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I just read a vendor blog post that lists the pros and cons of gamification.

PLEASE, let us be smarter than this!

Gamification is NOT a THING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There can be NO pros and cons to gamification…

Gamification is a label for dozens of specific factors, each of which can be used or not used, or used alone or in concert with other gamification learning factors.

Here is a small list of gamification factors (just off the top of my head):

  1. competing against a standard
  2. competing against others
  3. being given some sort of non-tangible "award" for perseverance
  4. being given some sort of non-tangible "award" for some level of success
  5. being given some sort of non-tangible "award" randomly as you "play"
  6. working on a team
  7. escaping a threat
  8. working toward a specific goal
  9. performing with a time constraint
  10. et cetera (ad infinitum?)

[Hey, if anybody has published a list of gamification factors, let me know and I'll post it.]

Seriously, when we oversimplify, we not only show our ignorance of the magical complexity of human learning and cognition, we also hurt our own thinking and problem solving and those of every person with whom we are communicating.

Sure, some vendor wants to sell gamification. I get that. But what is really being said is: some vendor wants to sell gamification to the most vulnerable within our profession (newbies, etc.) and even to the less vulnerable and even to the best-and-brightest who may have a temporary brain freeze from such miscommunication.

No, no, no! Sorry! That's too cynical, right! Probably the vendor honestly thinks that their list of pros and cons is being helpful. Probably the vendor doesn't really understand that all of us must look more deeply than our industry's surface ripples.

How to end this blog post? Hmmm. This is difficult. I'm not sure. Okay, I got it.

Final advice:

  1. Evaluate the labels used in the learning industry.
  2. Seek the constituent factors.
  3. Get data on their causal effects.
  4. Hire learning experts from time to time to reality check your learning designs.
  5. Give yourself a gold star for reading this blog post to the end.
  6. You have reached WAWL Level 2, performing better than 92.4% of your colleagues!
  7. To get to WAWL Level 3, do a Google Search of Gamification, find a list of Gamification Factors, and send me the link.
  8. To get to WAWL Level 4, create your own list, reflect on what you discover, post it somewhere, and send me the link.
  9. May the forces of the Neo Elepha keep you safe on your journey. WHO-LA!

 

I created a list of eLearning Paradigms to talk about subscription learning, but I think the list could stand on its own–and I'd like comments to see what I've missed.

Our Thinking on eLearning is Still Evolving 500px

Elearning is still a relatively young field, having its start in the 1960's during the advent of the computer age and gradually gaining a critical mass after the internet became a mass phenomenon. Because it's a young field, we are still learning how to think about elearning. With each new paradigm, we think more deeply, more fully about what elearning is–and can be. Below is my categorization of the most important elearning paradigms as of 2014.

eLearning Paradigms 2014

  • Content Presenter (enables content to be presented to learners)
  • Comprehension Tester (enables learners' knowledge to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Practice Provider (enables learners' decision-making to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Performance Supporter (enables performers to be prompted toward action)
  • Reminder (enables learners or performers to be reminded to learn and/or take action)
  • Social Augmentation Provider (enables learners to learn from and with each other)
  • Gamification Provider (provides motivational incentives and behavioral prompts to action)
  • Mobile Learning Provider (provides learning and/or performance support through mobile technology)
  • Data Utilizer (enables data collection and data-based interventions)
  • Video Provider (enables video to be utilized in various ways)
  • Learning Organizer (provides organizational structure around learning opportunities)
  • Personalizer (enables content or prompting to be individualized or tailored)
  • Learning-Delivery Augmenter (enables easy delivery of content or prompting) 
  • Context-Based Triggerer (enables content or prompting to be delivered depending on context)
  • Cost Saver (enables learning to be delivered at a lower cost)

I'm sure that I'm missing some elearning paradigms. You might have noticed that I'm only listing elearning memes that have a positive connotation. I am not mentioning such things as boring, trivial, poorly-designed. Also, some of the list may not be true, or may not always be true. For example, I've recently read research that shows that elearning is not often a cost saver. The bottom line, however, is that the list above represents a good number of the ways in which we tend to think about elearning.

Here's the thing: The paradigms listed above represent the dominant mental models we use when we think about elearning. As Thomas Kuhn wrote many years ago, paradigms are a double-edge sword. On the one hand, they help us think. On the other hand, they put boundaries on what we think. For us in the learning field, we get both benefits and costs from our elearning paradigms. They help us consider ways that we might design or utilize elearning. On the darker side, they constrict our thinking. One of the reasons we created the eLearningManifesto was to get the field to think beyond some of its weaker paradigms.

