we’ll “see” you on November 17th!

Free Your eLearning Navigation From the Straight and Narrow

Sample Exploratory NavigationThis week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge on the Articulate Forums was all about course navigation. And you know what?  It’s always a good time to talk about navigation. If you are still creating all your eLearning courses with a strictly linear path, then you’re missing a major opportunity to engage adult learners.

I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s a Compliance course, and people just need to get through it as quickly as possible.” Change your mindset. Free yourself and your courseware from the limits of linear thinking. Regardless of the topic, you need to make your learning interesting and engaging for your learners, or they won’t remember your key points a minute longer than the answer to the last quiz question.

Sure, sometimes a linear 1-2-3-4-5 etc. progression of slides makes the most sense. But if you’re looking to involve your learners, and encourage them to remember your information, help them invest in the course, even just a little bit.

How do we do this? In this simple sample, I give the learner free choice to decide on the order of topics, and use branching to deliver the content, while still ensuring that they complete all the material successfully before moving on through the course.  Offering them the opportunity to explore as they please is a small gesture with a large impact.

Adult learners like a course better if it gives them at least a little bit of autonomy, the ability to make their own choices. Think about it–do most people really like to be told what to do, or where to go? Even in a Compliance course, where the stakes for demonstrating mastery of the topic can be high, you can still give your learner some choices.

You can also entertain and engage your learner while you’re at it. I regularly recommend using a scenario-based approach to learning. Why? Because everyone loves a good story, for one thing. And a good story can offer opportunities for you to involve the learner in creating the outcome you seek.

In the example I’m sharing here, I’ve created a very basic template in Storyline 2 that you could use for a Compliance course, or any other type of course. I’ve picked the topic of Information Security, which is a concern for all businesses, regardless of size. I kept the look and feel very neutral and professional. I present a simple menu page that introduces three characters, and invites the learner to click on the characters in whatever order they choose, to explore a risk scenario and help that character avoid making a terrible mistake. So without overdoing it, I’ve introduced a story element, and a little bit of drama to pique the learner’s interest. In my sample, I’ve set up a simple one-slide scenario and one quiz question for each character’s path, but obviously you could do a lot more if needed–although remember that brevity is always a goal.

Using characters introduces a human element. Making up a real-world scenario the learner would easily recognize makes that character and situation all the more real. Asking the learner to step in and prevent the character from making a big mistake involves them in affecting the outcome of an event they feel could actually happen in their workplace. Note my word choice there: regardless of the topic, you need to get your learners to feel something if you want them to remember.

In this sample, I’ve set up the questions to allow infinite attempts. You could also add meaningful feedback for wrong choices to enrich the experience. What you’re subtly doing is making your points, and allowing your learner to explore and fail in a safe environment, while setting them up to succeed, even if they miss on the first try. And when they succeed, I congratulate them and award them a badge for preventing a disaster (a little touch of gamification).

Once they explore all three scenarios, and earn all three badges, then and only then, a button appears inviting them to move ahead with (or perhaps complete) the course. Isn’t that a lot more interesting than rigidly controlling the navigation and forcing your learner to proceed 1-2-3-4-5 in lockstep? This way, you’re still subtly controlling the environment and the learner’s experience. You’re still ensuring they cover all the material. But you’re giving the learner a stake in the game, allowing them to make choices, engage with your content, and come out as heroes.

Next time you start a project, try looking at your course content and navigation in a new light.  Consider:

  • Free-choice navigation systems like the one shown here (or a map, or a diagram, or whatever your imagination devises)
  • Believable, recognizable characters
  • Scenarios that will grab your learner’s interest
  • Little touches of gamification

Sure, creating a course with branching takes a bit more work to design and build. But the end result will be a course that your learners might actually enjoy and remember!

To view the sample template in action, click the image at the top of this post.

