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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.

How Practice Development Hubs are helping to create social learning in HSELanD.ie

Practice Development Hubs HSELanD.ieIn this post, we look how at how Practice Development Hubs on HSELanD.ie are helping the Health Service Executive (HSE) to create social learning through organisational learning and development, whilst positively impacting on practice.

HSELanD.ie is an online learning portal configured and implemented in partnership with Aurion Learning to provide high quality online learning to HSE employees, health care organisations and voluntary sector organisations.

The portal enables the national rollout of learning and organisational initiatives, using a combination of self-authored content from HSE subject matter experts and programmes built by Aurion Learning. The learning portfolio is underpinned by the NetDimensions Learning Management System, to track and monitor the learning interventions.

The online learning portal also includes collaborative practice development hubs which allow non-technical staff within hospitals and units or divisions throughout the HSE and beyond to setup and maintain their own specialist communities that integrate and deliver their own learning materials and broader HSELanD materials to their targeted audiences.

The hubs also feature social learning resources including forums, wikis, blogs, internal messaging, user profiles and videos to:

  • enable health workers to broaden their skills and knowledge,
  • support health workers in managing and applying mental health legislation,
  • promote inter-professional learning and allow employees to share      ideas and resources, and collaborate with other users,
  • assist employees in managing their own personal development,
  • promote life-long learning amongst healthcare professionals and
  • make it easier to roll-out mandatory training to staff.

Outcome of Practice Development Hubs:

HSELanD.ie is recognised as the platform of choice for the rollout of training programmes that are readily available to healthcare workers in the HSE. It has revolutionised learning and development provision within the HSE and for the healthcare and voluntary sectors within Ireland. There are now almost 70,000 registered users on HSELanD.ie and in the past year, the user base and usage has increased by 27%.

The Practice Development Hubs have also created an environment where 30,000 health care workers can access interactive online learning programmes, share resources and collaborate with colleagues online on initiatives and projects within a selected discipline area.

In addition:

  • A comprehensive range of eLearning programmes is now available,
  • training is accessible 24/7, and from any internet connected location over secure network,
  • training that otherwise would have to be delivered in the classroom, necessitating staff being away from the ward of clinic, is now delivered online, and where there has to be classroom based training, this is now significantly more efficient. This is because much of the theory base can be learned online in advance of attendance at training,
  • over the past year, health care workers have begun to make use of our collaboration tools through the hubs. Change Leaders throughout the organisation are using to Change Hub to inform themselves about the HSE Approach to Managing Change, and also to seek and give help to colleagues. This has the advantage of helping to standardise the approach to change across the sector. It also means that lessons learned in one area are identified and shared across the organisation whilst having a positive impact on practice.

Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. To find out how Aurion Learning can help transform learning and development in your organisation, please get in contact.

Checklist for choosing an e-learning vendor

By Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Glynn Jung

Whichever product or service you seek, an organised, comprehensive selection process is required – perusing websites of e-learning companies just doesn’t work. The selection process for a suitable e-learning vendor should be  guided by whether they are supplying:

  • technology,
  • off the shelf e-learning titles or
  • design and development services.

It helps if you develop a checklist, (indeed most purchasing departments demand this) so that you are consistent in comparisons. We recommend listing all the attributes of a perfect-fit vendor and deciding which features are must-haves, whether these are immediate needs or future growth and finally how important each feature is (“points”).

We also recommend that organisations adopt the “MoSCoW” method for determining their needs. This is based on agreeing:

  • ‘must-have’
  • ‘should have’
  • ‘could have’ and
  • ‘would be nice to have’ – most organisations concentrate exclusively on “must have”.

Below is a sample checklist that you might consider as a starting point for your own selection of a technology vendor.

In any e-learning vendor selection process there are generally a number of important criteria, such as pricing, technology, quality, service and so on. With regard to technology, ensure your vendors know what they will be dealing with in your organisation.

