Drag And Drop demo


This demo showcases game based learning, where the user is asked to drag the correct ingredients for a recipe. This game would follow a course / video which shows the recipe. The purpose of this game is to reinforce learning.

This interaction demonstrates a sorting and classifying activity.



Lightbox slides in Storyline

ELH Challenege 200 – Lightbox slides

The challenge was to use lightbox slides in Storyline courses. Lightbox slides are a good way to present content on screen. They enable an instructional designer to create multiple layers of content on same screen.
For a developer, it involves creating one base slide. Post this, a lightbox slide is created to overlap the base slide. The lightbox slide covers about 80% of the base slide. That is, the content on base slide gets dimmed and the content on light box slide becomes visible.

This kind of interactivity is used for tabbed content display or for click to learn type of screens.

I have created this small interactivity for children aged 3-7 yrs of age. This demonstrates the use of light box slide to present content on the same screen. It is a game to help identify nocturnal creatures in the wild. Sound effects are used to help identify the animals by the sound they make.

View the video for more.


Tabs Navigation in Storyline

When I first used Storyline as an authoring and eLearning development tool, I fell in love with tabbed interaction. It allowed me to create layered content without having to introduce pop-ups or navigate away from main screen.

For an instructional designer, this was the customer delight that the tool offered. The years of working with graphic teams to place pop-ups correctly and decide on font size or number of words, and then of course, the kind of content. What should I include in pop-ups? Should it be a know-more or reference information? What part of essential content can I pare and keep in pop-up? Can the pop-up take images? Or create a flash based tabbed screen, which would be a developer and testers nightmare!

The tab interactions and templates in Storyline were a relief. After using Raptivity templates with tabbed interaction ( the drawback was that they had to be integrated separately or used as stand-alone) the built in tab interactivity in a comprehensive authoring tool like Storyline were a boon.
The look and feel of tab templates improved with every version. Then there were customizable user created templates available for download such as the accordion templates.

This #ELH Challenge 199 asked us to showcase some tabbed interactions. I shared a video of a tab interaction created with accordion template. It’s tabbed interface is designed to look like accordion bellows

View accordion style tab interaction

View the entire course

Adaptive Learning Pathway -ELH Challenge #196

Adaptive Learning Pathway – ELH Challenge 196 called for creating adaptive learning demo.

What is adaptive learning?

Adaptive learning method involves prescriptive learning with remedial action.

That is, the user is expected to have prerequisite knowledge which is tested at the start of a course or learning nugget. Once the learner answers questions or attempts a quiz, the results decide on the level of learning required. A pathway of learning is prescribed based on outcome of quiz. The learner is directed to material appropriate at his or her level.

To put it simply, the user must know the alphabet, confirm his knowledge of the alphabet before learning how to form words.

Using that theory, I have created a demo of how this prescriptive pathway with remedial action can be created with Storyline2.

View the demo adaptive course on First Aid here.

To view the course, you will have to enter email and name.

Click image or name of course given above to go to course




Choose your Candidate – Demo

Elearning Challenge #195

Purpose – Create engaging introduction for the user.

Task – Create an avatar for user to enter and learn course content

Output  – I have created this like a branching scenario – where choosing an avatar will take you on a particular path. I have designed the content in context of general elections in India in 2019.

Theme: The avatar you choose for the PM will decide the fate of the country.

You select the avatar or the candidate on screen 1. Screen 2 has your chosen candidate with party symbol and description. Screen 3 allows you to exit the course or replay and select the alternate avatar. I have restricted this to just two roles, though I had at least three in mind.

India votes

Click link to view course.

Demo for Choose your Avatar

Note: Best viewed in Google Chrome. The course will take a minute to load.

This demo is available only for ten days! 


Augmented Reality in elearning

 Augmented Reality (AR) is a relatively new concept when it comes to using it in elearning. Is it even possible? Or is it scary expensive technology which cannot be used for training programs? Let’s explore the basics to find out.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is a superimposition of images on a reality based background.

What are its uses?

The most common use is in GPS and navigation technology. Most users are familiar with using it as mobile technology where user holds up the app against a real background and sees maps.

How can it be used in education?

There are many apps which use it in education.
1. Trigger image is provided either in print form or on a website.

  1. This trigger image works like a QR code, where the user can hold up a scanner device and watch the image come alive.

For instance, a child can color a printed sheet with a trigger image and on holding the app on the image, can watch it come alive. Or you can use it to learn about plant structure and how it grows. Watch this video for more.

How can this be used for adult training?

Trigger images act to represent a 3D based reality view.  On click, it works to open description based pop ups on your app.

Trigger images can be on the web, in print form, on t-shirts or even on coffee mugs. Imagine scanning your company logo for a flash on leave policy or training calendar! Instead of scrolling down an e-manual!


The use of this technology is nascent but it is usable and makes content far more engaging. Imagine its use in study of geography, biology and other conceptual material, which can come to life via a simple app.

AR apps used in this manner would be supported by back end databases. Usage statistics and user response can also be tracked and stored on similar database very useful for analytical purpose.

AR is also used for supermarkets and product descriptions. In not so far future, it will be used in live training, in workshops and in elearning. AR can create the kind of immersive reality which will engage the user immediately and increase potential for sensory learning. It is an easy to use form of experiential learning without creating complex VR platforms.


What is the challenge to Instructional Design?

AR will have to be combined with other technologies such as 2D content; printed handouts; web explorations. Here, the instructional designer is not just designing one simple elearning or training program, but creating a learning environment.


The challenge to ID is immense as each aspect of learning will have to seamlessly connect and lead to completion of the learning goal.

It will involve creating a series of learning interventions on various platforms. It will make the learning experience exciting and retention factor is also likely to be higher.

The ID cannot get away with creating simple ten screens for a small elearning output. He or she will have to work at designing an entire learning ecosystem.

Augmented Reality (AR) is going to be that wave of change, which will take the boredom out of standard one hour elearning programs. It will incorporate animation, 3D, video, audio and text. A complete sensory experience to minimize external distractions.


 image source: pixabay

Engage User at start of course

Elearning Challenge #195

Purpose – Create engaging introduction for the user.

Task – Create an avatar for user to enter and learn course content

Output  – These three screens work as a demo for simple elearning interactivity created with Storyline2.

Screen 1 of the module allows user to select an avatar or a role. On selection, user is taken to drag and drop activity on screen 2.

There is an exit screen with option to replay course.

Click this link to view the course on articulate online –


Customized elearning for your child

Choices. Choices. Choices.
Elearning for children has many options now. Many cd’s available on market.
Yet, none quite have the combination that you wish.
Put together a cutomized package for your child. With topics you choose for them to learn. Or topics in his curriculum that the child must focus on and strengthen. These could vary from one to several.

Send your queries to designgyan@outlook.com

We will respond to you quickly.

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Attention span varies. With modern day lifestyle, our attention flits within minutes. It’s like travelling in a fast car. Things zoom by. Web surfing is like that. Content zooms past. You swipe a page after skimming the details.

As a working executive, your mind grapples with atleast five things daily. You have a deadline for your project or specific task; you have a team meeting; you have some emails to follow up. Personal appointments have to be kept. Money or health stress also play at the back of your mind.

Some typical reactions from learner to traditional elearning.


  • ‘Do you really expect us to take out valuable time to sit in the classroom for two or three hours or more and learn something new?”
  • “It is difficult to devote one and a half hour of continuous time to your eLearning program.”
  • “Yes, the content and training are important but I can’t really remember all of that.”
  • “I don’t need all that content. I already know some of this. Do I have to answer this quiz?”

These are the typical responses to trainers and L&D from busy professionals.

It’s no different with children.


“Mom, I want to change the channel.”

“Mom, do I have to read all this today. Can I eat popcorn with this?”

“Why do I just have to sit there and watch the teacher speak on the video? It’s so boring. Can’t I do something?”

These responses tell me a few things

  1. Instruction needs to engage
  2. Instruction needs to be short. Time factor is very important.
  3. It needs to be stimulating
  4. It needs to be relevant.
  5. Video based instruction needs to excite.

More importantly, I need to design my learning which incorporate all the above.

