Learning Consulting

A Very Articulate Talk from Tom Kuhlmann at ASTDNY Meeting
Kuhlmann and Anderson AvatarsTom Kuhlmann, VP of Community for Articulate, and David Anderson, Community Manager at Articulate, were at the New York Institute of Technology in NYC on 9/24-25 to teach two one-day classes targeted to folks who are new to eLearning.  On the evening of 9/24, Tom also gave a separate talk about where eLearning fits into the whole learning picture today, with a few assists from David. These events were co-sponsored by ASTDNY and STC NY Metro, with support from TrainingPros.  There was a modest admission charge for the evening talk, but Tom is always well worth hearing, regardless of your level of expertise.
Despite the title of his popular “Rapid eLearning Blog“, Tom no longer embraces the term “rapid elearning”; each project takes the time it takes, and the process is always changing. He gave the example of the evolution of business résumés from hand-typed to online. (And I would add that now I’m seeing “infographic” versions!) Processes naturally evolve over time.  Tom noted that while in the early days learning teams were made up of a large group of single-skilled people (Flash, web, instructional design, graphics, etc.), the advent of “rapid” eLearning development tools (including those from Articulate, like the excellent Storyline) has somewhat “democratized” the process.  He pointed out that while such tools have empowered companies to create a lot more of their eLearning content internally, it has also typically resulted in the reduction of roles on an eLearning team–often to the extreme where one person may have to wear all the hats.  I was glad to hear Tom remind his audience that having these tools is not the same thing as having instructional design skills, and that the recipe for eLearning success must still include both.  As he put it: “Good instruction needs to be intentional.”
I also agree with Tom that while there may be a cost savings to a company in the reduction of the number of members on an eLearning team, something is lost, too: the broader perspective that naturally comes from more pairs of eyes on a project.  He encouraged attendees to make sure they always take two steps, both of which I embrace and practice myself:
  1. Identify and engage the executive with final course sign off at the outset, and
  2. Make sure to involve a representative sampling of the target audience’s team in identifying the topics and presentation plans for the eLearning content.

That way, the course is more thoroughly and effectively vetted before it is built, saving everyone time and potential headaches.  I would also add that for companies who keep their learning teams small, it’s that much more important to have a well-thought-out archival system in place, to keep a record of what has been created (and agreed to in writing with clients), and ensure that all source files area readily available should the chief eLearning team member be out or leave the company.

An audience member asked about consistency of formatting in eLearning, and whether that can become a “trap” that limits creativity and learner enjoyment.  Tom opined that organizations tend to get what they’re willing to pay for, unfortunately. And they typically want the same kind of course they have seen in the past–often simply because they haven’t seen anything better. In my own work, I’ve found that creating and sharing a quick mock-up of a few slides to share my vision for the course will help bring clients on board quickly.
Of course, budget is always the bottom line.  Tom cited Compliance courses as a classic case: we all know that a company typically produces a compliance course only to meet a regulatory requirement, so they don’t want to waste a lot of resources putting it out there. Hence the omnipresence of un-engaging, ineffective compliance training. I couldn’t agree with Tom more that while it’s both important and helpful to create some instructional design templates to ensure a measure of quality and consistency within a course and across multiple courses in a curriculum, it’s also important to give courses their own identity, and to leave room for creativity.  I consulted with a great company once that had just invested a good deal of money in an eLearning rapid development platform, but then locked down the content presentation slide by slide in a well-intentioned attempt to ensure instructional design soundness and consistency from one course to another. Their lockdown meant all courses needed to present exactly the same elements in the same order for every course–regardless of topic.  It’s still possible to exercise some creativity within such constraints, but courses–and learners–naturally need variety.
With regard to the cost and complexity aspects of eLearning, Tom rightly questions a course development model like “level 1-5” because it implies that a course built simply and inexpensively (level 1) is low quality and a course with all the bells & techno-whistles (level 5) is always the best, which is simply not the case. I was glad to hear him reinforce the goal of fitting the learning to the specific audience need. If a simple how-to video is suitable, great. If complex interactivity (like scenarios) is needed, so be it.  I would add that both of those examples could be produced inexpensively or expensively; that’s where creativity comes into play again.
Tom closed his talk with a few common-sense recommendations for folks just getting started with creating eLearning:
  • Offer good instruction (meaningful content and interactions)
  • Leverage graphic and visual design (learn to communicate visually; look everywhere for free or affordable graphics)
  • Practice efficient production with tools (become fluent with your tool; don’t settle for basic skills)
  • Build reusable interactions and templates
  • Assemble your resources, and then commit to making them successful
He also stressed the importance of being part of a strong user community (like Articulate’s eLearning Heroes forum) and noted that non-Articulate users can still benefit from a lot of the discussions and free templates on their forum. I couldn’t agree more.  If you’re not already registered there, I would strongly suggest you sign up and begin reaping the benefits of crowdsourced creativity today.  You’ll see David on there regularly, answering questions and giving feedback.  You should also sign up for Tom’s Rapid eLearning Blog, if you haven’t already; he shares excellent advice and lots of free templates.  And the next time Tom is in town, you should make a point of attending and absorbing some of his great tips.


