Game on? The use of gamification in e-learning.

by Sarah Sweeney, Marketing Assistant at Aurion Learning.

SQUARE imageMany HR and L&D professionals face the problem of ensuring that their training and learning programmes maintain learner engagement and motivation. Gamification has been regularly recognised as an opportunity to help solve this problem.

In this post, we consider whether gamification can enhance the learning experience. Before we consider if it is game on for gamification in learning, it is necessary to look at what gamification essentially is.

What is Gamification?

Games and game like components have been invading the learning realm for quite some time now. Although its definition differs, for the most part, gamification in learning is the use of game mechanics to ‘gamify’ content to engage and entice users by encouraging and rewarding use.

Although Nick Pelling first coined the term “gamification” in 2002, it has actually been around for some time – 40 years in fact, with many organisations already using features in their work from video games.

Indeed, it can be said that loyalty programs, target-based bonuses and employee-of-the-month schemes are all examples of how gamification as an incentive to growth has been around for a long time too.

Examples of gamification in learning include:

  • Training: technology giants, Microsoft use gamification to train users of Microsoft Office on how to use the new ribbon interface effectively.
  • Education: New York based school – Quest to Learn, advocates game-based learning to make education more engaging and relevant to children.
  • Employee productivity: Management tool Arcaris uses gamification to improve productivity in call centres.

Now that we know what gamification is and where it is being used in learning, it is necessary to see whether it actually works.

Does Gamification in learning work?

The gamification of e-learning unquestionably presents unique possibilities for learning technologists as they explore additional ways to educate and importantly engage learners.

It is widely recognised that adding interactive activities in e-learning are no longer optional extras, but essential to effective learning. However, it is important that the addition of game like elements into the e-learning programme are only applied in the context of the programme that allow the learner the opportunity to apply their retained knowledge to live situations, rather than distract and dazzle learners with wizardry from the overall learning goal.

Frequently, my social media feeds are inundated with social games, although irritating at times, there is no escaping the surge in popularity of online gaming and social media. The site, DevHub, reported an eightfold increase in the number of users completing their sites after adding gamification elements to the process. If there was any indication that the gamification was a fad, according to research from M2 it’s here not only stay, but increase in its use.

The global market for gamification apps and services will grow to $2.8 billion by 2016.”

The enthusiasm for gamification has however met with some criticism. Game designers Radoff and Robertson have criticised gamification for excluding aspects like storytelling, an important element of learning. Whilst university researcher Deterding, has argued that current approaches to gamification create an artificial sense of achievement.

What does the successful application of gamification in e-learning look like?

  1. Gamification isn’t about games, but the learners.
  2. It isn’t about knowledge but behaviour.
  3. It extracts the motivational techniques out of games and uses them for life-applicable learning.
  4. It allows quick feedback of progress and communications of goals that need to be accomplished.

Gamification is made appealing for e-learning because of our human tendencies.  On the whole, we generally enjoy actively participating engaging and competing with others. Gamification allows learners to connect and learn together with playful applications and incentives, particularly when there are engaging game design elements used.

Today’s learners are however no longer placated with trivial reward systems but rather sophisticated experiences that hold real value. Organisations embracing the gamification in learning can stand to see learners more engaged and retain more information, but only if it is applied aptly to the e-learning programme, achieving the overall core learning objectives.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.

A Day in the Life of an Instructional Designer.

Maresa Malloy IDMaresa Molloy is an Instructional Designer at Aurion Learning. Maresa is also an avid fan of hill-walking and would love to be stuck in a lift with Andy Murray! But mainly she is an Instructional Designer who loves providing people the best learning experiences.  If you have ever wondered what an Instructional Designer is or what they do, then you are in luck! After some persuasion, Maresa has agreed to reveal all about how a typical day at Aurion Learning shapes up.


Describe your job:

My job as an Instructional Designer involves helping clients to identify the knowledge, skill and attitude gaps of its staff, and designing learning materials to help close those gaps, based on learning theories and best practices used in my field.

Sometimes the knowledge, skill and attitude gaps may seem fairly obvious. For example, a client may to provide all new staff with a staff induction programme or they may want to introduce completely new Fire Safety procedures.