The best solution for learners with short attention span, lack of time, or hyperactive learners is to create micro learning. Micro learning refers bite sized learning modules with limited content delivered in short time.

Micro learning can be designed in two ways.

  1. As modules within a larger course framework
  2. Independent nuggets of information and knowledge

idesigngyan has designed ten minute capsules. Each of these have or are based on an interactive module with specific information. The ten minute learning for children is game based and includes information as well as exploration links. The learning capsule for adults are scenario based modules. Depending on the complexity of the topic, we also offer decision tree based scenarios. For details about topics, contact designgyan@outlook.com

Content Capsules

On the job training requirement is high in a dynamic workplace where the paradigms are constantly shifting. All employees upskill; reskill and constantly learn workplace related skills.

At the same time, most employees spend personal time to learn more. Or have to take time from a busy work day to meet compliance requirements for reskilling or training. Not very motivational, is it?


Imagine at the end of a stressed day, when they are probably in crowded transport places or traffic jams or even home with family, the employee has to spend time learning or refreshing a skill, which may or may not be immediately applicable.  How would you tackle this demotivation apart from strategies implemented by gamification aficionados?

In my experience, the biggest issue with on the job training is the time required. Whether it is blended learning or elearning, time spent on training is always factored into ROI and impacts results and cost. The best training that has maximum ROI is the ten minute content module with check points. I firmly believe that a course should be delivered only as ten minute chunks with one concept exploration.


  1. Course of 75 slides with 5-6 modules including quiz or excluding quiz.
  2. One module would be 12-15 slides with 2-3 check points.
  3. Applicable seat time or module time would be ten-12 minutes depending on the learning pace.
  4. Each 10 minute capsule would have at least one or two concepts explained and tested.one

What are the advantages of this approach?

  1. It is suitable to all platforms and all types of internet connectivity.
  2. It does not stress out the user
  3. Less but relevant information increases learning retention
  4. Time consumed on learning is less.
  5. Learner motivated as it is anytime learning; anywhere learning; anyhow learning; and possible to use while travelling, or in short breaks.

Content Strategy

Content strategy for 10 minute modules has to be very detailed. As each module will have to target a learning objective with content tailored to meet it. The content must be carefully chosen so as to best explain the concept in the shortest possible time.

At idesigngyan, I design and develop ten minute capsules with Storyline 2 for short skills and for hard information based courses. For fully customized courses, fill in the contact form or call me/ skype me.

Videos in eLearning

A project I worked with in 2005 had a very specific client requirement. A video address from the company head. Mandatory for the induction program. Over the years, videos have grown from connecting with employees to delivering essential learning content.

Here’s why –

  • A video personalizes the training
  • A video by management allows it to communicate to all strata of staff
  • A video makes it realscrnshot1
  • A video has more recall value than text or image

Instructional designers have to keep the following in mind, while using videos –

  1.  Content – Relevance of the video to actual course content. What kind of content is best delivered as a video? Is the video supplementary to learning or essential to the learning delivered? Also, is the video replacing any chunk of learning or enhancing it?
  2. Length – Does the video  need editing? Are you using the video as a small chunk or to deliver most of the content?
  3. Placement  – Should you start the course with a video or use it midway? Should you use a video based summary for better retention?
  4. Other details – Does the video include close captioning? Does the video have large chunks of text displayed on screen or is an animated power point ? What kind of images are contained in the video – static or animated?

Once an ID is satisfied with all the above points, the video can be effectively included in an eLearning course.

Post this, close attention has to be paid to it

  1. Quality of video
  2. Format of video
  3. Embedding video into a player or carrying it as external link. External links should be avoided as it takes the user away from the course.
  4. Player controls for the video. This should be decided on by the ID in consultation with client and technical team. Sometimes, clients are particular about keeping a pause button or replay options. The content and length of the video are also determinants for using player controls.
  5. Testing in a published course.

A primary factor in using videos is whether the video is already available; has to be sourced or has to be created from scratch. If available, is it free of copyright issues? Has the client made the video or is it hosted on a commercial site, like YouTube or Vimeo? Does the client expect you to purchase a video available at video stock sites?
If the video has to be made from scratch, do you have to do a shoot? Or is it an animation based video or an image based video?
Further, if your course consists of video based learning entirely; then, scripting the video from scratch is mandatory. ID’s require good language skills, esp. conversational language skills to make a good video.
Also, the ID needs to keep the content precise; in-flow and effective. Natural conversation style is a good option for scripting, yet it needs to be on topic and not include any off topic examples or anecdotes. The script should have an explanatory tone which makes the user familiar with the content.

While including video in eLearning and / or video based learning may seem an easier training option, there are many factors to be considered before opting for it. Most important of all are the learning needs of your audience.
Is the audience better suited to learning from videos? What are the learning styles most common among your audience? What kind of time does the learner have? What kind of technology does the user have access to?

Some good video based learning sites

  1. You Tube
  2. Vimeo
  3. eHow
  4. Ted Talks
  5. PBS ( limited to certain geographies)
  6. BBC Bitesize
  7. BrainPop
  8. Open Course universities
  9. Khan Academy

The above have excellent quality videos and can provide a guideline for you to create your video. You should also check the footage available at various stock video sites to use in your course.


Most new eLearning companies claim loudly – “Let us save you from boring eLearning” And learn-977545_1280then garbed in a new avatar they sell the same old boring eLearning.

I avoid such companies who first put down what they are selling and then change the dressing and sell you the same old greens.

Either you are selling eLearning or you are not.

That leads us to wonder – What is eLearning?

ELearning stands for electronic learning. All forms of learning taking place through digital means is eLearning.

If you are selling gamification based program or simulations or blended learning solutions, which involve digital learning; you are still selling eLearning.


ELearning can be different types and complexity levels

From Level 1 to Level 4, it ranges from a simple text and graphic based page turner (much like Kindle books) to complex simulations. Some game simulations; MMORPG also constitute eLearning.


How does eLearning become more effective?

It is the instructional designer’s forte to ensure that your eLearning is relevant and engaging. In bespoke eLearning, it is always a good idea to understand the customer’s requirement first. A needs analysis should identify the goal that your customer has for making eLearning. Follow this up with a learner and context analysis. Know your learner and the situation they learn in. Identify the learner behaviour and design around it.

img1Effective eLearning is always focused on the learner. In off-the-shelf solutions, identify why the customer should purchase your eLearning, and thus, know customer needs. Then, know your learner. Have an average learner in mind before you design.



To find out how you can avail of more effective eLearning visit my site – idesigngyan

Or contact me at designgyan@outlook.com for more details.

Design, skill and exploratory learning

Even a trained graduate is useless, unless he or she applies skills learnt. The video identifies an audience who learns through discovery and then applies this learning to succeed where trained designers didn’t.

At a later stage the designers learnt how to apply skills to achieve a higher rate of success.

What is interesting is that the audience which succeeded initially, was not trained, yet had an open mind, a curious and exploratory mind which led them to design success.

Click to watch the video on  –  The Marshmallow Challenge


Online learning – Key points to successful design

I registered for a MOOC.

  • MOOC or an online course involves listening to some information, answering a few questions and doing some assignments occasionally.












What is the solution for better online learning? How can you increase course appeal and make it more engaging?

Some alternatives are

  • Webinar based lectures with prior registration and limitation in number of students who can take the webinar.
  • Telephonic availability of the lecturer.

Scalability is not a challenge any more. Engaging the student and more importantly retaining the student is the new challenge.


  • How are you going to design and deliver online learning?
  • Are you going to stand in front of the video camera, and speak with some slides at the back?
  • Or perhaps, you are going to be visible on an animated slide deck as a thumbnail somewhere with streaming audio?
  • Is that enough? No, it isn’t.

Engaging the student therefore depends entirely on your lecture design. You need to customize your lecture and here is where prior registration and limited number of students comes into play.

Let’s run through a quick check list of questions while designing a course.

When I design a course, understanding learner needs becomes the most important aspect of my solution design.