A Leading MOOC Advocate Reconsiders His Position

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - SmallIf you’re following the discussion around Massive Open Online Courses (or MOOCs) and how they fit (or don’t fit) into higher education, you might find a September 3rd article from the Chronicle of Higher Education interesting.  It concerns a leading MOOC professor, sociologist Mitchell Duneier of Princeton, who decided to step away from the current MOOC environment when Coursera approached him about licensing his content for use by other institutions.  His chief concern is that this kind of “franchising” of MOOC content could encourage states to cut funding for traditional colleges.  And he’s right to be worried.

I admire the integrity of Professor Duneier’s decision. In both academia and corporate America, we’re all still figuring out how MOOCs fit into the blended learning picture.  And at this early stage, every high-profile decision could set a precedent.  As I noted in my recent blog post and podcast, I certainly agree with those who advise caution about the naive notion of viewing MOOCs as a “magic bullet” to reduce higher education costs.  But education costs are steadily rising, and in this economy being able to afford a quality education is a problem that seems likely only to worsen.  Given the advent of MOOCs and the persistence of economic challenges in America, the current educational model does need to change.  And after all, evolution is the most natural of processes.  So, what should we do?

While I respect Professor Duneier’s intentions, I don’t think that stepping away from the discussion is the way to move things forward. The conversation around governance needs to happen now.  Logically, when new policy needs to be shaped, we look to our leaders.  And the instructors who are most in demand are likely to have the strongest voice in helping to shape protections around how MOOCs should best be leveraged in academia–including how to protect funding for brick-and-mortar colleges (and their professors) at the same time.  Lawyers can always be engaged down the road as needed, when it comes time to formalize the wording of the protections.  I hope today’s leading (and let’s acknowledge it: pioneering) MOOC instructors can be persuaded to come together and form an independent governance board or amicus curiae consortium that will help shape recommendations for the much-needed guidelines.  It won’t be easy taming such an amorphous subject.  But it needs to happen.  I would certainly nominate Professor Duneier and also Professor Kevin Werbach of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to such a group of academic superheroes.  MOOCs represent  enormous learning potential–we just need to work together to manage that potential responsibly for the greater communal good.

Whatever your position on this question, the article from the Chronicle of Higher Education makes for thought-provoking reading.  Click here to read the full article.  Add a comment here to let me know what you think!

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.

Coursera Gamification Course: My Third and Final Assignment

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - SmallHere is my submission for the third and final assignment in Professor Kevin Werbach’s excellent (and, I will mention yet again, free!) Gamification course on Coursera.  To have the best sense of the progression of the course, I would suggest that you start by reading my first assignment, and my second assignment before exploring this one. Both build up to the length and depth of this final assignment.  My assignment submissions are all copyright 2013.  If you like the way I approach these projects, consider engaging me to consult on your next initiative!  I love putting my mind to challenges like this one.

The Final Assignment:

This last challenge was about a fictional web site, “ShareAll,” that is in the collaborative consumption space (like ZipCar, Uber, etc.)  We were told that the company already has a patented technology that will allow people to share any product or service easily via their web site.  We were also given the following specifics:

  • They have a global virtual currency called “Shares” that people can use to purchase access to any of the assets listed on the ShareAll site.
  • Shares can be exchanged for real money.
  • Users can generate more Shares if they share their items or volunteer their time to others.
  • They want to make shared product/service use as common as standard purchases.
  • The company charges a small transaction fee when Shares are: generated, traded, or spent.
  • Profit is their priority, but the company has a genuine desire to offer social benefit, as well.

The submission had to address the following aspects of Professor Werbach’s recipe for successful gamification:

1.     Define business objectives

2.     Delineate target behaviors

3.     Describe your players

4.     Devise activity loops

5.     Don’t forget the fun!

6.     Deploy the appropriate tools

Since we were limited to 1500 words, I framed my response as a direct answer to the points noted above.

My Submission:

1) ShareAll’s defined business objectives:

  • Maximize profits by maximizing Share (global currency) transactions
  • Render shared use of products and services (the “assets”) on ShareAll system as habitual as making standard purchases
  • Encourage asset sustainability across local and global communities

Justifying a gamification approach to meet these business objectives: A gamified web site and matching mobile app would be an ideal way to accomplish these objectives.  It would offer:

Motivation: It would offer extrinsic value to participants in terms of free or discounted access to desired products and services, and other tangible and intangible system rewards as noted below.  It would also intrinsic value by building a highly engaged local and global community with trusted relationships, a sense of personal autonomy and competence, paired with relatedness and shared commitment to sustainability and helping others.

Meaningful Choices: The site/app will offer a variety of choices in assets, and how they can obtain and leverage them, as well as choice in how they access the site (pc, tablet, smartphone), appealing to the widest audience possible.

Structure:  We can use the “rules” of the system functionality we design to promote and reinforce the desired transactional and sustainability behaviors.