For other projects, the knowledge, skills and attitude gaps are not so obvious. For example, a client may ask us to develop a leadership portal for a multi-disciplinary team – where the knowledge, skill and attitude gaps vary greatly amongst learners. For the most part – we present completely new learning content.

However, as an Instructional Designer you can’t assume to really know the gaps until a training needs analysis is completed that defines our target audience. Part of our training needs analysis involves what we call a ‘DIF analysis’, this involves sitting down with the client – and often with the learners themselves – to identify three things:

1. What is difficult for the target audience to understand?
2. What is important for the target audience to know or be able to do?
3. What questions are frequently asked about his content?

Only then can we target the areas which staff need the most help with, and design training materials that help them to perform better in their jobs.

The training materials can be delivered in a variety of online formats, but I specialise in the design of e-learning programmes.


Describe your typical working day?

A typical day usually starts off with a cup of freshly ground coffee – one of the many perks of working at Aurion and then onto our daily team ‘scrum’ where we discuss project progress, some design and programming details and release schedules. I’ll then throw on my headphones for some “work mode” music and get on with projects. Personally, I enjoy what I do, life at Aurion is fast paced, and we are usually working to tight deadlines and have several projects on the go at any one time. As part of this, I typically work with my team to produce e-learning programmes and other training materials on time. So in any one day, I could be:

  • liaising with the client and meeting Subject Matter Experts to assess project requirements, assess learner needs and discuss learning strategies
  • meeting with the learner to gauge any difficulties or challenges they may have with the subject area
  • designing and writing the content using storyboards
  • writing supplementary content such as help sheets and job aids
  • producing online training videos
  • learning new tools and techniques in Instructional Design.

For the most part I take a proper lunch break, we are actually encouraged to do so as it is really beneficial to step away from the computer. There are a good few team lunches at Aurion and we are regularly treated to the curry, pizza and sandwich houses that the Ormeau Road has to offer! Aurion also hosts monthly Lunch and Learn sessions for the team, it’s a great way to find out what’s going on in other parts of the company and find out what exciting e-learning and digital media projects that we will be working on!

My afternoons usually comprise of talking directly to clients, team meetings, discussing a project and trying to get the best solution for it. A good thing about my role is that I get to talk to the entire team about a project – there is little hierarchy or chain of command – all team members are included in the decision-making process, from how we will design a client solution, to how projects will be managed.


What qualifications or special qualities do you need for your job?

It is beneficial to have an Instructional Design related degree. I did a Masters in Technical Communication and e-learning, and learned a lot about learning theories and methodologies from this course. However, if you don’t have a degree, it is still possible to get a job in Instructional Design if you have the skills to design and write content.

I also think you need to have the ability to write creatively and to have a passion for how people learn. It also helps to have skills in technology as you get to work with various software tools.


What do you find most challenging about your job?

The most challenging aspect of my job is getting the client to agree to the creative delivery of the learning content. It is usually the case that I am given pages and pages of content that the client wants the learner to read and ‘understand’. My job involves convincing them that we only need to use the content that helps the learner to perform better. All of the other content can be placed on the Learning Management System (LMS) or sent out in an email. We then need to do something creative with the content to ensure that the learner wants and is motivated to read your material.


What aspect of your job do you enjoy most?

I love the actual writing of the content. By the time you get to this stage, you usually have all of the source material and it’s a case of taking pages of content and trying to do something creative with it. I enjoy the challenge and also the pressure to work towards deadlines.


What advice would you offer any Instructional Designers who are interested in joining the Aurion team?

At Aurion, there is a growing focus on continuous improvement and pushing the perception of what learning is and where it can happen. If you’re an Instructional Designer who is looking for a new challenge then be sure to get in touch. As a growing team, we’re always on the lookout for talented people, you can view our jobs at http://www.aurionlearning.com/who.aspx#jobs

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

Training for Success: Learning and Technology Trends

e-Learning Concept. Computer KeyboardSix out of ten learning and development managers say their training budget is one of the first to be cut when times are hard, according to a report published in Personnel Today. Now more than ever it’s vital that training is closely aligned with key business goals, that the effectiveness of training is properly evaluated and that return on investment is accurately measured.

