Tag Archives: Julie Dirksen

Gamification and Super User Training

28 Jun

In recent weeks I’ve been developing a lesson plan for Super User training on a communication device called Vocera.

These Super Users will not only deliver training to front line staff in the future, but they will be also providing support to staff on the floor. Many of these Super Users have limited or no experience of Vocera, so naturally feel nervous about becoming Super Users.

As such, the challenge to me has been to design a training session that makes Super Users confident experts on Vocera in under two hours.

To achieve this, I didn’t want to just dump information. An information overload on what the device could do, would be too much in a one-off two-hour training session. And I didn’t want to rely on a ton of resources that the Super Users may never read or use. Instead I wanted to create a training session that would be structured but allow learners to develop their expertise in a multi-levelled manner. A bit like a computer game.

“Gamification” in relation to education has become quite a buzzword in recent years. While I really like the idea of creating an immersive gaming environment for learners to lose themselves in, the reality is I don’t have the time or resources to develop such an environment. Instead, I think where “gamification” can be most useful, is in applying the concepts of gaming to develop skills and competencies in the classroom.

This is best explained in an excellent blog post by Jo Cook. In the post, Jo refers to a presentation by Julie Dirksen about how traditional classes are “like constantly cycling uphill with more and more new things to learn.” Julie instead suggests structuring classes so they are more like a game, where they “start off easy then add more information, speed up the process and so on to the end challenge.”

In terms of introducing concepts of gaming, this approach seems more achievable for the instructional designer. And arguably, the training session should be more beneficial for the learner, especially when they are tasked to become experts.

I’ll find out in the coming weeks …

Problems with Memory and Instructional Design

26 Mar

The other week I took a one day project management course that finished with an exam at the end of the day. The course was very intensive. We covered approximately one-hundred pages of content that contained several different project management theories and methods. Then we were tested on the content in a multiple-choice exam which learners were required to correctly answer 75% of the questions in order to complete the course.

I’ll start by saying that I really enjoyed the course and the instructor was excellent. However, I did have a problem with the instructional design of the course, in that it stifled rather than facilitated learning.

First, the requirement to pass the exam meant that the instructor had to cover everything that would be on the exam. This left little time for class discussion and instead resulted in the instructor lecturing the class for the majority of the day. Although I found the instructor engaging, a lecture format and only one group activity over a six-hour period did not produce a great learning experience.

Second, as a learner, my main concern throughout the day was to pass the exam. A pass would measure the success of me as a learner. So with the lecture format of the class, I needed to absorb as much information as possible and hopefully be able to draw on my memory during the exam.

Learners and memory is explored in chapter 4 of Julie Dirksen’s excellent book Design For How People Learn. Dirksen writes that “memory relies on encoding and retrieval, so learning designers need to think about how the material gets into long-term memory, and also what the learner can do to retrieve it later.” Another great example of the problem of memory and learning can be found in this video by Charles Jennings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6WX11iqmg0

For me, six hours of lecturing and one group activity did not create the best opportunity for memory encoding and retrieval. While I passed the exam, to achieve the best possible result, I needed to make connections and forge links between the instructor’s examples and the best practices outlined in the content.

So what instructional design choices would you have made in this circumstance? The instructor had a set number of hours to cover a vast amount of content. This content had to be covered because the learners were tested on it in an exam that they needed to pass in order to complete the course.

After speaking to some coworkers, we all agreed that the problem with the course was the exam. But what to do about the exam? The exam measured the success of the learner. You simply couldn’t remove the exam!

Or could you? So the first thing I would do is not remove the exam from the course, but remove the exam from the day. Instead I would place the exam online, allow learners a week to logon and complete the course. This would free up more time for learning activities during the day as well as allow for reflection.