Potential Conflicts:  ShareAll has no conflicts with other rewards structures, giving us complete freedom to design a system maximizing both profits and sustainability.

2) Delineating target behaviors:  

  • Habitual generating of new Shares by sharing or trading assets
  • Habitual spending of Shares to use others’ assets
  • Habitual earning of Shares by volunteering time
  • Enhancing Reputation on site over time to encourage longtime use
  • Habitual participation in social/recreational site elements to deepen community involvement
  • Regularly enlisting new participants via influencer marketing

The key here is to encourage habitual behaviors, steadily increasing ShareAll profits through earning, trading and spending Shares.  Specific success factors (for example: a certain number of transactions/month, total transaction value/month, community projects completed/month, etc.) will be defined by ShareAll.  We can validate that the behaviors are manifested and contributing to ShareAll’s objectives by tracking analytical data including: logins, DAU/MAU, virality, activity volume, successful referrals, social interactions, and more.  Participants know they are doing well by number of Shares, points/badges/leaderboard, and Reputation ratings earned (as well as by how much fun they’re having!).  They can also track communal accomplishments via statistics like overall emissions reductions (shared vehicles), carbon footprint savings, cost savings compared to non-collaborative consumption sites, and more TBD with ShareAll.

3) Describing participants (players):

Demographics: Since ShareAll is a marketplace for all asset types, there is no limit to your target audience (other than local legal age restrictions).

Psychographics:  We’ll appeal to all four basic aspects of participant motivation.  Examples:

Compete:  Earn points to unlock more levels, earn merit badges, and leaderboard standings based on number and types of assets shared, assets leveraged, and participants helped/expertise demonstrated.

Collaborate: Share opinions and solutions with neighbors in posts and chat rooms.  Weekly community challenge of a real-world problem from anywhere on the globe: invite participants in teams of three or more neighbors to devise a sharing-based solution leveraging site assets.  ShareAll picks best proposed solution, posts congratulatory article on the site’s Helping Hand page about how team partnered to create their solution, and contributes toward implementing the proposed solution.

Explore: Site prompts participants with suggestions for exploring sharing new asset types and new ways to volunteer, based on their profiles and activity pattern.

Express:  Award points for donating original music, art, and avatars to the global neighborhood for customizing neighbor profile pages.  Earn points and enhance Reputation by contributing helpful comments and suggestions on posts, “voting up” helpful answers from others, and volunteering.

4) Devising activity loops

We’ll leverage Engagement Loops and Progression Loops to onboard participants quickly and keep them coming back regularly.

Engagement Loop examples:

  • Site invites registration and promises “Your first share is free!”  Participant creates profile, and is automatically awarded a “New Neighbor” badge, Share currency for a first transaction, encouragement to make their first transaction, and an asset search and listing window on ShareMarket page (described below).  Participant completes first transaction, immediately receives a new Share and Neighbor Points, plus information on points needed for next badge/level, along with a high-level notation of sustainability impact and encouragement to continue making transactions.
  • Each login, site offers fields to search for or offer assets.  On completing any Share transaction, “Congratulations” message praises participant, notes any Shares/points/badge earned so far, encourages progress to next level, and offers search/listing fields again.

Progression Loops:  Over time, Participants grow along two feedback-based Reputation paths:

  • Sharing Path (transactional feedback): from “New Sharer” to “Share Buddy” to “Super Sharer” to “Share Master.”
  • Hero Path (volunteering/community assistance feedback): graduating from “New Neighbor” to “Good Neighbor” to “Great Neighbor” to “Neighborhood Hero” (mentor).

5)  Don’t Forget the Fun!

To encourage habitual site usage, we’ll incorporate multiple Fun types (Easy, Hard, People, Serious), employing principles of positive psychology, for example:

  • Appealing visual design, customizable site colors and profile page, original music, images and avatars shared by participants
  • Point, badge collecting, leaderboard, and level system
  • Chat rooms for socializing
  • Team problem-solving opportunities for social causes
  • Surprise, time-limited sharing-themed challenges with special rewards

6) Deploying Appropriate Tools

Here are examples of elements for deploying this gamified web site and mobile app strategy:

Public pages, including:

