I should have posted this a few days ago, but I’m doing a webcast tomorrow (Wednesday May 15th, 1pm ET) for ASTD on using the psychology of game design for learning. Talking about some familiar stuff (flow, hyperbolic discounting) and a few new things (visceral feedback). Not sure if you need to be an ASTD member to attend, but I *think* you can just sign up:
Had a lovely time at the Learning Solutions Conference last week. Did a full day pre-con on Gameful Learning Design with Rick Raymer, which was a lot of fun.
I also did a session on Narrative Techniques for Learning. When I was working on Design For How People Learn, I listened a lot to a podcast on storytelling techniques.
A lot of learning and development folks *are* fiction writers, in the form of learning scenarios, examples and case studies, but (in my experience) it’s frequently pretty dull stuff (and I say this as someone who has written some dull scenarios myself).
So this session is about pulling some of the specific strategies that fiction writers use to into learning scenarios. There are a lot of other interesting ways to explore storytelling in terms of meta-structures, psychology and cultural constructs. This isn’t that presentation (though I’ll probably do that one too, one of these days).
This presentation is focused on specific strategies for making learning stories more interesting.
- Storytelling podcasts: http://www.storywonk.com and http://popcorndialogues.com/
- The Hero’s Journey: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heros_journey
- Three Act Structure: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_act_structure
- Clark Quinn on narrative urgency: http://blog.learnlets.com/?p=2931
- Movie Cliches: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbhrz1-4hN4
- Article: Effects of humor on sentence memory. Schmidt, Stephen R. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 20(4), Jul 1994, 953-967. doi: 10.1037/0278-73126.96.36.1993
- TV Tropes: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
- Resonate by Nancy Duarte: http://www.amazon.com/Resonate-Present-Stories-Transform-Audiences/dp/0470632011
- Kathy Sierra on Building the Minimum Badass User: http://businessofsoftware.org/2013/02/kathy-sierra-building-the-minimum-badass-user-business-of-software-a-masterclass-in-thinking-about-software-product-development/
I’m listening to the most recent toolbar episode with Judy Unrein, Brian Dusablon and their guest, Connie Malamed. They talk about a number of things, but there’s a lot of discussion of creativity – how to be creative, the importance of creativity for problem solving, and the unfortunate lack of creativity that can happen in learning design.
I think that there’s a weird attitude to creativity in our field – that it’s a nice-to-have (and just be clear — this isn’t something Judy, Brian and Connie said, but rather an attitude I’ve bumped into many times elsewhere). I think that there are a couple of reasons this isn’t true:
- We pay attention to things that are novel and unusual. We are constantly concerned with engaging our users. We know what whatever we build isn’t effective if users aren’t paying attention. In the same way that humor can improve learning and retention, unusual and novel stimuli break through our cognitive tendency to habituate to an unchanging stimulus (and yes – using big words to make your business case is a legitimate strategy).
- Well-designed experiences create positive affect in learners, which can improve learning and retention. The best resource on this is probably Don Norman’s Emotional Design, but his contention is that things that are well-designed do work better.
So, creativity is a legitimate design strategy – not something that is a pretty garnish on the plate.
Here are a few other interesting things on creativity:
- Connie’s great blog post on evidence-based practice for improving creativity: http://theelearningcoach.com/elearning_design/improve-creativity/
- This fascinating video that suggests that creative problem solving isn’t just about stimulating creativity, but also about inhibiting our current set of rules for how things should work: through-the-wormhole-creativity-cap.html
- And because this post needs some creativity actually in it – here’s a Kickstarter Thank You note I just got from a former student (Taylor Baldry http://www.taylorbaldry.com) who did a project on helping people remember the genders of foreign language nouns by attaching little cartoon genitalia to pictures of the objects (and if that’s not creative, I don’t know what is):
I blogged! Just not here!!
I’m the guest blogger this week for the Tin Can folks. It’s a post about why should care about Tin Can if you are an instructional designer:
I also get to bitch a little bit about SCORM and how is that not fun?
I tweeted the link to this article about 19 times today, but I’m posting it again here. Craig Wiggins has been knocking out good stuff on the ASTD Learning Circuits blog all month, but he saved the best for last:
Every field has them, but Learning & Development has a lot of them – things we do or believe because of convention or habit or denial or fear.
What would you add to the list? Go put yours in the comments. I’m also thinking this would make a heckuva blog carnival (Who’s with me?).
(And as an added bonus, Kathy Sierra stopped by in the comments and showed us how it’s done #bam #asalways)
The recording of the webinar that I did for the Gameful folks has been posted – it’s available here:
We wound up with a troll in the room towards the end, who kept posting links to -erm- unsavory sites, so be careful about clicking links in the chat (The ones in the actual presentation slides are safe). Made for a slightly odd experience.
