Gamification of the Learning Environment

Overview

Gamification of the learning online environment has caught on tremendously today with exciting game-like interfaces, interactions, quizzes and much more to facilitate and promote learning. Rewards and recognition in these learning games helps motivate the learners to participate and complete the learning program. Gamification can be applied to course content and the learning environment, as required. This article will focus on gamification at the learning environment (or the learning management system).

What is Gamification?

Gamification is defined as the basic application of gaming mechanics to non-gaming scenarios. The use of game mechanics, dynamics, and frameworks to promote desired behaviors is used in domains like education, marketing, politics, healthcare and much more. Analysts foresee it becoming a multi-billion dollar industry by 2015 (MacMillan, 2011).

Components of Gamification

Gamification elements are usually defined around the areas of teamwork, collaboration, and competition.

Simple “scoring” and ranking techniques like badges are used in most courses today. Other gamification techniques may include reminders via email or mobile learning apps that connect the users back to the learning system. Research shows that a learner, after having drifted away from a learning program, may be motivated to rejoin the program after seeing a notification about how their peers are doing in the program. A learning system that connects with social platforms used by learners, such as Facebook orTwitter, is popular among today’s learners.

Some of the main components of gamification are explained below.

A Well-defined Learning Objective

Having an objective is very important for an adult learner. Gamification should help a learner reach his or her objective. Games that do not help a learner achieve a goal or reinforce learning are ineffective and demotivating.

Points

Points are used in gamification to a great extent. Points can be accumulated in exchange for gifts or other rewards. A mechanism that assigns points each time a user performs an action within an LMS is a great idea to keep learners involved.

Levels

Multiple levels may be assigned to the learners based on their progress and achievement after completing certain activities

Timer

Gamification may also include a timer function on certain activities. The timer function motivates learners to complete the assignment by a certain deadline.

Progress Bar

A progress bar helps learners know where they are and how far they still have to go. Learners will be driven to take steps to 100% completion when a progress bar is displayed for certain actions.

Leaderboards

Leaderboards are one of the major features of games. Leaderboards are defined on the Gamification Wiki as “a means by which users can track their performance subjective to others. Leaderboards visually display where a user stands in regards to other users. They are implemented on sites to show which players have unlocked the most achievements. The desire to appear on the Leaderboards drives players to earn more achievements, in turn fueling deep engagement.” Leaderboards drive performance and give learners a strong sense of community.

Rewards, Badges and Certificates

Motivational tools like rewards, badges and certificates keep a learner interested and engaged. Learners are, therefore, encouraged to do better in exchange for rewards and badges as a proof of their success. Having a real-world reward helps translate virtual success into real-world value for learners. A scoring system that is linked to the actual participation in an E-Learning program will help learners get a competitive spirit. A badge for E-Learning can be directly connected to a point system.

Recognition and Acknowledgement

Learners may be recognized for their accomplishments or contribution within the learning environment. This recognition may be automated by the system, for example, the learners’ names and pictures may be featured on the learning portal or website. In addition, recognition from peers and experts within a community may be even more motivating for most individuals.

Social

Social connectivity is a powerful engagement tool in today’s times. Introducing social networking as part of gamification in an LMS is a great way of keeping learners engaged. Gamification elements that take advantage of social networking include sharing scores, badges, and statuses to the major social platforms. Social networks can be used to recommend content and even entire courses to co-workers and peers; post reviews of courses, and host discussions about course content in the form of comments as well as directed questions.

Gamification in a Learning Management System (LMS)

When learners first log in to their LMS, they may not have any idea about gamification and how gamification features work. As they gain more familiarity with the LMS user interface, they begin to get more skilled, engaged and educated about the gamification features. Initially, many learners may not go beyond the ‘Novice’ level due to lack of interest in the LMS or content with found within the LMS. Getting such learners engaged with the LMS, learning process and content through gamification will surely help them become masters!

