Learning Portals – Transforming the learner’s experience

The term “learning portal” is used liberally in the training industry, but what does it really mean?

By common definition, a portal is described as a gateway, doorway or entrance. Likewise, in computing it generally refers to a website that provides links or gateways to other websites. This idea affords businesses with the opportunity to consolidate relevant learning resources and tools into one location to accomplish a specific business or learning goal.

So, how is a portal different from a Learning Management System (LMS)? It’s a fair question with a fuzzy answer.

LMS’ such as NetDimensions Talent Suite are highly configurable and are capable of providing a portal-like experience using out-of-the-box functionality. However, organizations commonly configure their LMS as a one-size-fits-all solution to provide a superset of content and tools for many people within the organization, and covering many different subject areas.

A custom portal, on the other hand, provides a learning experience that targets a specific business goal, audience or subject area to deliver a focused, holistic learning solution. Today, we see that businesses are developing portals for multiple subject areas, including:

  • New hire onboarding
  • Sales training
  • Service training
  • Manufacturing training
  • Compliance or technical training
  • Extended enterprise and more

 

So what’s the big deal?

Gamification: The Role of Mobile & Social

The always-on mobile age has reshaped the opportunity for gamification in every interaction in our connected lives. From “checking-in” on Facebook or Yelp to crossing off the latest achievement on our Fitbit, we are ready to highlight our achievements – and become participants in a gamification-driven engagement program.

Additionally, social interactions are common in all gaming platforms and are now expected in gamification mechanics. One of the most common social interactions in gamification is through badging, points, levels, or other social recognition techniques that showcase the skills, competencies, experiences, or accomplishments of users.

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Another social interaction is through challenges or contests against other users and the posting of top achievers on leaderboards or the social sharing of their accomplishments. Both these interactions increase engagement by rewarding (either directly or indirectly) users that perform the desired tasks or engage in the desired behaviors that show an understanding and retention of the training materials.

The confluence of these two trends presents an opportunity to introduce a mobile gamification strategy to your staff development and training programs.

In today’s always-connected age, every mobile employee is generally carrying a smartphone or a tablet and can be drawn into a gamified experience at any time, wherever they are.

Mobile games that include the same actions a learner must perform in real-life can further increase the responsiveness, engagement, and effectiveness levels. Moreover, mobile gamification can incorporate many of the functions and applications found on mobile devices expanding the depth and breadth of the learning experience. For example, use of the device camera to record a learner’s observation about a shop floor process that can be shared on a learning portal for peer-to-peer comment and rating resulting in the reward of points for the level of peer rating received. This type of activity, while not immersive, can draw the learner into the activity and maintain their interest.

Peer to Peer

As you review your mLearning programs, take a fresh look at how you can add gamification elements to the experience. Re-think how the learning experience can be created. You will not only make the learning program more engaging, but will be tapping into two emerging trends in learning and staff development.

For more about Gamification and its potential for learning and development, download our white paper Gamification – Does it have a place in your L&D Content Development?.

Gamification Ideas for Learning & Development Programs

In our previous post, we discussed the concept of gamification and how it puts both play and healthy competition back into learning and staff development. Now that you understand how gamification can support your learning program’s strategic goals, how do you get started?

Let’s start with the understanding that there are two general types of gamification activities in learning development:

  • Structural Gamification – assigning points, badges or rewards to structure a competition among an organization’s employees, business units or extended enterprise. Points or rewards could be achieved various elements of a curriculum or a course such as achieving passing scores on a required certification within a specified timeframe. Generally, these scores would be posted on a leaderboard or something similar, often within your learning management system or a dedicated learning portal.
  • Content Gamification – when gamification elements are wholly integrated into the content and the context is more game-like.  The entire course does not have to be game-like, rather just certain activities that add a level of completion.

Again, the intent is not create a game in and of itself, but to offer elements that make the learning more interesting and reward learners so they are more connected to the content.

A good place to start when considering gamification is to consider adding a structural framework to measure learner achievement and display it for others to view. 

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Points for completion of courses. If learners have profiles in your learning management system, make these points or cumulative score as part of the profile so they have an instant reminder of their progress.
  • Badges earned by learners as they pass assessments or achieve point levels. For example, for a basic assessment they could earn the “Newbie” badge and as they progress they earn other badges either tied to skill level (e.g. “Expert”) or to terms relative to the content (e.g. “Master Crafter” for construction focused content).  As users accumulate points from above and cross certain thresholds, give them a badge (e.g. 500 points = “Just Getting Started” and 1,000 points = “Getting Things Done”).
  • Leaderboards make the results visible and introduce a competitive nature to the learning experience. We suggest sharing everyone’s progress and featuring the current leaders in terms of points and badge accumulation.

Once you move past structural gamification, we get to Content Gamification where the level of effort increases – but so does the potential to create a dynamic learning experience.  Effective content Gamification for adult learners should always include three elements: 1) a timed experience, 2) the ability to accede to new levels, and 3) the assignment of points or other rewards for each step of a gaming experience.

Some examples of content gamification include:

  • Timed quizzes/knowledge checks: achieve more points for accuracy on the first try, more points for completing within certain established time ranges; adding audible or visual reinforcements such as bells for correct answers can make this experience more fun as well.
  • Simulations – create online versions of real world situations where trainees need to solve problems. Just like pilots that train in a safe environment, this gives your teams an opportunity to try different problem solving techniques and be rewarded for their success.
  • Immersive Experiences – providing a rich interactive experience brings learners deeper into content and lets them focus on the learning objectives. Potential opportunities in an immersive experience include:
    • Scenario-driven situations with branching
    • Story based experiences
    • Quests and challenges

The objective here is to create an immersive experience that wraps gamification around the learning content. And in these types of experiences, you can still add activities such as point accumulations, rewards, badges, levels, and other recognition that add a competitive framework to the learning process.

