Tag Archive | eLearning

Visiting Learning Technologies? Here’s what you can expect from Unicorn this week…

If you’re remotely connected to L&D, this is shaping up to be a pretty big week! Learning Technologies returns to Kensington Olympia across Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd February – bringing together over 7000 visitors all keen to get their hands on the latest in education tech. From tomorrow, we’ll be joining over 200 of our contemporaries from across the learning industry as we exhibit at this year’s show. If you’re swinging by, here are the top 5 things you can look forward to:

  1. Get your hands on the free ‘Learning Ecosphere’ whitepaper.

Discover the Unicorn Learning Ecosphere

Discover how learning technologies can smooth the dichotomy between traditional and modern learning with the Unicorn Learning Ecosphere – the subject of our whitepaper launching at the show.

The underlying need for an enterprise to define, manage and report on the competence of its staff has not changed. Environmental, safety and other regulatory demands on organisations are here to stay, while data security requirements are greater than ever.

But how does this fit with such concepts as social learning, collaboration and BYOD? How do we dip our toes into this fast flowing stream of opportunity in a way that is effective, relevant and affordable, and consistent with the practical day to day demands on our time, budgets and resources? What tools should we be using? What are the implications for e-learning design?

Pick up your free copy at stand P14.

The Unicorn Learning Ecosphere

  1. If you need a little persuasion, go and see our very own Mark Jones giving you an overview at one of his two free seminars

12:30-13:00 on both Wednesday and Thursday, Theatre 8. Where are you in the Learning Ecosphere?

Mark will seek to explore some of the issues facing businesses wishing to explore new learning methods. We’ve all heard the buzzwords and seen a flurry of new micro learning and learning Apps, but how do we really go about introducing effective ‘learning reinforcement’ – and where do we start? In a world where learning is changing, and we’re increasingly urged to explore new training formats, how do we ensure that we’re doing is going to work?

Join Mark to find out more, as well as discover our brand new mobile reinforcement app, Minds-i.

Mark Jones picture

  1. Come and have a go at QuizCom and you could win a Unicorn!

Yep, you read that right – come and try your hand at our giant swipe game and you could be the proud owner of your very own Unicorn. Our enthusiastic quiz hosts will be tough not to spot, as they’ll be sporting bright orange blazers and encouraging you to try your luck with our latest game. Loaded with questions covering everything from learning trends to star wars trivia, this is the perfect way to trial a brand new product from Unicorn aimed at getting your staff engaged whilst challenging them to prove their knowledge in a topic of your choice.

Win a Unicorn by playing QuizCom

Winners announced at 4pm each day, plus bonus prizes for two players picked at random!

  1. Check out Mike Hawkyard giving you a little insight into learning games and apps in corporate learning.

15:30-16:00 on Thursday, Theatre 8: Learning games and engagement.

We’ve all heard 101 talks lately about ‘gamification’, but this isn’t one of those talks. Mike is the Managing Director of an award winning games studio who have produced apps played more than two billion times in the last three years.

In recent months, Amuzo have been training people how to fly Star Wars™ Drones and encouraging children to build LEGO® models to rescue LEGO® Mini Figures trapped on erupting volcanoes. Join Mike for a session that will look at:

  • How the technology and best practice used in these exciting projects is identical to that being used in work for companies like KPMG and the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII)
  • How to explore the possibilities of learning games for your business
  • Experiencing Amuzo’s latest product to engage staff with corporate communications; QuizCom
  • …And you might even win a prize or two!

Mike Hawkyard picture

  1. Finally, if you’re at the conference, go and see Richard Owen from the CII talk about their learning journey.

15:30-16:40 on Thursday, Conference Theatre T5S6: Organisational learning – Creating better learning outcomes for the learner and the business.

Richard Owen – Product Manager at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) lifts the lid on how the CII have approached their corporate learning. He looks at the value of online learning for the learner and the business alike, and shares experiences of the challenges that the CII has faced in creating better user experience despite a highly regulated, compliance driven context. From topic-specific pathways, powerful diagnostic tools and a more intuitive interface, discover how the CII has trebled its uptake of its content within just 12 months with a little help from us!

We’ll be live blogging from LT, as well as tweeting from @unicorntraining. Don’t forget to stop by and see us at stand P14 across the event, as well as take some time to relax in the Unicorn café!

