Failure is the New Success

Failure in game-based learning

As some of our readers may know, I spent a significant portion of my life studying and working in games for education. That’s why I’m excited to tell you that my speaker proposal for the 2017 FocusOn Learning Conference has been accepted. Huzzah!

The focus of the conference this year is on mobile, games, and video. I’ll give you two seconds to guess which category my session falls into. But this isn’t another “gamify your curriculum” talk. The title of my session is Solving Complex Problems with Game-Based Learning. There’s no gamification to be found here.

That’s because games have so much more to offer in terms of education. The gamification framework can be myopic in the sense that it tends to focus solely on game mechanics. Game mechanics are a fundamental component of games that connect our physical actions to the game world, but they are not the only component of games that can inform instructional design.

Part of the reason instructional designers feel compelled to incorporate game mechanics into our curricula is because we feel like we need to dangle a carrot in front of our learners to motivate them to finish the course. In other words, we have been taught that we need to extrinsically motivate our learners. But what if I told you that we could use game design principles to design learning in a way that intrinsically motivates our learners?

Learners don’t need points, leaderboards, or virtual trophies to be engaged with their learning. They certainly don’t need content shoved into a game in hopes that they’ll absorb it (we call that the chocolate-covered broccoli approach.) Learners enjoy being challenged. They like to solve problems that don’t have an obvious solution. They like trying different solutions until they find one that works.

Wait. Does that mean they like to…fail?

That’s right. Learners like to fail. And we should let them.

Failure has a bad reputation in education. We associate failure with picking the wrong answer on a multiple choice test, which causes us to get a bad test grade, which causes us to get a bad class grade, which causes us to…you get the point. Fortunately for those of us who were terrible test takers, most of the problems we face in life don’t have one single right answer. These are called complex problems.

In the real world, our solutions can have serious consequences. That sales tactic you read about might cause you to lose some customers. You may misdiagnose a patient with a common disorder when she actually has a more severe problem. We understandably avoid making these mistakes.

But instructional designers can create educational spaces for our learners in virtual environments that let them explore “what if?” without causing harm or distress to them or our companies. We can let learners be rude customer service agents or incompetent internists to let them see what happens. Let them feel the wrath of an angry customer who vows to take his business elsewhere. Let them feel the pain of a patient who went through an unnecessary surgery. Those are much more engaging and emotional experiences than reading a bullet point on a SCORM package that says “Be polite to our customers.”

We have the tools to create virtual educational spaces that allow learners to be intrinsically motivated and deeply engaged with this sort of complex problem solving. I will cover this topic and these tools in more depth during my FocusOn Learning session.

Solving Complex Problems with Game-Based Learning will be from 1:00-2:00PM on Wednesday, June 21st. I hope to see you all there!

Curious to try out your own eLearning games and simulations? Read our white paper on “Creating Serious Games and Simulations,” and get started today!

The post Failure is the New Success appeared first on Web Courseworks.

12 Potential Education Technology Implementation Pitfalls and Ways to Avoid Them

I originally wrote this piece back in 2012 for inclusion in a collaborative effort that celebrated the 5 year anniversary of the popular website and “Ning” at Numerous...

[Please click on the post title to continue reading the full post. Thanks (and thanks for subscribing)!]

I’m Speaking at LS Con

I’m presenting a session on Avoiding Voice Over Script Pitfalls. for the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference. If you’re attending the conference, it’s session LS403 on Wednesday afternoon. (Unfortunately, I’m opposite Michael Allen and several other promising sessions. Sigh.) If you’re planning to attend the conference, I hope to meet you in person. This is the first conference I’ve attended in several years, and I’m excited to connect with people I only know online.

Learning Solutions Conference and Expo. I'm Speaking.

Here’s the official description:

You asked your voice-over artist for a natural, conversational recording, but what you got back is stiff and formal. You waste time going back and forth with voice-over talent about pronunciation or rewording. Too often, you need to re-record voice-over due to errors or confusion. You need a process to make your script writing more efficient and effective.