Here’s a high-level look at this simple template’s structure:

Sample Exploratory Navigation Structure

image My New Interactive Sample Teaches Grammar With Humor

Grammarwonky Title SlideAdmit it. Sometimes nice, bland characters aren’t all that interesting or engaging.  I’ve been an actor for more than 30 years, and I’m a character actor, which means I don’t play those handsome, kind-hearted “leading man” roles.  I play the offbeat people, which suits me perfectly. Ask any actor you know whether he or she would rather play the hero or the villain. I’ll bet you at least 75% will answer: “The villain, of course!” That’s because the villains tend to be a lot quirkier and more interesting, and therefore more memorable to the audience. And we all want to be remembered, right?

Yet when it comes to creating memorable narrator/host characters for eLearning, most corporations are afraid of presenting a character who is anything other than clean-cut, polite, and endlessly reassuring. After all, companies assume the narrator should always act as a direct representative of the company, and model only the best of corporate behaviors. But think about it: a lot of the workforce today has grown up glued to shows like The SimpsonsSouth Park, and Family Guy. Audiences have always loved characters with a few rough edges, and I think that’s truer now than ever.

Over on the Articulate Forums, last week’s eLearning Heroes Challenge from guru David Anderson was to create a sample teaching a few elements of good grammar. I’ll freely admit that I’m one of those people who silently corrects other people’s grammar in my head all the time, so even though I was busy, I had to accept that challenge. And for some reason, thinking about teaching grammar made me think about Lewis Carroll’s famous poem Jabberwocky–a poem that can’t be criticized for any grammar issues, because it’s made up of nonsense words! Go figure. But the Jabberwock creature of the poem seemed like a good model for someone who is monstrous about insisting on good grammar.

So I decided to create a grammar teacher who is anything but sweet and supportive. He’s an obnoxious, unapologetic grammar nerd. Or, as I coin the term in my new interactive eLearning sample, a Grammarwonk. And I decided to write a “riff” on the famous poem while I was at it.

Click the image on this post, or go to my eLearning Samples page, and see if your own grammar skills can tame the Grammarwonk. And then think about the world of possibilities that opens up for your eLearning when you consider using more colorful–and sometimes, even less pleasant!–characters for your next project. Of course, sometimes you need to walk the straight and narrow corporate line.  But then again–maybe that’s exactly when you shouldn’t.  Remember: learning is best when it also works as entertainment. That’s a simple fact of human nature. Get in touch with me, and I’ll help you leverage that fact for your next project!

PS: Make sure you click on the little “i” info button on the last slide for some cool “easter egg” information.

Free Gamification Course on Starts January 26th!

Folks: If you’Gamification Course Verified Certificate - Smallve been wondering about the principles of Gamification and how to apply them to your eLearning and other projects, you really owe it to yourself to take this free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) by Professor Kevin Werbach on Coursera. It is fun, challenging, and will give you lots of understanding and ideas.

It is starting 1/26, and you can still sign up.  Do it now!   You’ll be very glad you did.

Fun With Flat Graphics and Manager Training!

I got carried away again. The Articulate eLearning Heroes Challenge (#50) for this week was actually very simple: create an image of a workspace using the very popular (thanks, Apple) flat graphic design style. Easy, right? This is actually not a style I’ve really embraced, so that made it a good reason to take on the challenge. But as Articulate’s Tom Kuhlmann had just released a set of flat graphic assets for free use, I didn’t want to replicate what he had already done. That made it even more of a challenge.

Creating some flat graphics was more fun that I expected! For instance, I started making a flat photo frame with four images in it, and when I had it in front of me, I realized that if I put a blue gradient into each of my four rectangles, the picture frame suddenly became a window to the outside world. Granted, I can be easily amused.  Eventually, I changed the window to a cork board because I needed the real estate. But it was surprisingly fun playing with simple shapes and assembling them in various ways to create other objects. Even so, graphics for their own sake wasn’t holding my interest long term.  So I decided to make it an interactive, exploratory workspace sample, and to give it a specific context.

Suddenly, Articulate released the long-awaited Storyline version 2!  I opened it up and laughed–the entire interface now boasts a “flat” design! Once I started looking around, I got lost, the way I get lost when I walk into Costco and see all those big, long aisles and all those shelves….  So while I’ve barely scratched the surface of the nifty-looking new features, I did find time to incorporate two motion paths, and a slider.  Motion paths were pretty easy to sort out; wrapping my head around the workings of the slider was a learning experience for me.  But the end result is quite fun.  I also incorporated an elegant calculator, courtesy of eLearning Locker.  Creating a mini, flat version took some time, but arranging the little squares became a kind of zen exercise.