But no one can deny that workplace training has changed. Where once the role of the training manager focused on developing classroom based programmes, scheduling events, measuring effectiveness, and reporting on attendance and performance after events, it’s now much more about harnessing the best learning technologies to provide access to information and learning content.

Training managers need to be solutions architects – capable of designing innovative ways for employees to access relevant knowledge, on-demand, no matter where they are. And they need to keep up-to-date with the latest learning developments, to guarantee success.

Here we examine some of the top trends in learning and technology that influence modern workplace training, and that we utilise to support our clients.

1. 70/20/10 Model of learning

The most effective way to facilitate workplace learning is by giving workers opportunities to develop, apply and practice new skills and behaviours on the job and in real-life situations. Many organisations have adopted the 70/20/10 learning philosophy, whereby:

  • 70% of learning & development takes place on the job, through tasks, experiences and problem-solving;
  • 20% of learning & development comes through feedback, learning and sharing with others (formal and informal); and
  • 10% of learning takes place via formal training, study and reading.

Recognition of the 70/20/10 approach means that the entire learning environment is changing from:

  • knowledge delivery to knowledge sharing and problem-solving;
  • formal and structured training to free flow of knowledge;
  • individuals to learning communities; and
  • training courses to learning environments (offline and online).

* 70/20/10 concept developed by McCall, Eichinger and Lombardo
2. Convergence of learning, performance and talent management

Businesses are beginning to seek enterprise wide solutions where they can unite the functionality of a learning management system (LMS) (e-learning, classroom training, reporting & tracking, certification & assessment) with a performance management system (performance appraisals, performance management, career & success planning, competency management) and talent management system (on-boarding, talent acquisition, compensation management, workforce planning).
3. Learning technologies are becoming social, collaborative, and virtual

Google, LinkedIn, twitter, YouTube, wikis, blogs all contribute to modern workplace learning. Live training is often virtual and facilitated via tools such as Skype, GotoTraining and WebEx.

4. The rise of mobile learning

It’s been mentioned before, but has been slow to be adapted in many organisations. Mobile or mlearning is about delivering learning content and experiences to learners when and where they need it. Typically mlearning is accessed via a mobile device such a smart phone or tablet – it’s particularly useful for performance support – checklists, quick guides, short ‘how-to’ videos.

5. The rise of DIY rapid elearning

More and more organisations want to be able to create their own e-learning to build in-house capabilities, save money and time. Demand for Aurion’s rapid eLearning training course has tripled over the last two years. Training staff want to know how to use the best rapid authoring tools to create their own e-learning and gain an understanding of e-learning theories and strategies.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

The benefits of using (#)hashtags for e-learning

facebook-hashtagBy Ciara Cunningham, Marketing Manager  

Facebook has joined the #hashtag revolution, allowing users to add the # symbol before a word and making those hashtags #clickable.

Although typically associated with Twitter, hashtags are nothing new on the social scene – Tumblr, Pinterest and other social networks already use hashtags, and Google has announced that it will add these to its Google+ service shortly.  You may have even used them on Facebook, but until now they had no functionality.

So now that Facebook has joined the hashtag revolution, what impact will they have on #elearning?

The new hashtag function is already available to about 20% of the 1 billion+ Facebook users and over the coming weeks, this will be available to everyone who has a Facebook account.

If you are a user or not of Facebook, this new functionality will benefit both the learner and the administrator of the e-learning programme as the use of hashtags will make it easier for users to search for content, and easier to find that topic in search – that is of course dependent that everyone involved in the e-learning programme agrees to append a certain hashtag about a topic!

Additional benefits include:

  • Allows better interaction on a subject.
  • Helps to generate a discussion or raise awareness of a topic.
  • Users can discover other communities discussing the same topic, providing a forum for discussion and broader learning environment.
  • Can be used for monitoring a particular topic.
  • Building a community around content.
  • Makes it easy to aggregate like-minded users under a certain category.