In this session, you will learn one proven technique you can use to avoid many voice-over script pitfalls, regardless of whether you use professional voice-over talent or record it yourself. You’ll also learn how to identify and correct common errors and how to adapt your writing style for more engaging, conversational narration. You’ll practice editing some sample scripts during the session so you can immediately apply what you learn. You will also receive a review checklist you can take with you and share with your team to improve the quality and consistency of your scripts.

More posts to come about LS Con!

Filed under: e-Learning

Observations on university L&T portals

At some stage soon I need to start developing a report on “learning and teaching portals”. i.e. how our institution deals with online resources around learning and teaching. There are a few issues with how we do it, and it appears that we’re not alone

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been helping organise a teaching orientation session for new academic staff. Consequently, I’ve had to spend a fair bit of time engaging with what is there at the moment. What follows is a collection of observations on that experience and on-going discussions.

This experience has been somewhat novel for me because in the last 5+ years working here I’ve tended to avoid the L&T portals because: I could never remember where to find them; or, I was more comfortable finding help elsewhere.

There are two sections here

  1. A list of observed problems with such spaces.
  2. An initial set of possible explanations

Observed Problems

Can’t be found – poor discoverability

Simply finding what online resources are provided by institutions around learning and teaching can be an impossible challenge. There is poor discoverability.

This can be due to the quality of available search engines, meta-data etc. I know that most people avoid using the institutionally provided search engine to search the institutional websites. Instead relying on Googles site: capability.

The problem, however, also exists in category/organisational schemes. For example, trying to find where the link to L&T resources sites on the institutional staff portal has often been a task beyond people. But this problem extends to L&T specific sites.

At least two local L&T “portals” have been developed. Both contain useful information and both have been organised in specific ways. For example, one is organised by week of semester. Starting from about week -4 (4 weeks before semester) and up to week 20 (3 weeks after semester). Resources are organised into the week when they are deemed most appropriate.

Sadly this only works if every teacher follows the same weekly schedule, which is highly doubtful.

The saving grace for this particular portal is that it is hosted in Moodle and the latest version here now provides a half-way decent (but not perfect) search engine.

The big model problem

It’s become quite widely accepted that an educational institution should have an L&T framework. A set of models or structures that help the whole institution understand how learning and teaching happens. That common understanding then helps professional learning, strategic planning, operations etc.

The problem is that developing a L&T framework/model within a University context is incredibly hard due to the diversity of the learning occurs (amongst other factors). It’s so hard that it takes a long time and a lot of effort to develop that framework/model. This creates a problem.

For example, let’s take the draft L&T/LMS framework from RMIT that consists of 6 principles (connected, consistent, inclusive, aligned, clear, dynamic) and four stages

  1. Plan & Design
  2. Build
  3. Review
  4. Go live

Take a look at the Plan & Design section and you’ll see an example of the consistent structure of the framework. A brief description of the stage and then a collection of tabs covering: Context; Roles & Expectations; Learning Activities & Content; Communications; and, Feedback & Assessment. Each of these tabs includes: a description; tips for success; and threshold standard. Each of the threshold standards is described, linked to the principles, and some have links to related resources.

some is an indication of the problem. Visit the review stage and you’ll see a more explicit example

This section will have resources, templates and suggestions of how peers can be used in the design, development and review process.

It’s unfinished. Given that Australian central L&T units (often those tasked with developing this sort of framework) are restructured every 3 years or so, it’s not hard to see a potential problem with completion, let alone embedding the framework long term as part of the institutional culture.

Not only is there a lot of work required to develop an institutional L&T framework, there’s a lot of work to understand it and figure out how your practice fits within it. The RMIT framework is quite understandable and I’ve got quite a lot of knowledge in this area, but even I was starting to get overwhelmed by the long list of threshold standard (going by this page there are 80 of them).

I wonder how much effort teaching academics would invest in understanding the L&T framework, in light of other tasks.

Not there

Like many other institutions, my current institution is rolling out some quite nice, new technology enhanced learning spaces. I helped out with the orientation for new teaching staff in one of these new spaces recently.

It was a nice space for collaborative work. Spaces for small groups with a provided computer and large screen. Problem is we (amongst the more technically literate of staff) couldn’t initially figure out how to turn the computers on. There were no instructions in the room (that we could find) on how to turn these computers on. It was only through someone randomly pressing buttons that the method was discovered.