The process of gamification in an LMS includes:

  • The learner logs into the LMS and sees a message explaining the benefits of the learning programs. Learners are asked several questions and then understand how ‘gamified’ eLearning will help them
  • Learners are given a tour of the LMS and its gamification features
  • The LMS tracks all learner activities like login details, profile edits, social activity, formal learning, contributions, participation in discussion forums and so on. Learners are given a chance to earn more rewards or points while learning online. For example, changing the profile picture may give points. New eLearning technical standards and protocols like Experience API (xAPI) can be successfully used to track various learner activities at the LMS and course levels and can help implement gamification features
  • A progress bar encourages learners to view their current status and helps them move toward completing a particular level to earn additional badges
  • Rewards, points, badges or certificates are awarded as per the activities or lessons completed and may be displayed through visually exciting ways within the LMS interface
  • Email notifications and mobile push notifications may be used inform users about their progress and invite them to participate in the learning activities
  • Gamification encourages competition and cooperation amongst learners. Rewarding learners for their contribution, achievements and participation is truly motivational and engaging to them.

Summary

Many studies in gamification have shown that the mechanism of a game increases the involvement of users while stimulating their active attendance. Having participants actively involved, and not mere passive recipients of content, is one of the most important challenges of conventional learning modes. Inadequate engagement of the learners with the learning management system has resulted in dropouts, failures, and lesser interest of learners in the learning program.

Gamification has proved to increase engagement and motivate a learner to do far better. What’s more, it enhances qualities such as diligence, originality, and resilience. However, gamification can only provide tools, and those tools must produce results that are worth the investment. The process of gamification in learning must give students comprehensible and actionable tasks with immediate rewards instead of vague and unclear long-term benefits.

 

How to Set Up a Successful Online Learning Business

The internet has provided us with many things, one of which is an online platform where people get ongoing learning. A successful online learning business can provide people with unlimited learning opportunities to expand their knowledge.

There are a number of steps which have been proven to work. Setting up a successful online learning business involves:

a) Creating your web presence

Because your online learning business will be run through the internet, you need to make sure that your online presence is felt. Creating your web presence involves the following:

  • Create an attractive and functional learning portal. The portal created should be in line with your business, expertise or your content area. As a business, you want to make your website as attractive and as professional as possible because the same website will be used to market your services.
  • Brand your learning  portal. Unique branding entails incorporating relevant images, colors, logo and styles to your named portal. This helps to distinguish your portal from the others.
  • Create a unique domain name for your web portal. Ideally, the domain name is the same as or a variant of the business name. This makes it easier for users to locate your business.
  • First impressions do matter. Therefore, ensure that your website is as attractive as possible. Work with graphic designers and visualizers to style your web page and make it exciting.
  • Subscriber growth can only be achieved if you keep your users. Create forms and subscription areas that allow people to sign up. Once visitors have shown interest by signing up, keep them informed. Newsletters are one way of keeping them alerted.
  • As you build a list, create a learning eCommerce catalog. The catalog should be directed towards highlighting the value proposition of each of your learning products.

b) Publish a mobile learning App

The mobile user population has immensely grown in the recent past. People are always on their mobile phones exchanging messages and socializing. To build a successful online learning business, you need to tap into this market. This can be done by creating and publishing a mobile learning App.

The content generated should be created through modern content authoring systems which can deliver content seamlessly to all devices. This way, people can easily gain access to your materials.

Make your content easily accessible by allowing your App to be downloaded and used even when the user is offline. Other mobile technologies that can be leveraged include touch and voice based interfaces.

Push technology can come in handy when it comes to educating your learners and ensuring that there is a continuous engagement between the learner and the online learning business.

c)  Create your eLearning and blended learning content

Analyze your learners or audience and content and define your learning curriculum and project implementation plan.

Because it’s not easy to create good content for your online learning business, consult an instructional designer to help define learning objectives, storyboard eLearning, audio and video scripts and help you select appropriate graphics and other useful multi-media assets.

Make your eLearning content compelling by adapting a story-telling format, taking a role-playing form or incorporating learning games and simulations. The content can also be made interesting by using videos and audio narrations. Professional voice talent can help you polish audio tracks.

Because the interaction is mostly online, come up with an interactive way of engaging your audience. Engage your audience by creating eLearning content with multimedia elements including video and synchronizing audio to graphics and animated content.