Join us at stand P14

A Week of Awards Success for Unicorn Training Group

What a week it’s been! We know we’re well and truly into the festive season now that it’s acceptable to have Christmas trees up and Mariah is blasting out on every radio station. But aside from all the usual connotations, the arrival of December also wraps up what’s been an excellent and eventful awards season in the learning world.

Wednesday evening saw the return of the annual Gala Dinner and presentation ceremony for the Learning Technologies Awards – with the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster welcoming over 800 of the industry’s elite for a night of revelry. Having already enjoyed an incredible win for Amuzo at the Dorset Business Awards last week – taking gold in the Creative Digital Impact category – we had our fingers crossed for the night ahead.

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Gold in the Creative Digital Impact category for Amuzo (part of the Unicorn Training Group) in the 2016 Dorset Business Awards

Having been welcomed to the evening by Donald Taylor, it was esteemed comediennes Katherine Ryan and Deborah Frances-White who got the night well and truly underway.

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Don Taylor opens the night with his welcome address

In fact, if you want to see what happened when they took something of a shine to our Business Development Manager Alex, look no further than this YouTube video.

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[L-R] Peter Phillips, Deborah Frances-White, Alex Prodromou, Stuart Sawyer, Katherine Ryan, Abi Pears, Shona Yeung.

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Deborah Frances-White gives Unicorn a cheer!

With some seriously stiff competition across both the categories we were shortlisted for, there were no golds for us this year. However, we were delighted to scoop a bronze with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank for the platform implementation that has introduced MyLearning, and changed the way the whole organisation approaches learning and development.

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Beccy Gilpin and Stuart Snowden with the bronze award – Best Enterprise Learning Platform Implementation with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Unicorn Training

We were also incredibly proud of our partners over at Credit Suisse who joined us for the evening as they took home a silver in the Learning Technologies Team of the Year category.

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Credit Suisse take silver

Success for Unicorn Partners at the Compliance Register Awards

As if one night of celebrations wasn’t enough, last night the team joined our partners at FSTP for the Compliance Register Awards. Testament to their hard work and incredible support for all the businesses they work with, FSTP were named winners of the Most Effective Training Firm category.

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FSTP with their gold award

All in all it’s been quite a week for the group – as well as our partners and friends! We would like to extend our thanks to both the awards panels, and our wonderful team and clients who make our success possible. Here’s to 2017 and everything we’ve got in the pipeline!

Tips to Overcome the Top 6 eLearning Barriers Preventing Learners’ Engagement

Rolling out eLearning within your organisation can bring about many challenges. Listed below are the top 6 obstacles you could face and our quick tips as to what you can do to overcome them.

#1 Limited Tech Experience:

For non-tech savvy individuals, there is sometimes a fear that comes with having to complete online learning. This is often rooted in the preconception that in order to complete digital tasks, a certain level of technical knowledge is required.

What you can do: create online demos and webinars that offer help and guidance when it comes to accessing and utilising the Learning Management System in question.

Young woman trying to use a laptop computer. Representing lack of technical knowledge

#2 Past Experience:

We have all been there, dreading eLearning due to bad (or worse, boring) past experiences.

What you can do: Get your learners excited about your eLearning programme. Stress the advantages of the course in advance and explain how it will benefit them in their daily lives. Be clear about what they should expect when they undertake the course.

#3 Lack of Motivation:

Linking in with boring past experiences, a lack of motivation can be one of the biggest push backs when implementing eLearning.

What you can do: Get your learners actively involved and engaged in the learning process via gamification. At the most basic level, examples of this might be the inclusion of badges, certificates, points and leadership boards to give the learners motivation to achieve the desired outcomes.

#4 Challenging eLearning Materials:

Easy learning means learners become bored. Difficult learning means learners become frustrated and may just give up! So how do you find the balance?

What you can do: Research your audience and carry out pre-assessments (diagnostics) to find the ideal level of challenge.

Not challenging learners can lead to boredom and lack of engagement

#5 Lack of Community Involvement:

elearning can be perceived as a lonely task…sitting behind your desk clicking through the content…

What you can do: Build an online community group where learners can create forums, open up discussions on topics and share knowledge and tips.

#6 Learner Boredom:

There is no magical solution to take away the boredom factor altogether. However, you can take necessary steps to make eLearning more inspiring and engaging:

What you can do: identify the learners’ expectations, needs and goals. Include real life challenges, scenarios and problem-solving cases. Develop personal learning paths that allow online learners to choose their own learning activities (self-directed learning).