I’ve since searched for resources that would help provide pedagogical advice for these new rooms. Not there.

In the last couple of weeks a teaching staff member queried whether there was any professional learning opportunities that would help new casual tutoring staff develop some ideas around teaching in tutorials. Not there.

At least, given the poor discoverability around these resources, none can be found. Not quite the same as “not there”, but not far from it.

Out of date

As part of the work on the new orientation session it became apparent that a range of information was out of date. Examples included:

  1. A L&T portal identifying as an Associate Dean Learning and Teaching a staff member that left the institution two years ago.
  2. Changes in a HR system for advertising staff training opportunities breaking instructions from the institutional knowledge base for technology questions.

Not of the web

@cogdog writes the following in this blog post

Frankly I am not sure people should not be teaching online without some level of basic experience being and doing online. I have no idea if this is off base, but frankly it is a major (to me) difference of doing things ON the web (e.g. putting stuff inside LMSes) and doing things OF the web. I am not saying people have to be experts at web stuff, but the web should be like a place they feel like they inhabit, not just visit or witness through a glass plate window.

One assumes that the people helping people to teach online should also be able to do things “OF the web”, rather than just ON it.

There’s been a recent upswing at my institution in the use of Joomag – an “online publishing platform designed for you”. The products I’ve seen are online magazines viewed via Flash. A technology that is deemed by many to be

a fossil, left over from the era of closed standards and unilateral corporate control of web technology. Websites that rely on Flash present a completely inconsistent (and often unusable) experience for fast-growing percentage of the users who don’t use a desktop browser. It introduces some scary security and privacy issues by way of Flash cookies.

But even when the web is used, there appears to be limited basic awareness of fundamental web features, such as hyperlinks.

For example, my institution’s knowledge base for doing stuff with the institutional web-based systems take this standard form.

  1. Go to insert name of some system
  2. Click on the insert a tab name
  3. Click on the insert name of link
  4. various other instructions

There is a sequence of instructions about how to find a particular system hidden away in the depths of the institutional systems. Rather than simply just provide a link directly to it, such as

  1. Visit insert name of link
  2. various other instructions

There’s a chance that this is due to a desire to develop in people the habit of going to the institutional staff portal and finding their way from there. Fine, do that, but still include a link once people have read the instructions.

Some possible explanations

What follows are an initial set of possible explanations for these problems. Hence they also provide some pointers to possible solutions.

Too much focus on the “do it for” path

When trying to help teachers (e.g. by developing an L&T portal), there are four broad paths you can walk

  1. DIT – Do it to the teachers

    You decide what’s best and do it to them.

  2. DIF – Do it for the teachers

    The teachers decide what’s best and you do it for them.

  3. DIW – Do it with the teachers

    You and the teachers work together to figure out what is needed and do it jointly.

  4. DIY – Enabling Teacher do it yourself

    The teachers are enabled to do if for themselves.

The L&T portals that I’ve seen appear to have largely adopted the first two paths, with very little evidence of the last two. In some cases, the DIT/DIF paths are used with the intent to build the foundation for DIW/DIY, but that intent rarely translates into actual DIW/DIY.

Perhaps in part because of the “big model problem”. i.e. the DIT/DIF designers build a wonderful model of how it all works with the assumption that the teachers will grok that model and use it as the basis for their DIW/DIY. The only problem is that it’s too much work to grok the model.

Suggesting a need to start with where people are, increase the level of DIW/DIY.

Perhaps the size of the model involved, it’s distance from the schema of teachers, and who designs it is the defining difference between DIF and DIW? In terms of the L&T portal perhaps the defining difference is about who can organise, contribute and modify the resources that are within the L&T portal?

Limited technology – Kaplan’s law

In this institutional context, L&T portals have been developed with the technology that is available. Either Sitecore (designed for managing a marketing-controlled corporate web presence) or Moodle (designed to support learning and teaching in a formal course context).

Neither of these are a perfect fit for the provision of a L&T professional learning opportunities to a hugely diverse set of teaching staff.