  • “About Us” page: While for-profit, ShareAll’s mission is to encourage communal good by making sharing assets (sustainability) a default behavior locally and globally.  Narrative metaphor: Global Neighborhood.  Participants register as “neighbors”.
  • “Success Stories” page displays recent posts, photos, and videos of ShareAll participants and their sharing and sustainability successes around the world.
  • FAQs page answers common questions and encourages visitors to register for their first free Share.
  • “How ShareAll Works” page explains:
    • Easily share, trade, or “buy” access to any Products or Services on site using Shares as currency.
    • Generate Shares (with small per-transaction fees) by sharing assets, and volunteering time.  Option to convert Shares to cash (at much lower value, encouraging Share retention for transactions, and maintaining sharing focus).  Option to buy Shares if needed.
    • Reputation: Sharing Path and Hero Path (as detailed above)
    • Other Rewards: bonus points for every X transactions (10, 25, 50, 75, 100, etc.), and for every month of minimum transaction activity (example: 5 transactions) on site. Bonus points awarded randomly each month to one participant in leaderboard top ten.
    • Members-only pages, including:
    • Neighbor Profile page: Award Share (enabling first transaction) for registering on site (option to use Facebook, Google, or Twitter login) and completing simple profile, including name, city/country (not street address), hobbies, interests, and favorite charities.  Option to view other profiles listing same charity, and a listing of other registered neighbors in participant’s geographic neighborhood group.  Profile Progress Bar shows % completed.  Extra points: uploading personal photo instead of system avatar.  Welcome message generated on completion also offers asset search/listing window to encourage transaction.  Activity Stream feed shows recent activity from neighbors friended/followed on site, and a Social Graph provides a comparative overview with your neighbors.  Tell-A-Neighbor program offers 1 Share for influencer marketing leading to each new registration.  Ability to share accomplishment updates via Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    • Dashboard: Visible on all pages; option to place on top, bottom, right, or left of screen.  Shows total Shares in participant’s account, pending requests to use that participant’s assets, sharing offers matching participant’s own request(s), recent transaction history, points and badges earned, leaderboard status (with easy opt-out), and Reputation path status.
    • ShareMarket page: Easily search for or post assets, and create asset requests.  Points for adding helpful comments; option to “vote up” others’ comments
    • Helping Hand page: Points for participants posting sharing opportunities for charitable good, both in local and global neighborhoods.  Posting of weekly global sharing challenge contest sponsored by ShareAll.  Postings of questions and answers from other neighbors.
    • “Grapevine” Chat Rooms page: Registered neighbors chat in any topic room to encourage community; Randomly-selected daily “Neighbor Profile Spotlight”.
    • “Express Yourself!” Gallery page: Neighbors earn points sharing their own original music,  images, and avatars, and for each time neighbors use them on their own profiles.

I recommend a Pilot period (example: 3-6 months) with a select number of neighborhoods around the globe to obtain and study a representative set of actual system usage/behavioral data, and survey feedback to determine what best motivates participants to make transactions and encourages sustainability.  We would then adjust the system and launch it to the general public.  Remember that running such a site is an organic, growing process.  Details of rewards/levels system may need to evolve with the active population to keep the site fresh and continue to meet the stated business objectives.  Also, based on name and branding recognition, we should consider pursuing an ongoing celebrity endorsement from (pardon the pun) Cher!

Peer Feedback on My Submission:

As with the two prior assignments, each submission is graded anonymously by five randomly-selected peer students.  All five of my graders gave me the top score of “5” yet again for this final assignment.  And here is their written feedback (again, one left no written feedback):

peer 2 → Good description. Covered multiple aspects of the gamified system and all the key elements have been incorporated. Good work!
peer 3 → Tools
peer 4 → Excellent all around – I am sure it is one of the best. “Award points for donating original music, art, and avatars to the global neighborhood” – That is a great IDEA!!!!- it hits a loophole in the current intellectual rights system and the loophole should be exploited more.
peer 5 → Excellent writing assignment. This student clearly demonstrated understanding of the concepts taught in the class and presented them well. I liked the last paragraph which proposed a short term pilot period and even a touch of humor about the celebrity endorsement. (Which is actually not a bad idea if you could actually get Cher!) It was so thoughtful and well done that I’m guessing this student writes proposals for a living. 🙂

Once again, I really appreciate all the great feedback I received from my peers in this excellent course.  And, no, I don’t write proposals for a living, but I’ll take the compliment!  If you have interest in exploring how Gamification might enhance your own projects, I would urge you strongly to check on Coursera to see when Professor Werbach is offering the next session of this terrific, thought-provoking course.  And if you’d like to talk about how you can incorporate subtle elements of Gamification in your eLearning and classroom training, get in touch with me.  There are so many possibilities.

Coursera Gamification Course: My Second Assignment

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - SmallHere’s my homework from the second assignment in Professor Kevin Werbach’s thought-provoking (and free!) Gamification course on the Coursera MOOC.  To have the best sense of the progression of thought in the course, you might want to check out my first assignment here before reading this second assignment.  All of my assignment responses are copyright 2013.

The Second Assignment:

The scenario this time involved an inquiry from the Mayor of a mythical mid-sized U.S. city.  The Mayor wants to address the issue of health and obesity in city workers.  Here are the facts we were given:

  • The city has 50,000 employees
  • Same rates of obesity as the U.S. average: 34.4% overweight (but not obese) and 33.9% of them are obese
  • 53.1% of the city’s employees do not meet the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity
  • 76% of them fail to meet the Guidelines for muscle-strengthening activity.
  • The city pays for health benefits for its employees and this cost is a huge part of the city budget.
  • It has been determined that a 3% improvement in the average physical fitness of city employees would amount to a US$94 million reduction in annual city health costs; a 5% improvement would save US$188 million.

