Bottom-Line Performance, ExactTarget Marketing Cloud Win Brandon Hall Award for “MobileConnect Guru”


Bottom-Line Performance and the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud won a coveted Brandon Hall Group bronze award for excellence in the Best Use of Games and Simulations for Learning category. BLP and ExactTarget’s win was announced on September 10th, 2014. The winners are listed at

The winning solution, MobileConnect Guru, was created using the Knowledge Guru Game-Based Learning Platform. Knowledge Guru is a cloud-based platform for designing serious games that link engagement and motivation to the science of learning and remembering.

ExactTarget’s employees, resellers and partners played the game to gain mastery over mobile terminology and product features and benefits – mastery that is critical to effectively selling and supporting a product. The game reinforced other rollout efforts and provided a “just before launch” reinforcement.

“We are continually looking at ways to innovate on our learning initiatives,” said Scott Thomas, Director of Product Enablement at ExactTarget. “The Knowledge Guru platform was a fun and new way for us to reinforce the training we needed to do with the launch of our new product. Our clients loved it, and the training led to meaningful business outcomes.”

“ExactTarget Marketing Cloud was truly innovative in the way they incorporated the Knowledge Guru platform into their training,” said Sharon Boller, President and Chief Product Officer at BLP. “They are a best-in-class example of how games can be integrated into a broader product launch training effort. We are proud of the award but more proud of the business results MobileConnect Guru helped drive for ExactTarget.”

The entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group Sr. Analysts and Executive Leadership based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation, and overall measureable benefits.

About the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud

The ExactTarget Marketing Cloud from (NYSE: CRM) is the leading 1:1 digital marketing platform, connecting companies with customers in entirely new ways. Learn more at

About Bottom-Line Performance, Inc

Bottom-Line Performance is a learning design firm serving a wide range of corporate, nonprofit, and government clients. Since 1995, we’ve helped clients choose the right learning solutions for their learners, while also helping them to design and develop learning tools effectively. Areas of specialization include product launches, customer training, customer service training, and safety and compliance training. BLP is a certified woman-owned business.

About Knowledge Guru

Bottom-Line Performance is the creator of Knowledge Guru, a game-based learning platform that uses learning science to increase employee knowledge retention and improve performance. Use it to create a single serious game teaching foundational knowledge or an extended play experience that incorporates performance challenges to help players acquire and practice new skills. The secret? Every game mechanic and game element is carefully linked to the science of how we learn and remember.

Game or Mini-Game: Which Should You Choose for Your Training Solution?

You are all in. You want to incorporate games into your learning experience. Do you go with one large game as THE learning solution or do you incorporate several smaller games… what we call “mini-games?”

A large-scale game can provide learners with a powerful, immersive learning experience. However, such games can be complex to design and develop, and they typically require lots of personnel hours to produce.  If you are new to the learning game design arena, they can be an intimidating task.

Sometimes, a small “mini-game” can provide you with the level of engagement you want while not requiring as much time and effort to produce.  Consider using a mini-game if these things are true:

  • You want to teach or reinforce a single learning objective (e.g. Compare 5 products, Distinguish between 3 things, Classify 4 personality types, Recommend the right settings, etc.). If you have more than a single objective in mind, a mini-game is not a realistic choice.
  • You want total playing time to range between 5 and 15 minutes of time and no more. It’s not a “mini-game” if it takes an hour for people to play.
  • You are not seeking a game that people will play over and over again. Most mini-games are structured as matching activities, puzzles, or quick scenarios. Once the problem is solved, people typically don’t want or need to replay the game, particularly if you design it so they cannot complete the game without getting things right.
  • The game functions with other components in your curriculum and is not the only way you are teaching something. Mini-games tend to be a one-and-done activity so they function best when combined with other things. A mini-game might be a great pre-work activity or a good activity to include in an online learning event or eLearning course.

Let’s compare a situation where a mini-game was the right learning solution with a situation where a more comprehensive serious game was needed.

1. Incident Investigation

These thumbnail images link to different mini-games. They are meant to be used in one of two ways: as part of a larger endeavor to teach incident investigation and/or as a quick reinforcement of basic concepts related to incident investigation. Each mini-game has a single learning objective. (A full-blown game might have several.)


In The Elevator Game the game goal is for learners to get 11 people to the right location in a building by 3 p.m. The learning goal is for them to accurately identify the activities associated with the five steps of the incident investigation process. Play the mini-game.


