Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do!

Live session with Brent Schlenker: Marketers and Game Developers Know More About Learning Than We Do! hosted by Training Magazine Network.


Disclaimers: “I am not a marketer or a game developer.”  (Although he plays a LOT of games).

When he listens to game developers talk, feels like they’re in the learning prof.

Everything IS about learning. 

Brent’s background:

What I am:  15+ yr learning professional, lifelong learner, player, consumer.

  • news – using media to tell stories.
  • Masters degree in Instructional Systems Design Process
  • 10 years at Intel working in tools.

How do we use new and emerging technologies in the learning space?

We don’t typically create the new tools in eLearning – that innovation is happening in other places – e.g., marketing.

What’s coming down the pike so we can prepare our learners for them?

Point of today’s conversation: talking training, design and development if a marketing person were doing it. Or a game developer.  What cool things are other areas doing that we can leverage to make us better designers and developers?

Comment (Julie S):  “My first boss said that training is very much selling.”

Marketers are REALLY good at understanding who their target audience is.

People, Context, Content

Corporate ISD:

  • When working with a Subject Matter Expert (SME), they have a tendency to put everything into the training.
  • In corp learning space, we have a tendency to give in to that.  We bow to the will of the SME…
  • Little room for creativity

New technology gives us new tools. 

Marketing Depts:

  • Marketing dept always has the money.  That’s where most creative talent in organizations go.  This is where business finds the value, which is why marketing is where the dollars go.
  • They also get the resources to analyze the data.
  • What are they doing that’s different?
  • How do they measure success?  Are the expectations on marketing depts greater than on training? 
  • Marketing brings in the money.
  • A big part of marketing IS education --  what is the product? how does it add value?  why should you buy it?  This is the greatest connection between what we do…

Learners need to change behavior…which is what marketing does. 

Event-based learning vs. Learning Campaigns

Marketing talks about a CAMPAIGN. Learning talks about a curriculum.

A campaign is a series of events/operations/continuing storyline – not just a “set of courses”.

A campaign that’s a continuous storyline involving a set of adventures and characters (learners) to achieve a set goal…

Design and develop learning campaigns that involve storylines, adventure, social media, people – every campaign has a structure to it – there is a formal development/design process.  But there’s room to move. Different media involved in an ad campaign.  Let people engage with others in the learning process.

New tools make this easier to implement from cost perspective, but still a big time cost to developing/designing learning campaigns.

A learning campaign is different than a marketing campaign.  It’s not about t-shirts and email blasts – it’s about providing more ways for learners to engage with and access content.

World of Warcraft:  getting people into a shared space to figure out together how to get the boss (the bad guy).  Someone in comments wrote “sounds like a business strategy meeting!”

Get the Learner’s Attention

We use a lot of “fake” ways to get people’s attention…fun flash movie and then slide into the boring content…but I got their attention!  (Yes, we need to sustain that attention.)

Each person’s individual desire to learn something is what makes for engagement.  We’re not talking about “dressing up” content to fake that it’s engaging.

Book Recommendations:

Made to Stick (idea of attention – marketers do something shocking and unexpected, “unexpectedness”.)

A Theory of Fun (“games are puzzles to solve, just like everything else we encounter in life”)  The most serious issues we have to approach are puzzles.

Don’t just read learning design and pedagogy books.  Extend what you can do – think outside of your field.

Common Craft Videos

Great at explaining.  Now companies are coming to them to do marketing – to explain their products.


Why are these so memorable?  What can we learn from these infomericals?  What are they doing – how do they display information and what' they’re teaching us about their product?  Seems like an ID at work in there.

YouTube – videos – short hits to educate.  30-90 seconds.  A whole lot of info, but the right info when you need it.

Production costs have dropped – we can start adding a lot more media/engagement to our programs.

Quickly produce short tips.

Attention – ways marketers and game developers get our attention.  They do this well.

Analysis – really know their audience.

Objectives --

Measurement --

What you can do?

  • Keep it quick
  • Make it short
  • Be really creative
  • Make something that actually affects behavior (marketers want people to change their behavior – drink pepsi not coke, drink coke not pepsi)
  • Make it truly memorable

Don’t just need IDs on your staff – get some creatives in there who look at things a bit differently.