I need to do a learner’s and context analysis:

    • Who is the learner?
    • What does the learner hope to achieve at the end of the course?
    • Why does the learner need to take the course?
    • Are there improvement areas or is it new knowledge?
    • Where is the learner going to apply knowledge learnt in the course?
    • What are the different learning styles in the group?
    • How does the learner respond best?
    • How much guided learning is needed?
    • Can the learner learn independently?
    • What motivates the learner to learn and take the course?

These questions can be answered through

    • Learner profiles
    • Questionnaires
    • Direct interaction with average learner or specific learner

Does my lecture include recap points to check learner understanding? Can I give a customized feedback to learner?

Here, the concept of branching becomes relevant. If you can anticipate the several different types of responses and then guide the learner onto a pre-designed path as per response, then you have achieved a maximum level of customization without direct intervention.

Have I created enough to-do activities which are relevant to the course and can engage a very busy adult mind?

Have I created explore points? Are these explore points vague or directed to particular reference sites? Or are they just directed to a general source in Wikipedia?

How do I ensure that the learner comes back for the part 2 of the course?

  • Check if there is a carry-over assignment tying in to and as a pre-requisite for my next lecture.
  • Check if I can create a competitive environment by introducing ranking boards and other such competitive boards
  • Check whether material in part 2 is immediately relevant
  • Check if there is sufficient new content or is it just an expansion of old content.

How can I establish a relation with the learner?

  • Is there an SME on site or nearby to students (assuming it’s a small target group at a fixed or diverse locations) who will allow me to work in a blended learning component?
  • Is email interaction or phone interaction possible?
  • Can I create a specific forum or a small webinar at the end of every learning component?


The biggest challenge in online learning is the lack of personal reach and thus it reduces the experiential learning component.  The learner is unable to associate a learning point with a specific ‘teacher’ remark or incident or live example. I still recall the rotten egg smell of sulphur dioxide (H2SO4) in my chem lab because we opened the gas jar for longer than the required time. And I am not even from the science stream, though I scored the highest in class in chem.

That’s another point for student retention.  What is the reward factor?

More than twenty years post my schooling, I recall my scoring percentile -and with it comes the satisfaction that I was not dumb, but up there among the best.

  • A competitive element, where one can excel over one’s peers is thus the most motivating factor.
  • A certificate at the end or a score is even more rewarding.

Here is where we instructional designers build in ‘gamification’ elements, scored quizzes, leader boards, online badges to display on forums, and/or carry over into reward ceremonies with trophies and cups.

Elements where MOOCs and other paid for online courses fail miserably. At the end of the day, online learning succeeds if

  1. Group is small and targeted
  2. Course design is customized and specific
  3. Reward elements are recognized for long term leading to career or other gains

Finally the MOOC model is based only on three factors:

  1. Scalability – Ability to reach thousands of learners online.
  2. Affordability – Free education in most cases
  3. Availability – Education at par across the globe

If the factors in MOOC model were to be woven into online courses, which are professionally designed, sponsored and made available to the masses by philanthropists, then perhaps the model would be more successful in making education a global experience.

Tin Can API to the instructional designer

Tin Can API – It brings to mind statements like Break Free of SCORM or is a data analysts dream come true.

At first, the Tin Can API sounds more like a data aggregation tool, which allows for individual pieces of data to be collected, stored and accessed at any time, anywhere.

So, what else is Tin Can API and why is it relevant to instructional designers?

Well, for one it can become a ‘voluntary snoop’ for all your online learning activities and thus provide a huge database to all those instructional designers who work with customized training and care about the learner’s learning quotient!

For example, we designed and developed a sales training program to introduce a global sales staff to new products and selling strategies. Eight months post implementation, the training manager shared that 63% of the sales staff had responded positively to the program and said that it helped improve their performance. Wow! But how did the training manager collect this data and why did it take so long to share it?
It was long painful process, where each user’s course completion or passing of assessment was tracked and recorded on their LMS; their responses were documented via feedback and survey forms; data was tabulated and shared. Sure, as the course designer, the data helped me

How much more effective would it be if I could have had this data within a month or less of implementation? With Tin Can API I can!

Tin Can API allows me to

  1. Track usage data live time
  2. Study user response to various activities and different types of content
  3. Measure effectiveness of learning activities
  4. Introduce gamification features, which are track able and have higher learning value
  5. Redesign and further customize the module as per this data received
  6. Test drive a module and then design the rest of the course
  7. Allow users to access non-course content and still track it


I’d be willing to bet that I could get a 90% plus positive response with this level of customization.

The positive impact on the user would be

  1. Increase user engagement – Track his or her performance and compare it to peers
  2. User can measure progress immediately instead of waiting for annual assessment for the same.
  3. User can be assured that training delivered would be more customized and address individual performance gaps
  4. Anytime anywhere access – Activity on the ipad/mobile can also be recorded and tracked and collated with activity data other platform, thus allowing the user to continue with learning from office to home or field.

Some features of Tin Can API, which fascinate include

  1. Interoperability – tracking and delivery across platforms.
  2. Multiple users can be tracked simultaneously with data stored at once ( an MMPOG’s dream come true, apart from the training manager who uses online platforms to deliver massively scalable training)
  3. Scalability
  4. Launch content via apps rather than just browser
  5. No need to register into a course like in traditional LMS
  6. Record, record, record – almost a virtual key logger, the Tin Can API will allow you to voluntarily record all your activity and record key points of completion.

Tin Can API’s course creation mantra will be – ‘Record, Analyze, Assess, Customize, Create’

Tin Can API is already a publishable feature via Storyline and Lectora and allows for hosting on several LMS as well.

The question that dogs me is will instructional designers finally break free of the SCORM content packaging challenge allowing learning to be completely non-linear and available from anywhere? In short, is elearning free of the SCORM shackles again?

Content on the go?!

Most corporate training is for employees who have performance gaps.

How do you best describe a performance gap? The difference between an expected output and actual output. A detailed analysis will reveal several factors for the same.

Often, the most common and most overlooked factor is the employee’s inability to perform on the job and deliver a measurable output.

Training courses to reduce performance gaps also address skill areas, which influence his performance on the job.

How would we design the best elearning to address performance gaps?

At one extreme, we create simulations, where the user enters a virtual environment and simulate the entire job environment to understand how to optimize his performance. Or we can create simple branched scenarios with decision points, which will help user identify actions and consequences in a job environment. Both these treatment options are usually flash-based and require a high graphical output.

Now, with HTML 5 platforms, or mobile delivery platforms, both these approaches become critically inapplicable. Thus, as instructional designers, we need to innovate to suggest an instructional approach to address similar content for mobile and new technology platforms.

If your target learner is in the field and is most likely from sales, or takes the course as a certification, then he or she is more comfortable using a PDA, tablet, mobile or any portable computing platform. Most of these do not support high-end flash runtime environments. So, how do we create exciting content for these platforms?

The idea is to engage the user while he or she is on the move. The user is accessing learning in a possibly highly distracting environment.

We have to deliver content nuggets which he or she can view and interact with in a space of 15-20 minutes or less.

We not only have to engage the user,  but also deliver retention value content.

Let’s explore options with entertainment value and higher retention?

Our Options

Short videos

Audio podcasts or Audible

Text based content nuggets with low-end graphics or no graphics

Comic based applications

Small learning games

Comics with minimal graphics is another exciting approach. They are short. They have conversation, context, teach value of scenarios and are continued on a daily basis. Dexter and Calvin and Hobbes are examples of the same.

Can we provide a simulation without high flash option and yet make it engaging?

The art of theatre has been low since the popularity of other media. The drama form is the best simulation that we have witnessed over the aeons. Can I create a small drama to address my audience? The instructional designer will create a script, with actors and storyline to record as an audio podcast or narration short video based film.

More and more, instructional designs need to adapt and innovate with their approaches to learning, and deliver it with new tools and new technologies.

Quick Solutioning? Think again.

The process of solutioning cannot be done quickly. Quick solutions are like the first answer, but not the best answer. The better solution comes with due think time, analysis, and process. It is not just ‘a quick thought’ , couched in correct terminology and delivered by eod!