Obstacles organisations face often go beyond the 6 points listed above. As an organisation invested in the continued development of your employees – both professionally and personally – it is important to help them overcome the misconceptions and barriers of eLearning.

Unconscious Bias – A Brand New Course

Whatever industry you work in, unconscious bias is a topic that has the power to affect us all. Every day, we make decisions about the way we conduct our business lives – from who we hire, to who we promote to leadership positions.

Whilst these decisions should be made fairly, sometimes unthinking prejudices and preconceptions have the power to affect our judgement in a negative way. Despite the best of intentions, our unconscious bias affects the way we weigh up choices and make selections, and has a huge impact on the way certain groups or individuals are treated.

Often, mitigating the impact of unconscious bias is a simple matter of raising awareness amongst your personnel. What’s more, we’ve just added Unconscious Bias to our brand new Workplace Skills library, so the resources you need are just a few clicks away!

Crafted in the signature style of our content partners, Learning Heroes, this title gives a characterful and holistic view of the topic of unconscious bias, as well as offering tips on what you can do to combat it. Find out more about Workplace Skills from Learning Heroes and request a demo of this or any other course here.


Say hello to our new partners!

Yes, you heard it here first – we’re delighted to announce that we’ve teamed up with the folks over at Learning Heroes to bring you a brand new suite of content.

Image of a modern office with the Unicorn Training and Learning Heroes logos

Having recently rebranded from their previous incarnation as Accredited Skills, Learning Heroes represent a business very much after our own hearts, who put engagement right at the centre of what they do. Rather than building lengthy eLearning courses, Learning Heroes’ approach focusses on short, characterful learning videos that deliver information in a way that is both fun and easy to digest.

In addition to our core compliance library, Cyber Security and Microsoft suites, this brand new material covers topics such as Health and Safety, HR, Sales, Project Management and Personal Development.

Collectively known as the ‘Workplace Skills’ library, this content is now available to our new and existing clients through our award-winning LMS.

“We loved what Leaning Heroes were doing as soon as we saw it”, says Mark Jones, Unicorn Commercial Director. “Their grasp of creating fun, bitesize learning fits perfectly with our vision to deliver effective learning that is outside the ordinary”.

“Our clients have highlighted a desire for high quality workplace skills courses to be included in our off-the-shelf suite and we believe Learning Heroes will more than deliver on giving them exactly what they want and make it memorable.”

Tom Moore, Head of Strategic Partnership Management at Learning Heroes, continued, “We are really excited to be saving the financial services sector from boring eLearning! It’s great that Unicorn Training share the same vision as us, so partnering with them to create a collection was an easy decision.”

Find out more about the new Workplace Skills library today.

Demo Workplace Skills

Why Serious Games? 6 Key Benefits

We’ve heard A LOT about game-based learning lately. Here we bring you an extract from our recent whitepaper, including a run-down of 6 benefits of games in learning, and some clarification around the difference between ‘games’, ‘serious games’ and ‘gamification’.

Benefit 1: Engagement

Image showing a flow diagram to illustrate the benefits of games for learning
With active engagement, serious games lead to discovery, observation, trial and error and problem solving, important aspects of learning (Dickey, 2005).

Benefit 2: Flow
Video games promote ‘flow’, when there is a perceived balance between the challenge and skills required – the player knows what to do (has goals) and how successful they are via immediate feedback (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).

Difference between different gaming termsBenefit 3: Sharing
Games typically allow users to share their score with others and see it displayed on leaderboards, making it competitive, which is a natural driver of human behaviour (Squire and Jenkins, (2003). This can support groups of learners, even when geographically distributed, and develop team-based skills, leadership, coordination and communications skills (de Freitas, 2006).

Benefit 4: Learning by doing
Games provide a learning environment where players discover new rules by interacting and exploring the game, rather than memorising them, leading to knowledge acquisition (Squire, 2011), and self-motivation, thus becoming more active in their own learning (Michael and Chen, 2006).

Benefit 5: Monitoring progress
The effects of corporate training applications must be measurable; the distinction must be made between ‘performance’ and ‘learning outcomes’. Game play often focuses on performance, measuring skills that have already been mastered while discouraging trial and error, but may not measure depth of knowledge gained. Assessment can be quantitative and qualitative and should allow learners to get feedback on the consequences of their actions.