Attribute Must Have Now or Future Points
Vendor Qualifications
Does the vendor serve organisations similar to yours?
What do current customers similar to yourselves say
Is the vendor’s customer base sizeable enough to ensure continued operation?
Are customer references available?
Does the vendor support customer implementations with training and support?
Can the vendor assure you of a successful implementation?
Does the vendor have a proven plan for implementation of its system?
How long has the vendor been operating in the e-learning market?
Pricing
Is pricing in line with similar offerings?
Does the vendor rely primarily on revenue from its commercial system or is customization a large part of its income?
Does the vendor offer a base price that scales with volume?
Does the price include everything you will require to get started?
Can you see a relationship between cost and quality?
Quality
Does the vendor guarantee successful operation?
Is there a stated quality policy?
Are “bugs” resolved quickly or do they wait for a future release?
How easy is the system to use: How much training is required?
Does the system require minimal resources for administration?
How reliable is the system: How often and for how long does it go down?
Technology
Do the technical qualifications reflect our technology
Is the system’s technology up to date? State-of-the-art?
Does the vendor rely on outside support for its basic services?
Is the system capable of delivering current types of media?
Does the vendor provide multiple solutions for your needs?
Can the system support with various authoring tools?
Does the system support the browsers we need supporting?
Does the system support mobile devices?
Does the system support our compliance requirements?
Support
Are maintenance fees readily available?
Does the vendor require the purchase of periodic updates?
Does the vendor provide 24/7customer support?
Does the system support multiple languages?
Does the system support the accessibility we require?
Can the software be placed in Escrow?

Bespoke e-learning development

If the need is for bespoke course development or off-the-shelf titles many of the same technical considerations still apply. You need to ensure that any course content can be accessed and viewed using devices which your staff will be using. You further need samples of their work to compare but before you do this we recommend you identify:

  • who will be using the courses,
  • where they’ll be using them and
  • what you consider to be fit-for-purpose regarding design of content.

For example if your IT people operate a “no download, no plugins” policy that the course material requires no extra software, will operate properly on your LMS (if you use one) or as a web-playable course and on any special devices your learners may use.

Location of learning is significant – if it’s in a retail store, warehouse or factory audio is rendered virtually useless.

Your list may be modified as you start talking to potential vendors: the critical thing is to keep your absolute priorities and needs in front of you at all times and not be swayed by sophisticated marketing or sales.

Project planning and management.

Ensure the vendor provides a clear project approach which is logical and understandable – they’re the experts so they should be able to keep to plan, warn of any pitfalls and deliver on time, within budget and to agreed benchmarks.

Working relationships

The final thing I want to talk about is working relationships. Working with willing, supportive, responsive and flexible vendors can quickly develop into a true partnership: if you really solely on numerical weighting systems you run the risk of attempting to work with people who don’t fit your organisation’s or people’s style and culture.

Demand three personal referees similar to yourselves in their client base. Talk to these referees; don’t use a pro forma reference form: find out what they’re like to work with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Also find out who will actually be working on your project: assess them as people when you come to interview your shortlisted companies – have a get-out clause ready in case the sales time disappears after they’ve closed the business and there’s no-one to talk to in the vendor organisation who understand your needs.

What checklist do you use when selecting a vendor? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this checklist.

ABOUT THE AUTHORGlynn Jung

Glynn Jung is Non-Executive Director at Aurion Leanring. He has over 25 years’ experience delivering innovative and cost-effective learning and process improvement strategies for a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.

LMS – CU Learn shortlisted for National Training Award

by Ciara Cunningham, Marketing Manager Aurion Learning 

Aurion Learning and Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) are delighted to announce that their online learning system – CU Learn has been named as a finalist for an IITD National Training Award.CU Learn

ILCU in partnership with Aurion Learning configured and implemented a new learning management system – CU Learn in 2012, to manage and deliver online training, accredited programmes, record classroom training attendance and provide leanring and development information in one central area for the 485 affiliated credit unions, 4,500 staff and 9,500 volunteers across Ireland.

CU Learn has also supported ILCU to fulfill its obligations with regard to new regulatory requirements by placing a renewed emphasis on the training and education of its members.

The Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) National Awards celebrates excellence in learning and development and CU Learn has been revealed as a finalist for the Networks and Group award which recognises the unique co-operation that is now taking place between organisations who are working together in networks and groups around the country to develop training solutions to meet the demands of their industry.