To give solutions, whether in an E-learning or ILT, you have to take several factors into account
1. TNA/ Needs analysis results
2. Task analysis
3. ROl analysis
4. Learner and Context analysis

Post this, the ID lists possible methods of delivery such as, elearning, or ILT, or blended learning. After adopting the method of delivery, discuss a possible approach.
In elearning, after the approach is clear, ideate and write the content note options. An approach is rooted in theory and standard in practice, while a content note is derived from the raw content, and supported with examples. These notes are based on the approach decided on. The approach is also dependent on the ID model that your organization follows.

Solutioning is prior to development in the rapid authoring environment or rapid prototype model. In such a model, your development time is cut to less than half the normal time, but the process of  solutioning is not.

Quick, rapid solutions are not the answer to a robust learning program, that you will use to make a difference in your organization.

Learn or Play: It’s all in the game

Online games, multi-player games, educational online games, games in your e-learning program – games are everywhere….and in the classrooms too.

There is no trainer today, who will not use a training game in a session he or she delivers, no matter how short! Maybe the trainer will build his team with a game, or he might teach a selling skill with his game! But games have become an essential part of an effective training program.

Games bring fun to learning, and take away from the monotony of having to sit in a classroom, long after you have finished schooling.

Training games are of several types, which range from simulation to simple passing the parcel game. To make the game an effective learning tool, the trainer needs to tie it in with the central theme of his training session.

“It is not enough for me to pass on the ‘Chinese whisper’; I need to know how it relates to what I came here to learn. Will this game therefore stay with me, when I talk to the customer? Will I remember what I learnt from the game, when I talk about my product?

Or will I remember the five essential rules of communication, which I saw on the slide?

More likely, I will remember the game.  Why? It’s simple really.

I played it. I participated in it. I experienced it. I did not just read about it or hear about it. I took part in that training game.”

Games are the best form of experiential learning, promoting retention and recall at all levels. A business simulation, for example, would be the better way to enhance performance in your organization, as compared to say a boring 40 slide presentation, which tells you about key performance indicators.

To sum up, some of the most successful learning games include the following pointers:

1. They have an element of competition

2. There are some limitations or rules

3. There is  a visible outcome or a goal

4. Most importantly, there is a take-away or give you something of value, be it a reward or a learning nugget.

Games and Learning

Why are gamers so highly motivated? Why does an online game thrill the player, even when rewards are intangible or fictitious? The obvious answer is that it satisfies some needs that an individual might have.

If we use the paradigm of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on gaming, a lot of questions get resolved.

Let’s take the example of Farmville, the famous Zynga games product, available on Facebook.

Which needs are satisfied by Farmville?


Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


1. Physiological needs – Games are a pleasurable activity, and players are having fun regardless of any other reason.

2. Safety and security needs – Tasks such as owning houses; building fences

3. Belongingness and Love needs – Connection with friends; Cooperatives with joint ventures; free gifts

4a. Self esteem needs – Status and climbing up a level; spending cash on a game which is also freely available. This includes being successful in the farm business, expansion in spa business, etc.

5. Cognitive needs – Tasks performed here map to bloom’s levels, including evaluation while making purchases etc.

6. Self-actualization needs – While the basic role is still of a farmer, other associated businesses allow the player to simulate wishes and desires.

The level of competition is at an intrinsic level only where you are competing to be the better farmer or reach a higher level. Since it is not multiplayer in absolute terms, competition is limited. The game presents the user with the usual challenge-task-reward format. It is created in a basic flash environment with cute graphics. However, is it a learning game?

A learning game is a game which would bring about a behavior change in the user, leading to an upgrade in the skill level.  A learning game is associated with some definitive content aimed at improving one particular skill or behavior.

Farmville simulates skills such as planning, organization and trade or barter. Whether these skills improve after playing this game for a long time is yet to be measured. A learning game incorporated with assessment can lead to measurement of whether the game has improved skills in any significant manner.

Serious learning games are used across sectors, such as strategic and tactical games for military, business, procedural simulations for health and other sectors.  Serious learning games have an underlying pedagogy and assessment as compared to games like Farmville, or Diners Dash.

The feedback is immediate and further motivates the learner to improve skills by replaying, as there is a positive element of challenge and competition.  There is also a belief in the learner that he or she will be able to improve skills and change behavior.

Learning games have some form of pedagogy, built in assessment and learning content integrated within the game in a manner that engages, involves and motivates the reader to learn.

Games encourage active form of learning. The learner moves from learning through a passive model to acquiring skills and changing behavior through an active model.

Asynchronous Online Learning and Social Media

Have you participated in online forums, discussions or taken self-paced online courses? Did you find these effective? Did they increase your skill level in the subject or knowledge of the subject in any manner? Online forums, courses and discussion groups are a fine example of asynchronous online learning or AOL.

What is Asynchronous online learning?

  • Flexible e-learning
  • It is self paced learning acquired through online discussion forums, e-mail or online courses which allow you to study and communicate with the facilitator at your own time.

Is it effective?
From a prinicple of andragogy it is best suited to adult learners who are usually in a busy environment. It treats you as the mature adult that you are and allows you to structure your own learning. In many cases, you can select what you want to retain and focus on.

Can social media be used to effectively deliver e learning?  How effective are social media such as facebook and twitter in delivering asynchronous learning?

Social media engages the user like none other. It allows ther learner to discover, network and collaborate on many topics. But does it promote learning?

Are discussion forums with a definite purpose more effective?  Such as usingenglish.com. A site where your grammar queries are resolved through discussion and answers from moderators. Linked in Discussion Forums is another excellent example of defintive use of social media to exchange ideas.

A more structured approach is found in online graphic design and creative competition sites, such as worth1000.com or freakingnews.com.  Designers, photographers and creative writers can upload their work and subject it to constructive critiques, peer reviews and get tips on skill improvement.

Asynchronous online learning is also delivered through online tutorials hosted on a membership-based LMS. Tutors can create courses and administer them to a virtual classroom. The learner can log on at his or her own time, download the course, attempt tests and also chat to the tutor.

Asynchronous online learning is also scalable in nature. It can be delivered simultaneously to a large number of users. The number of courses can also increase in volume and kind.

Asynchronous online learning creates “…an integrated set of guidelines … to design and participate in authentic learning environments which invoke critical thinking, creativity, and complex problem solving while developing important social interaction skills.” (Nelson 1999 – Collaborative Problem Solving Theory)

A combination of social media such as twitter, linkedin discussion forum and a moodle hosted course can effectively deliver asynchronous learning to a large audience.  A modern blend of learning flavors.

Reviews and Guidelines

 At a micro level, design principles are applied to create a specific learning unit – in LMS terms, a SCO. To create an effective unit, we, as designers are required to set guidelines. Parameters based on the needs analysis or as addressed in the first functional specifications as outlined in the agreement between you and the client.

At the designer’s work desk, it boils down to writing a storyboard or in some cases, a lesson plan. A lesson plan gets translated into the storyboard which specifies or details out the actual production output. Each of these granular units needs to be reviewed, keeping in mind parameters established at an early stage, assuming that parameters are established early.

In a situation where, the final output has not been envisioned properly, parameters are loose. Very often, designers rely on dynamic guidelines which evolve or get updated. Is that a good practice? Everything that I have learnt screams NO!  To address this need for guidelines, elearning organizations develop pilots.

Development of pilots is not just to provide the client a sample of your work, but an opportunity to interact with the client in co-developing the course. Ultimately, the product has to satisfy client needs. So, as you develop the pilot, you would identify the gaps in the development process; further define what the client requires; define specific guidelines; identify problem areas; and describe structure for client interaction on the granular level.

Still, parameters define how your review process will take place. Are you confident of addressing client needs? Do you have the skill and talent as well as subject expertise? Often subject expertise in the content is not needed. In most cases, client will supply the raw content. It is only where the raw content is sourced by you and has to be approved by the client, then you can have an additional step in the process.

The question is should you get the content approved first and then write your lesson plans or should the lesson plans outline the content?

Where the content is pending approval from the client, the review process becomes of paramount importance. The client review is now focused not just on the output but also the input. You review what you put into the course and you review the outcome.