Attach supplemental documents and references to eLearning course modules to support learning objectives.

Assessments can be an important validation that learning has occurred. Therefore, take time to create assessments using different question types such as true/false, essay, single correct, multiple choices, fill-in the blanks, or drag and drop, among others. To further challenge your learners, combine simple online assessments with problem solving scenarios, and simulations with test or games that challenge their thinking and motivate them complete their assignments. Combine eLearning modules and assessments to create seamless eLearning course structures.

Create a schedule for your classroom training session(s) and allow learners to subscribe to the sessions. Set up virtual classroom training sessions where your learners can interact with each other and the experts online and synchronously. That’s just the beginning of creating a blended learning curriculum and courses.

Simply put, blended Learning can be described as a learning program where more than one delivery mode is being used with the objective of optimizing the learning outcome and cost of program delivery. In other words,

Blended Learning focuses on optimizing achievement of learning objectives by applying the “right” learning technologies to match the “right” personal learning style to transfer the “right” skills to the “right” person at the “right” time.

For example, a blending of self-paced and collaborative learning may include review of important literature on a regulatory change or new product followed by a moderated, live, online, peer-to-peer discussion of the material’s application to the learner’s job and customers.

Blending Formal and Informal Learning

Most learning in the workplace occurs in an unstructured form via meetings, hallway conversations, or e-mail. A blended program design may look to actively capture conversations and documents from unstructured learning events into knowledge repositories available on- demand, supporting the way knowledge-workers collaborate and work.

Today, employees and learners are comfortable and familiar with content aggregation systems like Facebook, Wikipedia, Quora, and Google+. An effective learning system will provide similar functionality so that workers and learners can participate in communities of knowledge that span the breadth of the business or organization.

Blended learning content can be generated in many ways. Let your instructional  audience, learning objective and content analysis guide your media and learning modality selection – to help create the right blend.

It has been established that blended learning promises better learning results, compared to single modality offerings.

d) Internet marketing

The last step in creating a successful online learning business involves marketing your products. You can market your online learning business using a number of online marketing strategies. They include:

  • SEO marketing – Optimizing your site for search engine ranking involves discovering and using the keywords visitors use to find content like yours; knowing the questions they are asking, and making sure your website can answer visitor questions. SEO activities help your site rank well in organic search results.
  • Email marketing – this technique helps to generate leads and keep your users informed. You can send your subscribers ads, business requests or even solicit sales. All in all, email marketing helps in building trust, loyalty and brand awareness.

Social media marketing – in this particular strategy, different social media channels are used to generate traffic and create awareness. Social Media marketing uses channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Blogs. Blogs can be used as an online channel to advertise your business and leaning resources and related topics while the other three platforms can be used for posting updates. For a blog to properly relay the intended message, posts should incorporate images, text and valuable links to other blogs or webpages.

Summary

Businesses rich in knowledge can capitalize their valuable assets by offering paid training and online learning.  Many businesses already own learning content in the form of slide presentations, white papers, and other resources.

Instancy provides an easy-to-use system that can both turn these information assets into online learning courses, and provide a platform to sell and deliver the material to learners all around the world.

Please visit Instancy.com to see our end-to-end platform for creating a successful online learning business, providing an innovative and compelling learning environment, and publishing a mobile learning app.

Creating Rapid eLearning and Mobile Learning Content with MS Word Storyboard Conversion Tools

The creation of eLearning courses requires multiple skills. Two of the primary skills required in designing and creating an eLearning course are Instructional Design (ID) and Authoring. These distinct skills are described below.

Instructional designers specialize in improving content comprehension and learning outcomes for the learner. An instructional designer may work with Subject Matter Experts to identify what a student has to learn in the course or study materials. Both defining the skills and tasks to be learned and developing learning objectives are also part of this job profile. An instructional designer would rewrite content as per the learning needs and create activities for the learner. An instructional designer would also use various media to support learning and develop assessments for the learner. All these elements may be incorporated in a storyboard. A storyboard is a blueprint of the eLearning course.