In Late for Lunch the game goal is for learners to get to lunch before starvation sets in. The learning goal is for them to accurately identify the information they need to gather regarding a recent accident that occurred at their job site. Play the mini-game.


In Making Gold, the game goal is to escape from the evil alchemist’s laboratory. The learning goal is to accurately distinguish between an incident, an accident, and a near-miss. Play the mini-game.

2. Product Launch

We recently completed a major curriculum design and development project associated with the launch of a product. The curriculum included pre-work components, and a two-day live event. One of the pre-work activities was a mini-challenge called Making Fuel. Learners had to correctly compare 7 competitors. The second game was a full-scale learning game. It used Knowledge Guru’s game engine to create a four-topic game that helped learners master product basics before attending the live launch workshop.


The screen grab above shows a mini-game that has the same functionality as the Making Gold game. The game goal is to get fuel into the car. The learning goal is to match competitor weaknesses to a product.


This screen grab shows a full-blown game that uses Knowledge Guru game engine. In this game, the players gain product knowledge through game play. The game goal is to win the Racing series by completing four different races. The learning goals included: 1) Match the features of the product with related competitive advantages, 2)  Match the competitive advantage with related benefits or savings, 3) Select the differentiating features and benefits of the product versus selected competitor products, and 4) Select differentiating features and benefits of the product versus selected competitor products.

eLearning Trends That Will Fizzle, Sizzle, or Simmer in 2014

2014 eLearning Trends

Our industry is notorious for chasing after trends. We all enjoy reading the summaries of the past year – and seeing predictions for the new one. Most folks want to know: which trends are worth pursuing and which ones are going to fizzle? Is gamification going to go the way of Myspace and Foursquare? Will social learning be replaced by “isolation learning” (okay, I made that up)?

At any point in time, there are trends that sizzle, others that simmer, and ones that fizzle out. The really, really good ones become “best practices” over the long haul. So let’s see what’s on the stove right now.

First, the sizzle

This is the stuff that I see TRULY taking off inside organizations. It’s not just talked about…it is happening:

Experience API (aka Tin Can API): Considering the fact that “xAPI” was just introduced in 2012, I think this trend is sizzling. There is no question that companies – particularly large ones – love to track data. If they can’t track it then people didn’t learn… or so the feeling goes. Experience API allows for tracking of all that stuff that has been so hard to track – use of social media, for example. So – just as SCORM took several years to get to a point of critical mass, I think Experience API will – but I do believe this type of tracking is going to be a force for the future.

Gamification/learning games: This trend is at full sizzle right now. We are having LOTS of conversations with folks who want either a learning game developed or would like support in creating a gamification strategy related to a large endeavor or program. I fear that over-use or inappropriate use could lead to it falling out of favor by 2016 because a lot of efforts may fail due to poor design or implementation.

The same reasons games and gamification are being used should be reasons to keep them around: they tend to structure learning experiences into challenges and provide feedback loops, two things that engage people and help foster behavior change.

Storytelling in Training: This trend/topic began peeking its head out last year, and seems off to a roaring start in 2014. Almost every recipient of the “Best” awards at the 2013 eLearning Guild DemoFest featured the use of stories within the learning solution. There is a nice body of research that points to the value of stories in helping us remember. It’s harder to remember discrete facts, for instance, than it is to remember those same facts when they are woven into a narrative. Check out John Medina’s Brain Rules book for info on this.

Agile development: This one got very hot in 2013, and I think interest in it will remain strong in 2014 and beyond. Why? Because a linear approach doesn’t work when you are designing highly interactive web-based solutions; you need to iterate. The skills people will want to acquire are skills in creating rapid prototypes on paper and digitally.

Visuals and graphics: Along with the use of storytelling, the winners at eLearning Guild’s DemoFest featured heavy use of visuals. Designers are wisely shifting away from screens filled with text to ones dominated by visuals. Check out this YouTube video that showcases the World Wildlife Fund’s new educational app for an outstanding example of how visuals can be used to help educate people on facts and “build awareness.” We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for using graphics in eLearning, available here.

Here’s what’s simmering

…With the potential to reach sizzle status:

Mobile Support in lieu of “mobile learning:” This one is just now creeping its way out. There’s no question that mobile has NOT taken off as predicted. The 2013 ASTD State of the Industry Report tells us that only 1.39% of respondents are actually distributing content via mobile even though we’re very close to reaching market saturation with SmartPhones (predictions vary from August of this year to early next year).