The review process becomes more subjective and less defined. It also goes into several exchanges of changes; of deliberations. Suddenly you have given your client your team and not talent, as the reins of the course delivery are firmly determined by the client review team.

On the other hand, if the client provides the content at the outset, with firm guidelines, is it enough? The client checklists are for the output. You still review the input. And thus, the need for your internal guidelines is paramount. Specific and measurable – just like course objectives, a review needs to map to certain points. ID review guidelines define how your content will flow – what kind of screens will precede assessments. Will you intersperse your course with checkpoints? If so, when? Are you using interactivities or scenarios? When will you use them? Will you follow these with informational screens? Are there utilities like glossary or good to know pop-ups in your course? Are there try-outs?

Each and every guideline has to be detailed at the pilot stage. Or decided on before you even begin with the review stage. What about updates? Clients sometimes update guidelines. It just adds to the review challenge. Can you therefore, create a guideline which calls for a little scope of update, unless absolutely necessary?

The process leads to many conflicts at the micro level. Conflicts between the reviewer and the writer or conflicts with the client subject experts.

 At the macro level, you just haven’t defined a framework within which you can work smoothly. At the macro level, there are standards established by SCORM and AICC, which define how your elearning courses will be created? Compliance to these standards and processes will define your micro level guidelines.

Elements of a Good Design

What are the elements of a good design?

Objectives – They need to be well – framed, specific and relevant. I argued that it is important to be creative while writing your objectives. But creativity is also bound by rules. Random creativity is chaos. It does not make logical sense. Why are specific objectives important? They not only tell you the intent of the design but also the limits. Good objectives outline topic coverage. They allow you to measure the weight-age that you need to give to a topic. Objectives are so much more then just telling the learner what the outcome of the course is going to be. To the designer, they are the bones which will hold the meat and flesh together.

Structure – Do objectives define the structure? Not necessarily. While, they are the bones, the structure is like the nervous system. The nerves decide how and where the message will be carried through. The structure will tell you how the message will be carried and where it will go. The structure of the topic decides on the order in which you will build up the elements of the topic. It allows you to order your concepts in a manner in which you want the learner to know them. This actually is the most exciting part of the design. You can derive the message through tools like scenarios and multimedia elements. Or you can keep your teach element direct and to the point.

Storyboard Plan– A good content outline is a part of the structure. That includes the introduction; teach screens, test screens and conclusion. These form the granular detail, the meat and flesh that will hold your bones and nerves together. How you will give life to the structure is decided in the storyboard plan? The number of screens, the type of screens, the amount of content on each screen, and most importantly, the nature of content on each screen are all a part of the storyboard plan.

Tools – The learner is a complex animal. No two learners can be alike. In fact, the same learner can learn differently. To meet the learner needs, you need a set of effective tools which will aid you in presenting your content in the most suitable manner. An instructional strategy based on the needs, learner and context analysis. The tools which will enable you to implement your strategy include simulations, scenarios, media elements, multimedia elements like audio and video and any other. The tools provide you with the skin, the outer element which allows you to dig into the meat below. Crispy skin with juicy sauces make for a good barbecued chicken. It’s your use of these tools which will make the design effective, flavorful and enhance long term retention.

Learning Objectives – Let’s get creative.

By the end of this article, you will be able to

  • Discuss relevance of learning objectives in their present form
  • Discuss creative ways of writing learning objectives


Okay…now that I have told you what this article is about? Do you want to read it? Maybe. Are you motivated to read it? Not really.

Precisely what Andy McGuire, Director of Global Learning and Development in Corporate Human Resources at Cummins, Inc. discusses in the blog on Bottom-Line Performance

Every time you start with a course, it is important for the learner to know what he will gain from the course and what the material presented to him will be about. Therefore we outline learning objectives for every elearning course which we design.

Still as Andy McGuire says it is time to do away with presenting learning objective’s in a bulleted list. Its time to present them creatively to the learner. Let’s tell the learner what he will learn but tell it in a different manner.

Recently, I reviewed storyboards for a course on teaching computers to young children. As an ID reviewer, the course was my worst nightmare come true. Forget about the overall strategy used, the course did not have any clearly mentioned goal or objectives, apart from being badly written. Half of it was already produced. The theme however was creative and the presentation of graphics was good. I was presented with the challenge to redo the course in an acceptable manner and ‘rescue’ it. After the deed was done. Well, I accepted the challenge.


I started by trying to frame objectives to tell children what they will be learning. Bulleted points with Blooms became irrelevant. The storyboard writers did not understand Bloom. They had no clue what I wanted when I asked for learning objectives. But the writers are creative. And have good ideas. I sat in a training session with them and explained why I needed them to outline objectives in each screen. It was tough.

So I came up with a plan. I told them you need to write objectives because you need to outline what you will teach the child in the course and in the storyboard that you are going to write. Okay. That made sense to them. Objectives

A new learning here – learning objectives have a two-fold aim. Objectives outline what you aim to teach in the course. This helps you design and plan content better. At the same time you tell the learner what  he or she will learn, if or when he completes the course.

But that was not enough. The problem was how to write objectives by incorporating them within the introductory dialogue in the beginning of each module. So I decided to write the objectives for them and ask them to re-script the course wherever possible.

My first review task was to creatively incorporate the objectives with the ‘Bloom tag and base’ into the dialogue. It was challenging at first, but more and more I realized that telling the learner what he is going to learn is conversing directly with the learner.So, all we need to keep in mind is to create an interesting conversation with the learner on what the course is all about.creative objectives

And quit worrying too much about the bulleting and adding the tag sentence of “by the end of the course/lesson…” Believe me, that sentence has become the biggest put off in my life.

Andy McGuire also talks of involving the learners a little more by discussing the need to learn as well creating a scenario of their current situation and how they will change it after the course.

It’s time to get creative with our objectives. It definitely takes away the monotony of the course beginning in many elearning courses.

Course Time

One question that I constantly face as an instructional designer is “What is the seat time for the course?”

On an average we calculate seat time by assuming that user will spend minimum of two minutes to five minutes per screen. And then multiply it by no. of screens planned etc.

However, isn’t elearning about self paced learning? Learning anywhere, anytime?

I would hate to have to go through a good course at one sitting of forty five minutes or two hours. I might as well attend a lecture in a classroom.

Seat time also refers to the combined time that is spent on the course amounting to forty-five minutes or two hours. Without accounting for the breaks an instructional designer would still say that the user on an average would spend two hours on a particular course. And in most cases the ID would be accurate.

Why should I make seat time a factor while designing the course?

As a user, I prefer a course where I can go through a few screens and then take a break. I would like to take time to digest what I have read or just learnt. Then maybe come back to the course to continue learning. I want a course which allows me to read a few screens, apply what I have learnt, esp. if it’s a skill and then learn more.

It would indeed be great to create a course so engaging that the user is rooted to the screen for two hours.

Sure, a game might keep me there for two hours. And even games have pause buttons unless I am online fighting an imaginary enemy in a MMROPG.

Or maybe a simulation would keep me there. Sure simulations are great to learn from. As a user, they involve me so completely, that two hours later I still want more.

Does real learning occur in those two hours?

What do you measure when you evaluate the effectiveness of most elearning courses?

# As per Kirkpatrick, we measure whether user reaction has created a desire for learning. And whether the learning changes behavior and demonstrates results.


When does learning occur?

# Learning is said to have occurred when content material is recalled at the time of application of a skill or principle.

How does learning occur?

# Most learners will go through the course but once. Retention of learning rarely happens on the first and only exposure to content. Unless retention takes place, will it be possible to transfer learning?

Does retention occur when you do not repeat the content just learnt?

# Retention of learning is confirmed when the user is assessed on the content presented. Assessments do not guarantee that retention will occur beyond the assessment. Nor do they ensure transfer of skills.

How does transfer of learning or of skills occur and how does retention take place?

# If I see a movie like Matrix Revolutions, I can tell you the scene sequence only if I watch it at the least – twice, with specific attention to scene sequence. Repetition.

What is learning?