Understand gaming theory and gaming design. 

Put the customer/consumer/learner first.  We say we do…but we don’t often do it.

The best stuff is not trickery – it’s an engaging game; it’s a great product or service.  That’s all.  (Jeopardy is really kind of lame…)


Joe Fournier said...

Wow. Nice capture, Cammy. Mash this up with the chat and you practically have the whole session. Thank you!

Steve said...

Exactly! This is the same stuff that many in the learning field are already picking up on.

One of the cautions to this comparison, however, is that comparing resource pools will reveal that all things are not equal.

Consider the human resources and budget resources of marketing and game development firms / departments. The resource pools are significantly different, which may evidence one of the many reasons that the learning design craft doesn't parallel outputs that come from other media verticals and outlets.

It comes down, in part, to expectations. The admiration of folks in other fields that turn out superior learning products is a symptom of many things.

One other thing I'd point out - design skill and creativity are not mutually inclusive. It's a balance, high marks in both of these traits on a team usually results in a superior product. But creativity != design.

Cammy Bean said...

Now that I've sat back and thought about Brent's presentation for an hour, what really stands out to me is the concept of a Learning Campaign. This is different from getting the word out about your e-learning through a marketing campaign. Instead it's about taking an ad campaign approach to getting your content out there.

You get your tv commercial here, your print ad there, your strategic logo there, your live event here, your product endorsement, etc. Elements of an ad campaign.

So how would you do that as a Learning Campaign?

BunchberryFern said...

I'm totally with this. And agree with you on the potential for the learning campaign.

But most of all it's about treating learners as a customer, in the Peter Drucker sense of the word rather than some cheesy customer servce training.

I'm in the middle of getting all worked up about it in a series of blog posts (including this one about Guitar Hero and learning) and have been thinking how learning might benefit more of a multi-disciplinary approach.

Thanks for this.

Steve said...

We've actually switched to a layered, or campaign, strategy for much of our mandated training foundations design work.

The biggest transition in this strategy was to sideline everything we knew / know about how stuff was done in the past and establish a new set of principles.

The guiding pylons of our effort for mandated training campaign have become:

1. Respect the learner's time and environment.

2. Focus on relevance.

That's where we started. We moved on to establish an open philosophy that encouraged our design teams to examine things like measurement points, objectives, etc.. The results were:

1. We were measuring the wrong things.
2. The right things are things we can't and shouldn't measure at our level.

The follow-on result was that the development of the campaign transformed into a campaign itself.

We worked with the responsible program element to help them gather and establish their data baselines. So next year they have some measures that are NOT individual measures to see if the whole campaign is having an impact on stuff like workplace violence, sexual harassment / assault, substance abuse, etc..

Level 2 assessments are sad (worthless) measurements of organizational impact. L2 is great for short term evaluation of the product, but falls short over time as a good measure.

All of these considerations were part of the strategic campaign. We stopped thinking 'this product' and started thinking 'bigger'. We built in things like message posters, and constructed brief PSA's that echoed some well shaped messages that could be reused throughout the organization for consistency. This was a concerted effort to carry the message. It's a campaign.

During this cycle, it became clear that eLearning efforts that came before were trying to be self contained learning apparatus (SCLA.) And this was pretty much... wrong.

We've started to transition to a campaign mode. And one of the principles of eLearning 'fit' in the performance solution ecosystem is that, for many cases and in our estimation, self-directed packages aren't ever everything. Think of solutions as layers. And if we use a paint metaphor, eLearning is almost never color or clear coat.

In our strategic campaigns, eLearning stuff fits well as primer and can serve well as wax.

Other extensions to the campaign approach change the way we design and package media. For example, one of the typical patterns for learning design echos PPT presentation design. We're trying to move away from this model to a natural knowledge access and practice model. People know how to read and when packaged well articles can be pretty effective when combined with appropriate media activities, presentations, and practice opportunities.

So in addition to providing useful artifacts, we move away from a packaged experience on rails and towards an experience that allows experience flexibility. Each of the MT's has a prescriptive Test-out mode that tells learners where their weak areas are.