If you are not already using hastags for e-learning, the first thing you need to do is create a hashtag identifying your subject, project, workshop or any other topic you want to track. Before you embark on a hashtag frenzy, you need to do research what you’re about to hashtag before you actually use it.

You can use search hashtag directory services like tagdef.com and hashtags.org to see if your desired hashtag is in use. If you introduce hashtags into your e-learning early, it will also increase learner and user engagement.

Facebook has said that it would roll out additional features, including trending hashtags, in the near future, so we will see then if there are any additional benefits to the e-learning quest!

Happy clicking!

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

How do you solve a problem like content?

Successful e-learning is a combination of technology that works, great learning design and meaningful content. Content is often however the most difficult resource to obtain when developing e-learning.

In this short post, we take a look at how to source content, make the most out of existing content and ensure that the content is suitable for your e-learning programme or module.

What many organisations don’t realise is they are already sitting on a mass of existing content that can easily be replicated in to usable and effective content for their e-learning courses. Any company or organisation that is already delivering some form of training is actually ready with content.

Existing content can come in various forms:

  • employee handbook,content image
  • policy documents,
  • facilitator guides,
  • classroom training hand-outs,
  • presentations given on various subjects by senior managers at various forums.
  • company information

So what do you do with the content now that you have identified the sources?

As tempting as it may be to simply regurgitate those existing text based resources and assume that it can be deployed onto a web based progamme, you will be disappointed to hear that unfortunately it is not quite as straight forward as this. It is essential that you take a careful look at the content and determine whether it still has the same meaning in an online context. If not, you need to (re)organise it, paraphrase it and reproduce it as content plays a pivotal role in providing the structure of an e-learning programme.

The content for your eLearning programme needs to not only meet the learning needs of your organisation but also actively engage the learner, including interaction with fellow learners as without the right content, quite often learning points are missed and participants become disengaged.

When developing content for your e-learning programme, it is important to start with the basics – identify the content that is aligned with your organisational goals and developed within the context of your broader training strategy.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

Learning Mission Critical Control: Corporate Compliance

complianceAlmost every organisation has to deliver some sort of compliance training. In some companies, it may be as simple as communicating the internal rules. In others, it can be a matter of life or death.

As one of the top 10 Most Popular LMS providers, Alex Poulos CMO of NetDimensions discussed the role of learning systems in compliance training in this blog article.

Compliance requirements for employees and organisations place new demands on learning systems that more traditional, developmental requirements do not. Our industry nowadays seems flooded with learning and talent management systems. But for such systems to succeed in a compliance-related role, they must be able to readily adapt to changing needs, operate at enterprise software level, and offer the requisite functionality around auditing, reporting, and security.

It is important that L&D and HR departments are up-to-date with the compliance requirements specific to their business. Here are a few suggestions to make this easier:

  1. Talk to your legal team and to your compliance officer to better understand who in the organisation is responsible for what.
  2. Define clear requirements and objectives for training and the technology implementation.
  3. Question your vendor and demand a software validation for the learning or talent management system. For the technical parts, don’t be afraid to ask your IT team to participate.
  4. Make compliance an on-going part of your business via well-defined workflows, checks and balances, and actionable reporting.
  5. When it comes to training, reinforce formal compliance learning with recurring programs. These initiatives may include informal collaborations (such as forums to discuss on-going compliance issues), on-the-job assessments (to better evaluate the effectiveness of the compliance training), and performance support (to provide easy access to compliance-related materials at the point of need).

This blog is an abstract from Learning & Compliance: Friends or Foes? – You can read the full article here.  You can find more blogs from Alex at the Work, Learn, Play blogs.

If your organisation struggling to meet government regulations, standards set by professional bodies, or obtaining and maintaining qualifications such as ISO 9000 or Sarbanes-Oxley?

You can downloadCompliance and your LMS – A Practical Guide to Make Compliance Easy by NetDimensions.

Aurion Learning is Ireland’s only accredited reseller of NetDimensions’ Talent Management Suite. For further information on its learning management system solutions, visit our website

To read more about the 20 Most Popular LMS study and how the results were obtained, visit the Capterra website.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

Get Learners to Truly Learn Through Spaced Practice

Spaced PracticeBy Maresa Malloy, Instructional Designer.