We were asked to provide a high-level proposal for an internal, gamified solution to help the Mayor achieve his goals by appealing specifically to both intrinsic (doing something for its own sake) and extrinsic (i.e. tangible rewards) motivators.  It could be high tech or no-tech, but had to be realistic in either case.  Maximum submission length: 500 words.  In my submission, I noted the intrinsic/extrinsic elements in brackets.

My Submission:

Introducing an intranet (city employees only) web site and matching mobile app: “The Virtual Gym,” with different areas, like a real gym:

Warmup Area: All employees enter on login, and answer one fun daily quiz question about value of stretching, and dangers of obesity. Informative feedback; employees can retake question until they succeed.  Points (decreasing each attempt), and access to other rooms, awarded for correct answer, and for every five logins.  Employees also earn points for contributing helpful questions for game updates. [Extrinsic: Feedback Loop, Fixed Ratio, Completion Contingent, Status, Access; Intrinsic: Competence, Relatedness]

Employees can then choose one of three “rooms” [Intrinsic: Autonomy]:

Team Room, containing:

  • “Heart Rate”: a fun, timed challenge game teaching benefits of aerobic workouts, incorporating US Physical Activity Guidelines, with informative feedback.  Points awarded based on how long employee maintains the game’s increasing pace.  Points also for contributing helpful information incorporated in game updates. [Intrinsic: Competence, Relatedness; Extrinsic: Fixed Interval, Status]
  • Class Schedule: Employees post details of an upcoming aerobics class in the city.  Points awarded for posting, for signing up, and recording completion. [Intrinsic: Relatedness, Competence; Extrinsic: Status]

Weight Room, including:

  • “Buff Zone” – a fun, strength-themed game awarding points and levels of Power for learning the benefits of muscle-building workouts, incorporating US Physical Activity Guidelines, with informative feedback; points also for contributing helpful information incorporated in game updates. [Intrinsic: Competence, Relatedness; Extrinsic: Status, Power]
  • Buddy List: Employees post request for a workout partner.  Points awarded for posting a workout, for signing up, and later recording completion. [Intrinsic: Relatedness, Competence; Extrinsic: Status]

Locker Room, including:

  • Locker: Employees track progress on their fitness and weight loss goals against Guidelines, track points earned, and can opt out of default sharing of that information in Locker Room and Lobby Score Card by “locking” their locker (avoiding possible disincentive). [Intrinsic: Autonomy, Competence; Extrinsic: Status, Power of Defaults]
  • A Scale field records weight entries over time; this data is tallied and shared anonymously as part of the cumulative city Score Card. [Intrinsic: Competence]
  • New levels of badges are unlocked and awarded on locker door based on number, frequency, and type of goals achieved. [Intrinsic: Competence; Extrinsic: Status, Access]
  • Chat Rooms (lunch hours only): Sauna (male IDs only), Steam (female IDs only), Jacuzzi (co-ed access): Three peer-monitored chat rooms, where employees can relax, share workout details, and chat. [Intrinsic: Autonomy, Relatedness]

The Lobby (available from all screens):

  • Goal Post: Select accomplishment data shared from lockers appears here.  A free “healthy lunch coupon” is awarded randomly to one person on this list each week. [Intrinsic: Competence; Extrinsic: Status, Variable Ratio, Tangible Stuff]
  • Score Card: A leaderboard showing top 20 scores from prior month, and current cumulative percentage of fitness improvement for all participants combined compared against prior month, year, US average, and city goals.
  • Announcements: Health-related bulletins, and news of city-wide communal prizes earned (ex: healthy snack machines for break rooms) [Intrinsic: Relatedness, Competence; Extrinsic: Tangible Stuff]

Peer Feedback on My Submission:

As with the first assignment, this one was graded anonymously and randomly by five of my peer students.  Again, I earned a perfect score of “5” from each of them.  Here is the written feedback I received (one person didn’t include any):

peer 1 → Thorough analysis and integration of gamification elements that leverage proper game design in order to strategically help the city employees.
peer 2 → the wide variety of games and rooms outlined
peer 3 → The social aspect of the system.
peer 4 → It’s a very detailed and specific answer. Great job!


I hope this gives you ideas of how you might incorporate some elements of gamification in your own projects.  How might I improve this submission?  Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section!



Coursera Gamification Course: My First Assignment

Gamification Course Verified Certificate - SmallI’ve done a number of posts already about my experiences with Professor Kevin Werbach’s excellent (and free!) Gamification course on the Coursera MOOC system.  Professor Werbach has given me permission to share my work on the course assignments, so here is the first of three.  I will post the other two in subsequent weeks.  If you read all three of the posts coming in this series, you’ll get at least a sense of the arc of the course.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  And I believe Professor Werbach plans to offer it again this fall.

