I’ll be again offering the learning game design workshop at the eLearning Guild’s Annual Gathering/Producer Conference in Boston (on Tuesday), and a mobile learning design talk on Wednesday (there’s some possibility I’ll be part of a mobile learning panel on Friday). I’m looking forward to seeing Jay Cross’ Informal Learning lounge and hearing some talks at this well-run event. Please do say hello (I’m not aloof, just shy; at least until I know you). I hope to see you there.
I have a Treo because it’s a power tool for the knowledge worker. It makes me more effective, and I continually find new ways to do so. Naturally, I want a case that offers some protection, easy access, and latches on my belt. I thought I found the ultimate solution with UniQase, a skin case with a beltclip attachment. The first beltclip busted, and they quickly replaced it with a new model. The second one did to, but was still somewhat usable. The user experience with the company, however, was good.
I’d heard that lots of folks liked the Seidio Holster case, but it only worked with a uncovered Treo. When Seidio announced a skin and a holster that would handle it (and, to boot, a new back case with a hole to access the reset button and a matching hole in the skin), I thought I’d found my solution.
And I had, right up to the point where the clip snapped. It’s a weak point in the design, and though I caught it on something it snapped before I had hardly pulled. I’m happy to have them either decline to fix it, or to send a new one.
I called them up, and a nice person told me to send the order number, a description, and ideally a photo of the problem, and I’d hear back in 1-2 business days. This was a Monday, and I did just that on the Tuesday. Having heard nothing back the following Monday, I called again. A person checked, found my email, said he’d forward it directly and they’d be in touch. Again, nothing.
The short answer to the question in the title of this blog is to get listed is to treat a blogger with bad customer service. Seidio’s got a superior product, but inferior customer service. I’m back using the UniQase solution, and will have to recommend it over Seidio to any queries (such as the folks I give mobile learning talks and workshops to, e.g. next week in Boston and the following week in Taiwan).
The received wisdom says that in the commodity market, customer experience is the differentiator. We can teach good customer service, by elearning or however, but you have to not let a customer slip through the cracks. At least respond!
I’m pleased to say that my article on emotion in elearning (and what you should do to address it) is now officially part of the eLearning Guild‘s Learning Solutions eMagazine. You must be a member of the Guild to get access to the eMag (and I highly recommend the Guild, they run great conferences as well as getting access to all the articles), but they’ve let me host it on the Quinnovation site as well, so you can download it (it’s a PDF) from the resources page (where some of my other articles and resources are), or here.
In Gamasutra (free registration required, I believe) there’s a summary of Will Wright’s Game Developers Conference Keynote. Will Wright is the genius behind Sim City and The Sims, and is now working on this next magnum opus (how many can he have?), Spore.
The talk wove together astrobiology in talking about the required research, but what comes out is the tuning required to go from principle to finished game. Will’s told me that despite the simply awesome programming of Sim City, it was only 10% of the work, and 90% is tuning. Some quotes:
“How and when research should be done: even before preproduction begins”
“this initial research led to simulation prototypes, which were just simple apps showing some of the underlying science principles visually”
“many science prototypes needed to be built in order for some of these to become interesting”
and “research should be useful in four areas: innovation, risk, fun and deep messages”
but you’ll have to read the article to find out how research helps these. In short, there’s a lot of work doing the work to ensure that your design integrates a great experience and real outcomes.
Back when I was building an adaptive learning system that presented content differentially based upon the individual’s characteristics as a learner, I came across the concept of ‘universal learning design’. It sounded like a great idea, but there wasn’t really any useful guidance at that time.
I was recently reminded about it by a talk announcement and went back to the CAST site (Center for Applied Special Technology). There I found more guidance, particularly in the form of a book on the subject.
Their core notion is to have multiple representations of the content (which I already support as an instantiation of Rand Spiro’s Cognitive Flexibility Theory), multiple forms of assessment (which is why I support eportfolios), and multiple forms of affective support. It’s the latter that resonates for me currently, as I’m recognizing that at least some of the power of engaged learning comes from addressing the affective/emotional components of learning.
Their specific thoughts on this are found in this chapter, and there’re some examples to make it concrete.
I am still trying to go further, and incorporate attitude change into the learning process as well, recognizing that equipping the mind isn’t sufficient if the behavior change requires an associated attitude change. Also deciding when you need major change and when it’s just the right ‘nudge’ that’s necessary. However, those are topics for other posts I reckon.
There’s also the
In the ‘about‘ page (to the right there), I mention the other meaning of learnlets besides my learning on learnings. That is, little interactive applications that can teach you something specific.