It's early but it's a lot more fun than a lot of the typical D&D output. The indications we are getting from both the design teams and the stakeholders have been consistently 'this is liberating... why have we not always done things this way?'

Patrick Dunn said...

Great summary.

I find this note very sad though: "Don't just need IDs on your staff - get some creatives..."

For me, the process of learning design is as creative as you get. But sadly, too many of those whose job it is to "design" learning content (IDs, learning designers) have very little interest in creativity. Indeed, the limited, and not particularly robust research I've done in the area suggests that the great majority of IDs are of MBTI profiles that don't particularly favour creativity.

Anyway - don't want to make this too long, so more at http://patrickdunn.squarespace.com/occasional-rants/2009/9/23/dont-just-use-ids-get-some-creatives.html

bschlenker said...

Wow! I'm feeling late to my own post-mortem! LOL!

First, HUGE thanks Cammy for capturing all of my wild, and seemingly random thoughts. You ROCK!

And B, Great comments! Cammy, your delayed thought is EXACTL where I was headed with the Learning Campaign idea. SO glad you picked up on that. I definitely am not simply talking about marketing what we do to the rest of the organization.

And sflowers, Wow! I'd like to know who you work for. Sounds like you have found the right groove for eLearning. I would love to hear more. Will you be attending DevLearn09?

Hi Patrick! I consider myself a creative and its VERY difficult to do creative design work in this industry. You really need to be in a corp. culture, with management that likes to make creativity happen...EVEN if it fails. That's hard to find.

I would like to continue the Learning Campaign conversation. Like I said in the webinar, I know I'm not the first person to think of this, and so I'd like to know why it hasn't caught on? And let's see if we can start a movement towards making Learning Campaigns part of the corporate training culture.

Thanks EVERYONE! See you at DevLearn in November!

Cammy Bean said...

So how is a Learning Campaign different from blended learning?

It's like putting the blend on steroids. But thinking more strategically -- at a broader level?

You have to be able to describe why and how that's different...

Julie Dirksen said...

I think the campaign idea is an excellent notion, for a number of reasons, but primarily because it treats learning & behavioral change as a process and not an event.

So, instead of a single e-learning course on teamwork that begins and ends, how about a campaign that has prior to / during /after?

For example--

Prior to:

- Email teasers
- A fun survey about their take on the issue (with some real questions)
- A daily count-down top-ten list of teamwork issues the training will address.


- Material that leverages the data from the prior-to activities
- Activities that require the learner to plan how they are going to use the course material when they get back to their job (I just blogged about that, actually http://bit.ly/LpI30)
- "Ask me about teamwork XYZ" tchotchkes for people's desks (cheesy, I know, but cheesy does not necessarily equal ineffective, particularly in marketing)
-Homework assignments in other media (post to a blog, forum, etc)


- Periodic follow-up tips on a blog / intranet site / email
- Extra job aids (cards, or print outs or posters)
- Solicit questions or issues for a Dear Abby-style advice blog
- Have a "Best Use" contest after the fact -- whoever can submit a story of the best way that they have used some from the training wins an ipod (or whatever the hot gadget is - *not* a company t-shirt, but something good)
- A continuing "what would you do?" soap opera style scenario that comes out weekly.
- Rotating designated responsibility to monitor discussion boards, and get involved.

Just some quick brainstormed thoughts, but a lot of those things are cheap. Timing is a factor (campaigns would be easier to coordinate with an event training or e-learning), but some things could be available regardless of time frame.

The crucial notion (for me) is still the idea of multiple exposures -- in addition to spacing effect and distributed practice, you just stand a better chance of catching the user at a "You know, that WOULD be useful with the problem I am having right now" moment.

Steve said...

Hi, Cammie -

To me, and that's who I think the label campaign is most important to at this point of exploration and evaluation, a campaign doesn't imply simply learning type solutions.

One of the shortcomings of most eLearning (a label that I have come to despise) products is that they end up being isolated interventions. Stove pipes that eventually fall over or are forgotten, in part, because they aren't connected to anything else that matters.

