Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lessons Learned: A Compliance Training Game

For the last two years I’ve been the consultant for designing a game to deliver compliance training for county-government employees. This is the second year of using a game design that is placed in SCORM-based tracking system used by 28 states. We benefited greatly from lessons learned between year one and two.


Compliance training is the required training around such topics as safety, workplace violence, harassment, and diversity. In Learning and Development vernacular, we sometimes refer to it as “cover your organization training” because state or federal law may define the need for training. In addition to the mandate to deliver such training is the coverage of liability. If employees are provided with such training, record exists in cases where employees violate such practices.


After our initial conversation with the client in year one,  I proposed a scenario-based online design or a game design. We incorporated the two approaches by providing some scenarios that asked game participants to apply the policy to decisions about the scenarios.As a designer, I bought a game-based template subscription. Though not fully familiar with the subscription, we approached the vendor with some changes to the features of the game we’d selected. They provided a programmer (for a fee) to provide the changes.

The next step was to ensure that participants could register  and be tracked and transcripted in a tracking system.  This required us to make the content SCORM compliant to connect to the tracking system used by the state of Colorado known as CO. Train, used by a total of 28 states. This also required the hosting of content on a server that allowed the connection to the tracking system.

The Registration and Tracking System

In designing the content, attention was paid to how game answers and prompts were provided to reinforce the accurate policies and practice for the compliance topics while the participant played the game. The intention was to support learner success in the game while learning the policy-defined behaviors during game play, rather than separate from it.

The IT division not only served to host and connect to the tracking system, they were pilot participants for the game. They needed to participate in the compliance training, and they were also able to articulate potential barriers with the delivery. After their completion, they then served as the Help Desk for other organizational participants.

Over two hundred employees completed the online sessions.  One of the findings was almost all employees now had accounts in the course tracking system, and would be familiar with logging in for future courses. Additionally, we had figured out how to use the reports from that system for other types of training transcripts.


In the initial planning session for year two,  we could see how much we had learned about our process in year one, and how that learning could inform project efficiencies—both in the delivery and the cost of offering this delivery. This was evident with an easy draft of project tasks. At the year two planning meeting, we were easily able to assign names and dates to the task timeline.The initial planning meeting was to discuss what type of game template we might want to use. 

The customers asked for deliveries that could be done online and in face-to-face sessions, as some locations don’t have internet connections or access to many computers. Also discussed was the expected level of knowledge—rather than applying the knowledge, the intent for this training was to confirm that participants had knowledge of the policies.

With fuller knowledge of what was available in the game subscription, we chose similar templates to serve both populations.

The game format reduced the offering of 4 courses to 1.  In the first year, with the many programming and edits we had to do, we ultimately, launched the project 3 weeks behind the projected schedule. In year two, we launched on-schedule, allowing a last test run a week prior to the year-two anticipated launch.

While we still had a few bugs to work out with the test, our de-brief surfaced only a few more issues related to information about Browser versions, and the launch email that was ignored by some because it did not come from the expected sender of the email (Rather than Training, IT sent it.)

That said, the completion numbers were good, the satisfaction level was good, with improved efficiencies.


I’d chosen an html5 template for this year’s game with the idea of testing its performance across devices. I was hesitant to test it during this run, but personally tried it on a tablet with success. Upon sharing this information in the de-brief, there was talk about using it with smartphones for a future date. Of course, the visual display would be tested.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Have You Been Scanned for 3D?

I’ve been following the development of 3D printing for a while. The most notorious coverage has been for 3D gun manufacturing, I realize. But the potential is truly so much larger. To begin, 3D printing is the process of using a drafting software to capture layers and print an object, one dimension beyond software the allowed for dimensional drawing on a flat surface as defined by Oxford:

How does this work? This quick video that lays out the basics and the range of development:

Recently, I’ve been following the very exciting sector of bioprinting and what it might offer medically. In this example, bioprinting is used to “print “ cells right onto a patient’s burn, to speed the development of new skin: 

I’d read about an exhibit exploring 3D developments this fall in the NY Times. When the opportunity to visit the The Museum of Art and Design in NYC in December, ( I put it high up on the list of places to visit. A current exhibit titled, “Beyond Hands” spans three floors that showcase how 3D is impacting everything from wearables, to weavables, and furniture.

We had the opportunity to visit with one of the designers in residence as well. She expressed enthusiasm for the variety of materials being tried as the material from which the 3D items are manufactured, everything from plastics, to paper, to metal, and plant extracts for bio-degradables. As a designer of wearable technology, she had not been pleased with the fact that the plastics were not washable, a problem for items worn against the skin.

One exhibitor ( invited attendees to stand on a rotating platform and have a body scan that could be printed into a tiny 3D figure. One of my family members and myself decided to enjoy the experience. And here’s the process of my scan filmed by our daughter. Captured in the less than 2 minute video are the use of the camera, and the exhibit of the scanned person onto the software on the computer.


I had an interesting reaction to this experience. I know I am not totally pleased with my physical appearance, but for whatever reason, I thought, “ Well this is who I am, what I look like.” It was a moment of acceptance, which surprised me—an unexpected bi-product.

And my action figure arrived just this week!  I’ve had some humorous moments thinking about a collection of these with family members or with office teams—you could replay moments of family reunions with the therapist, or work through team dynamics played out by these action figures.

