A few considerations when designing a game for your next training

In Monday’s episode of the Train Like You Listen podcast, Heather spoke with our colleague, Lauren Wescott, about her recent experiences designing games for the training room. Lauren spoke briefly about cooperative vs. competitive games, and what each type of game could bring to the training room. If you’re looking to bring a game into your next training program, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:

“Games” and “Gamification” are not the same thing

Games are something you play. Gamification is an intentional design strategy. Playing Jeopardy or awarding points for correct answers doesn’t really mean you’ve “gamified” a training program.

In their book For The Win, Kevin Werbach and Dan Hunter suggest that true gamification goes beyond points, badges and leaderboards and includes a variety of elements such as:

  • Constraints
  • Emotions
  • Narrative/storyline
  • Learner growth and development
  • Relationships
  • Challenges
  • Elements of chance
  • Competition or cooperation
  • Feedback
  • Resource acquisition
  • Rewards
  • Transactions between players
  • Turns
  • Win, lose and draw states
  • Achievements
  • Avatars
  • Badges
  • Boss fights/culminating challenges
  • Collections (of badges, resources, etc)
  • Combat
  • Content unlocking
  • Gifting
  • Leaderboards
  • Levels
  • Points
  • Quests
  • Social graphs
  • Teams
  • Virtual goods

If you’d like to read about real life examples of some of these elements in action, Zsolt Olah chronicled his experiences in this 2018 case study published in eLearning Industry.

Pros and Cons of “Competitive” Games

As mentioned above, competition can be a key element in games – whether it’s a board game you play at home like Monopoly, a game played on Sundays (like football) or a game you’d play in the training room. In my experience, competitive games – a game in which there is one winner (and potentially a lot of losers) is the most common type of game used in training settings.

Competitive games offer a variety of pros, including:

  • Engaging those who like to win
  • Offering a sense of “play”
  • An experience similar to activities (such as Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit) that learners have played before
  • A goal
  • Some competitive games include teamwork
  • Simulating the competition that some in industries such as sales may experience in real life
  • Opportunities to simulate real life challenges

Drawbacks of competitive games may include:

  • Participants focusing more on the rules and winning while losing sight of the intended point of the game
  • Games designed after Jeopardy or Trivial Pursuit focus more on knowledge and less on the demonstration of skills learned
  • Some participants may be turned off by needing to engage in competition and/or may fall so far behind in the game that they lose interest

Pros and Cons of “Cooperative” Games

I’ll admit that the genre of cooperative games is relatively new to me. It’s not uncommon for others with whom I’m talking to look puzzled and ask: “What’s a cooperative game?” when I’m speaking about different types of games, which makes me think I’m not alone in my lifelong ignorance to the existence of cooperative games.

Cooperative games, in a nut shell, are games where players work together to accomplish a common goal. “Winning” is often measured by “beating” the game. In the game Pandemic, for example, players work together to try to stop a global outbreak of diseases. Winning happens when all of the diseases have been snuffed out. Losing happens if the diseases take over the world. Win or lose, all of the players are in the experience together.

In my limited experience with these types of games, here are some of the pros I’ve found:

  • Learners must stay engaged or they’ll be letting their colleagues down
  • While there’s always an emphasis on winning, learners generally don’t lose sight of the point of the exercise and argue with one another over the technicality of certain rules
  • De-emphasizes competition while emphasizing skills such as group decision-making, collaboration, cooperation and communication

Some of the drawbacks of cooperative games include:

  • Because this genre is less common and rules of the game can sometimes be complex, learners need some time to grow comfortable with the rules and the activity… I’ve not yet seen a “short” (15-20 minute) cooperative game
  • Planning and design of a cooperative game can be intensive

If you’d like to explore the genre of cooperative games in more depth, the two examples that Lauren offered during Monday’s podcast were:

A few final considerations

Games can be fun, engaging and memorable ways for learners to grasp important concepts and skills. Take great care, however, because as many people noted when I posted on LinkedIn about using games in the training setting, games can also turn many learners off. Some comments included:

“I use [games] sparingly because games for the sake of games is annoying as heck.”

“Pictionary with a group of medical assistants to practice vocabulary, always a huge hit. Build a spaghetti tower that can hold a marshmallow with a bunch of programmers.. no.”

“I tend to see games being used where there’s not really a good link to the learning, applying or recalling the actual concept that should be supported. Plus, I personally am not a game person.”

“Earning badges probably works for many people especially if there are incentives connected. But for me, not even then. It always strikes me about the same as training dogs with treats.”

As these comments show, great care should be taken when it comes to designing and incorporating games or game elements into your next training program.

If you’d like to know more about a cooperative game our organization created for training and presentation skills (called: Train the Trainer: The Game), drop me a line!

What do you think? Competitive games in the training room? Cooperative games? Stay away from games? Let’s hear some thoughts in the comment section!

Who’s YOUR champion?

I began writing the Train Like A Champion blog 8 years ago this week to offer some thoughts about how we, as a community, can offer better training and professional development. Actually, no. Not just better… how can we offer the best? How can we literally train like champions? But even if we offer the best professional development programs, who is our champion?

In Monday’s Train Like You Listen podcast, I talked a bit about the best professional advice I’d ever received. As learning professionals, we need to find people around the organization who can be champions, allies, ambassadors – whatever term you want to use – basically people outside of L&D who “get” what we do and the value we offer and who can spread word among their peers.

In a world where everyone is busy and focused on their own deliverables, finding champions throughout the organization is often easier said than done. Here are a few ways to make inroads when attempting to identify champions around the organization:

Show and Tell

Often, seeing is believing. Our co-workers have seen too many bad presentations and sometimes they don’t know what’s possible until they’ve seen what’s possible. While it’s always important to put together engaging presentations with compelling slides, when you have key influencers in your session, it becomes a matter of life and death – at least life and death for your future L&D initiatives.

