Social Games & Community Development

So I’ve been doing research for a chapter on social and informal learning that I’m adding the second edition, and I’ve been taking a look at some of the resources on social gaming because they know a *lot* about community development. This is collection of some of the best resources I’ve found.

Core Concepts for Social Experience Design

This is such great stuff.  I know it’s labelled as Gamification, but the fabulous Amy Jo Kim deals primarily with social experience design, and the part about looking at the action verbs for different player types is pure gold.

Social Difficulty Curve

The always excellent Extra Credit folks did a series on the social difficulty curve — basically, how do you ease players into online social game interaction.  This dovetails well with Amy Jo Kim’s player’s journey as well:

These are part of Extra Credits playlist on game design, which if you are interested in game design at all, is just a treasure trove of goodness for learning about game design.

Community Development

It’s not a game design resource, but Tom Kuhlmann and his team run one of the best learning communities on the web.  Regardless of whether or not you are an Articulate or Storyline user,  is great resource of helping for people who build elearning.

In this series of videos, you can see him explaining some of the motivation and strategies behind how they develop and grow that community.







Upcoming from Usable Learning – Fall 2015


Hey folks, I hope everyone is having a spectacular summer (or lovely winter if you are southern hemisphere-ish). There’s a lot of different things coming up in the next few months, so I thought I would mention them here:

Next week, I’m doing a keynote for the Atlanta ATD Chapter’s Annual Conference.  I’m also doing on a 1-day post conference workshop.  There are three spots left for the workshop.  I’m looking forward to it — it will be a chance to pull out my toolbox of best instructional design tools. It’s also a bargain at $149 :)

I’m doing an online UX Essentials class for ATD this year, and the next session is September 16th.  The Essentials series are a good beginner exposure to a topic, and these are a lot of fun.

I’m really excited about the 1-day workshop on Behavior Change at DevLearn (September 29) this year — I do talks on this topic quite a bit, but this is the first time that I’ve corralled everything into one place for a workshop format. I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m also doing an Instructional Design basics workshop at the Online Learning Conference in Denver on October 5-6.


I’m working on a second edition of the book! I’m adding chapters on habit formation, social and informal learning, and evaluation, and expanding the motivation and environment chapters. Also fixing a few pesky typos:




One More Book – Visual Design Solutions

Hey folks, I’ve got another book to share.

Connie Malamed is a lovely friend and colleague who has done quite a bit on visual design (including Visual Language for Designers), and now she has a new book written specifically for Learning Professionals:


Visual design isn’t the first important skill an instructional designer needs, but it may be the second or third one.  Even if you are fortunate enough to work with a graphic designer, having a good visual sense allows you to communicate design needs much more effectively.

Connie’s book does a great job of giving people the basics of a visual vocabulary:

VisualPages1 I got particularly excited over the first explanation of the Rule of Thirds that I actually understood:


Visual Design Solutions: Principles and Creative Inspiration for Learning Professionals Paperback – April 13, 2015 by Connie Malamed (available in all the usual places).


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

Updated — some new books that have come out since I originally wrote this post:


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: