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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.

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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. 

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

Talent Management: Terms & 9 Box Reporting

Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks terms and 9 box reporting. Confused? Read on.

Terms and 9 Box Reporting
This week I’ve decided to write up a bit on Talent Management terminology as a lighter bite for the week. I’ve gone into some functional depth in the last few weeks and so thought it would be good to maybe lighten things for a week.

Hippos and Hippies
I’ll start to drill into Performance Management in the next few weeks, but before I do I’d like to look at the terms so that when I then talk about them everyone is not confused…

Hippos (actually Hi-Po’s) are High Potentials. High Potentials are people in the business who have been recognised as being possible leaders of the business in the future. I actually found a pretty funny website here http://www.highpotentialssociety.org/Society/society.html for people who want to classify themselves as high potentials – but the reality is that in business it is important to be able to identify those people who have the potential in the future to really drive the business forward. To understand who is a high potential, and to understand more just google the term – you’ll find loads of data about this term.

Hippies (actually Hi-Pe’s) are High Performers. High Performers are people in the business who in their current role are performing very well, and are good at what they do. They will normally be very competent in their job role, and will be getting high scores in their performance appraisals.

9 Box Reporting
It makes sense that a person who is a high performer could also be a high potential – but a high performer might not be a high potential for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is happy where they are and does not want the extra responsibility that comes with a more senior position. Maybe the person is in a deeply technical role where there is no value to the business in moving them further up the organisation.

HR Directors have therefore found a diagrammatic way of dropping people into boxes in a graphical report commonly called a 9 box report. It is a matrix where one axis rates people based on their high potential score and the other axis rates them on their high performance score. I like this diagrammatic view.

9 Box Reporting

As you can see, if you put people into the various spaces in the grid, then you know a bit more what you should do with them. Software systems give the business the ability to rate people as Hippos, Hippies, or both – however I would always remember that the system is just a tool – companies still have to rely on the abilities of their managers to rate individuals – a bad rating because of lack of knowledge can still drop an individual in the wrong box…and this can be detrimental to the business and to the individual.

Businesses try their hardest to retain people in most quadrants, and will try to have their churn (rate at which people leave and join) be of people in the bottom left quadrant.

By the way – two interesting things:

1. There is also a 16 box – where the scales are 4 by 4. However the more boxes the harder the management becomes.

2. I once met a senior HR manager at a UK event who presented on this subject. She spent a lot of her time producing a set of 9 box reports for her 100,000 person organisation. She was very proud of the myriad of excel spreadsheets she maintained…a lot of hard work that modern Talent Management systems should now support.

Talent Pools
I would love to define this this week but I’ve come to the end of this week’s chapter – so let’s talk through Talent Pools next week, and then we’ll move into Performance Management after that.


Information Overload: Why Your Knowledge Dump E-learning Will FAIL

By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer

Man at computer surrounded by filesWe love when clients come to us full of enthusiasm for a new e-learning programme but comments like: “Our staff need to know our policies – let’s put them online into an e-learning programme,” or “We need to make sure they’ve read all the material – an e-learning programme is perfect!” can set the alarm bells ringing.

Educating staff on new information, and identifying whether or not they’ve read and understood the material, are perfectly good reasons for developing an e-learning programme. Bombarding your staff with everything you know about the information and making sure they can recite it word perfect is not.

Imagine trying to educate your staff on Health & Safety and providing them with pages and pages of policies and procedures on Health & Safety and then expecting them to list these verbatim. This is clearly not a good idea – they’ll never remember all of the material and they’ll get bored fairly quickly.

Now imagine providing your staff with a course which teaches them the key information on these policies and procedures and showing them how to apply these in their work. This is clearly more effective.

But how do you split the wheat from the chaff?

At Aurion Learning, we believe that the key to designing a successful, performance based e-learning programme is to identify current performance gaps. To do this, we use what we call our ‘DIF analysis’:

  • What tasks do your learners find Difficult?
  • What tasks do they find Important to their jobs?
  • What tasks do they do Frequently?

Once you know these tasks, you can design a course which targets what they really need to learn, and furthermore, you can spend more time and resources focusing on making this content more interactive and enjoyable.

Don’t Do
Assume that your goal is to increase their knowledge. Identify what they need to do differently.
Provide all of the information you have on the subject. Provide only the information that can help them do something differently.
Ensure that they know all of the information. Ensure that they can use the information.

(Source material Cathy Moore)

Training Smarter in the Recession

by Dr. Maureen Murphy, Aurion Learning

Learn BlackboardResearch published last year from the Centre for Learning and Life Chances in Knowledge Economies and Societies (LLAKES), at the Institute of Education, University of London, and researchers at the University of Cardiff shows that, despite predictions to the contrary, the recession has not deterred most UK companies from training their staff in new skills. Yes – training expenditure is down….but not by as much as expected (the report* quotes a 5% decrease in training expenditure in England between 2007 and 2009). In fact, the research shows that rather than putting the brakes on skills training, the recession has simply forced most companies to train smarter.

Easier said than done? Here are my top tips for training in the recession:

  • Shift training focus to key business areas – an obvious one but the best place to start. Align training with key business strategy – so if you want to improve sales, deliver meaningful sales training. If you want to develop stronger leaders, deliver powerful leadership training.
  • Embrace technology – increasing your use of e-learning, mobile learning (mlearning) and virtual learning environments will seriously cut time out of office as well as travel costs while giving staff access to on-demand and just-in-time learning.
  • Organise more in-house training – by developing staff competencies you can use internal staff to deliver training and manage communities of learning.
  • Share, share, share – encourage knowledge sharing, collaboration, coaching and peer mentoring. Make the most of the existing knowledge pool in your company.
  • Cut course length – make your learning short, sharp and strong!
  • Evaluate the learning – ask your staff about how they have put the learning into practice and improved performance. Evaluate the learning and measure return on investment.

*Source: The Impact of the 2008-9 Recession on the Extent, Form and Patterns of Training at Work LLAKES, Institute of Education, University of London

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