I think that there is a considerable opportunity in marketing for such learnlets. Good marketing is, really, customer education. What, then, would be the possible applications of learnlets?
Interactive opportunities support several types of mental activities that static content, or even dynamic but passive content don’t: they let us explore relationships, and make decisions and observe the consequences.
A word on terminology: simulations are models. When we put the simulation in a particular state, and ask someone to achieve a different, goal, state, and wrap a story about why we’re doing that, I call it a scenario. When we tune that interaction to get an experience of what I call engagement, I call it a game. Let’s consider each separately. On the topic of terminology, I may use learner or customer, in this case they are interchangeable.
A simulation lets us explore relationships. This can be good for understanding, but it requires a self-directed learner looking to gain knowledge. A product simulation, for instance, might let a learner interested in a particular device’s capabilities, play and determine whether the feature set or control system is sufficient.
In many cases, however, the learner may not know have a goal to learn what it is you think they should know. Then, you need a scenario, where you set up a storyline that provides a plausible setting and a meaningful goal. In the course of achieving the goal the learner will need to understand the principles behind the correct decision.
Of course, based upon the framework in Engaging Learning: Designing e-Learning Simulation Games (chapters 2-4), we really want a game, not just a scenario. That is, we want to tune the experience to get engagement rather than just the necessary decision. That is, we want to ensure challenge is at the optimal level, we have thematic coherence, multiple choices enacted through appropriate action mechanisms and consequences made manifest through appropriate feedback, etc.
Here we might have them understand why a particular suite of knowledge is necessary (e.g. selling skill sets such as negotiation or project management), why the particular features are desirable (why you do want ABS brakes), or tradeoffs between different versions.
I’m writing up these notes since someone’s asked what might be the applications of learnlets, and I’d love to have your thoughts.
Gamasutra’s got an article worth reading on emotion in games; I particularly like the point about mixing up different types of fun. I promote ‘hard fun’, being the term I use to talk about the correct mix of challenge but this needs to be balanced. Check it out.
So I’m at a client site, and talking about their client. I worked hard with my client to develop a document detailing the enhanced learning design we wanted to implement on the behalf of the secondary client, well justified in cognitive science, detailed about use of media, specifying lean and punchy prose, etc., all the stuff everyone from Michael Allen to myself suggests is necessary to make traditional instructional design work for elearning. Which the secondary client agreed to and signed off on.
So, of course, this time I hear a story about how this secondary client took some draft content, ripped out the instructionally designed prose, and dumped in a bunch of technical material; not written for reading on the screen, using too much jargon, and so on. Of course, my client pointed out that this material violated the design guidelines, was inappropriate, etc. And the secondary client agreed but insisted it had to be kept in.
There’s a lot of bad instructional design out there, but not all of it is due to bad design, some of it is due to reasons that are political, social, organizational, and who knows what else. Some times, even when you try your best, you just can’t win…
Last summer (at the eLearning Guild’s ID conference), I heard Will Thalheimer talk about two different types of learning objectives. One is the familiar, Mager-style objectives we, as designers, use to guide the development of learning. The other, Will opined, is the objective you present for the learner. He articulated a thought that seemed obvious to me, but fortunately he’s got the data to back it up.
I say fortunately because it’s apparently not obvious to everyone that the objectives in the elearnign experience should be written for the learner! I continue to see objectives that as a learner, would immediately make my eyes glaze over and essentially diminish if not completely eradicate any benefit of the subsequent experience.
So, please, take a look at the objectives, rewrite them so that the learner ‘gets’ why they should care, and make sure you use language appropriate to the learner, not to the marketer or whoever else mires these in ‘bizbuzz’.
Once again I’ve seen a draft scenario, and as soon as the learner makes a wrong choice, the ‘external voice’ comes in and says why it’s wrong. Even before the response from the person you’re talking to (in the scenario)!
Now, this is a storyboard, and I’ve had the chance to provide feedback to the designer, but it’s a bigger problem. I claim that even your multiple choice questions should be written as mini-scenarios (e.g. “your usual customer comes back with a surprisingly low budget on a project you may not have time for anyway, so you…”, instead of “the correct response to a low bid in a situation of high trust and low need is…”), but I want to suggest that whatever their choice is, let it play out in the scenario before the external voice comes in.
The reason is to provide emotional closure on the investment in the scenario before the voice. Yes, this is opinion, as I know of no empirical studies (and would welcome it), but in lieu of data, I’ll stick to my claim. There certainly is all the evidence that the experience matters…
So, please, complete the event before you bring that little voice (“This response could lead to lowering the relationship with the customer, instead…”).