A storyboard specifies the visual elements, text elements, audio elements, user interactions and branching (where the system or user will go next) of every screen in an online or eLearning course. Learning objectives are also a part of the storyboard. Most storyboards are created in MS-Word. Storyboards created this way can have links to media files and notes for the eLearning author. It is also possible to embed images with text. Additionally, the review process is quite easy in MS-Word.

Storyboarding with MS-Word
Storyboarding with MS-Word

 

On the other hand, eLearning authors work with content authoring tools. An eLearning author would use the storyboard created by an instructional designer to create the final course. An author is a non-instructional designer with expertise in eLearning and multimedia authoring tools, interactivity design and scripting, graphics, audio and video editing tools. Authors may have knowledge of programming logic to construct interactions, branching, navigation, SCORM/xAPI (eLearning technical standards) or equivalent content packaging, etc. Authors also know about testing the course on various browsers, multiple LMSs, or even multiple mobile devices, to ensure that user tracking/progress reporting is working as expected.

Authors use authoring tools to author professional eLearning content with advanced interactivity, software and simulations. They may create quizzes, games, and other engaging experiences. An eLearning author would also be able to output a course in different formats like Flash and video, including SCORM for delivery through an LMS.

An instructional designer may also be able to directly construct the content within an eLearning authoring tool, but this is rarely done. While many authoring tools have made authoring more rapid and simple with very little or no software programming, eLearning authoring and instructional design remain two distinct job roles for an eLearning content project.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could automate the conversion of a storyboard directly into a course? Rapid course development involves such automation of the authoring process. This process reduces the effort put in by the eLearning author. When storyboards are automatically converted into eLearing content, the author only has to  work on the course only after the “import” is completed. The author performs small steps such as layout improvement, synchronization of media elements, branching, etc. Such an automated authoring tool will put most of the content in the expected layout. This greatly reduces the authoring effort and time. This is where Instancy tools come in.

The Instancy Authoring system offers a dynamic way to convert MS-Word storyboards into eLearning courses and assessments. An author can effortlessly use the Instancy Authoring system to convert a MS-Word storyboard template into engaging eLearning content within a few hours. It is possible to publish a course to HTML5 without any programming knowledge. You can also use the Instancy Learning Authoring Tool to add enhancements like navigation, interactivity, multimedia, and assessments. The eLearning course is produced in a responsive design such that the same course may play on desktop browsers and mobile devices.

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Mobile Performance Support

Mobile PerformancePerformance Support is information that can help a user perform a task and it may be referenced while the task is being performed or about to be performed. Training on the other hand, is provided in preparation for a future task that needs to be performed and is usually not designed to be referenced while performing a task. Performance Support can be accessed when required, on-demand, in support of performing a task or just-in-time of need and it can its sequence may be controlled by the person performing a task.

Performance Support is increasingly becoming a necessity since it is not humanly possible to commit the information from an extensive training to memory, particularly for complex job-tasks in today’s workplace nor it is possible to provide prior training on each task or skill. Mobile performance support systems can help an organization reduce training costs while increasing productivity and performance at the same time.

What is Mobile Performance Support?

In today’s times, mobile devices, tablets and smart phones have made Performance Support more practical and effective. Mobile touch and voice-based user interfaces make access to information readily accessible while working on a task that may be performed while sitting, standing, walking, driving, etc.

For example, a GPS provides step-by-step and concise guidance on how to get from point A to point B. Smart phones and tablets are portable devices that have high resolution screens to present graphics, text, audio, and video based content. Since the screen size is smaller than a desktop, these devices make an ideal platform for delivering concise, step-by-step information.

Newer devices such as Google Glass provide a hands-free access to information needed to perform a task and have the potential to revolutionize performance support technology in many fields.
Jason Haag says, “Mobile learning should not be merely viewed as a replacement, an alternative, or as a new addition to existing training delivery methods. It should be thought of as a complimentary way to augment or enhance all types of learning.”