In this blog article, Maresa takes a look at how spaced practice can be applied to learning and discusses the benefits of this approach.

The idea of ‘spaced practice’ is not a new phenomenon in learning. Hermann Ebbinghaus, the German psychologist who first described terms such as the ‘learning curve’ and the ‘forgetting curve’, studied the effectiveness of spaced practice as far back as 1885. It has, to some extent, been applied to teaching and training curricula ever since then. So why then write a blog about it?

Spaced practice is often forgotten about or simply left out of training curricula, despite its effectiveness. Many people don’t understand in what way it is beneficial to learning or how they might apply it to their teaching. In this blog, I will explore how Learning Designers can embed reminders and staged practice activities post programme completion to help embed learning.

What is Spaced Practice?

According to Dr. Will Thalheimer’s, “spaced practice occurs when we present learners with a concept to learn, wait some amount of time, and then present the same concept again”.

(Spacing Learning Events Over Time: What the Research Says: 2006)

There are two ways to integrate spaced practice into learning materials:

(1) Put a delay between two or more repetitions, or

(2) Present other learning material between two or more repetitions.

1.       Putting a delay between two or more repetitions

The table below shows how you can put a delay between two or more repetitions of a learning concept:

Spaced Practice:
Insert a delay between repetitions
Scenario on Topic A
Wait
Scenario on Topic A
Wait
Scenario on Topic A

In this example, a delay is placed between three repetitions of scenarios on Topic A (the learning concept). The scenarios do not have to be the same, but they must teach the same concept (Topic A).

2.       Present other learning material between two or more repetitions

The table below shows how you can present other learning material between two or more repetitions of a learning concept:

Spaced Practice:
Insert other topics between repetitions
Scenario on Topic A
(Scenario on Topic B)
Scenario on Topic A
organize (Scenario on Topic C)
Scenario on Topic A

In this example, scenarios on other topics are placed between two or more repetitions of Topic A (the learning concept).

Just like the growing trend in eating habits, little and often learning works as it gives the brain time to translate and organise memories, as well as reinforcing those retentions over time.


What are the benefits of Spaced Practice?
Repeating learning concepts supports and reinforces learning. Repeating learning concepts

over time produces more learning and better long-term retention than repetitions that are not spaced. The spacing out of practice seems to avoid fatigue effects and consolidates memory.

Dr. Will Thalheimer’s research suggests that longer spacings tend to produce more long-term retention than shorter spacings (up to a point where even longer spacings are sometimes counterproductive).

How can you apply Spaced Practice post programme completion?
There are various methods whereby you can embed reminders and staged practice activities post programme completion to help embed learning. I’ve listed some of them below:

Break your programme up into chunks
Instead of creating one 1 hour course, break it up into four 15-minute chunks. Prioritise the chunks and schedule them so that the most important and most easily forgotten points are provided more often throughout the chunks. Schedule your learners to take each chunk one or two weeks apart.

Provide short refresher courses
Provide short refresher eLearning programmes with the key learning points from the initial eLearning programme. Prompt your learners to make decisions based on learning points you want to reinforce. Deliver these at intervals throughout the year or when performance is low.

Provide practice exercises
Provide practice exercises which give learners an opportunity to apply what they have learned to their jobs. Reinforce key learning points via role-plays, discussions and scenario-based questions.

Send emails with key points
Send emails with key points at various intervals after the learner has taken the programme to reinforce learning.

Use other tools
Use other tools to keep the topic alive. For example, create a discussion forum, add a Twitter feed, write various articles in your newsletter, put up posters, give learners access to related articles, and provide live support.

Support learners on the job
Provide learners with Job Aids and resources which help them to retrieve information when they need it.

Encourage managers to follow-up afterwards
Get managers to talk with learners about key learning points. This not only encourages learners, but it helps you to discover what they may need to reinforce their learning.


These are just some of the methods you can use. Has anyone any other suggestions that have worked for them?
Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this


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@aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

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