Benefit 6: Risk free
Simulation allows learners to experience something too costly, risky, or ethically unacceptable in real-life (Corti, 2006). But this approach assumes players can see the similarities/context and may need support transferring the knowledge (Crookall, 2010). Many papers have emphasised how games should be used to enhance training, not replace it (Science Daily, 2010).

Another diagram showing how effective game based learning is

Want the full low-down on serious games? Check out our whitepaper here.

5 Top Takeaways From Learning Technologies Summer Forum 16

Despite the weather feeling a little more like October than June, today was the annual Learning Technologies Summer Forum event at Kensington Olympia. Known throughout the industry as the smaller Summer cousin of the main February LT show, June’s date certainly still packs a punch – and today was no exception!

Themes within this year’s main LT conference included Leadership, Organisational Hierarchy and the place of Social and Collaborative Tech in L&D. There are some really excellent resources available if any of these themes catch your eye – and be sure to give Jon Husband, Nigel Paine and Julian Stodd a lookup for more on this.

LTSF conference programme
Outside the conference theatre, the exhibition floor really came to life when the four open auditorium areas opened to welcome a plethora of speakers from right across the industry. Here, a broad range of topics were on offer– everything from traditional hacks for workforce training, through to companies debuting the latest in VR solutions for corporate learning. With any event of this kind, you’re inevitably going to find yourself sitting through a few thinly veiled sales pitches – but aside from the usual hustle and bustle of the expo environment, we unearthed some really interesting takeaways. Here, in no particular order, are our Top 5:

1 Learning teams want to take lessons from marketers

As a marketer myself, my opinion (and indeed expertise) sits in a realm that is widely considered to be a little separate to many of the seasoned L&D professionals that make up the yearly LT delegate list. But one comment I heard today did stand out; and it was a comment about the quality of eLearning: many of us expect – and indeed are shown – great things when it comes to content from our digital agencies and marketers alike; so why should we regard our eLearning content any differently? The idea that the benchmark for quality lives solely within our own immediate industry is a grave misconception; for learning to be truly embedded in social and collaborative workflows, its integration needs to be seamless. I suppose it’s true; eLearning sometimes gets a bad rap, and more often than not it’s a kneejerk reaction from the end users – not necessarily the L&D professionals. When we build learning materials, we need to consider the quality that we are used to as consumers in our own day-to-day lives, and not be tempted to ring-fence the learning experience as a separate entity. If we are shown quality in one sphere, we come to expect it in others – and if we ignore the forward leaps in terms of quality across the board, we only serve to fall further behind.
Takeaway: Get inspired. Quality of content ought to be led by a sphere beyond what we might traditionally consider the business of ‘elearning’.

2 Disruption is talked about more than it is done

Ask any learning company to talk about their business in strategic or forward-thinking terms and they’ll mention disruption. ‘Disruption’ is everywhere; but what does this mean? And crucially, who’s actually doing it? We see a lot of our peers talking about their own revolutionary ideas for learning content; or evangelising about the need for organisational shakeup in L&D, but does anybody else start feeling that it gets a little hollow? I’ll come back to the marketing thing: I’m a marketer; I like results. You can have a great idea, but in my world it’s not golden until it’s working. There is undeniably enthusiasm exuding from the guys who are up there talking the talk; but I believe it would be more exciting, engaging and relevant to see this theory turn into practice, and understand how disruptive notions in L&D actually work for organisations.
Takeaway: Stop talking, start doing. Let’s see some action!    

image showing a conference hall from the back
3 Beware the buzzwords

There is an irony in the uptake and use of ‘industry buzzwords’ (gamification being the most obvious offender) vs the desire to be perceived as ‘straight talking’ and ‘no bullsh*t’.

Stick around the L&D community long enough and you’ll inevitably start hearing the latest buzzwords everywhere you go. To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with this, but the number of learning companies jumping on the band wagon, and then confusingly (simultaneously) rejecting the relevance of these terms feels a little odd. We heard a lot of these on again/off again pitches amongst the content today, and with any shifting industry it’s key to unravel what’s jargon for the sake of jargon, and what’s actually relevant to the customer.
Takeaway: Interrogate what businesses actually mean when they pitch. What do these things really mean for your organisation and your L&D? And do the businesses you speak to know?