Let’s face it – most of us are not brilliant learners. Most of us do not really want to learn a new skill unless it is absolutely necessary, unless our motivation is really high. Most of us are stressed learners. Most of us do not want to spend business time on learning courses or skills. Most of us would rather take the course in the free time between projects or meetings or be in a learning place of calm and quiet.

The challenge therefore is to create content which promotes retention and transfer of skills, irrespective of the time any user spends on it.

Then why does the design have to factor for a seat time of an elearning course?

Why not simply give the number of screens which will be created?

Anyway the cost of the course will be calculated as per screens developed rather than how much time the user will spend on it. After all we are undervaluing the course if we cost it as per one use seat time. Nor am I accounting for development time if I cost it as per seat time.

One hour of seat time does not in any way equate to a certain number of man hours on the development time. Most project post mortems will tell you that they spent much more time than estimated or budgeted for. Few will tell you that they spent much less time. Hardly any will state that they spent the exact number of man hours estimated as per the project plan or budgeted as per the plan.

Project hours

As an ID, I do not want to tell the users how much time they should spend on it. Or the ideal amount of time that they may take to go through the course. Nor do I want to use forced navigation to ensure that users meet my estimated seat time requirements.

I want to tell the users that they can spend as much time on it as they want to! Or as little. I want the users to be responsible for their own learning with the content presented to them. I want the users to engage in the learning process so that they can apply this learning on the job.

After all, it is the transfer of skills that the client seeks. My output is much better when I worry less about the user’s seat time requirements. I can give you a design that will motivate the users to not only ‘spend’ time on the course but see the course as an investment. A design so compelling that will ensure that the users will want to remember the content.


Did you know that IRDA regulations require an examinee to spend at least 100 hours of practical training with an authorized institution?

Most institutions deliver this training either via lectures in a classroom or by giving an online timed course. Once 100 hours are accounted for, the candidate is eligible to appear for the IRDA certification exam.

Here’s how online courses ensure 100 hours of seat time.

• Forced navigation – The forward button is disabled for two-three minutes.

• Put a timer and clock user activity. The courses are hosted on LMS with logs.

Here’s how the user beats it.

• Pays a rookie to log in every day and click every screen.
• Or simply logs on, opens an alternate tab to watch you tube and after two minutes switches back to the course to click NEXT!

Festival of learning

Avyudaya Festival of Learning is from Sept 14th to  Sept 19th.
“Avyudaya Festival of Learning is a unique concept that brings together under one roof different methods of learning, teaching and discovery processes with a dream team of India’s finest gurus, philosophers, teachers and resources.”

A festival of learning – I was fascinated when I read this. To make a festival out of learning. Just imagine how powerful this idea is.
If translated to the rural context, it might attract those who force their children to drop out of schools.
Of course the theme of this festival and target audience are different – but the concept is universal.

In India, there are still large areas where learning in inaccessible, and considered unnecessary. However, a festival excites them and is consideered necessary as it is centered around the gods and brings blessings. If there were to be a festival centered around Goddess Saraswati , the goddess of learning, I wonder if all those masses would be attracted to learning.

Vasanta Panchami is celebrated every year when saraswati puja takes place. An interesting time for the festival. A few weeks or atleast one week of classes with accelarated learning and motivational offerings for drop- outs to rejoin schools. A time when educational institutes can open doors with discounts or offer free vocational skills for those who cannot afford it. Rich blessings but deserved.

A festival of learning is just what Indians need- in the right context though.


The current buzzword in eLearning & training is ROI or return on investments. The client is most likely to ask you, “Can you tell me the precise ROI from the deliverable?”

Recession blues have hit training budgets. Conversely this is really the best time to train and reskill employees. Workloads are low and time is money. Time invested in training now will mean ROI at a later stage.

Still, ROI is so much on the ID’s platter, that the goal for a training program in say, sales needs to be as specific as:

  • It aims to increase your sales output by 5%.


  • Your employees productivity will go up by 35%.

An insurance manager will need to be assured that his branch will increase its revenues by 20-40%, if his managers complete this training program.

ROI means measurable specific goals. A simple direct communication to your client’s decision makers.

Is giving numbers enough? Back up the numbers by a core strategy. A strategy that will deliver the 20 – 40% output.

A strategy like telling your client that a program with direct transfer of skills such as a a computer based simulation or application training are more likely to benefit their staff then a theory intensive learning program. You will opt for programs which test knowledge on field or in real life scenarios. Simulations allow a near transfer of learning by engaging the user in multi-sensory activity.

Effective performance in simulations will translate to effective performance in the business. Any performance measure criteria that you give in a simulation must be related to similar criteria in the real world. Giving a measurable specific goal will ensure that your training program is going to be that much more meaningful to your learner.

Remember, the evaluation phase will be in the field and will hit your program hard unless you meet the goal.

Keep it real.

Keep it short.

Keep it simple.


Focus on ROI.

Stereotyping in online games

Open Google in two tabs

Type games for girls in one

Type games for boys in the next

Count the number of sites which have stereotyped the two. – Innumerable.

All game sites have two new categories – Girls games and Boys games.

Stereotypes are generalizations about a group of people which can be positive or negative, such as when various nationalities are stereotyped as friendly or unfriendly. The most common stereotyping occurs on the basis of gender. Most of us suffer from stereotype threats as people from stereotyped groups experience an apprehension (stereotype threat) of being treated unfairly.

Media stereotypes, esp. in advertising are bound to occur as products are specific for use of a particular target audience. It is this factor that has made the gaming sites hugely popular. Game designs are made on specific target audience demands.

A basic principle in needs analysis is to identify target audience and profile this target audience. All good elearning products are pointless without this principle. However, design output in the gaming sites has resulted in negative stereotyping and fact that it perpetuates social injustice and prejudice.

Girls gaming sites are mostly pink, with emphasis on cooking, dressing up, salon and such other games on activities and skills, traditionally associated with a woman.

Boys gaming sites are black or green, with emphasis on action, sports, war, and fighting.

In real life, women are enrolled in the army. In real world women are very much competing with men on equal terms. While gender sensitivity will always be an issue, most gender differences are fast becoming a myth and only the physical characteristics define the difference.

But in the virtual world, we seem to be more comfortable with the gender specific scenarios. While the games tackle basic skill building and are suitable in some cases for young kids who are at the ‘gender-awareness’ stage, it does make the girls think that that girls cook while guys play.

Well,unless that is the kind of mental makeup that you want for your child, I suggest you avoid the sites. And ensure that your child avoids them too. After all parental locks are pretty useful in all cases, right?

Game Review: Pixie Hollow – Fairyland

I am a great fan of Enid Blyton. Her boarding school series as well her mystery series were always a part of my childhood must-reads. But my favorite was always the Enchanted Tree series with Moon Face, Saucepan Man and other pixies residing in the cloud lands above the trees. So, I was delighted when I saw Pixie Hollow –Disney‘s online MMORPG. It is a fairy land atop an enchanted tree of pixies. The big difference is that you can be a part of it too.

The game starts by allowing you to create a fairy. Unlike other games where character design is limited to appearances, this design allows you to select your particular talent or skill. As the game is based on the story that the fairies look after the natural world, each fairies’ skill is related to nature. All quests in the game are based on this theme. Each talent has a lead fairy who will assign the tasks to its team fairies. The central fairy in charge is Tinkerbelle. She welcomes you into the pixie hollow with a quest. As you enter, you report to her. 
If you are like me – fascinated with anything fairylike and enigmatic – you will get addicted to the game. No matter your age. Pixie hollow is a huge magical tree. It has four top foliage groups, each of which represents a land based on a season. You can flit around from land to land as a fairy. The land is full of collectibles, shops and ‘addas’ or hideouts. When you visit the hideout, you can either chat to a fairy or get a new quest from her. 

 The quest normally involves gathering natural things such as berries, twigs, dewdrops etc. Some things can be obtained naturally lying around as you explore the land. While some others such as dewdrops or bubbles involve playing a mini-game. Mini-games are also available when you choose to learn a skill such as tailoring or baking. These are cleverly designed theme games.
The social aspect of the game is limited in scope. It is similar to another MMORPG only in certain aspects such as chatting and shopping. It does not have any joint quests or duels or demons to fight. You cannot form a team to solve a quest. Thus, you do not interact with another player in game play but only to chat with. As you flit around in pixie hollow, you will meet other fairies. You can make friends with them, whisper, chat or just ignore them.
The game is based on sound ID principles. The player is constantly engaged by beautiful graphics excellent music and more importantly the game play. There is always a task that she can do. Even if the fairy simply hovers in air, a honey comb or a leaf or berry might appear from nowhere and she simply clicks to collect it. The music is soothing and relaxing.