Slides and links can be found here: http://usablelearning.com/about/presentations/leef/
The Toolbar is a podcast by Brian Dusablon and Judy Unrein that involves talking about the tools that e-learning practitioners use (and also beer). It’s just the kind of satisfying shoptalk that usually only happens at professional conferences or the like.
I got to be a guest on this week’s episode, talking about things like usability, feedback loops, quick and dirty user testing, and what’s fundamentally broken about e-learning development.
Go have a listen: The Toolbar Episode #9: Usability. Don’t Be a Moron (and even if you don’t have time for the whole episode, go check out the great list of links Brian compiled in the show notes).
Just had this quick interchange with Patti Shank on twitter:
This is a totally fair comment on Patti’s part — you can’t force someone to be motivated (and undoubtedly some of our disagreement stems from semantics – not that THAT ever happens on twitter). A lot of the conversation around gamification (for a heated throw down on the topic read the comments here) is about the dubious and likely counterproductive effects of extrinsic rewards as motivators. According to Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, a big part of the problem with extrinsic motivators is that it’s about controlling the learner, not helping or supporting them.
So that I totally agree with – you can’t control your learner, or control their motivation.
But design decisions do have an impact on human behavior. For example, this chart show the rate of people who agree to be organ donors in different European countries:
In the blue countries, choosing to be a organ donor is selected by default, and the person has to de-select it if they do not want to be a donor. In the yellow countries, the default is that the person will not be an organ donor, and the person has to actively choose to select organ donor status.
Now it could be that some people aren’t paying attention, but at least some of that difference is presumably due to people who do notice, but just roll with the default (you can read more about it here - scroll down to the Dan Ariely section).
So the way something is designed can make a difference in behavior. Of course, that’s not a training example, so let’s take a closer look at how training might come in to play.
Is it a training problem?
Robert Mager used this question as a litmus test:
“If you held a gun to the person’s head, would they be able to do the task?”
He further discusses this in his book on Analyzing Performance Problems but later uses the less graphic “could they do the task if their life depended on it?” question (Thiagi advocates for the version “Could they do it if you offered them a million dollars?” if you prefer a non-violent take).
So basically, if someone could do the behavior under extreme pressure, then they clearly know how to do it, and it’s not a knowledge or skills problem, and therefore outside of the domain of training (could be up the person’s specific motivation, could be a workplace management issue, etc.).
Here’s where I disagree
I think the way you design learning experiences can have an impact on the likelihood of people engaging in the desired behavior, and that it is part of an instructional designer’s responsibility. I don’t think you can control people, or force the issue, but I do think the experience they have when they are learning about something can make a difference in the decisions they make later.
The Technology Acceptance Model
The technology acceptance model is an information systems model that looks at what variables affect whether or not someone adopts a new technology. It’s been fairly well research (and isn’t without its critics), but I find it to be a useful frame. At the heart of the model are two variables:
It’s not a complicated idea – if you want someone to use something, they need to believe that it’s actually useful, and that it won’t be a major pain in the ass to use.
TAM specifically addresses technology adoption, but those variables make sense for a lot of things. You want someone to use a new method of coaching employees? Or maybe a new safety procedure? If your audience believes that it’s pointless (ie not useful), or it’s going to be a major pain (ie not easy to use), then they will probably figure out ways around it. Then it either fails to get adopted or you get into all sorts of issues around punishments, incentives, etc.
I keep TAM in mind when I design anything that requires adopting a new technology or system or practice (which is almost everything I do). Some of the questions I ask are:
- Is the new behavior genuinely useful? Sometimes it’s not useful for the learner – it’s useful to the organization, or it’s a compliance necessity. In those cases, it can be a good idea to acknowledge it and make sure the learner understands why the change is being made – that it isn’t just the organization messing with their workflow, but that it’s a necessary change for other reasons.
- If it is useful, how will the learner know that? You can use case studies, examples, people talking about how it’s helped them, or give the learner the experience of it being useful through simulations. Show, Don’t Tell becomes particular important here. You can assert usefulness until you are blue in the face, and you won’t get nearly as much buy-in as being able to try it, or hearing positive endorsements from trusted peers.
- Is the new behavior easy-to-use? If it’s not, why not? Is it too complex? Is it because people are too used their current system? People will learn to use even the most hideous system by mentally automating tasks (see these descriptions of the QWERTY keyboard and the Bloomberg Terminal), but then when you ask them to change, it’s really difficult because they can no longer use those mental shortcuts and the new system feels uncomfortably effortful until they’ve had enough practice.
- If it’s not easy to use, is there anything that can be done to help that? Can the learners practice enough to make it easier? Can you make job aids or other performance supports? Can you roll it out in parts so they don’t have to tackle it all at once? Can you improve the process or interface to address ease-of-use issues?
Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations
- Relative Advantage – the degree to which an innovation is perceived as being better than the idea it supersedes
- Compatibility – the degree to which an innovation is perceived to be consistent with the existing values, past experiences and needs of potential adopters
- Complexity – the degree to which an innovation is perceived as difficult to use
- Trialability – the opportunity to experiment with the innovation on a limited basis
- Observability – the degree to which the results of an innovation are visible to others
There is obviously some crossover with TAM, but If I’m designing a learning experience for a new system, I use this as a mental checklist:
- Are the learners going to believe the new system is better?
- Are there compatibility issues that need to be addressed?
- Can we do anything reduce complexity?
- Do the learners have a chance to see it being used?
- Do the learners have a chance to try it out themselves?
- and, How can they have the opportunity to have some success with the new system?
Now, if somebody really, really doesn’t want to do something, designing instruction around these elements probably isn’t going to change their mind (Patti’s not wrong about that). And if a new system, process or idea is really sucky, or a pain in the ass to implement, then it’s going to fail no matter how many opportunities you give the learner to try it out.
But here’s the thing – I can design a training intervention that can teach a learner how to use a new system/concept/idea, which could meet the Mager requirement (they could do it if their life depended on it), but I will design a very different (and I think better) learning experience if I consider these motivation factors as well.
I don’t want to take ownership of the entire problem of motivating learners (waaaaaay too many variables outside of my scope or control), but I do believe I share in the responsibility of creating an environment where they can succeed.
And bottom line, I believe my responsibility as a learning designer is to do my best to motivate learners by creating a learning experience where my learners can kick ass, because in the words of the always-fabulous Kathy Sierra kicking ass is more fun (and better learning).
Davis, F. D. (1989), “Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology”, MIS Quarterly 13(3): 319–340
Johnson, Eric J. and Goldstein, Daniel G., Do Defaults Save Lives? (Nov 21, 2003). Science, Vol. 302, pp. 1338-1339, 2003. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1324774
Mager, Robert and Pipe, Peter, Analyzing Performance Problems: Or, You Really Oughta Wanna–How to Figure out Why People Aren’t Doing What They Should Be, and What to do About It
Rogers, Everett Diffusion of Innovations
So I just bumped into Amy Jo Kim’s Gamification Workshop 2010 slides (via Sebastian Deterding). Amy Jo Kim is another of my professional crushes (she’s awesome), and there’s loads of goodness in the slides, but my favorite bit was based on this image about the Player’s Journey:
(Image from Amy Jo Kim’s book ”Community Building on the Web“).
She talks about how each of the different levels has different needs from a gaming system:
- Novices need onboarding – welcome, goals and process
- Experts need fresh content, activities and people
- Masters need exclusive activities, access and unlocks
This is possibly the most useful thing I’ve ever seen about social media for learning. E-Learning tends to be a one-off experience. Little time or money goes to the progression of the experience because the experience begins and ends in one chunk.
Hoping they don’t hate us
In my experience, most e-Learning also tends to be aimed at novices, and we sort of just hope that experts don’t hate us too much as they are compelled through the material. That’s about as much fun as being the experienced flyer standing in the TSA security line with your laptop out, liquids in a bag, shoes off and carry-on ready to go, trapped behind what appears to be a Grandma who hasn’t flown since 1972 and an entire daycare of small children with all the associated paraphenalia*.
But as (hopefully) we are slowing wrenching ourselves out of that model, and moving towards more integrated learning resource systems, we’ll have to take into account the differing needs of our learners, and how to engage them and meet their needs.
I’m in the process of thinking through ways to steer away from one-size-fits-all-ism for learning applications (yes, scenario-based learning is *great*, but it’s not the answer to all learning needs). I read another post this morning on why Gagne’s 9 Rules of Instruction are dead, which describes why those rules are entirely inappropriate for just-in-time learning. The writer is absolutely correct in those circumstances (Gagne’s 9 Events still have their uses for other things, but that’s another blog post).
So what have you seen?
What kinds of resources / systems / models are you aware of that give specific recommendations based on the circumstances or learner charactistics? I’m on a hunt and would be eternally grateful for anything you could point me to.
A few resources:
- There’s some stuff like the Dreyfus model to address different levels of learners (there’s a nice post on the Dreyfus Model here from Sumeet Moghe that talks about ways to apply it).
- Simon Bostock reminded me the other day of the Cynefin Framework for looking at different systems.
Here are the complete slides for Amy Jo Kim’s presentation:
*I’m not hating on parents who travel with small children. I think they are the bravest people I know.
So, one of the biggest issues with games for learning, is that there’s this weird logic out there:
As I allude in the title of this post, I can put on the Wonder Woman costume, but that doesn’t mean I can deflect bullets:
(Lest this sound preachy, be assured I have fallen victim to this myself “I’m gonna put power-ups in this course, and it’s gonna be awesome!”).
But one of the beautiful things about the internet is you can find people who are way smarter than you to explain this stuff, as in this presentation about the issues with gameification from Sebastian Deterding (The menu button will let you run it full screen so you can read the small-print commentary at the bottom):