I think the concept of mLearning needs to fizzle as we’re not seeing people really wanting to take entire courses on their phones. BUT – we are seeing that people use their phones for tons of stuff – in short chunks – and they love to use phones to find/locate information. Hence, I think more and more corporate L&D people are going to want mobile solutions that help people with these find/locate tasks or with quick two-minute reviews of concepts.

Video: This one has been on simmer status for awhile. I think 2014 will have it burning brighter – but for very specific uses, not broad use like “Click NEXT to continue” did in eLearning.

The low price of the technology is quite a driver. The GoPro lets anyone take amazing video for about $300. Today’s SmartPhones enable high-quality video shooting AND post-production, right from the phone. Video is no longer something you have to consider too expensive to do or leave to professional videographers and editors. It lends itself to storytelling and it allows people to share. In fact, the “homemade” quality videos have become quite acceptable, courtesy of YouTube. Its limitation will be that it’s best suited for the 2 to 5-minute support function rather than a formal course-like learning solution…and lots of companies don’t have a good infrastructure for deploying videos yet without making folks log into an LMS to view them.

Spaced Learning and Repetition: The research is compelling in these two areas, and I am getting phone calls from folks who are telling me they are actively researching these topics – and trying to figure out what they need to be doing differently within their L&D functions to help people really remember what they supposedly “learn” in training courses. I think this one could go from simmer to sizzle at some point in 2014.

What Will Fizzle?

Here’s my big fizzle prediction – and I know I’m going to upset the people who passionately support the concept. I, personally, am an avid user of social media for learning, however…

Twitter-style tools for “social learning:”  I will stop short of labeling “social learning” as the fizzle because I personally am an ardent fan of it… and it’s a natural part of how people have always learned, no matter what L&D has to say about it. I love content curation tools such as Zite, Flipboard, and, though I believe I am in a small minority of people who DO consume content and gather information with these tools.

I sense – based on watching my various Twitter feeds –  that the Twitter fascination is ending – at least in corporate settings. Twitter feels a bit like yesterday’s news. So many tools have entered the landscape that the landscape is starting to feel overwhelming. The number of social tools out there is massive – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine, etc.

I think people will continue to use a variety of social tools for personal learning – but I’m not seeing wide adoption or interest in it inside corporations – despite heavy conversation on it within the L&D world for the past several years. In fact, I see active resistance to it – not from corporate leaders but from employees themselves. The landscape has become overwhelming; when people feel overwhelmed, they opt out.

mLearning: So I identified mSupport as a “simmer” status trend. I think mLearning is going to fizzle as employees let us know they do not want to take courses on phones. MOBILE won’t fizzle… but the idea of entire courses distributed via phones will. The landscape shows us that we use our phones in very short bursts, though the phones are constantly present. My one caveat to this would be mobile games – people will spend lots of time playing them. If we can design a full-blown course that is as immersive as a mobile game, we may be able to get some sizzle going.

Virtual Worlds: These fizzled a couple years ago, but it’s worth mentioning here only because I still hear others mentioning it… as a tool that fizzled. Second Life had so much buzz back in 2008… and, while the tool still exists, you do not hear organizations talking about how they will use virtual worlds in training anymore. The technology curve was too steep in terms of the hardware and systems requirements to use it – and the learning curve simply to function in the world was too high.

So I’ve gone out on a big limb to predict my sizzle, simmer, and fizzle trends. I would love to hear others’ views on this one. This is a topic that begs for lots of diverse opinions and discussions.

6 Lessons from the Trenches of Digital Learning Game Design at #Trg14

Lessons from the Trenches of Digital Game Design

Bottom-Line Performance has done simulation and learning game design for table-top/live events for many years. However, our foray into digital game design has only been happening for the past three years. When we started, we found lots of books and articles on game design – but not much on learning game design. We leveraged wonderful books from game designers such as Tracy Fullerton and Brenda Brathwaite and gleaned from their experiences designing games, but we didn’t have a ton of peers writing tomes on learning game design. (Exception: Karl Kapp’s book, Gadgets, Games, and Gizmos for Learning came out in 2007. It’s a wonderful book, but it’s not really a how-to guide to creating learning games. His most recent book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook has more how-to guides within it.)