Not open

David Wiley has suggested 5Rs for open – retain, reuse, revise, remix, and re-distribute. i.e. for a resource to be open, you should be able to

  • retain – Make and own copies.
  • reuse – Use in a wide range of ways.
  • revise – adapt, modify and improve.
  • remix – combine two or more.
  • redistribute – share with others.

None of the local portals I’ve seen appear to say anything about openness. Even if they used an open license, none of them actively provide support for (amongst others) the revise R.

In fact, increasingly the resources that are produced are going into an institutional Equella repository as PDFs, or are hosted on institutional systems where permissions are set up to prevent anyone (except a narrow set of people) from adapting, modifying and improving.

Organisational hierarchy

Mishra & Koehler (2006) argue that quality teaching requires (emphasis added)

developing a nuanced understanding of the complex relationships between technology, content, and pedagogy, and using this understanding to develop appropriate, context-specific strategies and representations. (p. 1029)

It needs a contextually appropriate integration of technical, content and pedagogical knowledge. Within most universities these bits of knowledge reside in (at least) three separate organisational groupings. None of these organisational groupings are experts in the specific combination of techincal, content and pedagogical knowledge required to generate the best possible learning outcomes in any specific context.

Instead, each organisational grouping tends to focus on their own task/expertise.

Hence at one stage my current institution had a different “L&T portal” for each organisational grouping that offered some level of support for teaching.

Overcoming this is hard.

Not aware of the need

In many cases, the people responsible for L&T portals are simple not aware of the need. They don’t know what the teaching staff are trying to do, so can’t provide the necessary support.

This is somewhat like the situation reported in this post from a few weeks ago. Instructions for some video-conference spaces haven’t caught up with the fact that there’s a trend toward using Zoom for video-conferencing, rather than the Cisco video conference gear. Even though the Director of ICT services has suggested that this move to Zoom for video-conferencing is being actively supported.

Focus on design and development

Most L&T portals and the resources developed for them appear to put almost all of their resources and consideration into the design and production of resources. Very little thought or resourcing appears to be invested in thinking about: evaluating use; updating and improvements; archiving etc.

de la Harpe et al (2014) in developing some online resources for RMIT appear to give this some thought in the following (p. 36)

A library guide was chosen as the SpringShare software that the library guides uses has been adopted by most universities in Australia and would, therefore, be simple for other universities to adopt and adapt. It was also very easy to use and sustainable since the librarians agreed to curate it and ensure it was kept up to date with current links

Nice to plan, but how does reality pan out?

The original project’s web page (;ID=xnbgfx4a17h3) published on the front page of the report is a 404. As is the other RMIT hosted site on the front page. The youtube video still works.

Suggesting something about the advisability of using an institutional web site.

The URL for the libguides of resources produced by the project are still available, but last modified at the beginning of 2016. The resources all appear to work and at first glance appear quite valuable.

RMIT still appear to be using the LibGuide content management system, but it appears my institution doesn’t. As it happens, some of the features of libguides appear to be a good fit for some of what I had in mind.

But technology doesn’t solve all problems.

I was recently pointed this section of the RMIT website. It’s maintained by the “Academic Development Group” (which appears to sit within the College of Business at RMIT) and is focused on teaching spaces

It appears that there is no use made of the teaching spaces online resources generated by an RMIT led OLT project into teaching spaces that are still hosted on the RMIT site.

Pattern entrainment

Earlier this week (I think) @timklapdor provided a link to this Medium article

The article touches on how the mental models people hold of the Web depend heavily on their experiences. It links to findings from Pew Internet that only a very short amount of time has to pass before people’s experiences with technology are very different. It then maps a history of recent Internet technology to understand the different experiences people have had of the Internet. This is important because

These mental models will be diverse — and will keep evolving — but may not include many of the (primarily web-based) concepts and literacies we grew up with — including for some the usefulness and importance of URLs, web standards, markup, accessibility, search engines, and the browser as the primary access point to the online world.

For these users, Facebook (or WeChat in China) is now a primary method for finding, reading and sharing information online. Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram, and WhatsApp apps have become some of their preferred methods of communications. Some in fact have no concept of the internet outside of these platforms.

