Zombie College, The Great Flu, and Online Learning: This Week on #BLPLearn


#BLPLearn is our way of saving all of the great content our team curates… and sharing it with the wider community. We’ll take the best articles shared by our Learning Services, Multimedia, and Product Development teams in their weekly meetings and include them in the weekly #BLPLearn blog. We’ll usually include some commentary from the original team member who found the article, too.

Our goal is to make the weekly #BLPLearn blog a dependable source for quality, curated L&D content. Check back every Thursday.


Rather than restricting the social media conversation to a 30 minute window, we’re inviting everyone inside and outside BLP to share interesting links, thoughts, and articles with the #BLPLearn hashtag on Twitter. We’ll check the feed once a week and include the best articles submitted via Twitter in the post, too.


Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s dive in to this week’s articles:

Zombie College 
Submitted by Kristen Hewett, Senior Learning Designer

Here’s a link some of you may have seen a while ago on an e-learning guild webinar – Lab Zombies! It’s a very quick course that teaches you about lab safety. Here is a screenshot of one of the question screens. Go check it out!

Zombie College



The Great Flu
Submitted by Matt Kroeger, Multimedia Developer

This is a game that lets you try to control the outbreak of a flu virus. It has several types of flu to choose from that each are a different difficulty level for the game. The game itself took a little while for me to understand (and there wasn’t a lot of direction early on), but once I did and could see the virus spreading, I started to get pretty invested with my actions and my news stories.

The Great Flu

Online Courses… Are They Good or Bad?
Submitted by Kristen Hewett, Senior Learning Designer

I’m sharing an interesting article I read recently about online learning in an academic setting. This article contains a few graphs that show the complications of online learning. This study shows that online learning is good for diploma completion, but not so good for actually learning the content. What do you think?

Online Courses… Are They Good or Bad?

10,000 Hours to Mastery: The Gladwell Effect on Learning Design

I just finished reading Malcom Gladwell’s latest book, Outliers. In one of its chapters, he explains the 10,000-hour rule. This rule states that people don’t become “masters” at complex things (programming, music, painting, free throws) until they have accrued 10,000-hours of practice. And…he dos a great job of illustrating that people who are commonly regarding as “masters” are really just people who hit the 10,000 hour mark very early in their lifetimes. (Examples: Mozart and the Beatles in music; Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak sin programming).

The research he cites to prove his point is compelling. It does support this 10,000 hour threshold and crosses all types of areas from computer programming through hockey. Who cares, you ask? As learning professionals, WE SHOULD.  In an era where company management wants training on just about anything distilled down to minutes of time as opposed to hours of time, what can a learner realistically gain in terms of mastery? – or even rudimentary skill?

Think about it. Today’s companies want people to spend less and less time in training, and they want to “downsize” out the most experienced workers (i.e. the most expensive ones).  It’s time for us to tell companies the truth: we can’t make people competent at anything very complex unless we really allow them the time required to learn. And a 30-minute e-course or 4-hour classroom experience – or even an 8-hour e-course and week-long training course won’t make people “masters” at anything. At best, we give them a starting point to use in building competence on the job.

Don’t believe me? How long would you speculate someone needs to practice before you’d say they were a “good” doctor? Do you want the 1st year resident taking out your appendix or the general surgeon whose been doing her job for 10 years? What about driving? How many hours on the road does someone need before you feel like they are a good driver?

I’ll bet it’s not the six hours that is the sum total of most driver’s education training programs.  IF you had to have someone selling your services or your product, who would you prefer: The employee who just transferred into the sales department or the sales department’s top seller, who, by the way, has been doing sales for more than 5 years (which would translate to about 10,000 hours of time if you multiply 52 weeks x 40 hours x 5 years)?

No one gets good at anything without practice – and lots of it. The more we practice, the better we get. We need to think through learning design very carefully if we really want learners to get better at what we’re trying to teach them. Companies don’t have 5 years to train the new sales guy, so we have to come up with a design that allows as much practice as possible in as short a period of time as possible. When our designs are all “tell,” and no “do,” then we are setting learners up to be absolutely no better at doing something AFTER training than they were before training – even if we provided lots of great information or “reference” material. And when we pretend we can make people good at selling, managing, troubleshooting, etc. by creating and delivering a 60-minute e-course or 1/2-day classroom session for them to take,  then we’re just plain silly.

What about what you do? How many hours did it take you to get good at it? How can we do a better job of helping people actually get good at something through the learning solutions we devise?

How to Use QR Codes in Corporate Training

Most of us think of QR codes as that goofy looking bar code in the bottom corner of advertisements. Or maybe you have noticed them slapped on billboards that you could not possibly have time to stop and scan. Either way, chances are you have seen a QR Code recently!

For those who haven’t been exposed, a QR code is a two dimensional code  that can hold thousands of characters of information. They can be easily generated using numerous free online services and easily scanned with one of many free QR readers out there. QR Codes will easily link to text, an image, or a website.

It may seem like QR codes are just another marketing gimick, but not so fast: in his recent New York Times blog, Gene Marks offers an interesting insight:

“The QR code was actually invented by Denso — a Toyota company — to track automotive parts during the manufacturing process, but has since gained popularity as a marketing tool. QR codes can be used for just about anything you can think of.”

So while marketers are using QR codes almost everywhere you look, there are many ways QR codes can be put to work in your business…like in your training program.

On February 28th, BLP is hosting a Lunch and Learn at the Downtown Central Library sponsored by CIASTD. It’s an interactive scavenger hunt through the library where you will have the opportunity to scan QR Codes and reveal the next clue. By the end of our hour, you might know your way around better than the reference librarian!

