The Best New Learning Book

The best new learning book doesn’t exactly look like a learning book, but trust me on this one, folks.

Cover of Badass: Making User Awesome, by Kathy Sierra


As I may have mentioned a few times in the past, Kathy Sierra’s stuff is FANTASTIC and this new book is no exception. I realize that nothing on the cover says “Learning & Development” exactly, but the mission of the title goes right to the heart of the whole purpose of L&D.

Specifically, though, this is one of the best accessible books out there that translates the science of expertise and skill development into compulsively readable material:




– images from Badass, used with permission

I read a review copy a few months ago, and have been stupid excited with anticipation of the book actually coming out. You can buy it here (and you should).



An Elearning Design Reading List


Several things have led to me actually writing a blog post.  First, I’m home for two whole weeks straight (this alone is a small miracle).  I’m also relatively up to date with my inbox and to do list (much larger miracles). I’m also indulging in some productive procrastination (which is probably the real reason).

Anyway, I typically keep a list of resources when I teach the ATD (ASTD) Advanced Instructional Design for Elearning Certificate, and I keep thinking that I should put the list somewhere.  So here it is:

Blogs et al:


Software Tools:

  • Branchtrack and Versal  – two interesting new elearning tools — can’t fully endorse them as they are still beta-ish, but interesting to look at.
  • Quandary Examples – a free (and unsupported) tool for making branched learning games.

Research-based Resources

Behavioral Economics


Anything by Kathy Sierra

The “I can’t believe I forgot…” Add-ons



Designing for Data and Learning UX

Hey folks, a couple of things that have been happening lately:

The fabulous Janet Laane Effron and Sean Putnam are doing a MOOC on learning design for data.  This is going to be a big deal in our field, and this is really nice, accessible opportunity to learn more.


It starts today (May 27th), but it’s definitely not to late to join.  You’ll also get to see the curatr platform, which is one of the more interesting learning interfaces to be developed in the last few years.

Also, I did a presentation at the ASTD (erm, ATD) ICE Conference on User Experience (UX) for learning.  Slides are here:



Stephen Anderson – From Paths to Sandboxes

Sat in on Karl Fast and Stephen Anderson‘s Design for Understanding workshop at the IA Summit last week, and it was double-plus-good.

Here are Stephen’s slides from his IA Summit presentation.  Excellent stuff relating to autonomy in learning environments, and multitudes more:

Immersive Learning

I have this great little shelf in the bookshelf app on my ipad.  It’s just books by people I know.  I feel genuinely privileged to know so many people with so many interesting things to say.

Some of them are drafts for books that are still in progress., but one that’s already out in the world is Koreen Pagano’s Immersive Learning: Designing for Authentic Practice:

immersive learning

It’s great, for a few different reasons:

Reason 1: The subtitle — Designing for Authentic Practice.  So immersive learning environments can sometimes be shiny objects.  Remember when everything L&D was going to start happening in Second Life?  Yep, that didn’t happen.

One of the reason’s it didn’t happen was because there was because the focus was on the technology (“Ooo – we can build a virtual replica of our corporate university!”) and not on the really interesting part — the possibility for high-context practice. We remember more if we learn something in the same environment where we will use the information, so virtual worlds were interesting for that reason, but that got lost in the hype cycle. Koreen rightly focuses on the real purpose for immersive learning – high-context practice environments.  It’s about the practice, not the technology.

Reason 2: The case studies — So, one of the problems with a lot of L&D books is that they are more about what can be done, rather than examples of what has been done. This naturally happens with new technologies.  When they were brand new, both mobile and xAPI have had to start with the possibilities rather than real examples, until some critical mass built, allowing for case examples.

Immersive learning suffered similarly for a long time, but if anybody is able to speak from direct experiences, it’s Koreen.  The book is worth it for the case studies alone. Lots of really good examples of use, with the kind of nitty gritty details you need to help inform your own practice.

Reason 3: Underwear Gnomes — how can you not love a book that starts with a really well-played South Park reference?  It’s indicative of Koreen’s overall accessible, entertaining style, which makes the book a really pleasurable read.





Manifestos and MCQs

Hey folks,

So a couple of quick things.  A few of us launched this today: — would love to know if it seems useful :)

And second, I was collecting some resources on writing good multiple choice questions (which is really hard), and thought they might be useful to post here

Will Thalheimer has some things on his site – mostly shorter job aids:
He also wrote three articles on scenario-based questions that are here:
Cathy Moore also has some good blog posts:
A number of universities have guidelines for their faculty — you can probably find several by googling.  For example:


Libraries and Hyperbolic Discounting and Carrots

So I’ve been blogging, just not here:



For ASTD, I wrote about why we aren’t in the information delivery business anymore (and what we can learn from Museums and Libraries):

For Allen Interactions, I wrote a guest blog about hyperbolic discounting, and why creating a feeling of immediacy is a necessary instructional design skill:

For Inside Learning Technologies, I wrote about our responsibilities for motivating learners (and why it’s not just about carrot-like rewards):

(The last one is based pretty heavily on a blog post that was posted here a while back)

And, as a bonus link, I was reminded of Cathy Moore’s L&D manifesto the other day, and I think I should just link to it weekly because it’s that great. I can take no credit for this one, other than to say “Yeah! That!! YEAH!”:

Design For How People Learn in Chinese

So, apparently there’s a chinese version of Design For How People Learn, which is delightful.



Apparently when you take a Cammy Bean quote, translate it into Chinese, and then let google translate turn it back into English, you get this marvelous wisdom:

‘If you let me fall in love with a book, then I would deeply in love with this present. Julie Dirksen prepared for the beginner a most excellent book, so that they can be like the old bird as instructional design. “

- Cammy Bean, Kineo, vice president of learning design 

How great is that?  Be like the old bird, people.

Coming up next: A Russian version in September :)

Update – here’s the Russian Version available for pre-order:



There’s no Cammy Bean quote, but run the title through Google Translate and it comes out:

“Art of teaching – How do any training not boring and effective.”

Well, okay then.

Gameful Learning – More Sebastian Deterding Goodness

Okay, so I understand that it looks like I just post every Sebastian Deterding presentation on this blog, but really, I don’t.  He’s a prolific guy.  This one is specifically aimed at design for online learning, so it’s double-plus-good, and therefore must be posted here:

Social Norms -or- Hey, What are they doing over there?

I’m working on a change management presentation, and have been looking for some of the social norms research – especially at the practice of using messages that help people understand that the majority of the group is already doing the desired behavior.

Before I close the tabs, I thought I’d collect the most interesting links here (that’s all I have time for today!).


Wikipedia entry (which defines it, and rightly points out that outcomes are uneven for this approach) –

Environmental behaviors and social norms (This is a nice summary paper of using social norms in environmental campaigns, influencing behaviors like littering) –

Thermostats with social feedback (This is one of the actual papers on this pretty widely known example) –

Social norms and teen smoking (And feet. An interesting television commercial aimed at social norms and teen smoking) –

Social norms and tax compliance (using a general appeal vs a social norm appeal to improve tax compliance) –

More social norms and tax compliance (HBR article, though you need registration/subscription to see the whole thing) –

Social norms and binge drinking (a write up of one of the earlier studies that looked at perceived and actual norms for college students’ drinking behaviors) –