The game builds motivation constantly. Each task has a reward. Just gathering twigs can be useful It allows you to buy something. Or it may be useful in a quest. A shade or a color for your dress would cost you 25 twigs or a pretty bauble may set you back by 75 snowflakes. In a quest, the animal fairy might ask you for berries to feed the deer. And if you have already gathered them, you will complete the quest faster. After a few quests, membership is required, which is again payment based. 
The instruction is clearly written and audible. Instructions are even repeated as instruction text if needed. The game guide and characters build the atmosphere of calm, peace, magic, enchantment. 
It has a non linear navigation, which allows you to jump from anywhere to anywhere. It also has a very useful mini map which acts like the game menu. The game information and help etc. is contained in a cleverly designed menu in the form of a leaf journal. The leaf journal has information on quests, fairies, a help document, etc. There is also a pouch to store all collectibles. At every stage the leaf journal gives you menu options to do things, go places, make changes etc. 
Overall the gaming experience is pleasant, engrossing, lovely, and musical. It took me on a nostalgia trip back to my childhood and all those wonderful books by Enid Blyton which I have long given away. It recreated the world of fairies and Disney characters online. While nothing can ever replace the Disney cartoons and animation flicks, this game allowed me to interact with them in an intelligent manner. In this game Disney probably found a new target audience- that of the older and grown up ‘kids ‘rather than the five year old who watch Mickey Mouse Playhouse and learn Math with Mickey.

Content Layering

Have you ever travelled along the stretch of road between the Chakala- Lever-Bisleri junction and Andheri  east to west flyover?  If you have, you may have noticed Hotel Suba…You cannot miss it. It’s the only shining structure after rows of trash trucks and vehicles.

Have you taken a good look at it?  It’s a monstrosity of a building actually, disregarding the drive in area, that is. 

To my mind, it’s a fantastic example of content layering in a typical elearning program.

How so?


Elearning Programs

Layer 1

Your user interface and graphic shell. Your look and feel and overview of the program get contained in this layer. The reader is introduced to the program at this layer.

The shining outer surface of the Hotel. The décor , the atmosphere all form a part of your first impressions.
Layer 2

The informational aspect of your elearning program gets tackled here. What do you wish to tell your user? What should the user know? All your teach screens are contained here.

Just like the hospitality- presumably it’s up to standards – at the hotel. The reception, lounge, room instructions will give you ample know how on how to conduct yourself on the premises.
Layer 3

The interactivities occur at this layer. This is the section where the user interacts with the program with activities and clickables to engage the user.

Your interaction with the hotel for various services.

So, why just the Hotel Suba? Any hotel model will do. Up to Layer 3, there is no doubt that any other hotel will do just as well. But let’s check Layer 4.


Elearning Programs

Layer 4

The Check Your Knowledge –Were you awake and fully conscious as you read the program or did you browse through it in a dreamlike state? Your assessment grade is bound to reveal this.

In short, did you see all the aspects of the hotel? Did you see that it is a part building and part hotel? Well, it would not have been obvious, if the hotel front had not been shining, while the back portion looked as if it were glaringly cut out of the MHADA buildings for slum rehabilitation. Funnily enough, there is a small sign board near it which says – slum paradise.
It sure tests your wakefulness in the world.

If you have not really read through your elearning program in detail, it is likely you will fail the assessment. If you have looked only at the sheen and the gloss of Suba, you have missed what lies behind. Perhaps you have failed the test of being fully conscious.
An instructional designer organizes concepts within several layers such as: the information layer, the control layer, the strategy layer, and the message layer.
The casual reader will be content with the surface layer content. However, the person with an in-depth interest might dig deeper.

So you can choose really, whether to read this post at the surface level or whether you will dig a bit deeper.

Story based learning – 1

The King maker is the king

Deep in the Himalayas, there was a beautiful valley. To the world outside, it was known as the kingdom of peace, riches and beauty. However, inside only the people could tell you how peaceful it really was.

In this kingdom lived a wise man called Gramin. He was a rich man. He could predict futures and decide fates.

In this kingdom, there also lived two princely families. One which ruled the throne and the other, the king’s brother. Both the King and his old brother had a son each. Both were keen on becoming the next king.

The King announced his retirement. And also declared the road to the throne open for both cousins.

He said that gods would be consulted before they decided on who would be the next king.

Both princes went to Gramin. Both appealed to him. Gramin promised to pray for both. In return he garnered favors and made money.

The day came for choosing the king.

The royalty and the who’s who of the kingdom gathered in large numbers, waiting for the king’s decision.

The King however said nothing. He sat there quiet and brooding.

One of his courtiers asked him:”O King, have you decided?”

King: “Who am I to decide?”

Courtier: “Your Majesty, it is your right and duty to leave the kingdom looked after, once you step down. Make your decision, your majesty!”

King: “However, all of you and both the princes seem to think that someone else will decide that.”

Courtier: “Eh? Excuse me Your Majesty, we do not follow what you have just said.”

King: “Alright then, I have decided in the favor of the Kingmaker…!”

Courtier:”The Kingmaker? But your majesty, we have no such post or person.”

King: “You are mistaken. We do have a Kingmaker! The Gramin! He is the person that all turn to for advice. The princes too went to him. His prayers decide on who does what and what happens in this kingdom. Today morning he came to me and told me that if he so  chose, he can make a peasant the next king. Both the princes will do as he says. If he chose, they will leave the kingdom fearing that some harm may befall them. He will choose the king, his fate and the fate of the kingdom, he said.

Further, he said, ‘O king, give me the princess’s hand in marriage so that I too may be royalty. Or give me the wealth of you treasuries which I so desire, so that I too may be rich beyond dreams. And give me the gardens and the rivers, so that I can have a tiny fiefdom of my own.’

Well, I thought about it and realized what he says is true. The entire kingdom relies on him. And yet, he has little wealth as compared to me.

He is the Kingmaker, more powerful than me, the king.  In that case, let him be the King!

Let the Kingmaker be the King. Let him enjoy the rights and take responsibilities for the duty of the vast kingdom.

My decision is made. Let the Kingmaker be the King!”

The courtiers agreed.And gave in to the demands of the retiring monarch.

The proclamation in the town square read:

The King Maker is the king!


The Kingmakers are indeed the kings.

In India, we  have too many kingmakers, ranging from Sharad Pawar, Nitish Bharadwaj and  Karunanidhi to Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and Jayalalitha!

However, I am sure they will remain just that – kingmakers. And they will always be more powerful then the king.

Luckily we do not have a monarchy. But we have the kingmakers. And the Kingmakers are more powerful then the king!

In the coming days, we shall witness the kind of bargaining and selling of power that only a hung assembly and coalition politics can bring about.

Here’s hoping that the kingmakers do not ask for their own fiefdom!


Web 2.0 and eLearning

  • Social networking sites
  • Blogs
  • Widgets
  • Embeddable videos
  • Forums
  • Web based applications
  • Messenger and chat programs


Any application promoting interconnectivity and interactivity on the Web are referred to as Web 2.0. By that definition, email should also be a part of Web 2.0.


Web 2.0 is changing the face of online learning. Suddenly, scalability is no longer a problem in online learning. Learning modules are available everywhere and to everyone; a lot of it is free of charge.

Most of it though is a literal form of social learning. Any learning where there is an interaction is social learning. And online learning in Web 2.0 is all about sophisticated forms of social learning.


Social Networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are used by schools and universities, to deliver more student or user friendly education. There are open source LMS, like Moodle, also available to make online education more viable at the delivery end. Online collaborative authoring tools, like Composica allow you to add features such as widgets, videos etc. This makes both creation and delivery of online learning universal.