So don’t just knock your next presentation out of the park. Go find decision-makers in attendance and ask for their feedback, and offer to help if their team needs something similarly engaging and effective in the future.

I did this once and several months later someone I’d never worked with before came up to me and asked for some help with a training program. “Caroline said that before I even thought about trying to create something, I should talk with you,” was the way the conversation began.

Co-Create

People in departments across organizations are asked to put together presentations every day, and the vast majority have no training in instructional design. Some have a feel for what works, but many simply follow their gut or do what they’ve always done.

If you know that someone is working on an upcoming presentation, they may find an offer to help with their presentation useful. Spending a lunch break with someone and helping them do some basic things such as identify learning objectives (to keep the presentation tightly focused and engaging), use a lesson plan or brainstorm ways to get the audience involved in the learning can all be useful steps.

I’ve found that working alongside SMEs or others who’ve been asked to put together a presentation has helped elevate not only my own reputation but also the reputation of what “good training” should look like across the organization.

Ask wise questions

“I don’t do touchy-feely! This topic is boring, but people just need to know it!”

I met this comment with two questions: “If you think it’s boring, then what do you think your learners are going to think? If it’s important enough that everyone knows it, don’t you think we should find some ways to make it engaging?”

The executive in charge of quality control was willing to humor me and to allow me to apply some of my “touchy-feely magic” to his training design.

Asking questions to get people to think for a beat before rejecting good instructional design can be quite powerful. It moves us from order takers to true partners in the learning process.

Another “wise question” I’ve learned can be effective, when all else fails, is: “Would you at least be willing to give it a shot and see how it works in real life before you reject the idea?” This was a question borne from desperation. I knew I had an amazing activity that would be much more powerful than anything the client had tried in order to have people digest their technical content. But, it involved using Play Doh. And the audience would be very experienced professionals in their 50s and 60s. It was risky.

After we tried the activity, and it worked to perfection, the SMEs who were so vehemently against the idea were now its biggest champions. To this day, they are quick to defend our crazy instructional design ideas when one of their colleagues (who is new to working with us) pushes back or tries to dismiss our ideas.

Finding ways to partner with people across the organization – by showing them what’s possible, by working alongside them in developing new ideas or simply by asking questions – can turn skeptics into champions of our work.

What have you found to be successful ways to create champions for your work across your organization?

Train Like You Listen: A New L&D podcast

Welcome back and happy new year!

In 2020, we’ve decided to mix things up a bit. You’ll still find two posts each week, but now on Mondays, you’ll find our new podcast – a short audio clip offering insights and bite-sized nuggets on trends, cool tools and tips for L&D professionals. Our first episode explains a little more about what it is and offers some thoughts around the best piece of career advice we’ve received as L&D professionals.

Give it a listen and let us know what advice helped you become more successful as an L&D professional in the comment section below!

The One Word Resolution (2020 Edition)

“Start a blog” was my New Year’s Resolution for 2012. Almost 7 years and 740 posts later, I’m still here. (Full disclosure: my colleague, Heather Snyder, has written a good portion of those 740 posts since she joined Endurance Learning in mid-2017.)

And for the past seven years, I’ve shared a one-word resolution that I’ve chosen to guide me personally and professionally in the new year. Continue reading

Ten Learning and Development Resources

As the decade closes, I would be remiss not to reflect on how my career has evolved over the last 10 years. I have been an instructional designer for the majority of this decade, thanks in no small part to the immense amount of resources available in the learning and development field. Continue reading

Comparing ILT, vILT and elearning

Last week I wrote about the strengths of elearning vs. instructor-led training (ILT). In the comment section, someone suggested that it would be interesting to see a third column in the comparison: virtual instructor-led training (vILT). I’m nothing if not a man of the people, so I’m giving them what they want.

Something I found interesting when I added the vILT column is that I couldn’t really come up with anything unique to vILT. Every item checked off for vILT is shared by either ILT or elearning. As I studied this more, I had to pause. While vILT by its nature is instructor-led and thus will obviously share some traits with ILT, it also has some things in common only with elearning.

There’s nothing in this chart to suggest that any one of these formal training methods is superior to either of the other two. It really comes down to the problem you’re looking to solve.

Need to deploy something rapidly across multiple countries and continents in multiple languages? Elearning may be your best bet.

Have an audience of learners that doesn’t have access to reliable Internet? More traditional classroom-based learning (ILT) may need to be your solution.

What’s missing from this chart when it comes to advantages of these three delivery methods? Is there anything unique to vILT that neither ILT nor elearning have? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section.

Is iSpring the next StoryLine?

Microlearning is on the tip of a lot of people’s tongues at the moment and many groups are developing eLearning with a mobile focus. As we approach training with the lens of microlearning, should we use continue to use the same tools? Continue reading

Why didn’t elearning ever kill the Instructor-led training star?

Last Wednesday I was a guest on dominKnow’s Instructional Designers In Offices Drinking Coffee (IDIODC) show and we spoke about Instructor-led training (ILT) and the value it still has in today’s world of learning. During the show, we reminisced about predictions during the early 2000s that ILT would eventually be replaced by elearning and other technologies.

As we talked, there was consensus that both elearning and ILT belong in every instructional designer’s tool bag. My company has certainly had conversations with clients in which we entered the meeting assuming the best solution would be elearning, but after asking some probing questions it turned out that ILT was the best solution (and vice versa).

If your needs assessment determines that a formal training intervention is the best solution and you’re trying to decide whether you should go the elearning route or the ILT route, perhaps you’ll find the following comparison helpful:

Do you agree with the comparison? Do you see it differently? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section.