Speaking about the announcement, Suzanne Ryan, Head of CU Learning & Development at ILCU, commented:

“CULearn.ie has been central in supporting our focus to facilitate the efficient administration of training and education amongst our affiliated credit unions, particularly at a time when there is a renewed emphasis on developmental support, tailored training and Continued Personal Development, in the credit union movement.

She added:

The system has already added value to ILCU and has proven good learner outcome. CU Learn is available for free to all credit unions and we encourage those not already registered to logon to www.culearn.ie and start reaping the benefits.”

Dr. Maureen Murphy, Managing Director at Aurion Learning said:

“CU Learn has been an exemplary partnership and we are very proud that it has been shortlisted for the prestigious IITD National Training Awards. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the learning and development team in ILCU as they continue to transform their learning and development services to Credit Unions throughout the country.”

Learning Management
CU Learn is powered by the NetDimensions’ Talent Suite. Aurion Learning is a certified reseller for NetDimension’s award-winning learning & talent management products in Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The winners of the IITD awards will be revealed on Friday, 22nd March, 2013 at Killashee House Hotel, Naas.

Classic ROI for learning

by Glynn Jung

In this second instalment of learning analytics, Glynn discusses the classic approach to return on investment (ROI) for learning.

If you take the accountants’ approach to ROI for learning analysis there are five important points to note;

  1. The assumptions made before conducting the analysis are important and you must document them.
  2. It takes more than one ROI model to establish value, and not all ROI models will be valid for a given case.
  3. Collaboration with customers and senior management in identifying Learning benefits is critical; ROI determination is not a one-sided exercise.
  4. It is too easy to fall prey to the temptation to just “play with the numbers” until an acceptable result appears.
  5. Calculators can only “do numbers” – they can’t compute the value of the intangibles.

There are a number of classic approaches to show the financial impact that a given investment (your e-learning project) will have on a business.

Payback

The issue here is “How long will it take to get all the investment back?” Payback analysis results are expressed in months or years. This is calculated as the net investment amount divided by the average annual cash flow from the investment. The payback analysis is easy to use and easy to understand. However, it does not take into account the time value of money (which is addressed by another model, Net Present Value, or NPV). Payback also does not consider the financial performance of the investment after break-even   Payback is best used to establish relative priority between potential projects.

Accounting Rate of Return (ARR)

This is another “simple” method for calculating the return on a major project. It gives a quick estimate of a project’s payback, supports comparisons between projects Calculating return on investment and it also considers returns for the entire life of the project.

Net Present Value (NPV)

Net Present Value is best used for long-term projects. It considers the time value of money- it expresses future cash flows in terms of their value today. While this is the strength of NPV, it also means that this method is not appropriate for projects that do not have clearly defined cash flows, or when the benefits of the project are not financial. NPV can be tricky!

Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

IRR is not as easy for non-accountants to understand or to calculate as NPV. I don’t even understand the terminology let alone the techniques.

Full business impact: the Balanced Scorecard

Many human performance interventions have complex effects on business results. In recent years, the best known method of impact assessment has probably been the balanced scorecard.

The balanced scorecard looks at the effect of a project in four areas:

  1. financial,
  2. customers,
  3. learning and
  4. internal processes.

It is holistic and long-term, and it is forward-looking. Financial results are still an important area considered, but they are not the only element.

If your organisation uses balanced scorecards it may be useful to relate the benefits of your Learning project to each of the four areas of the scorecard. Show how the program objectives relate to the objectives and important questions in each area. The emphasis is on process, not on metrics.

ROI for learning (in times of rapid change)

Measuring return on investment by Glynn Jung

Measurement and accountability have long been the order of the day in most organisations. Those infamous three little words; return on investment (ROI) analysis has been a standard tool in a manager’s kit and deployed when needed. There are however a few challenges however with ROI:

  1. there’s a number of techniques or methods to learn and use;
  2. these techniques and methods sit more easily with accountants than learning and development specialists and
  3. determining ROI can be a long and ponderous process when often operating units within the organisation need us to address their needs very quickly.

So is there a rapid approach for an impatient world? Well yes, there are in fact two such approaches that I’ve been using: Critical Mistakes Analysis (CMA) and Fast-track Proficiencies.