Assignment #1 Details:

We were presented with a scenario where a cereal company is introducing a new line of breakfast pastries.  The assignment was simply to determine why gamification could represent a smart element to add to their marketing campaign.   We were not asked to recommend elements of gamification for this assignment; only to demonstrate why gamification could be beneficial to the company’s marketing plan, based on what we learned in the course lectures.  The length was limited to 300 words or less.  We were given the following facts:

  • Target audience: 18-35 year-olds
  • They don’t want to eat kiddie cereals.
  • They don’t have time to cook their own breakfasts.
  • Market research indicates the pastries are more likely to appeal to women than men, by 65% to 35%.
  • The fictitious company has a 35% share of the breakfast food market, but only 10% share of the ready-to-eat segment.

We were tasked with providing as many reasons as possible for why gamification would be a good addition to their marketing, including as many specifics relating to the scenario facts as possible within the word limit.

My Submission:

Why gamification could help sales:

Engagement gap: The target audience (18-35 years) represents a demographic already strongly engaged with gaming and social media.  Adding social gamification to the marketing campaign would be a natural, compelling way to engage this new audience voluntarily.

Choices: Allowing players to make autonomous choices within the game-like environment could mirror and introduce the audience to different product choices (flavors, ways to enjoy them).  Players end up exploring more of the product line while exploring more of the game, and in doing so, discover for themselves a solution to their desire for something ready-made that isn’t kid’s food.

Progression: A game-like environment could tap into the human psychological desire for progression by including a progression mechanism driven in part by demonstration of product purchase volume or product knowledge, deepening the player’s investment in the product and brand.

Social: We learned in Professor Werbach’s lectures that female players favor more social/casual gaming experiences, and since they are 65% of this target audience, emphasizing the social element in the game-like environment would have strong appeal.  It could even be expanded to include earning donations to popular altruistic social causes, to further enhance engagement and product/brand loyalty.

Habit: If the game-like environment is appealing enough to keep bringing players back out of habit, we are also directly and indirectly encouraging them to keep buying the product as part of that habit, which is the primary business objective.

Fun: The game-like element of the campaign can help associate the new product with having fun, making both purchasing and playing more likely to become habit for the players, and also more likely to spread by positive word of mouth to even more players (i.e. more potential customers).

Peer Feedback on My Submission:

Each homework assignment is graded by five anonymous peer students in the course, chosen completely at random.  I received a top score of “5” from each of my five graders.  Here is the written feedback I received from them on this assignment:

peer 1 → You really got to the point and didn’t include irrelevant information.
peer 2 → You addressed the specifics of the scenario well, especially for the proportion of females in the target market.
peer 3 → He explained everything in a clear way
peer 4 → the assignment was clear, specific and well described.
peer 5 → Excellent organization, well reasoned, thorough
So, what else might I have included, while staying within the 300 word limit?  Any suggestions?  Please add them as Comments to this post.  Thanks!
Great Class Photo From My Latest eLearning Voiceovers Course

IMG_1273 - 600x400Here’s a great shot taken at the end of my full-day eLearning Voiceovers class, which I led once again for the great folks of GMCR, this time down in Knoxville, TN.  A number of the students couldn’t stay for the photo as they had flights to catch, but we had 18 in all.

It was a great bunch, with a great attitude.  Lots of fun, lots of learning, and lots of creativity on display in their projects.

My thanks again to GMCR for the opportunity to work with a team of people who are really into their jobs.  Given the differences I heard between the beginning and the end of the day, I’m confident that these talented folks now know how to better leverage their voiceover skills to add genuine engagement and impact to their eLearning modules.

Well done, all!

Also not pictured: the folks I coached one-on-one the next day on Presentation Skills.  Great growth and progress all around!


A New Addition to My eLearning Samples Page!

LCSNA DemoI’ve added another brief demo to my eLearning Samples page.  A prospective client wanted to see a demo that makes use of Storyline’s Variables and Conditions features, as well as the Screencast feature.  So I decided to have a little fun with it, and crafted a short sample that promotes one of my favorite non-profits: the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, a group of men and women of all ages dedicated to literacy, and to studying and celebrating the life and works of author Lewis Carroll.

To view all my current samples, click here:  eLearning Samples page

To launch the new addition, click the image or click here: Lewis Carroll-themed demo

ASTDNY: Josh Bersin on Continuous Learning (Part Two)

ASTDNY logoThis is the second half of my write-up on Josh Bersin’s recent fascinating talk about Continous Learning at an ASTDNY meeting.  Before reading this post, you may want to read the first half here.

Part Two

Need for a Learning Architecture:  As part of his recommendations, John emphasized that success requires implementing a Learning Architecture, a structure of Constraints and Tools that work consistently for a specific company.  Again, the specifics may well differ from one organization to another.  He noted that the companies who leverage a Learning Architecture have greatly increased effectiveness in knowledge retention and behavioral change.

Josh cited Accenture as an example: they developed a five-level proficiency model, culminating in recognition at a cultural level of expertise.  Key learning components include Formal Learning, Job Experience, and Collaboration, with Deliberate Practice tying them all together.  He notes that many companies don’t consider “Job Experience” a legitimate category of learning, but that in fact it’s a core element not to be taken for granted.