 4 Learning teams might be designing for ‘Gen Y’, but they are not represented by them

It might be my age, but as an attendee in my mid-20s I couldn’t help realising that in spite of all the earnest talk around designing for the future, not a single presentation we saw featured a person from the 16-30 group. Anecdotes from experienced (and yes, older) L&D professionals about their experiences learning the ins and outs of new social technologies from their kids might be endearing to their immediate peers, but the charm doesn’t translate to us young professionals. We’ve grown up with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, so these ‘new ways’ to collaborate and communicate are as embedded as they get from the word go. Whilst there’s some golden stuff out there from learning developers of all ages and backgrounds, it would be refreshing to see the troublesome group that the industry is trying to keep up with and design for actually represented within the L&D community.
Takeaway: Let’s get some of these GenY-ers on the programme!

5 The real conversations happen in the twittersphere

Even if you couldn’t make it today, I urge you to type the #LTSF16 hashtag into your Twitter search bar and have a little scroll. Whilst we’ve seen a few collaborative apps that have invited audience participation in just this kind of environment, too often the one-way format of exhibitor presentations means that unless you want to loiter with intent at the end, you’re likely to completely miss the actual discussion. Today alone, we’ve discovered some great pockets of discussion and commentary using the LT hashtag, and platforms like this continue to be excellent for conversation, debate and exchange.

Want to get involved? Follow us and join the discussion: @Unicorntraining @AbiPears @ChrisTedd @jkennedy2000 @PIPUNICORN

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ATD 2016 Day 4

And finally, after a last taste of the great American breakfast…

Pancakes and bacon on a breakfast table

… here is a summary of the final few sessions of AT 2016 before we jetted off back to the good ol’ UK.

We were both impressed with a product called Mindmarker while browsing the expo hall earlier in the week. It is an App designed for learning reinforcement, and so Jackie went to listen to one of the company founders Antonie Wurth present a session at the conference.

These sessions are not supposed to be used to market your wares, and the speaker therefore focused on the subject of learning reinforcement. He made a clear distinction between:

Reinforcement” which underpins the original learning with application, case studies, PDF and questions, using a Micro learning format for any new elements, and

Retraining” to combat the forgetting curve, which Antonie described as “cutting up the original training materials and feed to the learner in smaller bites”.

Whether you agree with those definitions, I think we would all agree that there is little or no return in training investment until you get behaviour change, and that usually requires practice and reinforcement over an extended period.

These are Antonie’s 7 principals of reinforcement:

  1. Close the 5 reinforcement gaps – Knowledge, skills, motivation, environment and communication.
    1. Knowledge – You have to have the knowledge to undertake task
    2. Skills – Can you do the task? If not close the skills gap
    3. Motivation- Do I want to do it? At the beginning individuals are motivated but that changes over time.
    4. Environment – Ensure that the environment is there to practice their skills
    5. Communication- Procedures or instructions need to be clear.
  1. Master the 3 phases for results

Everyone that goes through a behaviour change goes through these three stages:

  • Awareness (Why 50%),
  • knowledge and skills (How 25%)
  • behaviour change (Apply 25%)
  1. Provide a perfect push and pull

Don’t tell, show!

Write ‘real life’ case studies

Encourage social friction.

  1. Create friction and direction

Don’t give too much instruction, let them work it out and decide on the best options

  1. Follow the reinforcement flow

Don’t ask difficult questions at the outset as this can be off putting, start slowly and work up through the more technical elements. Create a balance between challenge and satisfaction, stay within the flow zone between anxiety and boredom.

  1. Create measureable behaviour change

Reinforcement objectives determine the measurement.  Reinforcement is not an assessment,  this is not about lots of questions, use a variation of activities and questions including survey questions, which have free form text, ‘how confident are you about xxx’

  1. Place the participant at the centre

It is all about the participant, what does it mean for the participant, how complex, timing of the messages. Think “DoDidDone” Do this? Did you do it? How was it? Are you happy with the output? What can you improve?

Not content with one talk from an expo exhibitor,  Jackie also attended a talk by Mak Kishun of Gamelearn, entitled “Grow up and stop playing games – why serious games are more effective than traditional eLearning.”

This is a topic after my own heart, I do not need persuading how effective game based learning is for a wide range of management skills. We have been leveraging that with our business simulations for over 20 years.

