Training Design

Questions about the learning innovations that are shaping 2015?  Blueline has the answers. 

New technologies are making it possible to create incredibly immersive learning solutions at a price point that wasn’t imaginable just a few years ago. For example, a Fortune 100 wireless carrier needed an immersive simulation with integrated social media to onboard and encourage networking among new Sales Representatives. Because retail and wireless change so often and so fast, the solution needed to be easy and cost effective to update and maintain. Learn how Blueline partnered with our client to design a 3D “Level 4” simulation that could influence your learning organization’s vision for the future.

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Onboarding Sales Professionals with Online Simulation

In a previous blog, I described how we created an award winning onboarding experience for the legendary consulting firm: Booz Allen Hamilton. And in the one prior to that, I outlined our secret recipe. (If you missed that blog you may want to take a look now, because I’m going to showcase new ways to provide context, create a strong first impression, ensure engagement and fun, and reflect the client’s culture.)

Today I’d like to tell you about an ambitious “Level 4” simulation we developed. That is, it uses a gaming engine with rules and probabilities, as well as deeply pathed scenarios that mimic real-life customer interactions.

We built it for a retail client who was looking for an immersive, updatable experience for their Sales Representatives in an accurate store setting. And given the fast-paced nature of this retail space, our team’s goal was to build an experience that could be easily updated.

We developed a solution that uses a “mashup”of several technologies. It’s broken into several components which all work together to speed learner development: the Overview, the Virtual Store and the ASK System.

The Overview of the course is a 3D model of a typical retail store.  It showcases all of the devices that can be found in the stores and provides links with detailed information and videos. Facets of the store, such as the demonstration area, use green screen video of a narrator in front of rendered virtual elements to instruct on its use. Because change is constant in a retail environment, all of the devices can be easily updated or changed, and the information provided in many of the links often points to materials that exist elsewhere to simplify maintenance.

After exploring the Overview, learners are invited to navigate the Virtual Store and interact with customers. They “walk” through the environment by panning with the mouse or using the arrow keys. As they encounter customers in the store, they can click on them to begin a sales interaction. There are dozens of scenarios, each representing a different sales conversation with multiple endpoints. They focus on a range of relevant sales concepts: either a service, a detailed portion of the sales process, or the features and functions of a new product. As they interact with each customer, the learner can experience a range of up to nine animated emotional states.

Learners are evaluated on sales and customer satisfaction. Relative success in one scenario can cause other “virtual” customers in the store to be angry or happy, which affects subsequent interactions. Feedback is typically provided at the end of the interaction.

In the ASK System, we filmed and indexed approximately 100 videos of our client’s associates to support best practices, tips, and advice on selling. The videos serve as a virtual coach and can be accessed at any time via search or in response to frequently asked questions. Using tagging and scoring, the videos (and associated FAQs) intelligently arrange themselves based on rating and “relatedness” to the video that is currently being viewed.

Together, the Overview, the Virtual Store and the ASK System provide new learners with a comprehensive, risk free learning environment in which they can hone their skills. And because the content is kept up to date, learners are encouraged to return often to use it as reference and to learn about new devices and sales techniques as they are introduced.

It’s another great example of how virtual tools are creating incredibly robust learning solutions at a price point that wasn’t possible even five years ago. The world of learning is changing fast. At Blueline Simulations, we’re committed to staying on top of it, and bringing you the very latest and best technologies.

We’ve got a few more learning tricks up our sleeves. We’d love to show you, and then help you imagine the incredible levels of efficiency, engagement, retention and organizational change that are available to organizations like yours.

Gamification – It’s More Than Keeping Score.

As our previous posts have alluded to, gamification is the current hot topic in training.  And there is real power in well-designed, effective gamification in other aspects of life, as David Hutchens mentioned last week. Many people are now discovering the power of gamification combined with social networking to make positive changes to their weight and health through apps like LoseIt, and Fitocracy. Even insurance companies are developing apps to take advantage of the power, such as UnitedHealth Group’s OptumizeMe, an app that allows people to participate in fitness-related contests with their friends.

Building an effective game or engaging training experience that uses game elements is more than just adding score keeping, and challenges. Jesse Schell in his book, The Art of Game Design. A Book of Lenses, suggests that effective game design is all about creating an engaging experience – one that draws players in and that they would want to repeat. As training designers we need to consider not “what game elements can I add,” but what will make this experience memorable, unique and engaging. After all, retention of the experience (and thus the learning) is the real goal.

As David mentioned in his post, at Blueline Simulations, we combine the elements of play, competition, and feedback to enrich our designs. We enhance the power of these elements by placing them within unique visual and story contexts to make them both more engaging and memorable. Whether it is a one-of-a-kind Blueline Blueprint ™ (learning visual), rich with visual metaphor and client specific detail, or one of our custom eSimulations, the story and content always come first. They provide the context, rationale and “stickiness” that bring the training to life and make it effective at generating results.

Give us a call, and we’ll explore not just how to gamify your learning programs, but how to build engaging experiences that change behavior and get business results.

What’s Your Goal?

What should be a training designer’s goal? The answer would seem obvious: design a training solution. While that may be the product the designer produces, it should not be the goal.

Recently I’ve been reading Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. While at Blueline we often find a serious game or game-like element is an effective part of a training solution, I’ve found that the lenses that Schell offers extend beyond games to training solutions in general.

In chapter two Schell states, “Ultimately, a game designer does not care about games. Games are merely a means to an end. On their own, games are just artifacts – clumps of cardboard, or bags of bits. Games are worthless unless people play them. Why is this? What magic happens when games are played?

When people play games, they have an experience. It is this experience that the designer cares about. Without the experience, the game is worthless.

I think we could easily substitute “training” for “game” in his statement and it would fit nicely. Yes, I’m fully aware of Bloom’s taxonomy and it’s importance in writing clear and specific objectives for a training solution. And I strongly support the theory that the ultimate outcome of any training should be a positive impact on business results. However, from a designer’s perspective, the goal should be to design an experience that leads to those results.

That’s why we say that at Blueline we focus on immersive learning experiences, whether they be simulations (classroom or esim ), virtual classrooms, learning visuals , or even large group communications events. To paraphrase Schell’s question, “What magic happens when Blueline training occurs?” it is the rich immersive experience that produces the results.

Keeping the learner’s experience in mind throughout the design and development process leads to a set of questions beyond just “was the content clearly communicated?” and “was ample practice provided for skill development?” Thinking about designing an experience that leads to powerful learning means continually asking questions like:

  • What frame of reference is the learner likely to have at this point?
  • How receptive to learning will the learner be? How can we increase that receptivity?
  • How have the previous elements or activities likely affected the energy and focus of the learner? How will this element or activity impact that focus or energy level?
  • How can we engage the learner’s interest, curiosity, and/or emotions with this material?
  • How might we have the learner “disagree” to incite more passion about the topic?
  • What methods can we use so the learner must actively engage with the material rather than merely serve as a passive recipient of information?
  • Would a “failure”or a “success” at this point be more likely to engage the learner? Increase the stickiness of the learning?
  • What situation can we setup so the learner actively creates his or her own learning? Or generates his or her own data?

When we design with the learner’s experience in mind, we keep the learner and not the content front and center. Developing a training that puts the learner at the center more often than not results in greater learning comprehension and stickiness.