There are some similarities between learning design and learning game design… but even more differences. Here is a summary of six lessons we’ve learned. We’ll present these – with more detail – at sessions we’re doing at ASTD TechKnowledge later this week as well as at Training 2014 in early February. You can get a sneak peak at the slides we’ll use (and the example) on Slideshare.

1. You need game content – even at your first prototype.

This might sound obvious, but if you have done agile design before, you may have designed HOW a learning interaction is going to work while including only placeholder content in it or Greek text. You cannot do this with a game. You have to have realistic content (e.g. an actual scenario and realistic choices for a player to make) or you cannot assess the fun factor and learning efficacy of the game idea. Trust us on this. We made the mistake of trying to design a game interaction with only place-holder content. People played the prototype and then told us, “Well it might be fun but I can’t really tell without seeing the actual game content.” Once we played, it was like the Mr. Obvious show. However, BLP has lots of smart people and we didn’t recognize this issue until we programmed an initial prototype that we called “Story Shuffle.” We got smart and re-did things. Here’s a later view of the same game, now called “Late for Lunch.” For those who are curious – we used a tool called Construct2 to create the game. You can embed games into course authoring tools such as Lectora or Articulate Storyline.

2. Aesthetics and theme dramatically affect desire to play. They literally can be game-changers in terms of people’s interest in what you create.

Again this seems obvious… but aesthetics are HUGELY powerful. They can take content that an ordinary person would NOT find exciting and make you want to play just because the game is so aesthetically cool looking. You might not be excited by the topic of incident investigation but you might be far more excited to go into an evil alchemist’s laboratory and earn your way out by making gold out of iron. Check out this game to see what I mean.

3. Fantasy has high appeal – even to “corporate” learners. It’s worth fighting for.

Bean counters can be skeptical of fantasy – it can seem frivolous or too fanciful for work. However…that is sort of the point in making someone intrigued enough to want to play a game that would otherwise be rather ho-hum.

Here’s ho-hum.


Here’s pretty fun:


4. Most players need help figuring out how to play – but typically won’t opt for it if given a choice.

This lesson is a critical one. Some learning games – in fact, many learning games – require some “show” on how to play to minimize the learner’s cognitive load. You don’t want them to spend so much mental energy figuring out the mechanics of the game that they fail to learn anything. However, when you design a tutorial level of play, if players get a choice, they will often OPT OUT of completing it…because they don’t want to take the time. We’ve learned not to let players have a choice and to require them to go through the tutorial. No, they won’t want to. Yes, it will end up maximizing their enjoyment of the play experience if they do. Either incorporate a “training level” or an actual tutorial into the game unless the game’s mechanics are very, very easy to understand and intuit.

5. Rules and game complexity need to be proportional to the amount of time people will spend playing the game.

If you are designing a multi-hour play experience, you can incorporate lots of game elements and mechanics (aka game rules). If you are trying to create a 10-minute to 60-minute play experience, you NEED TO KEEP IT SIMPLE. Lots of complexity can create a very fun GAME experience, but it has a negative impact on the LEARNING experience. As you play test your game during development, you need to ask both of these questions:

  • How engaged were you in play?
  • What did you learn by playing?

If the game has lots of clever elements and mechanics, you can get very positive responses to the first question – but poor responses to the second.

6. Scoring is the hardest element to get right – and requires far more time than a novice designer will probably assign to the project plan for it.

I created the game Formulation Type Matters four years ago. It was my first digital game (and a finalist this year in the Serious Games Challenge – hooray!). I allocated 8 hours to define the scoring for this game. We actually spent well over 40 hours figuring out the scoring – mostly because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started. I’ve learned a lot since then, and I am now more careful to think through the scoring to make sure it’s relevant to the skill I’m trying to teach, meaningful to the player, motivating (rather than de-motivating to the player,) and, frankly, easy to understand. I also know that it is probably going to take more than 8 hours to figure out the scoring on a game unless the game is super-simple.

Visit Us at ASTD Techknowledge!

2014TK-Sponsors_SilverThere are several ways to see the BLP team at ASTD TechKnowledge:

1. In the Expo: We’ll be showcasing our Knowledge Guru game engine, and releasing the new Enterprise Edition, in Booth 303 of the Expo. Learn more.

2. In my session: I will give Lessons from the Trenches of Digital Game Design on Wednesday, January 22nd from 1:15 – 2:15 pm. Learn more.