But firstly “traditional ROI”: ROI is not a tool that you can use to prove the value of ALL Learning – it’s just a tactical tool, not a strategic weapon. We see it often used to justify a move from traditional training to self-directed eLearning but this is only really valid in regulatory training e.g. iterative Aviation Cabin Crew training for certification purposes. This is training which has to be done and proven to have been done. In this context we can reasonably claim to offer a return on investment via shortened time to competence and reduced or eliminated indirect costs such as shift rota cover, travel or machine / simulator time, expert support and tuition time.

Apart from those situations, I suggest that many organisations struggle to develop precise and meaningful ROI based on classic accountants’ techniques because:

  • they rarely calculate the cost and value of people’s time and efforts;
  • they rarely have precise targets for focusing the training  – i.e. what it is that needs to change or improve and what are the benchmarks for this and
  • there is little evidence of a direct relationship between training / learning and improved competence in the workplace.

We’ve struggled with this for decades. Way back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I worked with IBM on their methodologies, (SATD and SATE) for demonstrating the value of training to the organisation. Like Kirkpatrick’s Level Four  – improved organisational performance – it proved increasingly frustrating to prove the link or outcome.

Even when you have done your due diligence and used the appropriate method to calculate the expected return, getting decision-makers to accept your analysis requires presentation, negotiation, collaboration, compromise, and persuasion. Think of it as a consensus-based process. It’s certainly rarely a quick fix for a problem. Additionally some people, like me, struggle to work like an accountant.

So are there any ways of ensuring that targeted learning or training can really deliver benefits, and do so rapidly? Well, there are two approaches that I’ve been using for a number of years which can be proved to deliver a return on investment (training time, expert time, learner time et al). These two approaches are:

  1. Critical Mistakes Analysis” and  
  2. “Fast-track proficiencies”.

Critical Mistakes Analysis

CMA is a proprietary methodology offered by Cognitive Arts, a subsidiary of NIIT. CMA derived from a US Government initiative to determine if it could ever be possible to guarantee a return on investment for training. By analysing the data gathered from major Six Sigma (no, don’t switch off) projects they found that a small number of very common mistakes caused most of the damage in an organisation. This was in every sector imaginable – manufacturing, logistics, health care, education, research, pharmaceuticals etc.

They were even able to put a cost against these common mistakes and so define the value of fixing them. The multi-year research project upheld the 80/20 rule and also spawned a commercial organisation with proprietary methodology. The thing is – all organisations have loads of data, of anecdotal evidence to point to where we should focus our attention for fixing mistakes; even the IT Help Desk records  – we don’t really need Six Sigma to find out what to fix. What typically is delivered as an intervention, by the way, is a 4 to 7 minute online tutorial and assessment for each fix, supported by simple online reference materials.

Fast-track Proficiencies

A CMA type approach will help reduce or eliminate the most damaging problems. Fast-Track Proficiencies on the other hand will help you deliver the key proficiencies essential to each different role. The approach came out of work done by Steve Rosenbaum and Jim Williams which resulted in a new, simple-to-implement set of techniques to help get employees up to speed in record time. It is all documented in their book: “Learning Paths: Increase profits by reducing the time it takes to get employees up-to-speed” (Pfeiffer and ASTD Press 2004), which includes a CD with templates and procedures for identifying key proficiencies. I was able to implement the techniques with a client immediately after reading the book.  It even includes a rapid approach called 30/30 Learning Paths for tackling just a handful of proficiencies in a role, (not least to prove to yourselves that it really works). Again, what is typically delivered is a blend of short tutorials and online workplace support information. For more information visit http://www.learningpathsinternational.com, check out the contents of the book via the “look inside” facility on Amazon or just buy the book.

Glynn will continue to discuss the classic approach to ROI in our next blog edition. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates. 

Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting

By Maresa Molloy

Many e-learning programmes today are built for compliance training, which more often than not means that learners are faced with boring and tedious ‘page-turner’ programmes.

E-learning guru and author Michael Allen has spent years fighting this trend for monotonous
e-learning. In his book, Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting, Allen proposes alternative ways of designing e-learning to ensure it’s interesting and engaging for learners. Although published 5 years ago Allen’s book, which is aimed at experienced instructional designers, is still included on many university reading lists and is worthy of review.

So what is Allen’s main proposal in the book?

Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting is divided into three parts:

Part 1 – ‘Scenarios’ presents a selection of e-learning scenarios and asks the reader what they would do in these situations. This questions the readers’ current approach to designing e-learning programmes and opens their mind to the possibility of designing programmes differently.

Part 2 – ‘The Art and Science of Instructional Design’ provides a critique of how instructional design is practiced today. It introduces readers to the ‘Success Based Design’ practiced by the author, which he believes encompasses the best elements of current instructional design theories.

Part 3 – ‘Designing Successful e-Learning’ explains how readers can apply a Success Based Design to their own e-learning programmes. Allen suggests that instructional designers provide learners with meaningful, memorable and motivational experiences, which he says you can do by:

  • setting the programme in the context of the learner’s real-life environment;
  • by providing the learner with a challenge they are likely to encounter in this environment;
  • by providing the learner with activities that help them to solve the challenge; and
  • by providing them with intrinsic feedback – based on their performance of the activity.

The e-learning programme is meant to provide learners with a safe environment in which they can try out different options and solutions, and make informed decisions based on their mistakes and successful attempts. The success of the programme is then measured by how well they do in the real environment.

Allen’s approach contrasts with traditional e-learning which provides learners with pages of content, followed by an assessment to see if learners can remember the content. Instead of just focusing on the content, Allen places emphasis on whether or not learners can apply their knowledge in a real-life task.

Is the Success Based Design a better approach than the traditional approach?
In my opinion, the Success Based Design is clearly a better approach to take. It facilitates production of
a more interesting and engaging programme and encourages learners to gain a deeper understanding of the learning content, and how to apply that learning in real-life contexts.

For example, a Success Based e-learning programme that helps nurses diagnose specific sinus problems with their patients would present the learner (the nurse) with typical scenarios. In each scenario, the learner asks the patient (or programme) questions about their symptoms and they observe the patient for physical symptoms. From this information, they can then submit their diagnosis and the programme will give them feedback. The scenario is reflective of a real-life task and challenge the nurse is likely to face at work.

The main limitation with Allen’s approach is that learners do not have to read all of the content. They can choose which scenarios they want to do and they can skip those scenarios that they think they know well. Traditional e-learning programmes, on the other hand, tend to be compliance-based which means that learners are forced to read all of the pages of content.

Nevertheless, the Success Based Approach focuses more on improving the understanding of learners and focuses less on compliance. Focusing on learners’ needs should always be a priority.


How well does the author deliver the content?
Allen describes the Success Based Approach very thoroughly in his book and provides useful diagrams and tables to explain his methods. He can be somewhat repetitive at times, for example, he repeats much of the same information about context, challenge, activity and feedback across several different chapters on designing instruction.

He also falls short of providing a step-by-step guide on designing e-learning programmes using this approach, and in providing practical examples of how it would look in an e-learning programme. For example, he does not show how the layout of the navigation and menus would look like. This would help give a clearer understanding of how he proposes to move away from the traditional layout and design.

Are there any limitations with his approach?
The Success Based Design is an excellent approach. However, I feel that because e-learning is a component of the overall training strategy of an organisation, many organisations would need to
re-evaluate their current training strategies before implementing a Success Based e-Learning programme. For example, many organisations today are still providing learners with endless amounts of PowerPoint slides in a training room, instead of providing them with interactive, scenario-based activities which are much more meaningful. If organisations update their overall training strategy, then a Success Based e-Learning programme would suit the organisation’s training culture and norms.


How well does the book rate in relation to other books on Instructional Design?
Designing Successful e-Learning is still a popular book on the market. Allen uses a friendly and informal tone to deliver some very useful advice on how to design successful e-learning. He breaks away from some of the traditional books which are heavily laden in theory and jargon, and speaks to the reader on a level they can understand. I would therefore recommend this book to any Instructional Designer who wants to improve their current approach to designing e-learning.

Are there further resources available from the author?
Michael Allen has a useful website where you can access information about his other books and other e-learning resources:

http://www.alleninteractions.com/michael-allens-books

Book information:

Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting – Michael Allen’s Online Learning Library

Publication Date: 12 Jun 2007 | ISBN-10: 0787982997 | ISBN-13: 978-0787982997

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