A few days after the arrival, an Hershey's announced printable chocolate: So imagine possilbe 3D action favors...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Connecting Social Media to Exhibits: From Not-So-Good to Good

Between November and December of 2013, I had the opportunity to visit a number of art and Smithsonian museums in Denver, Washington, DC, and New York.

While each of the items below show one way engagement, they are examples of curatorial techniques intended to increase viewer engagement and enjoyment through the provision of additional  digital content about the exhibit.

The use of social media to provide more information for the public is something I typically look for. Museums are connecting the public through Facebook and Websites, and then provide QR codes or recordings available from mobile phones.

Some experiences were better than others. For example, I was excited to see QR codes in the Western Art area of Denver Art Museum (DAM) at, but could not get them to play after I scanned them. I thought, well maybe the network is overloaded, or maybe my phone can pull up the web inside the current architecture, but the QR’s would not play even when I tried them at home. More work/information/support is needed for these. In digging around on the web, I found an app for DAM QR, but the user commented that he or she was not able to read any of the QR’s either.

A really good experience with QR was at the National Botanical Gardens in DC, I was able to clearly listen to a recording about plants before the development of flowers. It was short in duration, which probably indicates attention to the average attention span, and forwarding traffic flow through the particular exhibit.

Last in this set of observations was the Museum of Art and Design in NY. The signage for a special exhibit, Out of Hand (digital printing) was very good.  It included information on how to access audio remarks with mobile devices. Exhibits were numbered to correlate with the recordings on the mobile website:
The museum site also included videos about the exhibit.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hour of Code Week: Engaging Students in Coding

In addition to textual, numeric, and graphic literacies for today's world, technology is another. But it isn't just about playing with or using devices, it's about being able to design sequences to operate them.

Hour of Code is a December 9 - 15th campaign to encourage students to try coding, and a number of sites are available to coach students through coding processes. 

The Computer Science in Education site provides terrific resources for learners and teachers:

Khan Academy introduces learners to  tutorials with this brief intro:

Welcome to our Hour of Code!
Pamela welcomes you to our programming community here. If YouTube is blocked for you and this video doesn't load, just keep going!

In addition, startups like Play-i are hosting live events that allow students to program two of their toys, Bow andYana, two programmable toys very successfully funded by crowdsourcing:

While the following brief video is a product promo, the method of embedding learning into play comes across, and it is a very old idea--in the past, children were often given toys to model activities they would do as adults.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Why I Have Not Been Blogging

I know there is a relationship between blog content and other social media. My excuse? I've been reading and writing offline this summer and fall.

To that end, I read and reviewed a book on scenario based e-learning, and am about to revise a co-authored chapter on competency-based instructional design. 

The review is out online (paper to follow) and is available here:

So glad to have had the chance to read and review Ruth Colvin Clark's Scenario-Based e-Learning:

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Many Ways of Knowing, Connecting

Some days are overwhelming in the gifts and insights they provide. I have this life partner who serves and supports other people, and has a zany humor. I know great minds that work to serve learning, and I belong to such a creative arts group, that knits shawls to provide support and comfort to people undergoing medical treatment. I sense and cherish that there are many words in our universe that express gratitude and community. Thanks for all of this.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Key to Models for Completion--Institutional Urgency

Back in the news is the national charge to support post-secondary degree completion, led by President Obama. And the post from the Chronicle of Higher Ed ( reminds us these are existing efforts re-visited.

Reminders are not a bad thing, necessarily. Financial aid policy and tying institutional funding to awards are more carrot than stick incentives, though there is no shortage of arguments to be made for  cutting awards that don't move a student toward some meaningful learning achievement.

There is promise in freeing the tyranny of the credit hour with several mechanisms: competency-based course and degree models, the acceptance of ACE determined credit for successful MOOC completion, PLA (credit awarded for prior training or other learning as demonstrated by exam or portfolios submitted by learners). 

A colleague of mine remarked "that higher ed culture functions on urgency," such as at the beginning or the end of the term, or in the year before the accreditation review.

Like climate disbelievers, we seem to be in a state of denial about the urgency for shifting the model. Included in the shift is the need to advise and orient students to the expectations that go with the opportunity (study skills, and decision-making), to make the college experience more goal-oriented (which we as faculty might consider both limiting and painful). Required advising, "intrusive advising" and the development of degree-maps to help students move from point A to certificate or degree most efficiently, are example of those efforts. (The FIPSE Project Maps-to-Credentials is one such effort on behalf of US military.)

In order to become conversant in the models, and competent negotiators of alternative learning models, various contingents of institutions need training and need to move beyond, "if it isn't ours, it isn't worthy." I can remember sitting in meetings in the nineties where institutions proudly proclaimed they would not accept any credit in transfer for distance delivery. Also in evidence, is how scores on AP and IB exams can be used to limit or undermine the transfer of those credits by incoming students. And the same goes for ACE credit wards. Because though trained faculty come together from various institutions to evaluate the award for a training or military experience, for example, it is still up to the local institution to decide if and how many of the recommended credit will be accepted, and whether they will be applied to a particular degree requirement, or only as an elective.

Are fear of loss of control, lack of knowledge in other instructional models, loss of teaching opportunity some of the equation? Yes. Like other curricular changes in the past, addressing these are part of the way forward.