Gamelearn have three adventure style games, which according to Mak cost $2m to create. The game is well designed, includes characters (narrative), rich content, real life case studies, body language is displayed by the characters. This puts the earner in real world situations that they have to solve.  I have to say that they look remarkably early 1990’s in game style, and on the face of it, it is hard to say where that investment has gone.

Mak evoked the Millenials argument, 50% of the work place will be millennials by 2020, they are self-directed learners, we need to use collaboration, judgement and adaptability in the learning interventions that we provide. Does this really only apply to Millenials?

Attributes of effective games or learning activities include:

  • Freedom of choice
  • Rigor and relevance
  • Collaboration
  • Serious play
  • Control of pace
  • Innovative solutions

The results are learning that provides:

  • Increased motivation
  • An enjoyable experience
  • Immediate feedback
  • Is innovative and fun

Things to think about with your clients:

  • Bandwidth capabilities
  • Use selective terminology that becomes familiar to the learner
  • The level of excitement and competition, not everyone is a gamer, be prepared for them
  • Carefully think about the role out and communication process, introduce characters, situations as part of the hook to interest the learners ahead of time
  • Overcome the ‘game’ label, it is an experiential learning experience
  • Produce your metrics to support the approach

Continuing the theme of game based learning, I was looking forward to Winsor Jenkins session on “The Collaboration Game”.  He has created a board based game using the metaphor of soccer. Winsor explained that soccer is the best sporting example of genuine team based collaboration. The US business mindset is highly individualistic, but research shows that collaboration is more effective. The challenge is to change mindset before skillset.

Winsor outlined his 11 operating principles for changing the mindset. You can see them in the picture below:

Picture of a pull down digital screen with writing on it

ATD 2016 Day 3

Here we go again. Day 3 in Denver.

First up another top notch Keynote speaker, Brené Brown. You may well have seen her on Ted Talks,  over 25 million people have.

Brené managed to be both entertaining and thought-provoking as she spoke about leadership, vulnerability and courage. The key message is that vulnerability is not a “soft” skill but a very hard one, in fact it is the very definition of courage, and it is essential to leadership.

Conference hall from the back with a woman speaking on stage

We spend much of our lives building defences against being vulnerable, because that way we can avoid the associated feelings of shame, fear, anxiety. But we also cut ourselves off in the process from the emotions and experiences that we crave. Most of us choose comfort over courage and see vulnerability as weakness, in ourselves and others. So to expose ourselves to risk, uncertainty, failure takes great courage.

But Brené believes passionately that courage is an essential element of successful strategy and culture change. Leaders need to be able to excavate what is going on below the surface and instigate change, you need to choose courage not comfort, and vulnerability is the shovel.

She argued the need for clarity of values, and living those values. Trust is a theme that has recurred throughout this conference. Trust is built in small moments.  If you don’t trust someone they will not trust you, nor follow you. Brené then talked us through 7 elements of trust – Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-judgement and Generosity.

A dramatic change of gear for my next session, Karl Kapp, an acknowledged expert in gamification for learning, treated us to the Zombie Salesapocalypse.  Well, what he actually did was to talk us through the journey he and his team have taken in developing an unfinished learning game in an immersive 3D video game style, complete with zombies. Karl was refreshingly honest in revealing the hurdles, false turns, and trial and error process as the game developed.

It was fascinating to see the parallels with our own progress in developing serious games. Unicorn has managed to leap over many of the technical and design hurdles that Karl has faced by partnering with a world class games development studio (in fact we bought them). For me, the holy grail of learning games is to embed the learning into the game such that the two are one. I don’t think the zombie game does that, the zombies are an entertaining device for engagement, but they are also a distraction from the learning. But I’ve seen much worse and very few thus far that are better within the budgetary constraints of Karl and most L&D professionals.

After lunch and another tour of the expo, I joined Megan Torrance’s session titled “Adventures in xAPI”. Megan was very good at explaining the many benefits of xAPI as it breaks us out of the constraints of SCORM. But it was also clear how little real practical progress has been made in applying the new standards. At Unicorn we have had xAPI (TinCan) embedded in SkillsServe for 18 months now, but SCORM still dominates. I’m optimistic that as more companies take up mobile learning and social learning, the corner will be turned, and when it does Unicorn will be at the forefront.