This touches a bit on the problem of being “on the web” rather than “of the web”.

But it is also indicative of the broader problem created by pattern entrainment. i.e. this tendency how we think to be confined by our experiences.

If you’ve trained as a desktop publisher, some types of multimedia designer, or marketing, then your experience suggests a certain way of using the Internet (online magazine, branding, quality control etc). If you haven’t gained the experience of living with the web, then how can you be expected to design L&T portals that are on the web?

Publicado en eei

xAPI Use Case Session Learning Solutions 2017

xapi use case


Next week, Dr. Jon Aleckson of Web Courseworks will be speaking at the Learning Solutions 2017 conference in Orlando, FL. He will be joined by Dr. Chad Jackson of CHEST (American College of Chest Physicians) as they speak on an xAPI project that Web Courseworks and CHEST created using data collection from medical simulators. CHEST is the first medical association with a clinical simulation program accredited by the Society for Simulation in Healthcare.

The presentation, “Using xAPI to Collect Learning Data from Simulations ,” will discuss how CHEST uses xAPI for their live, Difficult Airway Management course. During the course, physicians practice intubation techniques on high-fidelity medical simulators as instructors observe how they perform the procedure via a checklist on an iPad. Previously, only the data from the iPad was transferred to the physician’s transcript in the LMS, and the data stored in the mannequin was unusable. Using xAPI, the simulator’s data was able to be transferred to the LMS using Watershed’s learning record store (LRS). During the session, Chad Jackson will share the technical details, best practices, and lessons learned from CHEST’s experience with xAPI. Learn more at their session to help create your own roadmap to adopt xAPI into your organization. Unlock xAPI’s potential and deliver more innovative learning experiences to your members!

Learning Solutions Session: EME104

xapi use case


Want to brush up on xAPI before Collecting Learning Data from Medical Simulators Using Experience API? Read our white paper.

xapi white paper

The post xAPI Use Case Session Learning Solutions 2017 appeared first on Web Courseworks.

Mobile Learning: A Manager’s Guide

manager's guide mobile learning

Brenda J. Enders published Manager’s Guide to Mobile Learning some three years ago and it is still a relevant read today.   Brenda will be presenting a webinar on creating practical strategy for mobile learning as part of our monthly eLearning Thought Leaders Series.  In preparation for this event on March 28th, I gave her book a re-read and would like to share some of the highlights here:

Benefits of Mobile Learning;

  • Provide performance support, especially for millennials
  • Improve overall performance
  • Increase impact of traditional training programs

Harnessing the true power of mobile learning means rethinking what mobile means.  Ms. Enders makes a strong argument against just putting the same eLearning course in a mobile template. Instead, she challenges the reader to leverage features of the mobile device like QR scanning, GPS, camera, microphone, touch screen and other features. Web Courseworks’ instructional designer, Jenny Saucerman, explains the importance of adapting eLearning content for mobile platforms in further detail in her blog post, “The Medium is the Message.”

At a minimum, mobile learning can be used to augment the formal training process.  This includes using spaced learning—or distribution of small pieces of content.  It can provide learners with the opportunity to practice and reinforce what they learned in the formal classroom.  I have seen gamification work in this context, especially making memorization of guidelines fun.

manager's guide mobile learning

Chapter four provides a nice summary of the types of uses for mobile learning:

  • Create videos, podcasts, ebooks, job aids, reminders or alerts
  • Collect data through surveys, quizzes, knowledge checks and polling
  • Encourage participation on your social media platform

In Chapter five Ms. Enders provides tips on writing the Mobile Learning Vision Statement.  This not only includes visioning the future but understanding the present state of the learner’s readiness.  Most importantly she prompts you to ask:  “What problem are you solving?”

I found the section on Mobile Application Management Software to be very interesting.  This software gives an administrator control over the apps that reside on learner’s mobile devices.  It allows a company to have it’s own application store, track usage, and provide security and upgrades. I also appreciated the comparisons between Android apps and Apple apps.

Overall I recommend this book to managers who want practical advice on many levels.

Register to attend Brenda Enders’ webinar!

The post Mobile Learning: A Manager’s Guide appeared first on Web Courseworks.