3. In a hands-on demo: I will partner with Steven Boller to give Powerful Learning Games You Can Build in a Day on Thursday, January 23rd from 12:55 – 1:25 pm. Learn more.

4. In Leanne Batchelder’s session: Leanne will deliver Gamify Online Safety Compliance Training: A Roche Case Study, on Thursday, January 23rd from 3:15 – 4:15 pm. Learn more.


Karl Kapp’s New Gamification Fieldbook for Learning Professionals

fieldbook cover

I was a regular on the L&D conference circuit in 2013, starting at DevLearn in October 2012 (when I first met Karl Kapp) and continuing onwards to DevLearn 2013. Besides professional development for our team, we attended these conferences to bring Knowledge Guru, the first learning game engine tied to research-based learning principles, to market.

Let me tell you that there is marked difference in the talk surrounding game-based learning and gamification now compared to a year ago. Late 2012 and early 2013 were about research and theory. Where do we start? Will games work in my organization? Why should we use them?

Now, the conversation has changed. Most organizations know games work. The research is there, a great deal of it referenced in Karl’s popular book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. Games and gamification are starting to become an accepted part of the L&D toolkit, and more and more real case studies are emerging of how real organizations are using games today.

So while the talk at the beginning of the year was more high level, we are now seeing a shift from theory to practice. That’s where Dr. Kapp’s newest book comes in.

The Gamification of Learning Instruction Fieldbook is the perfect follow-up to Kapp’s recent bestseller. The book moves beyond the research and offers trainers the practical guidelines they really need to implement games in their organization. It includes plenty of case studies for how games are used today, including a chapter written by BLP president Sharon Boller.

And while we’re happy to have Knowledge Guru included in the book as an example of game-based learning done right, we’re even more excited to see so many other great case studies of game-based learning success. It’s a positive sign for our industry as a whole.

Buy the Book Here

BLP Named a Finalist in 2013 Serious Games Showcase and Challenge

Serious Games Showcase and Challenge

Bottom-Line Performance Inc. (BLP) specializes in custom eLearning, game-based learning and mobile solutions. President Sharon Boller strategically emphasized games (which are also her passion) as a viable learning solution for our clients years before they were the latest trend in corporate learning. That dedication paid off last week, as Formulation Type Matters, a game we developed for Dow AgroSciences, was named a finalist in the 2013 Serious Game Showcase and Challenge in the “Business” category.

The game is just one example of the custom learning games we create for our clients.

“We were intrigued by the possibility of an interactive game format as a learning tool,” said Marc Fisher, Global Technology Transfer Leader at Dow AgroSciences. “The finished course resonated with our sales reps and engaged them in the learning experience in a way our other solutions had not yet supplied.”

Formulation Type Matters is a scenario-driven game where sales reps are transported to the Hinterlands, a fictional island where their interactions with customers in their territory positively and negatively impact their sales. Fisher noted that the game intentionally does not control the learner’s path, much like they would encounter in typical customer interactions.

“Formulation type has a major impact on a product’s performance,” said Fisher. “The game provides a fun, engaging and challenging way to learn this highly technical information, and reinforces the availability of downloadable fast facts guides as resources on this topic for new hire sales. We are extremely pleased to have this learning game in our toolbox.”

The Serious Games Showcase & Challenge began in 2005 to “stimulate industry creativity and generate institutional interest towards the use of digital game technology and approaches for training and education.” The Challenge partners with the organizers of the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) and the National Training Systems Association (NTSA). A panel of industry experts select the winners in each category, while participants in the annual I/ITSEC conference will vote for the “People’s Choice Award.”

The BLP team will showcase Formulation Type Matters at the 2013 I/ITSEC conference in Orlando, December 2-5, 2013 in Orlando. The conference is attended by 20,000+ professionals in the serious games/simulations industry annually.

New Learning Game Design White Paper by Sharon Boller (Free Download)

Many of our readers are instructional designers looking to pick up some game design tips for their next project. Others are already avid game designers just looking for extra tips and advice. Wherever you are as a learning game designer, we are excited to release another free resource to help you hone your skills.

BLP president Sharon Boller has written a new white paper titled Using Game Mechanics and Game Elements in Learning Games. It explains, in clear terms, how to design games that will support your desired learning outcomes. Best of all, it uses real-life examples to show how game mechanics and game elements can be used in a practical setting.