What are your thoughts on the dominant elearning paradigms?

If you want to learn more about subscription learning–offered as an additional paradigm for elearning, you can do that at SubscriptionLearning.com.

To put it simply, subscription learning is a radical new paradigm in elearning. It enables us to think about elearning in new ways–in ways that challenge our old mental models of elearning.

Elearning is still a relatively young field, having its start in the 1960’s during the advent of the computer age and gradually gaining a critical mass after the internet became a mass phenomenon. Because it’s a young field, we are still learning how to think about elearning. With each new paradigm, we think more deeply, more fully about what elearning is–and can be. Below is my categorization of the most important elearning paradigms as of 2014.

eLearning Paradigms 2014

  • Content Presenter (enables content to be presented to learners)
  • Comprehension Tester (enables learners’ knowledge to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Practice Provider (enables learners’ decision-making to be tested–and feedback provided)
  • Performance Supporter (enables performers to be prompted toward action)
  • Reminder (enables learners or performers to be reminded to learn and/or take action)
  • Social Augmentation Provider (enables learners to learn from and with each other)
  • Gamification Provider (provides motivational incentives and behavioral prompts to action)
  • Mobile Learning Provider (provides learning and/or performance support through mobile technology)
  • Data Utilizer (enables data collection and data-based interventions)
  • Video Provider (enables video to be utilized in various ways)
  • Learning Organizer (provides organizational structure around learning opportunities)
  • Personalizer (enables content or prompting to be individualized or tailored)
  • Learning-Delivery Augmenter (enables easy delivery of content or prompting)
  • Context-Based Triggerer (enables content or prompting to be delivered depending on context)
  • Cost Saver (enables learning to be delivered at a lower cost)

I’m sure that I’m missing some elearning paradigms. You might have noticed that I’m only listing elearning memes that have a positive connotation. I am not mentioning such things as boring, trivial, poorly-designed. Also, some of the list may not be true, or may not always be true. For example, I’ve recently read research that shows that elearning is not often a cost saver. The bottom line, however, is that the list above represents a good number of the ways in which we tend to think about elearning.

Here’s the thing: The paradigms listed above represent the dominant mental models we use when we think about elearning. As Thomas Kuhn wrote many years ago, paradigms are a double-edge sword. On the one hand, they help us think. On the other hand, they put boundaries on what we think. For us in the learning field, we get both benefits and costs from our elearning paradigms. They help us consider ways that we might design or utilize elearning. On the darker side, they constrict our thinking. One of the reasons we created the eLearningManifesto was to get the field to think beyond some of its weaker paradigms.

Our Thinking on eLearning is Still Evolving 500px

The Subscription-Learning Meme

I am pushing the idea of subscription learning not just because it is aligned with the learning research on the spacing effect, but also because it gives us a completely new way of thinking about elearning. It opens elearning to new possibilities.

Where we often think of elearning content delivery as requiring relatively long events of 30 minutes or more, subscription learning lets us think of much shorter events spaced over time. Where we often think of performance support as being delivered through a single-focus system at a time of known need, subscription learning can prompt a series of thoughts or actions even when learners don’t know they need to know. Where we think that learners have to seek their own learning nuggets, subscription learning can push learning to learners to better support learning as a process.

I've been an observer of elearning for almost 30 years. I've seen brilliant, compelling, effective elearning. I've built some pretty damn good elearning too. And yet, after four decades of human effort to improve elearning, there's still way, way, way too much mediocre elearning created each year.

A lot of us have been grumbling about the sorry state of elearning for a long time. Michael Allen, Clark Quinn, and Julie Dirksen and I have had numerous discussions through the years. Finally, having become so uncomfortable with the unmovable status quo of elearning–and feeling a responsibility to do something, anything–we got together last year to strategize on how we could bend the curve of elearning, to help elearning fulfill its promise.

Next Wednesday, we will reveal the result of our efforts.

You can get a little hint of what we've come up with by the name of the effort's website.

eLearningManifesto.org

In a very real sense, Michael, Julie, Clark, and I are mere compilers of the research and work of many. What we've done is to channel the wisdom of scientific researchers, world-class elearning designers, and elearning thought leaders. We have developed a set of values and principles that great elearning–what we're calling Serious eLearning–should possess. We've reality-checked these principles through the feedback of a representative sampling of the world's best elearning–and learning-and-performance–advocates.