Anyway, better late than never, here is my submission for the flat graphics challenge.  My thought was that something like this could serve as the beginning of a new manager training program.  After the manager explores the workspace, then we could present them with a number of different scenario-based challenges, using the team characters and information introduced in the workspace.  Branching would make it possible to play out different sets of results from the manager’s choices.  I know, I could have stopped with just creating a flat workspace.  But once the ideas start percolating….

To launch my new sample, just click on the image in this post.

Thanks for another fun challenge, David Anderson!

image Play My Fun New Call Center Game Demo

Call Center Game DemoThis week’s eLearning Heroes’ Challenge on the Articulate Forum (Challenge #47, for those of you who are counting) was to create a quick sample of a call center module.  After all, sooner or later most customers have a need for some form of call center training.  Thanks, moderator David Anderson, for another great challenge!

Since I believe that people learn best when they’re enjoying themselves, I decided to take a humorous route.  I chose to leverage the nifty avatar characters that come packaged with Articulate Storyline (each character has some images on headset; invaluable for call center trainings–and something missing from their photo character images).  And since I was going for a spirit of fun, I chose to use a great set of comic book layout templates that are also available to download from the Articulate Forum.

The result is brief–it’s only a sample, after all–but packs in four different scenarios and a whole bunch of good advice for the call center trainee.  For a real training, lots of things could be expanded–for example, the feedback could be customized to each scenario.  I could add a badge or point system based on the learner’s performance.  Sound effects could heighten the experience.  Background colors and settings could add another layer.  You get the idea.  Here I present only the all-important opening interaction with the call center rep and the customer, but for a real project I would build out a longer interaction, branching with each question with varying customer responses, based on how well the call center trainee handles the customer.  And of course, the comic book approach is just one of many–but it would resonate particularly well with a population that enjoys comics and graphic novels.

If you have a couple of minutes to spare, check out my new sample.  It may give you some good ideas.  And it’ll almost certainly give you a chuckle.  You can click here to view all my eLearning samples, or click the image to launch just this one demo.

Your Input Needed for Upcoming Blog Post and Newsletter Topics

Tenniel Hatter SingingOkay, I need some input from you folks: I’m working on my next quarterly newsletter. I see from my MailChimp report that a decent number of you are opening my newsletters, which is great, as I do put a lot of work into each issue. Links don’t seem to be of much interest to my readers, however, which is surprising as I think I’m sharing some pretty cool free tools and info.

So let me hear from you: what topics are of most interest to you, for upcoming blog posts as well as newsletters? Some possible topics: Articulate Storyline, Presentation Skills, Gamification, Voiceovers, eLearning Script Writing, Needs Analysis, Making eLearning Content More Engaging, Scenario-based Training, Ideas for Mobile Learning, or…?

And let me know what you’ve thought of prior newsletters–more of something? Less of something? I genuinely appreciate all constructive feedback–my goal is to post content that will be genuinely helpful to you! Let me know your thoughts.


Free Learning Gamification eBook Available Online

Gamification eBookChristopher Pappas of eLearning Industry has put together a free eBook on using Gamification in Learning, with input from a host of gamification folks–including Karl Kapp.

To read the eBook online, click the image or click here.

What MOOCs Should Mean To You

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - Small


I disagree strongly with a recent article about the purported “dangers” of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, on The author’s generalizations about MOOCs, and the overall tone of the piece, are especially disappointing coming from a professor.  Many of the Comments after the article are far more enlightened than the article itself. The author sounds like someone afraid of inevitable change, worried about his own job, and blind to the real benefit that MOOCs can represent–including to him.