Learning Game Design White Paper

You’ll Learn About:

  • Game mechanics, which are rules players follow in a game, and rules the game itself follows.
  • How to closely tie game mechanics to mirror the cognitive tasks learners will need to perform on the job.
  • Twelve common game elements, which are found in most commercial games and learning games.
  • How to choose the right game elements to include in a game based on players’ job type and characteristics.
  • Questions you can ask as a learning game designer to get the most out of your game.
  • Why it’s important to test the balance of game mechanics and game elements with play-testing.
  • Case studies from our work designing games for corporate clients

Download the White Paper

The white paper is available as a free download on the Knowledge Guru website. Click here to download… or just click the image above.

Learning Game Design: a Blog Series by Sharon Boller

In early May we launched our Learning Game Design Blog on the Knowledge Guru website. The blog has become a great source of information for anyone interested in game based learning and gamification—thanks in large part to an incredibly in-depth blog series by Sharon Boller.

learning game design blog

The Learning Game Design Series

The Learning Game Design Series is designed to take you through the 5-step process we use for designing games. The 5-step process is:

  1. Play games; evaluate what works and what doesn’t work in terms of “fun.”
  2. Get familiar with game elements and how to use them.
  3. Think about the learning first—and then the game.
  4. Dump ADDIE. Go agile instead.
  5. Play test. Play test. Did I say play test?

The series will take a deep dive into each step, sometimes taking several posts to cover one step, and offer real world examples from our own game development.

It’s safe to say Sharon knows a thing or two about games. On top of creating the Knowledge Guru game engine, she has worked extensively with Dr. Karl Kapp, author and Assistant Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Interactive Technologies. Together they run a game design workshop called Play to Learn—which you can attend at the Devlearn conference in October—that has already helped many people build their first game prototype.

An example of a prototype being built and playtested at the Play to Learn workshop.

An example of a prototype being built and playtested at the Play to Learn workshop.

Where We Are So Far

So if you’re interested in games, you should take some time to check out this blog series. I’ll give you a quick recap of where we are now…

Learning Game Design Series, Part 1: Play and Evaluate Games

If you’re going to design a game, then you need to play a lot of games—and play a lot of different types of games. You can’t design a game if you don’t play them. You won’t have the play experiences you need to draw off of throughout the design process. You want to make a FUN game. Why? Because the fun in a game helps the learning happen—it is not frivolous; it is an integral piece.

You’re not only playing games for fun, though. You’re also playing games to evaluate them. Playing games for enjoyment is different than playing games to evaluate the quality and efficacy of the game design. This post will go over some best practices and questions to ask when evaluating games.

Learning Game Design Series, Part 2: Game Goals and Game Dynamics

Before you can design a good game you need to be able to craft game goals, select game dynamics, create strong game mechanics, and choose appropriate game elements.  This post focuses on two of those things: game goals and game dynamics—as well as how they link together.

Learning Game Design Series, Part 3: Game Mechanics

A game’s mechanics are the rules and procedures that guide the player and the game response to the player’s moves or actions. Through the mechanics you create, you define how the game is going to work for the people who play it. This post breaks down examples of rules for players and rules for the game itself. It also analyzes the direct link between the game mechanics you choose and how the learning occurs.

Learning Game Design Series, Part 4, Part5, and Part 6: Game Elements

The next three posts all deal with one huge topic: Game Elements. Elements are the different features of a game that keep people engaged. The 12 core game elements are: Conflict, Collaboration, Competition, Strategy, Chance, Aesthetics, Theme, Story, Resources, Time, Rewards/Scoring, and Levels. You’ll need to make calculated decisions on which elements to include and to what degree.

Learning Game Design Series, Part 7: Thinking About the Learning and Then the Game

If your intention is to create a learning game that achieves specific learning outcomes for the players, then you have to think about the learning before you begin crafting the game design. It’s critical to have a strong understanding of the previous steps—but that understanding doesn’t guarantee you a learning game if you don’t also have solid instructional design skills. Why? Because an effective learning game requires a solid instructional goal and learning objectives.

Learning Game Design Series, Part 8: Dump ADDIE; Iterate Instead

Designing a game is a VERY iterative process. If you’ve been using the ADDIE model your entire career, then you’re going to need to get familiar with Agile. ADDIE and Agile each have their benefits, but for game design you need to go with the latter; there is too much evolving in the game design process. This post goes through an actual example of iterating while prototyping a new game.