QR Codes (particularly scavenger hunts) can be a fun tool to integrate into a corporate learning environment. Imagine using QR codes to:

  • Create an interactive employee orientation scavenger hunt.
  • Provide easily accessible reference materials for sales reps.
  • Keep company policies within easy access.
If you are going to be in Indianapolis on February 28th, we hope you’ll come and learn with us. You can register on the CIASTD Website.


An e-Learning Tweet

First, this “Tweet” is way longer than 140 characters. If that sentence lost you…Tweets are posts via Twitter (social networking tool) that can be up to 140 characters long. Now you’re caught up.

So, last week I watched a rerun of the tv show Fringe. I only watch two tv shows…24 and Fringe, so I was a bit excited to see Fringe, as all 24 fans know they don’t rerun Jack Bauer. Anyway, Fringe did something a little unusual last week as they had a couple of the lead actors, and what I gathered were producers of the show, send tweets throughout the broadcast of the show. Evidently, the actors were on location (working) while the producers were back at their offices watching the rebroadcast on tv, and all were tweeting about the show with behind-the-scenes comments and conversation.

At first I was a bit annoyed because the tweets were blocking part of the screen, but what they were tweeting was pretty interesting; then again, I love the extras and special features on dvds…and, does anyone remember “Pop up Video” from VH-1 “back in the day”? They would show videos and have pop-up bubbles with behind-the-scenes information about the video while the video was playing. Anyway, back to Fringe…these tweets on Fringe were a lot like that…extra information about what was happening on the screen. They talked about what the writers were trying to convey in certain scenes, and even made comments about the meaning behind the graphics that were shown before commercial breaks. It was fascinating. I found myself wanting to pay more attention to the show! What other little nuggets of information were those sneaky writers of Fringe hiding from me? And then, I started thinking…

So, what if we had that extra “behind-the-scenes” information in our e-Learning courses? I’m not saying it’s something I’m promoting…but, what if? Wouldn’t it be interesting as a learner to know what the designer was thinking when they put “that” graphic there? Or, what that text was really supposed to mean? What was the writer’s intent of the e-Learning content? What was the SME’s background or experience?

Then, I asked myself…How would all this information affect learning? Would this be something a savvy learner would enjoy? Would learners pay more attention because of all of the “hidden” or “behind-the-scenes” information that was lurking in the shadows just waiting for them to discover?! Okay, maybe I’m getting a little too crazy there.

So, what if your e-Learning course came with a “behind-the-scenes” feature?  Would anyone want it?

Corporate Training – Journalism or Entertainment?

Last night Bill O’Reilly visited The Letterman show and they had a heated discussion about whether Bill O’Reilly is a journalist or entertainer. Regardless of your political leanings, it was an entertaining interview. Check out a highlight below (especially around minute 7:00):


While I’m not going to enter the political fray on this blog, it did make me think of some recent experiences where I’ve discussed the level of reality to convey in a training course. We write content that discusses the challenging, difficult, or stressful aspects of a job. This sometimes makes the client uncomfortable – they don’t want to be that “real” in the course.

Which begs the question: Are we entertainers or journalists? Are we trying to entertain learners or given them an accurate picture of the job or task? Are the two ideas opposed? When we “soften” the course and remove any negative or challenging ideas from the course, we veer towards the world of entertainment rather than learning.

I think that as instructional designers, we have a responsibility to portray as much reality as possible in the courses we create. But how can we help our clients be comfortable with this approach? A few thoughts:

  • Keep going back to “What would the learner want?” I don’t know about you, but I want to know if I’m going to be jumping off a cliff anytime soon. I listen more carefully to the instructions about how to pack a parachute if I know I’m going to be using it!
  • Get other perspectives. Sometimes a subject-matter expert will say that it wasn’t stated strongly enough!
  • Ask questions. If I only receive positive answers to my questions about the content, I begin to wonder if I’m getting the whole story.

What do you think? How do you work to accurately portray the job in training courses?

What Military Training has Shown Us

In 2000 I had the opportunity to tour the Navy Simulation Training Center in Orlando, FL. The technology I was introduced to was far more incredible than anything I had ever seen in my life. Since at the time I was living in Orlando, I can honestly say that the area theme parks could not rival an afternoon at the military training center. There were just incredible simulations, replicas of helicopters employing gaming technology on 180 degree screens bigger than any movie theater I had been to. They also had online classrooms, students sat at monitors instead of a desk and they trained with soldiers from all over the country. This tour was my first fascinating glimpse at the future of training and that was nearly a decade ago.

For years the military has successfully used online learning, simulations and gaming technology to educate soldiers. As we toured the facility the military personnel emphasized that their classroom teaches rapidly and effectively. It is critical that troops are trained and deployed quickly. The military is also able to mimic emotions, and replicate virtually some of the dire decisions a person may need to make in the battlefield.

Just recently, at the CIASTD conference during the panel discussion on The Future of Training there was a debate amongst the panel as to whether or not virtual learning could effectively teach soft skills. Sharon Boller, the President of Bottom-Line Performance,  pointed out how the military has effectively used virtual simulations in their training to mimic the emotions and stress felt by soldiers. The military has demonstrated effective replication of emotionally charged situations.

This isn’t the first time in history that the military has pioneered the effectiveness of new technology for future civilian application. While the implications of military training are different from the private sector, it has demonstrated that skills can be learned effectively and quickly using technology and virtual simulations.

Naturally, knowing what is possible doesn’t always easily translate to immediate action. The development costs of virtual simulations and gaming technology are high. Is your organization currently using gaming or other simulations? If not are their plans to implement these tools in the near future?