Increasingly, the demand is for rapid creation of content. The need is also for making it available fast, and across geographies. Web 2.0 applications have made this possible.

Instructional Designers now have the task of incorporating these features into a rapid instructional model. The ID challenge for Web 2.0 is simple. To make learning relevant and retentive on a platform that is very fluid and dynamic. Retaining user attention to the blog /online content module will be the focus, as the user is likely to navigate away within two minutes of visiting the page.


Other issues are

  • To authenticate learning delivered via the web
  • To create a subject focus and streamlined course structure

These two factors are particularly relevant as the web has a vast database of resources, some of which may be mere opinions, instead of facts. Some may be erroneous facts.


Will Web 2.0 provide a challenge to traditional elearning? Time will tell. It will definitely be the more popular and cheaper medium of learning, though.

Gagne’s Nine Events in Election 2009?

Who says ID and politics don’t mix?

Gagne’s nine events of  instruction explained through the election campaign 2009: –

  1. Gain attention – Varun Gandhi’s speech
  2. Inform learners – National and International Media

  3. Stimulate recall – Gandhi family history – Gandhi v/s Gandhi through constant screening of the same headlines and news with flashbacks and photos

  4. Present content – Courtesy media , news channels, analysts with engaging audio, video, humour etc.

  5. Provide learning guidance – CD’s (doctored or otherwise), newspapers, magazines plenty of content is available. Also check with your local chaiwalla, teacher, doodhwalla,auto driver and more.

  6. Elicit performance – Public opinion , Polls, Decide voting patterns

  7. Provide feedback –  Voter Turnout during elections

  8. Assess performance – Election Results

  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job – Policies of the newly elected government

Authoring Tools


The elearning industry in the recent past has seen a spurt in the growth of authoring tools. There are at least fifteen competing products in the market. These vary from screen capture tools to content publishing systems and online collaborative publishing tools.

Screen Capture tools – Simple tools allow you to record your usage of any particular application and can create videos of mouse movements. Some of them allow addition of text through inbuilt callouts and templates. You can even record audio, describing the application. These are best used for application and process training programs. High-end programs allow you to publish this training as integrated packages.

Content Publishing systems – These are complete authoring environments with some great features.

  • Creating fully interactive courses
    • Text content can be typed in directly or imported in certain formats
    • Graphics can be imported in various formats
    • Animations and videos can be embedded
    • Question banks can be created with quiz templates. Up to ten type of question templates are available here.
    • Inserting boxed interactive activities and games is also possible in most authoring tools.
  • Navigation options
    • As SCORM and AICC standards get adopted worldwide, the navigation options for most courses get ‘templatized’ in various authoring tools as per your standards requirements.
    • Course navigation can be customized and is usually available in a panel in the system.
  • Publishing options
    • The course that you create can be published to different platforms. They can be CBT’s or WBT’s. Published as per SCORM 1.2 or 2004 versions. Published as per AICC standards. They can be made 508 compliant.
    • Courses can be published either as html or flash presentations. Some systems allow you to publish to word for handouts and to power point presentations.

Online Collaboration Tools

  • It allows users to review work online and collaborative authoring before publishing.
  • It can be an add – on to pre-existing LMS, these authoring tools allow authors to be based anywhere, access the content and publish directly.
  • Apart from this they have the features of content publishing system.


Apart from authoring tools, there are also interactivity builders. These have templates for games, activities, quiz and assessments.

Up side-

  • These interactivities are based on sound instructional design principles.
  • They cut short your development time especially in integration and testing.
  • Very few people are required to create the course.


  • Customized elearning solutions become template dependant.
  • Elearning when automated restricts creative solutions.





Blended Learning

Today’s organization has various training needs which may not be fully satisfied with traditional solutions. The growing organization needs a blended learning solution. Blended learning combines traditional learning methods with modern elearning methods. 

The goal of all blended learning solutions is to provide the most effective delivery of instruction by combining  different delivery platforms.

Blended learning ensures that the learning solution offered to the client is highly customized and meets the client’s training requirements. The trick is to find the perfect blend of media for the perfect training solution.

Use of multiple media like audio, video, tele-delivery methods,  printed matter, job aides, classroom training, computer-based training (CBT), instructor led training (ILT), and web based training (WBT) leads to maximum learner benefit.

Blended learning is more suited to andragogical learning, as it provides stimulus and engages the learner on different fronts. Blended learning is also referred to as hybrid learning or mixed learning.

Blended learning allows you to break your training into stages. You can start with an ILT followed by self paced learning through a CBT or a WBT. For a take away, you can give the learner an audio or a video tape or even a podcast, which the learner can use as constant reference.

Blended learning is more effective in gauging participant response and retention of learning. 

Game based elearning

The only thing I remember about my computer lessons at school was creating a game. Our first tryst with computer happened when they taught us inane programs like BASIC and LOTUS at class 8 levels. I never used either. But I do remember creating a Haunted Castle game in BASIC with simple commands.

Retention of learning is one of the many challenges that online computing environments face today. In the digital age, attention span is really short. To keep the young or adult learner engaged for a longer period of time, you need to create a completely immersive virtual environment – found in video based games. Video games for the pc or game box are rich in multimedia with tremendous visual and sound appeal. Most games engage the user completely. All your five senses and possibly the sixth one is also engaged, making them what we term as immersive.

Games can be

·         Single player

·         Multiplayer

Game based learning develops many skills such as

·         Competition and cooperation, esp. in social gaming where teams are formed to play online.

·         Concentration

·         Problem solving

·         Critical thinking

·         Decision making

Key management skills can be effectively taught through gaming and will not be limited to an age group. The next Bill Gates is going to come from the crop of the fourteen year olds who are sitting at home or cyber café on weekends and spending at least two or three hours gaming.

Some elements of a good game are

·         Engrossing plot – Most plots are set in a space, ancient fantastic worlds or future imaginary spaces.

·         Interesting characters – Imaginary characters which users can customize, integrate role play into the game

·         Evaluation – Constant decision making which calls for making choices leads to the user thinking critically and adds an element of assessment or evaluation into the game.

·         Rewards – These are immediate. The idea of perform to succeed and earning points or bonus on the first right choice is the key to keeping users motivated.

Key military training is now impossible without game based learning. Military games vary from strategy making to actual war games.

Game based learning is experience based learning. The user can experience the virtual environment by deciding character actions. The user can be influenced by reactions and emotions projected on to the character during game play. 

Game design and using gaming for education is now being formally taught in most universities. 

Story Telling in eLearning

All ancient learning took place through storytelling. From oriental civilization to western civilizations, stories such as Panchatantra, Aesop’s Fables or Tao tales, became cultural repositories of knowledge.

It is therefore inherent, that we learn easier through stories. Pedagogical principles show that both child and adult learning is facilitated better through stories. In elearning, stories are the most effective tool for retention of subject matter.

Ranging from scenarios to simulations, stories are a comprehensive method of learning from example.

How did learning via storytelling evolve in a corporate workplace? It already existed, in a more informal manner.

At every sales meet, sales representatives share their experiences with customers, their successes and their failures. Other examples are those of well documented case studies. A speech or a meeting is always enlivened by anecdotes about work.

Role play is another exciting way to enhance stories.  Here, people assume characters and narrate experiences or imaginary tales.

Capture these incidents and experiences, transform them with multimedia and you have with you an interactive and highly engaging story based elearning module.

Elements of story telling–

1.       Narrative – Narratives can be simple with single point dilemma situations. Complex narratives are like stories embedded within stories. Here the narrative is branched out with multiple decision points. This branching out creates different paths for reaching your decisions.

2.       Plot – All stories benefit from a good plot. Online stories allow you to create multiple plots and explore all at a click of a button.

3.       Characters – Stories for elearning are limited. Too many characters create confusion in the learners mind and do not serve the purpose. 

4.       Relationship – Establishing a relation between the story and user actions become the primary aim of an elearning story. It keeps the user engaged and the story remains interactive.

5.       Elearning stories are usually open ended. They are aimed at allowing the user to select the ending. In most cases, you can create multiple endings.

Stories in elearning focus on how to develop highly engaging content using digital means.