Custom Design

Intelligent support that is accessible just-in-time at the point of need.

In a short time, our world has changed dramatically. No longer is knowledge and information bound to printed volumes or even desktops. We now have the ability to create interactive elearning content and publish it on mobile devices, including iPhones, making it instantly available anytime, no matter where we are.

Gone also are the days of memorizing vast amounts of information for instant recall.  We now have instant access to vast libraries of information, far more than we could have ever hoped to memorize in a lifetime.  Mobile accessible eLearning makes it possible for us to access just about any knowledge we desire wherever we are, just when we need it.   In this way, it represents a tremendous breakthrough for reference and performance support.   But having all of this information at your fingertips can also be overwhelming. The real breakthrough is achieved when learners are able to find exactly the right information, when and where they need it.

In the late 80’s and 90’s Roger Shank, then Dean of Northwestern’s Institute for Learning Sciences, pioneered research into expert tutoring systems using artificial intelligence.  That evolved into “ask” systems that let users access relevant help by simply selecting the question that they want to have answered.  As a practical matter, these systems were never really “artificially intelligent.”  They relied upon developers and programmers to develop hard coded pathways that they believed would best serve the learner.

Fast forward a decade… Google and others have made huge strides toward anticipating which website we are searching for when we enter a request into their search engines and serving up the information most relevant to us.  This technology has given way to a new generation of “ask” systems.

The latest generation of performance support pioneered by the Blueline team, leverages these new “ask” system capabilities. Search responses, relevant links and associated content are determined using a gaming engine model (rules and probabilities) to predict and share the most relevant content for each user. The engine “learns” from previous users’ choices and the designer’s intended objectives.  So in this case, you could say that the learner’s experience evolves “intelligently” based on the succession of choices they make.

Pair this next generation of “ask” systems with mobile delivery and you have an unprecedented business tool.   Intelligent support that is accessible just-in-time at the point of need.

Would you like to explore potential strategies for putting these exciting new platforms to work in your organization? Blueline is here to help!

Why Everything I Believed About eLearning is Wrong.

Part 2:

I stared at the number: 28%.

28% has long been established as a standard, an ever-present challenge to developers of traditional elearning programs. That’s the percentage of material that you can expect your learners to retain two weeks after your elearning program. Some refer to it as “the problem of forgetting.”

There’s a reason why I’m waxing philosophical about numbers and percentages. It’s because my world has been rocked.

What if I told you that I have uncovered a proven solution that is consistently delivering retention levels of 95%?

That’s right. 95%.

I will tell you what I said when I first learned about it: “I have dedicated my professional life to staying abreast of learning innovations. If this were true, I would already know about it!”

But that’s when things start to unravel a bit. Because, I hadn’t ever before focused on the “hidden truths” that I outlined in my previous blog entry. And without knowledge of those paradigm-shifting learning insights, how would I know that I needed to search for a better way? I wouldn’t, and I didn’t.

Until now, when I was faced with the two numbers. 28%. And 95%.

It seems that, in fact, a little-known company based in California, run by a PhD whose expertise is in the Neurobiology of Learning, is transforming Public Education in California by routinely delivering these results to his students.

“Ahh, well that explains it,” I mused, “because high school students aren’t the same as adult learners. Even if he has delivered these results they wouldn’t apply to what we do.”

But then I was presented with a third-party analysis demonstrating that surgeons prepping for board certification showed a 300% improvement with less study time than a control group made up of their peers.

I was hooked. I had to know how they do it.

Turns out, these secrets are not out of reach. They’re all hidden, right there in plain view, within the learning insights I described in the first part of this blog post.

Think of the solution as your very own “personal trainer,” whose job it is to isolate your weaknesses, and develop an exercise program just for you. The only difference is that in this case, instead of building muscle, you build connections in your brain.

Specifically, the fastest path to building those connections is an “exercise plan” that prioritizes exercises based on learner need, optimally spaces study sessions over time, and utilizes open-ended questions that the learner self-evaluates.

That’s the secret. That’s what you have to do to increase retention from 28% to 95%.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right?

Here’s the challenge: in the corporate environment, efficiency and scale dictate that these personalized learning plans are all but impractical. I’ve spent much of my career delivering learning solutions to hundreds or thousands of students at a time.

That’s why I’m so excited about a new solution that I am extending now to my client partners in some of the world’s most influential organizations.  It’s a digital personal trainer that utilizes an algorithm that borders on artificial intelligence to deliver custom study sessions. And it exists.

I’m a believer, and I’ve got a story to tell. And I’d love to share it with you.

Look at the long-term retention rates of your elearning interventions. Then, don’t get depressed. Instead, give me a call. I’ve got some ideas that can lead your people to the 95% winner’s circle.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Deconstructing the Classroom Simulation

A True Confession

The other day I was sitting in a meeting listening to a presentation. Here are the things I confess to having done during that time (I had my laptop open under the auspices of note-taking):

  • Googled something the meeting leader said to better understand it
  • Emailed my son some help with an algebra problem
  • Read the headlines of the New York Times, Huffington Post and Wall Street Journal
  • Bought a swimsuit (it probably won’t fit)
  • Added a client event to my calendar and invited others to attend
  • Rescheduled that event when the client declined
  • Took notes on the presentation

I got to thinking – so what does this have to do with classroom simulations? Turns out — everything. Every day it seems our capacity and urge to multi-task grows. To keep pace with the dynamic business environment we operate in, we need to deal with many things at once, problem-solve and complete tasks simultaneously. Simulations are uniquely able to replicate and leverage this phenomenon in a training environment. It can move a classroom training experience from teaching x + y = z to ensuring an understanding of a(xy)+ b2 = z.