I’m not saying every MOOC is a winner. Heck, I’ve only taken one such course so far, and I’ve heard from colleagues that some are complete crap. But you know what? That happens at brick and mortar colleges, too.  Even Ivy League ones.  And there, it costs a lot more.  I can only say that my first MOOC experience was excellent. The video lectures were engaging and interesting. I actively debated the wording on some quiz questions in the discussion forums, and received an answer from the professor himself.  He disagreed with some of my points, but eventually agreed to regrade one of the questions based on the feedback. There were even a few “open house” video hours where the professor met with a handful of students from the class to discuss specific aspects of the main topic (which was Gamification, another oft-misunderstood topic in education). Best of all, the three homework assignments were genuinely thought-provoking, and I had a great time completing them.   I’ve posted them individually on this blog, in fact, if you’d like to explore them.  True, the peer grading system for the course I took was imperfect, but it worked well enough, and having graded my share of undergrad papers while in grad school, I found it all very manageable.  Oh, and the course was free.

The author of the article paints a nightmarish vision where MOOCs will put classroom professors out of work, or at least greatly diminish their pay, and also rob students of the richness of a real professor-student relationship, not to mention a good education.  I earned my undergrad degree from Harvard. In the larger lecture courses, the well-known professor showed up at the podium and gave his canned lecture (in fact, one fellow was famous for reading from the same dog-eared index cards, jokes and all, that he had apparently used for over twenty years; and no, the jokes weren’t particularly funny).  In some cases, if he was in a particularly giving vein, a professor might take a few questions before heading back to his House for lunch.  That was it for professor-student contact for the big lectures.  For those larger courses, the real learning happened in the subsequent House-based breakout sections with the teaching fellows and classmates, and the learning effectiveness rose or fell based on the quality of the section leader and the student’s own level of participation.

The Coursera MOOC I took certainly qualified as a large lecture course.  Initially, almost 10,000 students enrolled–although that number diminished significantly by the end of the course, once people realized there was a genuine workload involved.  The professor delivered enthusiastic video lectures, but also dipped into the online discussion forums pretty regularly, and his teaching fellows answered the rest of the questions in a variety of active forum discussions.  In other words, the teaching model and the student experience were not all that different from what I experienced on campus at Harvard.  MOOCs might seem most threatening to a professor at a small college, perhaps, where there can be closer regular contact with professors.  I certainly experienced that in some of the smaller courses I took at Harvard, and yes, it was more satisfying.  But even there, I think such a professor at a small college complaining about MOOCS would be missing the point.

I don’t think anyone expects or intends for MOOCs to replace brick and mortar education. Any brick and mortar institution out there telling itself it can downsize the teaching staff in any significant way in favor of MOOCs as a budgetary “magic bullet” is kidding itself.  But I would also say that any Professor who dismisses MOOCs is also not facing reality. MOOCs are evolving as a result of the global need for more, and more affordable, just-in-time, location-agnostic learning.  We all need to keep pace with the ever-faster rate of change and the ever-increasing level of competition in the world around us. I would suggest that MOOCs should be viewed as simply another optional component of a blended learning solution.

Already, the job description for “college professor” in many cases is evolving to include teaching at least some content online, if not in a MOOC, then in a private online course.  MOOCs are still finding their audience, and learning how to deliver their product for maximal impact. MOOCs are also still finding their price point.  After all, some MOOC creators are for-profit organizations.  If the purveyors of MOOCs become too greedy, MOOC use will quickly become self-limiting.  But if the one course I’ve taken so far is any indication, the audience is out there all over the world, and the potential learning benefit is enormous. Like any other form of education, ultimately, you get out of it what you put into it.  As Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  I think MOOCs are both inevitable, and full of potential.  It’s up to us to shape that potential and make it what we need it to be.

The Gamification course I took was with Professor Kevin Werbach from The Wharton School at UPenn via Coursera, and while Coursera (unlike Harvard’s EdX) is for-profit, the course I took was free. Professor Werbach will be offering it again on Coursera this fall; I heartily recommend it to anyone in any business.  The author of the article needs to step back, calm down, and find his new place in the current, tech-inclusive bigger picture of education.  Because MOOCs represent an opportunity to learn for both students and professors.

If you want to read more on this topic, I encourage you to check out this recent lengthy article from the New Yorker magazine.