When you are done implementing any of these methods, you will have created a learning experience that creates active learners who willingly participate in an enjoyable learning program – while satisfying your strategic training and learning objectives.

For more about Gamification and its potential for learning and development, download our white paper “Gamification – Does it have a place in your L&D Content Development.”

LMS: Evolution or Extinction – 8 trends that change everything (Part 3 of 8): Compliance

Trend #3: Compliance
(Part 3 of 8)

Don’t Be Caught Unawares

Multinational and global companies deal with different regulations and various regulators around the world. Training records are nearly always reviewed during an inspection or audit by regulatory authorities to check that employees have received the appropriate training and their competencies or certifications are current and valid.

SOPs & Training Records

In environments where personnel are required to work according to written procedures, documented instructions or standard operating procedures (SOPs), there needs to be a set of guidelines that define the tasks to be done and what has to be documented to demonstrate that the activity was actually performed. If any deviations to the procedure are made, they have to be documented at the time of the deviation, not later.

Training plays an important part when implementing a new or updated SOP since the training is what teaches employees on the new procedures. This is where the learning management system (LMS) plays a vital role — being able to schedule and track the training of individuals on the SOP’s. It is critical that organizations are able to keep accurate records of individuals and their training plans.

Electronic versus Paper

There is no regulatory requirement that dictates whether organizations must use paper or electronic media to document their personnel training records; it is left to individual companies to make that decision. The major differences between the two media are:

Item Electronic Paper
Training Plan Generated in LMS, stored easily and accessible to all appropriate personnel Manually written and requires physical presence of the person to read the document
Training Class Individual signs on to a training class and is recorded in the LMS database Presence is recorded manually on an attendance sheet
Training Completion Completion is automatically recorded in the LMS database Course completion certifications have to be gathered and recorded manually
Real-time Data Always current Not always up-to-date as records are manually updated at a later point after the training is completed
Training Records Can easily view records online or printed as a report Reports have to be manually generated from certificates that have been gathered, which may be incomplete
Data Integrity Before each important operation in the LMS, an electronic signature (e-signature) is required before the operation can happen Manually signed or initialed documents are not easy to verify or prove as valid
Version Control Electronic training records are accurately updated with the  exact version of courses taken; course revisions can automatically trigger required training to maintain compliance Paper-based document control is prone to mistakes; paper records are difficult to control, may be lost/misplaced or changed without anyone knowing and version control is hard
Audits Changes made to sensitive data are audited in the database with info on the type of change, who made it and when. Changes include any creation, update or deletion of sensitive data. Physical checklists, manually recorded

Compliance-LMS3of7
LMS Compliance Considerations

  • e-signatures in audit tracking
  • competencies and certifications
  • proactive reporting, dashboards, and analytics
  • easy access to compliance content

Given the above, are compliance checklists and reactive reporting enough from a risk perspective versus true workforce readiness and proactive compliance dashboards?

This is the third of an eight-part series on LMS: Evolution or Extinction — 8 Trends that Change Everything.

Gamification: Putting Play into Learning & Development

Just about every adult has a memory of childhood competition. From the playground to the sports field to the arcade, we enjoyed besting our friends or boasting about our accomplishments.

Now as adults, we are faced with the challenges of our careers, trying to keep pace with an ever changing informational world and completing required training to meet those challenges. We attend seminars, watch webinars, sit in classes, or use online learning portals to take courses. But who says this has to be boring? Why not make the learning process fun?

Introducing gamification to the corporate learning process… just what our inner child needs.

For the uninitiated, gamification is the application of game-design elements to non-game contexts. You’ve probably already seen this all around you. After all, gamification elements work their way into our lives every day, ranging from achieving new levels on your Fitbit to earning Starbucks Stars for free drinks. The goal is to add elements of fun and reward by recognizing achievements and driving engagement and participation.

And that’s where gamification has the potential to make a significant impact on online training – because if we make it fun and offer elements that make learning more interesting, we encourage learners to be more engaged with the course content. And more importantly, the outcome that we can achieve is to meet our organizations’ strategic goals of having a well-trained workforce that meets our compliance requirements.

So, what are some ways that gamification can support your goals? Let’s take a look at a few learning and developing goals and some examples to demonstrate how we can apply gamification elements to them to improve learner engagement:

Goal: Motivate learners to be engaged and complete a curriculum
Gamification Opportunity: Provide rewards, badges or other incentives for completing the curriculum within a specific timeframe.

Goal: Measuring a learner’s understanding of a specific procedure
Gamification Opportunity: Create a mapping activity around the procedure and award points towards completing correctly in a certain timeframe.

Goal: Make content more engaging
Gamification Opportunity: Create gaming elements such as levels or challenges to encourage learners to move through the content to completion.

Goal: Encourage certification and skill qualification
Gamification Opportunity: Tie certifications to rewards, post individual and group results, make the process competitive with leaderboards and visible comparisons.

Goal: Encourage timely course completion
Gamification Opportunity: Award points for completing the course within certain timeline and points for correctly answering timed questions inside the course.

The key is to rethink both the structure and content of your learning and build these elements into your online learning and training programs. Gamification does not have to mean a full overhaul of a course, rather adding gaming elements to existing content to achieve higher levels of engagement. As these examples demonstrate, it can be as simple as adding a time element to a quiz or knowledge check!

And while we may no longer be running around our childhood playgrounds, we will be creating a fun environment that engages learners and helps them achieve their goals.

For more about Gamification and its potential for learning and development, download our white paper “Gamification – Does it have a place in your L&D Content Development.”