How do Simulations Work?

When I think about how simulations work to accomplish this higher order outcome, I come up with three main mechanisms. Effective simulations I’ve created or experienced feature:

  1. Non-sequential learning
  2. Realistic, complex situations
  3. Demonstration of cause and effect

Simulations don’t have a linear, topic-followed-by-topic agenda that transfers knowledge via a “age on the stage.” A simulation might offer a scenario, deliver some learning content on a few topics, provide access to resources (live, written, online or otherwise), then require participants to play roles, work together and use the information combined with their experience to solve a problem. Data may be missing and clues may be provided that don’t get used until later. Decisions may be required that change the course of the learning. Teams might outperform other teams. People might get frustrated and things might go wrong. Kind of like the real world.

When I’m creating a simulation, I like to sift through a lot of stories. The team and I listen to the client tell us what business problems happen when people don’t have the insights the simulation is supposed to deliver. We dig around for drama, intrigue, heartache, achievement and fiscal pain, and then we build them into the simulation. The learning experience has to feel real, or participants won’t care as much.

Simulations are a great way to leverage the experience of some participants to enhance the learning of others. When teams debate decisions and consider multiple courses of action they practice cause and effect thinking that is critical to successful business outcomes. By trusting in the ability (and desire) of humans to process more than one thing at a time, we have found that we can cover more content in a shorter amount of time than with a linear training approach. Senior level employees tend to engage and respond more positively to simulations than to traditional training experiences. One thing is certain; participants usually don’t have the time or desire to buy a bathing suit during a simulation.

LOOK! WE’RE IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL! (KIND OF)

Even when our work doesn’t feature prominently in a story in The Wall Street Journal, we are endlessly proud of what we achieve with our client partners. But every now and then, the splash is just a little bit bigger. So when our learning intervention dovetails with a bigger cultural issue – that is, when it becomes news– we take it in stride. It’s just part of what we do. The only difference is that it gives us a nice opportunity to share the story of our work with you.That’s the case here. Blueline Simulations isn’t explicitly named in this article; nor would it be appropriate for me to tell you which of the companies featured was our client.It started when our client partner asked us to conduct a “voice of the customer” intervention to help create change within their organization. Our process included interviews with internal stakeholders to reveal prevailing mental models; a proposal for internal change (based on the stakeholder’s perspectives — not ours!); and a collaborative, iterative process that resulted in new processes and new beliefs within the organization.If you know anything about pharma, you know that’s a tall order. And if you know anything about sales… that’s hallowed ground! The fact that the change took root – and today is featured in the Wall Street Journal – is testament to the integrity of the process, and the courage of our client.Take a look. It’s a great story. And it’s a story I’d love to help create in your organization as well.

A process for collaborative change: Blueline Simulations’ “Voice of the Customer.”

1. Listen first. A series of stakeholder interviews reveals prevailing biases and mental models.

2. Build a straw man. We propose a design that, significantly, is informed explicitly by the client’s own words.

3. Tell the story. We record a webinar and interim report to disseminate the design to key organizational influencers.

4. Test and refine the design. Stakeholder response leads us to produce a new iteration. This is in preparation of the next step.

5. Present the big idea. The final report is a testament to the work of the organization’s stakeholders… and becomes a powerful artifact for change.

Perfecting the use of “Gamification” Techniques to Increase Learner Engagement

Recently, we had to hold multiple sessions because demand for our webinar about Gamification was so overwhelming.  So what’s all of the excitement about?

The “gamification” of training designs isn’t new, it’s just newly popular and in more demand thanks to the highly publicized success of platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Gowalla.

Let’s start with a definition (from Wikipedia):

“Gamification is the use of game-thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts in order to engage users and solve problems. Gamification is used in applications and processes to improve user engagement, ROI, data quality, timeliness, and learning.”

The most important word in that paragraph is engagement. Because in the field of learning, engagement translates to retention; retention translates into application; and application translates into results. So if you want to drive results, drive engagement, and if you want to engage: gamify your learning.

At Blueline Simulations, we have been perfecting the use of “gamification” techniques to increase learner engagement for more than a decade.  Examples of how we do that include:

  1. Utilizing progress bars or other visual meters to indicate how close people are to completing a training element.
  2. Embedding casual games or game elements into the designs of our Blueprint Learning Visuals and our Level II & III eLearning designs.
  3. Using virtual currency in our business strategy and finance simulations.
  4. Incorporating peer challenge and feedback mechanisms into YouTube style best practice sharing.
  5. Constructing leaderboards, awarding points and conquering levels are all foundational to the design of our Level IV eSimulations.

Want to learn more.  Give the gamification experts at Blueline Simulations a call today!