What can L&D learn from gaming’s open dev approach

I have recently registered to participate in pre-alpha testing of the new Humankind historical strategy game. This is a very interesting experience with many parallels to when we (aka “learning pros”) try and get L&D and other learning products tested in advance.

Humankind makes content available to test via the Steam platform but news, community sharing and more are via https://www.games2gether.com/ – thus there is a split between delivery and communication.  In some ways this is similar to L&D’s traditional split from marketing/communications and the LMS split from ESN or other coms tools.

Of course the risk is that, particularly a new franchise like, Humankind risks putting potential users/buyers off from the final product. Personally the game looks good and certainly has some nice ideas, even if the combat systems (which seemed to be the main focus of the test so far) seems slow and difficult (to me at least).

Ultimately treating those invited to the prelaunch access as “special” is a great way that L&D can gain traction with the intended audience and develop champions within the organisation. The advantage is in gaining an audience prelaunch, positive word of mouth and more.

More on the “instructional text” tweet

So a bit of explanation on what I was going on about here:

Basically I was looking to discuss this topic as I have been seeing a lot of content publicly available (branded as eLearning of some type) which can be difficult to use as its unclear what to do from a learning perspective.  Whilst as learning designers we have tended to move away from boring instructions and learning objectives it feels like there is still work to be done.

I guess that I am ultimately thinking is we need to move from:

“This eLearning is made up of x modules and take xx minutes to complete”

type stuff to better prompts for action, something like:

“This activity is designed with moments for you to reflect throughout, therefore you need to pay attention and potentially take notes to help with your recollection”.

Why? Well we hear a lot about difficulties around concentration and focus.  Personally I fall into the trap of treating “learning content” online like I would treat other material.  Am I alone in feeling a need to be actively prompted to pay attention? Would we just ignore such advice if it did exist?

When looking for any formal research on this I did stumble across the below article which is quite good on instructional design more generally but I could not find anything too specific on the topic my tweet introduced…

Instructional Design and eLearning: A Discussion of
Pedagogical Content Knowledge as a Missing Construct

Click to access EJ846720.pdf

My top ten tools (2020)

Not sure on the last time I voted in the annual https://www.toptools4learning.com/ vote but I suspect my list this year has probably changed a bit from previous ones:

  • Google Search – Starting point for virtually any kind of learning. Increasingly the only search and retrieval tool used.
  • Podcast Addict – My personal podcast app of choice. Simple UI, good management of episodes, easy to download, delete, etc. Podcasts are one my main media sources now for entertainment, work related topics and more.
  • YouTube – Along with podcasts, a major media source, both for entertainment and formal/informal learning.
  • WordPress – Longer form personal reflection and record keeping.
  • Twitter – Shorter form reflections and serendipitous discovery.
  • Microsoft Teams – Used a lot in the past couple of years (although less currently), has quickly become essential for remote working and learning.
  • Moodle – Used in a couple of different contexts this year as a hub for learning where an LMS model still makes sense.
  • Articulate Rise – Have been using this again after a bit of a break. Can be frustrating but then you compare it to some old “eLearning” and you realise things have moved on (a bit).
  • LinkedIn – Connections, communication and serendipitous discovery.
  • Zoom – Probably the tool of 2020 in terms of increased use, replacing the omnipresence of Webex (plus Adobe Connect and some others) and making synchronous sessions easy for many.
Honourable mentions to:
  • Old Reader: I still find RSS hugely useful and this remains my go-to choice.

Not all innovation is created equal

A few things lately have got me thinking, once again, about what innovation means, particularly in the area of online learning.

The Covid crisis has brought a lot of this to the fore, for example the list below are just two things which have been day-to-day activities for me (and many others) for over a decade (or more) but are genuinely new for others:

  • Training companies and education institutions moving their operations to online (be it virtual classroom, webinar, async, LMS/VLE, etc.)
  • Primary collaboration between colleagues taking place online, rather than face-to-face, via VOIP, Teams, ESNs, etc.

These changes will be seen as transformational for some organisations, and not for others. This will have the knock-on effects that digital transformation has, for a while, promised – unfortunately including job losses. Leading to a spate of memes on that theme:

Just one example playing on the theme/meme.

The recent MoodleMoot global conference helped highlight this to me – here we had a tool (Moodle) that critics (myself included in the past) would describe as struggling to move past its c.2003 functionality and user interface. However, many presenters were focused on their personal success of switching to online (I personally really find the “pivot” phrase odd/annoying) or offering tips for ‘newbies’ in this area. This brings to mind the often used quote:

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.

William Gibson

The challenge here is not just that digital transformation will naturally mean different things to different people also that a “webinar” will mean different things depending on the organising body, presenter, purpose, etc.

This confuses the picture, as picked up recently by Jane Hart in a tweet poll over what “e-learning” may (or may not) mean today:

Personally, I would say eLearning has become synonymous with “click next” slide-style content. The result being that “online” learning became the norm and then “digital” to capture changes for learning via mobile, VR, etc. However, whilst the differences remain, and old conversations (e.g. what is e-learning? is the VLE dead? etc.) continue, it is increasingly difficult to see where real innovation in the learning sector is given many orgs are now having “transformational pivots”.

Why I ticked the “share with network” button on my new LinkedIn job

2020 has been pretty tough so far on many people – I have been very lucky. Therefore, I was hesitant about alerting my LinkedIn colleagues on my new role – would it be bragging in the current economic and political climate?

I decided that actually sharing some good news, something I have been working on for around two years (and in some ways for fifteen throughout my career), was a nice thing to do to break the bad news cycle.

So, sorry, if it was seen as a humblebrag or other faux pas but I hope it made a few people happy as we prepare for global recessions and a ‘new normal’. Obviously we have differing degrees of LinkedIn contacts in terms of level of relationship but here’s hoping more of my contacts found this interesting/useful that didn’t. And here’s hoping the majority can share good news stories over the rest of the year.