Audience Analysis:  Josh reiterated that the more you know your audience, the better you can tailor your learning content to resonate with and motivate them.  Bersin surveys showed that companies know the obvious data like demographics, but very little about social and cultural personae.  He pointed to a couple of success stories: a Netapp learning resource custom iPad app that offers targeted, prescriptive learning based on the employee’s role, and an employee site at The Cheesecake Factory, that incorporates video sharing and gamified elements, to target their primarily young audience of employees.

Learning Culture:  Having touched on the concept of Continuous Learning, Josh posed the question: ‘”What drives real learning?”  He stated something that most of us have learned from our own painful experience: the majority of what we put out there into an LMS or other similar repository isn’t being leveraged.  Josh believes that High-Impact Learning Organizations (HILOs) achieve their success in part because they genuinely value learning at all levels in the company.  He also pointed out a key “ah-ha” moment from HILO survey responses: their Management is open to hearing bad news.  That flexible and pragmatic approach trickles down into the learning sphere, and it certainly ties in with Josh’s theme of the need for Continuous Learning in this ever-changing market.  Every challenge is an opportunity, and leaders who close their ears to bad news are missing that opportunity.  He also offered what he called his Six Keys to an Enduring Learning Culture, which included a number of expected items, and two that perhaps need more attention: Reflection, and Trust.

Talent Management:  For this discussion, Josh divided learning experiences into two basic categories:

  • Performance-Driven (simple measurement of accomplishing a specific new task successfully or not), designed to improve on-the-job performance for that role
  • Talent-Driven Learning (harder to measure), designed to improve performance across the company’s culture

He finds the Kirkpatrick model limiting because it doesn’t give enough weight to engagement as a component of success.  He considers Talent Management to be essential as a foundation on which to build a strong learning culture, and that neither is possible without strong engagement.  And of course, managing Talent mobility is always about finding that overlap between Company needs and the Individual’s needs and desires.  Their research has confirmed what many of us already believe: that the highest return is to create continuous development planning for employees, so that employees know what they should be taking, and why, at each phase of their growth.  Without that, employees are easily lost, overwhelmed, and become disengaged.  But blending Continuous Learning with robust and flexible Talent Management addresses the engagement gap, and leads the way to world-class career management.  And that, in turn, leads the way to business success.

Measurement:  It goes without saying that Josh is a big proponent of measurement.  He acknowledged that it’s a very complex topic, bigger than training itself.  He considers measurement another ongoing journey, and that it must be integrated with the rest of a company’s talent measurement efforts, so that the company can make meaningful, data-driven decisions.  This is the path to joining the ranks of HILOs.  He summed up his measurement recommendations neatly:  “Broaden your perspectives beyond the ROI of your training.”

By way of an illustrative recommendation, Josh shared the Bersin Impact Measurement Framework.  He noted that his team felt that the Kirkpatrick model needed to be expanded to a more practical list of targets:

  • Satisfaction (level 1)
  • Learning (level 2)
  • Adoption (whether the target audience completed the training)
  • Utility (would learners recommend the training as useful)
  • Efficiency (whether the learning experience was cost-effective)
  • Alignment (to identified business need)
  • Attainment (how well it met targeted goals: on time, on budget, well-presented material, etc.)
  • Contribution (success of social context)
  • Feedback (who contributed it, how much received, etc.)
  • Activity (volume, behaviors)
  • Individual Performance
  • Organizational Performance

He foresees a time in the near future when learning measurement will become part of something like “Talent Analytics.”

Josh brought his thought-provoking talk to a close with this mantra: “Remember that learning is a continuous process and is always talent-driven.”  Josh noted that he would be more than happy to return to another ASTDNY meeting, and we should certainly take him up on that generous offer as soon as possible.  Thanks again to our gracious hosts at Marsh and McLennan (who provided elegant snacks as well as a beautiful meeting space), and to Josh for his comprehensive and invigorating talk.

ASTD NY: Josh Bersin on Continuous Learning (Part 1)

ASTDNY logoJosh Bersin, Principal & Founder of Bersin by Deloitte (formerly Bersin & Associates) recently spoke at  an ASTD NY meeting.  You can read the one-page summary of my write-up on the ASTDNY blog here.  But Josh had so many interesting things to say that I felt it well worth posting my complete write-up here on my own blog, in two parts.  Part Two (which touches on Learning Architecture, Audience Analysis, Learning Culture, Talent Management, and Measurement) will follow next week.  Enjoy!

Part One

When Josh Bersin talks, smart people in the Learning field listen.  Josh noted that while his company is now part of Deloitte, they are still an independent evaluating entity.  Bersin’s firm is known industry-wide for the depth and breadth of their research, analysis, and forecasting in the Learning field.  Josh is an engaging, straightforward presenter.  He freely acknowledged that some of his slides were perhaps a bit too jam-packed with information, and that font sizes and colors were perhaps not ideal for a large audience like ours.  But perhaps it’s part of his modesty that he didn’t expect such a huge turnout; there wasn’t a single empty seat in the lecture room.  Despite his acknowledged place in the Learning field, Josh eschews the titles of “guru” and “thought leader” and instead considers himself “just a really good learner.”  This modesty has served him, and all of us, well.