Below, I will share our list of Trustees, but let me conclude by sharing my hopes for this effort:

  • That a serious, persistent, and meaningful conversation begins.
  • That more-and-more of us take responsibility to improve elearning.
  • That elearning developers have a guide for elearning design and deployment.
  • That elearning buyers have a set of guidelines to help them procure effective elearning.
  • That graduate schools emphasize the highest levels of elearning design principles.
  • That trade organizations certify at the highest levels of elearning competency.
  • That elearning lives up to its incredible promise for transforming the lives of students, employees, and citizens of the world.

 

Trustees: (listed in alphabetic order)

Clark Aldrich
Managing Director
Clark Aldrich Designs, LLC

Cammy Bean
VP of Learning Design
Kineo

Mohit Bhargava
President
LearningMate Solutions (Canada) Ltd.

Tony Bingham
President and CEO
ASTD

Jane Bozarth, PhD
ELearning Coordinator
State of North Carolina, USA

Bryan Chapman
Chief Learning Strategist
Chapman Alliance

Tamar Elkeles, PhD
Chief Learning Officer
Qualcomm

Joe Ganci
CEO
eLearning Joe

Judith A. Hale, PhD, CPT
CEO
The Institute for Performance Improvement, L3C

Jane Hart
Founder
Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies

David S. Holcombe
President & CEO
The eLearning Guild

Larry Israelite, PhD
Vice President & Manager
Corporate Learning and Development

John C. Ittelson PhD
Professor Emeritus
CSU Monterey Bay

Philip G. Jones
VP, Managing Partner
Training Magazine

Karl M. Kapp, EdD
Professor of Instructional Technology
Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA

Tony Karrer, PhD
CEO/CTO
TechEmpower

Connie Malamed
Learning Strategy Consultant
The eLearning Coach

M. David Merrill
Emeritus Professor
Utah State University

Cathy Moore
Training Design Consultant

Bob Mosher
Chief Learning Evangelist
APPLY Synergies

Koreen Pagano
Learning Consultant

Marc J. Rosenberg, PhD
Marc Rosenberg and Associates

Dr. Allison Rossett
Professor Emerita, Educational Technology
San Diego State University

Roger Schank
John Evans Professor Emeritus, Northwestern University
CEO, Socratic Arts

Patti Shank, PhD, CPT
Author, President, Learning Peaks LLC
Director of Research The eLearning Guild

Eric Shepherd
CEO
Questionmark

Clive Shepherd
Learning Technologist
Onlignment Ltd

Roderick Sims, PhD
Design Alchemist
Knowledgecraft, Australia

Brenda Sugrue, PhD
Chief Learning Officer
Kaplan Performance Solutions

Donald H. Taylor
Chairman
Learning and Performance Institute

Sivasailam Thiagi Thiagarajan
Resident Mad Scientist
The Thiagi Group

Reuben Tozman
CEO
SlideJar Inc.

Ellen Wagner
Partner and Senior Analyst
Sage Road Solutions LLC

 

Cammy Bean interviews me in regard to the three most important e-learning design flaws in today's e-learning. I discussed three—and then two more!! Five design flaws in all.

How's your e-learning?

Check out the interview here.

You can also download the segments as podcasts.

This article in Slate suggests that new fonts are coming to the web.

This opens up new territory for web designers and perhaps e-learning designers as well. Many e-learning designers think of web design as the default design for e-learning. Maybe the new web will usher in a new era of e-learning design as well.

One thing to watch out for: Do you or your team have the aesthetic training/empathy to know how to use fonts to set a mood, convey a meaning? Ahhh, something more to build.

A new journal is forming to support applied e-learning research. Check it out. Get involved.

Robert Gagne's 1st event of instruction was "Gain Attention." Michael Allen's company, Allen Interactions, has been saying for years, "No More Boring e-Learning." We've all heard the stories of how often e-learning turns learners off. And yet, there is still a whole lot of boring e-learning out there.

An article from the eLearning Guild helps us avoid the trap, specifically by helping us start our learning interventions in ways that grab attention. Paul Clothier interviews Carmen Taran, author of the book Better Beginnings.

Dan Balzer and Susan Manning offer an excellent Podcast on the topic. You can find the link to the Guild article at their web page as well.