After a return to the Expo hall for the afternoon ice cream break, our final session was another change of gear – Josh Davis on the “Neuroscience of Bias”. Having read Daniel Kahneman’s seminal “Thinking Fast and Slow” and more recently Richard Thaler’s (almost) equally influential “MisBehaving” I was looking forward to this session and it did not disappoint. Karl’s theme was the power and ubiquity of unconscious bias (it even applies to hurricanes), and the demonstrable and striking benefits of diversity in the workplace. He introduced some strategies for recognising and countering our biases. Main takeaway – I must buy his book.

One more day to go tomorrow. The bear has not managed to break in yet but he looks like he’s getting closer!

Statue of a large bear photographed from the inside of a glass building

ATD 2016 Day 2

Day 2 started with the key note address by Simon Simek. As you can see it was popular. Simon is a brilliant speaker.

Image of a conference hall taken from in the audienceYou can check him out on Ted Talk and I recommend you do. Here are just a few jottings from his talk today: Leadership should be based on trust. If you trust your people (and they trust you), you can create an environment of co-operation and mutual support and the rest will follow. If you create a culture of distrust, then don’t be surprised if employee behaviour degrades to cynicism, self-interest and paranoia. He used the behaviour of the investment banks leading up to the banking crash (and since) to illustrate the poison in a culture based on an addiction to short term money driven goals.

It is not enough to have a vision just to be the best or the biggest –  the Vision must be visible (think Martin Luther King or JFK). A crystal clear sense of what the future looks like that your people can believe in will provide a sense of common purpose.

That clear vision makes it possible to measure progress along the way and incentivise it, give people a sense of achievement. But financial incentives don’t create loyalty (see investment banks again). Recognition; feeling valued; a sense of pride all release serotonin and are much more likely to make your people want to come to work, do a great job, and help their colleagues and stay loyal.

In a similar vein, companies that are driven by notions of maximising shareholder returns with for example a policy of layoffs if short term (and often arbitrary) targets are at risk, is destructive of long term value. I wish this were always true, but I fear the ability of shareholders to cash in quickly means that that long term failure is often not at their expense or that of the overpaid, bonus-led senior executives.

Simon’s final point was about the importance of unselfish behaviour and generosity to colleagues. Leadership is not about being in charge; it’s about taking care of the people in your charge.

Suitably inspired, we headed off to the Expo. Like everything else here it was impressively large. You can’t possibly visit it all, so we focused on mobile learning Apps and games. That narrowed it down very quickly. There are not yet many great products or applications in this space – but we did find a few. Mindmarker’s mobile reinforcement App was a particular stand out, as was UMU, and we’ll be following those up when we get back to the UK. SwissVBS (see yesterday’s blog) and GameLearn also have some innovative products that merit a closer look.

My next conference session was the renowned Michael Allen of Allen Interactions. Michael has been in e-learning as long as I have, and since long before it was called ‘e-learning’ so he has a long term perspective and is always worth listening to. His book, Guide to E-Learning is a classic of the ID world.

Michael began by asking, “has ID kept up with learning technology?” (answer No (!)), but did not expand on that thought and moved on to focus on the hot topic du jour – serious learning games. He summed up the tension between learning design and games design brilliantly in the remark that, “there isn’t a game that ID can’t suck all the fun out of”.

Some good common sense followed in Michael’s 7 Simple Success Factors, and here they are:

Screen showing a drop down of key points with a highlighted title

The importance, and the difficulty, in adding game features that enhance but do not distract from the learning is one of the great challenges for the learning professional as we struggle to bring together two very different cultures – maximise fun vs. maximise learning. These are pioneering days.

It was fitting then to move next to the session on “Playing Games to Learn” with Sharon Boller. This was a highlight session. Sharon succeeded brilliantly in demonstrating the essence of a good game whilst teaching us all at the same time, almost without us realising it.

She achieved this by getting us to play games and then drawing out the key elements in each case and applying them to a learning context. For example, our table of 10 played a game called Timeline, which is in essence a simple alignment game – put cards in the right date order. Sounds pretty mundane but as a game it was great fun. We then evaluated it along the lines below:

Closeup of screen showing bullet points and a small image at the bottom

You could apply this game based approach in any e-learning that involves processes or work flows.

I recommend you try Password Blaster (it’s available from the App store) –  a delightful little example of an effective learning game, especially if you remember the Atari 2600 or Space Invaders.

One final takeaway: points, badges and leaderboards are ok, but they are the least effective game design elements in the longer term.

The day ended with a visit to the Wynkoop Brewing Company for a craft beer party, an essential networking event as I’m sure you’ll agree!