Josh noted that Learning is and will always be a rapidly-changing space and marketplace—which can be a good thing for those of us in the Learning field.  He reinforced that his team takes their topics of study from us, as Learning industry professionals; our evolving priorities become their priorities.  Key areas of study for his team: Learning & Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources.  Every few years, they perform reassessments on key topics to identify what’s changing.  Josh’s talk was lengthy, detailed, and far-ranging, and he has graciously agreed to make his slides available to ASTD members.  I encourage you to seek them out and take the time to review them.

Continuous Learning: Josh believes that high-impact learning for the 21st century will come from creating a culture of what he terms “Continuous Learning.”  Their research has shown that the #1 issue facing companies globally is locating and landing the right Talent.  And the #2 issue is deploying that Talent effectively.  He pointed out a grim paradox in today’s business climate: companies are struggling with intense competition to identify top talent, desperate to hire.  But even as they do so, we’re still facing high unemployment.  He feels that this is partly due to the difficulty of aligning the existing Talent in the market to ever-more-specific business needs.  Josh pointed to a disconnect between what people are learning in school vs. what’s needed in today’s workforce, and to the difficulty all companies are having as they struggle to wrap their arms around the now-essential mobile learning.  There is a young, mobile, social workforce out there now with different expectations and skills with regard to virtual learning and collaboration.  He warned that this segment of the population doesn’t hesitate to express dissatisfaction with a company on public forums if they don’t feel sufficiently engaged.  But Josh also cited the fact that all-virtual isn’t necessarily the answer, either.  He cited the example of Deloitte creating Deloitte University in Texas: the company realized that in addition to their virtual structure, there was still a need for a physical face-to-face gathering place to occasionally “ground” their learning and development initiatives with in-person events.  Bersin’s survey of Top Talent Priorities for 2013 across organizations includes management capabilities, leadership skills, building high-impact performance, and more.  It’s a daunting and all-too-familiar list.

Given all of that, how does a 21st century company become a High Impact Learning Organization (HILO)?   Josh believes Continuous Learning is the key.  He also believes it’s necessary at all levels of business for a number of reasons.  In addition to increasing specialization, people are exposed to more learning channels and are simply learning faster, and the old HIPO (High Potential) Talent Management model only focused on leadership levels, missing the growth of Talent at all other segments of the workforce.

Bersin’s High Impact Learning Organization (HILO) survey process examines a series of factors, asking companies to self-evaluate their performance with regard to different outcomes.  He finds that when hundreds of companies are surveyed, there are clear themes: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Alignment. So what exactly are HILOs doing so well that gives them the business advantage?  Josh offered this list:

  • Mentoring & Evaluation Capability
  • Performance Consulting Capabilities
  • Audience Intelligence Capability
  • HR Alignment & Using HR Metrics

He noted that HILOs tend to be strong with knowledge management, business intelligence, and more savvy with rich media, audio, social media, and performance consulting.  They also demonstrate a more organic blending of Learning and Talent Management functions; Josh pointed out that not long ago, these were viewed as separate disciplines.  Bersin research has also shown that the more effectively companies work at evaluation and measurement of learning effectiveness, the more successful the learning outcomes.  He says most companies simply feel overwhelmed by the challenge of managing all their learning and talent management content in all its various forms.  But for HILOs who have a better handle on it all, the impact is enormous: According to Josh, between 2008 and 2011, high-impact learning organization profits grew 3x faster than the rest of the organizations studied.  Clearly, learning agility is a key business strategy for success.

Josh’s team recommends this maturity model to help organizations take action:

  • Level 1:  Incidental Training (in the moment training)
  • Level 2: Training & Development Excellence (learning/knowledge repository, LMS, etc.)
  • Level 3: Talent & Performance Improvement (how well you are leveraging learning resources to effect behavioral change)
  • Level 4: Organizational Capability (agility and effectiveness)

Josh also noted this snapshot of a timeline for evolution of Learning Solutions from 2001-2011:

  • Get Materials Online (2001)
  • Expand, Blend, Improve eLearning (2004) – Rapid eLearning, Information vs. Instruction
  • Solve Talent Problems (2007)
  • Informal Learning Skills & Specialization (2011) – Collaborative/Social Learning

He feels we’re in a transition to a new era of “Continuous Learning”: nothing has gone away, but we need to bring it together with the current socialized learning trends: “The only way to stay relevant is to stay current.”  In the Continuous Learning Model, a company has to identify which elements of training are most effective for their target audience, and work to maximize effectiveness of those elements.  He gave words to what everyone in the room knows: it’s not possible to keep on top of every type of learning.  He pointed out that you need to know more about your target audience ahead of time these days, to ensure that the Learning Events you offer are really aimed at them, to maximize retention.

Stay tuned for Part Two of Josh’s talk!  It’s equally filled with great nuggets of wisdom.  I will post it next Sunday.