Some popular types of Mobile Performance Support

Performance support content should be easily accessible and concise (remove extraneous information). Mobile devices are a great medium for delivery of performance support in academic as well as corporate sectors, where information can be accessed quickly and the task completed. The most common types of mobile Performance Support are job aids, FAQ’s, small tutorials, chat apps, and demos. Mobile devices can support Performance Support in many formats such as HTML5, PDF, Audio, Video, text message or native mobile app. Instancy Authoring Tools may be used to create web and mobile performance support content and reuse elements of eLearning content for performance support.

When technology is combined with information, content can be delivered when and where it is needed via job aids. Short text messaging (SMS) and apps can be used to send tips and knowledge checks. The availability of mentors via mobile devices is yet another form of Mobile Performance Support.

Case studies

Many football players use iPads to share game play videos and demonstrate tactics used in the game. These chunks of content can be delivered at any time day or night. Supporting apps enable players and coaches to highlight areas, ring players, and also write notes on screen.

Mobile Performance Support has been used for maintenance procedures so that maintenance technicians are able to access and complete Maintenance Procedure Cards (MPCs) on a hand-held device.

Just-in-time performance support and coaching are highly popular in the fields of healthcare and medicine. Job aids and reference tools for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers are widely used today.

Summary

Performance Support can complement eLearning and in many cases it can displace need for formal training. A shift is underway in favor of performance support. Performance support offers critical information at any time, to enable an individual to make better informed decisions and reduce errors in performing tasks. Performance analysts, information designers, knowledge-management system architects and mobile app developers have a great new opportunity to harness the full potential of performance support technology to help improve the productivity while dramatically reduce the time and cost of training.

 

Developing Mobile Learning Content

Geddes (2004) defines mobile learning as “the acquisition of any knowledge and skill through using mobile technology, anywhere anytime that results in an alteration in behavior.”

The ability to access learning on mobile devices is mandatory in today’s dynamic world where people are constantly on the move. Mobile learning has gained leverage today due to its ease of access, simplicity, short duration, and concise design.

Content for mobile devices has to be easily accessible and customized or designed for the learner’s needs. Developing e-learning for mobile can be challenging due to the variety of mobile devices as well as the varying levels of quality and resolutions. While creating mobile learning, it would help to keep certain points in mind:

Keep it short

Learners learn best when information is presented in small chunks. Too much content can be overwhelming to a learner. Remember that users are more likely to terminate mobile applications that take more than five seconds to load. The use of graphics and images are helpful to a learner when used correctly. Hyperlinks can be provided for reference where required. Modules of 5 – 10 minutes are apt for mobile learning.

Using graphics

Graphics for mobile devices should be quick to load and neat. A cluttered or crowded screen distracts learners and may even make a learner switch off. The acceptable image formats for mobile learning include PNG, JPG, GIF, and animated GIF formats.

Flash vs. videos

Videos are best presented in the MP4 format as compared to Flash animations. Flash will not work on BlackBerry and Apple iPhone/iPod devices. Differences in screen size for various types of mobiles and the availability of various apps have also made Flash a less relevant option. In fact, HTML5 and CSS3 have become viable alternatives to Flash today.

The download time and length of a video are other factors to be considered for mobile learning. For heavy content in videos, it is a good idea to enable the user to download and access the content later.

Presentation of content

Navigation should be simple and user-friendly for a mobile learner, who often does not have the patience to scroll through pages of text while on the move. A mobile learning experience should be touch screen-friendly too with user interface elements (buttons, menus) that have a sufficient touch area. An informal and conversational style also helps when delivering mobile content to a learner. In addition, a learner should be able to return and continue where they left off the last time.

Education with Mobiles

Ownership of a mobile device is high among students pursuing higher education and tablets seem to be popular for academic purposes. For workplace learning, higher education, and K-12, a module can be presented as pre-work, additional content, or key points of a course. A standalone assessment for students delivered via their mobile devices can effectively test knowledge gained from an e-learning program or an instructor-led course.

To summarize, creating a valuable and effective mobile learning experience can help more learners and give thousands of employees a range of enhanced skills with less effort. The “fun” value and the “just-in-time” nature of mobile learning make it a sought-after learning experience.

For more information on how to create Mobile Learning Apps easily and affordably, please click here….