Gamification, Sales Training in Learning Solutions Magazine

Gamification, Sales Force Training

Image © Learning Solutions Magazine

Organizations faced with fast product launch cycles must simultaneously train sales teams, support teams, and customers on the features and benefits. There’s often no “easy button,” however games and gamification are shown to be some of the most effective methods for acquiring new knowledge quickly.

Dr. Karl Kapp, Ed.D has written a two part series on games and gamification for Learning Solutions Magazine. The series focuses on case studies that show the efficacy of games and gamification in business situations. He gathered the case studies while researching his latest book, The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook, which will be available soon.

Part two of Karl’s series is focused exclusively on product knowledge training for sales and support teams. The case study he uses is especially familiar to us: Karl describes how ExactTarget used our own Knowledge Guru game engine to get employees and partners up to speed on their MobileConnect product.

I suggest you read the full article, as it provides a comprehensive overview of how gamification principles can be applied to support a product launch and help people learn facts fast. The business results ExactTarget saw are particularly powerful:

The result for the business was that, of all the launches done in the two years previous to the MobileConnect launch, the sales team built one of the quickest pipelines for this product. The gamification approach improved product knowledge and helped the team build the sales pipeline while simultaneously reducing call-response times.

The hardest part about “selling” a learning game or gamification idea inside your organization is often just getting the initially buy-in. Thankfully, Karl’s upcoming book will feature many case studies, just like this one, to help making the case for a new gaming initiative easier.

So, read the full article to gather new ideas for implement games and gamification in your organization… and on how to use Knowledge Guru to make your own games.

Click the image below to read the full article.

The Gamification of Sales Force Training - Full Article


Training Needs Analysis Worksheet (Free Download)

Training Needs Analysis Worksheet banner

A soundly conducted Needs Analysis should always be the first step when you need to improve performance or change behaviors. Regardless of the type of learning solution you plan to create, taking the time to properly assess the situation and gather appropriate information will go a long way towards assuring the success of a new project.

Below, you will find a five step process for conducting a Training Needs Analysis. When we help organizations with their analysis, we recommend they follow these steps, or a similar variation. To help you through these five steps, we have created a 10-question Needs Analysis Worksheet you can fill out and use as a starting point for new project. You may fill out the form below and download it for free.

And now, the five steps of a standard Training Needs Analysis.

1. Receive Training Request

Whether you receive a formal request for training or a more vague indication that there is a problem you are expected to solve, now is the time to start gathering some basic information. In this step, you will formulate an initial instructional goal (which can be revised later) and clarify your target audience… including their characteristics, background, and current skills. You will also decide if the training can be developed internally, or if you will need an external vendor.

2. Formulate a plan

Chances are you will have quite a bit of content to gather and organize. You’ll also need a plan for refining your instructional goal to make sure it aligns with business objectives. Step 2 is all about figuring out what information to gather, who to get it from, and how to get it. Zero in on your instructional goal, profile your learners, and carefully identify the skills or behaviors you want to impact.

3. Gather the data

In Step 3, it’s time to collect data and refine your plan based on data that emerges. You’ll be collecting data using methods such as stakeholder interviews, locating source content, focus groups, and task analysis.

Interviews, focus groups, and locating source content are all fairly straightforward tasks, but you may or not already be familiar with the task analysis technique. This involves isolating an individual task and identifying the current results, the desired standard, level of importance, frequency of the task, and more. Quite honestly, we could give a full workshop on just the task analysis step alone. For a more in-depth explanation, get in touch with us.

4. Analyze data and conclude the process

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, it’s time to analyze the information gathered and formulate findings and recommendations. You should revise your instructional goal based on the data you’ve gathered. You should now have new insights on your learners that will affect the content of the solution, the delivery format, and other constraints.

By the end of this step, you should clearly know what the optimal training solution is… and why. You’ll also know whether you can complete the training internally, or if you need to bring in an outside vendor.

5. Plan next steps

Your final step in the Needs Analysis will be a comprehensive report, which will serve as the road map for your solution design. This report will include the final instructional goal, profile of the target audience, learning objectives, and a summary of the tasks or ideas being taught. You’ll also lay out the constraints to consider in your design… and the potential delivery method. With all five steps of the Needs Analysis process completed, you should be well on your way to developing an effective learning solution.


We have a created a simple, 10-question worksheet to help you kickstart your Training Needs Analysis. Use it to ask the right questions, zero in on the “need to have” information, and make a sound plan for identifying the right learning solution.