As organizations we have gotten so involved in the technology, development, and design expectations that go along with all this new fangled glory that we have forgotten that it's not always about training. For example, in my organization, we have a classic training bent. There are misalignments in expectations both within our training 'departments' as well as those that receive trainees in the field. That expectation is that (1) Training people own all of the learning in the organization and (2) People are going to be journeymen when they arrive at the field unit. Both of these are skewed, as they discount what really happens and where experience really comes from. This results in a serious shortage of journeymen and masters. We are potentially stuck in a situation where we have moderately experienced apprentice-journeymen, even at senior levels, once those that received proper coaching and mentoring depart the organization. This is scary.

And this is why I really like the term campaign. It doesn't imply an event based solution, or even a series of event based solutions. Rather it implies a commitment to hooking into the right stuff and providing a strategic deployment of solution elements that might not simply include training. A campaign is intentional, strategic, and holistic.

For example, we are trying to work with programs that aren't really training departments. There are a few things that we are trying to do with those departments.

First, we partner as equals in the project. The SME's no longer rule the roost and we better have a darn good reason for inclusion of everything we package. We take everything back to formula, challenge prior curriculum outlines / objectives, and shape the foundations to match the real goals of the organization. Many folks say they do this, heck - we said we 'did' this. Now we're putting our money where our mouth is and so far the juice is worth the squeeze.

Second, we get a commitment from the department and explore the other resources and initiatives that they have or are working on. We want to be able to leverage those efforts, as well as provide value to them with our effort. Think bigger. It's a campaign.

Third, we encourage the department to own the evaluation of the campaign stages. We do this by helping them map out their baselines and current state data, so that down the road we can look at organizational impact.

Blended learning is good. But it implies something that is still isolated in many ways. And it implies training.

The campaign can be simple. It can manifest as a blended learning campaign or a simple course.

Or it could be a complex five year plan with evaluation milestones, multiple 'sorties', a content strategy, community of practice, set of job aids, marketing collateral, partnership agreements, policy re-write, cultural adjustment planning (long game marketing), etc..

I'm at a conference this week, but I'll try to run up a blog post detailing more specifics as well as a model that represents the layered perspective - a Performance Solutions Ecosystem - that gives many opportunities their due.

Brent, I'm Coast Guard to the core. That's where I work:)

Steve said...

Also... sat through a presentation that worked to define a common lexicon to define just what a serious game is.

My responses during the Q/A were (I felt like a dick for bringing it up):

1. Rarely do the folks making the decision to select a serious game have the experience, tools, or heuristics to make a value judgement that selects this medium.

2. Extend this to many of the teams that attempt to design and build these games. Think about the trouble that many ISDs (as well as ISDs trapped in oppressive cultures) have moving beyond the simplest end of Bloom's taxonomy / Costa's Q levels. We can't really expect a magical transformation even at the design level. Beyond the design level, most serious games I've seen that weren't developed by professional game development houses were pretty inauthentic (script and narration were not well executed) and embarrassingly misguided (gratuitous and senseless use of the medium.) The teams for A, AA, AAA titles, movies, etc. are HUGE. The stuff is expensive and most if not all of the team members are at the top of their game. They know their medium and they know how to make it work. How many ISD's that try to develop serious games have studied game progression patterns? How many actually play games? There is an unfair expectation being projected to a field of folks that don't have the world view to design lower level experiences. I'm not saying that most of them can't (some aren't built that way.) But education programs focus on academic elements. They don't project design skill because most of the staff don't have these skills themselves. Practice, apprenticeship, observation and keen interest -- all over a LOT of time and with ample and well framed feedback from a master of the craft -- are required to sharpen design skills. This is pretty rare.

3. Extend this even further to the business weasels at the vendor / service agency. Where's the incentive for these folks to say 'wait a minute, you're asking for a 2 million dollar solution where a 10k solution will solve most of your problem.' Just doesn't happen. So we reinforce a culture (I'm speaking government) where we can try to hit problems with a really big hammer no matter whether we can see the real problem or not.

Start with part-task focus. Establish principles that work well in simpler outputs. Then move onto the hard stuff when we're ready.

I wince a bit when I hear someone talk about serious games. Because it's more complex than most staffs can handle and it doesn't align with the resources that most organizations have for execution. Talking about it without injecting caveat really doesn't do anything but mislead the audience.