How To Use Social Learning And Epic Meaning To Succeed With Gamification

Gamification might be just what you need to breathe new life into your tired old training. Before you press start, make sure you have a full engagement plan in place. Here's what you need to get to the top of the leaderboard!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

A Three-Step Process to Build Your Skills the Right Way

e-learning portfolio

Recently, I’ve seen dozens of portfolios and work samples that are verbatim copies of the work of others. This isn’t a good thing, especially if you represent it as your own work. There’s a difference between being inspired by others and plagiarism. And not knowing this can hurt your career.

To protect the innocent I won’t mention the names of individuals (or companies) that have ripped off the work of others and represented it as their own. I’m sure some of it is intentional, but I suspect that most are just not aware that what they’re doing isn’t in their best interests.

Today I’ll share a few ways to find inspiration from others and use it build YOUR skills the right way. And then use those skills to show off what you can do. The end point should not be an exact copy of the source material. Instead, it should be a derivative work inspired by the source.

Step 1: Find a source of inspiration

Look for ways to be inspired. I focus on visuals and interactivity. E-learning is mostly visual, so it’s always good to learn more about graphics and UX design. And another main point of focus is learning to transition from static content to engaging interactions.

Keep an ideas folder or bookmarks for later reference. Here are some places I like to look for ideas:

  • Design sites like Dribbble where you can see what people are doing. Many will even share free assets.
  • Presentation sites like Slideshare where you can see how people are presenting their content. They also have an easy way to do screengrabs.
  • Mobile apps are a good source of inspiration. I regularly download different apps just to look at how they work and how users interact with them to get content. This gives me ideas for course design. Especially when I want some novel ideas on how to navigate a course.
  • Multimedia presentations are also valuable. News sites tend to build simple interactive multimedia demos for the hot news. Unfortunately, today it seems they spend more on the interactions and less on real journalism, but that’s a blog post for another day.
  • Template sites like Template Monster and Theme Forest are great to see different types of layouts and get ideas for screens and colors.

What are some sources of inspiration for you?

Step 2: Deconstruct your source of inspiration

One of the best ways to learn is by deconstructing things that interest you. Since I work mostly with Storyline, my initial thought is whether or not I can create what I see in Storyline.  Sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. The goal is to play around with the idea as well as the software.

  • I deconstruct the source of inspiration and try to figure out what’s happening and why the creator may have chosen that approach versus something else. I make notes of what I like and what I may change.
  • I try to build a functional prototype. Sometimes the source content is an interaction I like and sometimes it may be a visual design idea. In either case, I try to replicate it in the software to learn what I can do. One side benefit is that I often discover some new production techniques.

At this point, the concern isn’t a final showcase product. It’s more about building a matching prototype.

Step 3: Apply what you learned to something original

Inspiration should lead to iteration. The goal isn’t to build copycat modules. It’s a small industry and people know when you cribbed an idea from another developer. Instead, the goal is practice and then apply what you learned to something original.

If there’s an animation you found interesting, how would you apply it to your own content? Are there layouts you can build into reusable templates? Can you make the interaction work the same way but in a different context?

A few things to keep in mind:

  • If you do borrow an idea from someone else and share it publicly, give them props. It’s good form and builds goodwill. It also alleviates any accusations when your work looks similar to someone else’s.
  • Share what you build. If you’re going to show off what you built (and it’s not proprietary) it’s a good idea to give something away. Share the source file, a how-to tutorial, or maybe a free template. This helps build your personal brand and expertise.
  • If you see something that looks like your work, understand that people will steal your work. It’s the basis of a popular book. Consider it a form of flattery. Also, people often have similar ideas at the same time. There have been few times I’ve had a blog post in the queue only to have someone in the industry release a similar post before mine’s been released. It shows that a lot of common ideas percolate and often we come to them at similar times. It’s just the way it is.

The end goal in this step is to use the deconstruction as a source of inspiration. And then create a derivative work that is uniquely yours.

Continue to practice and learn your craft. Find sources of inspiration and then apply what you learn to your own projects. And then show off what you can do in your portfolio.

Download the fully revised, free 63-page ebook: The Insider's Guide to Becoming a Rapid E-Learning Pro

e-learning Articulate workshops

Upcoming E-Learning Events

  • Articulate Roadshows. Join us for one or two days of e-learning goodness. Day 1 focuses on more general e-learning topics and Day 2 is centered on learning to build some nice, reusable interactions. They're great activities to help you learn more about the tools. Sign up using the links below. Seats are limited for the events. If you're interested in presenting at one of the roadshows, let me know.
  • Boston: July 18 & 19. Early bird rate expires July 7. Register here.
  • Toronto: August 9 & 10. Early bird rate expires July 21. Register here.
  • Seattle: August 21 & 22. Early bird rate expires August 7. Register here.
  • Austin: September 12 & 13. Early bird rate expires August 28. Register here.
  • San Francisco: October 10 & 11. Early bird rate expires September 15. Seats limited for this event. Register here.
  • London: November 13 & 14. Details coming soon.
  • Manchester: November 16 & 17. Seats will be limited. Details coming soon.
  • There are a couple of other events planned. Once we get all of the bookings confirmed, we'll add the registration page and info.


Free E-Learning Resources

Want to learn more? Check out these articles and free resources in the community.

Here’s a great job board for elearning, instructional design, and training jobs

Participate in the weekly elearning challenges to sharpen your skills

Get your free PowerPoint templates and free graphics & stock images.

Lots of cool elearning examples to check out and find inspiration.

Getting Started? This elearning 101 series and the free e-books will help.

Top 20 Learning And Development Value Tweeters (2nd Edition)

Social media should provide opportunities to learn, grow, and share with others. A space to build professional value, not a space to follow people because of popularity. Check out the second Top 20 Learning and Development Value Tweeters.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

Discussion Groups In Online Training

Collaboration and discussion are important elements in the learning journey. Yet so few training initiatives leverage them properly. Find out how a simple discussion group can improve your training, change behavior, and revolutionize your organizational culture!

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

5 Steps To Implement The Social Learning Strategy In Your Corporate Training

Organizations the world over acknowledge the importance of fostering collaboration among employees. This article outlines how can you integrate the social learning strategy to maximize the impact of your corporate training.

This post was first published on eLearning Industry.

When PowerPoint goes bad

What are your pet peeves about using PowerPoint? Is it the tool itself or how people use it?

I use PowerPoint, and think it is a good way to engage students and staff, and can be used as a way to spur enjoyment, engagement and interest in your subject. But that’s more about how the tool is used rather than the tool itself. So, here are some observations I’ve made over the years about PowerPoint, and how people use it ‘badly’:

  • Font – Inconsistent use of fonts across the slide deck, or even on the same slide. Using fonts that really don’t work on screen (like Times New Roman), or using Comic Sans. Please. Don’t.
  • Images – So you found Google images or another such image search. You’ve copied the image to your slide and it looks good. It doesn’t. That small image might look OK on your screen, but test it in a classroom or lecture theatre, you’ve stretched it so much it’s pixelated so much it’s almost unrecognisable.
  • Words – Writing your whole lesson in PowerPoint and spending half the lesson with your back to the class so you can read from the projector screen. Same goes if you stand behind the lectern PC and read of that screen instead.
  • Bullet points – PowerPoint makes it too easy to use them, but that doesn’t mean you should (yes, I can see the irony as I’m using them here too).
  • Colour / Templates – Just because you can lots of colour or standard PowerPoint templates doesn’t mean you should. Keep it simple so your key message shines through – the more colour / mess on the slide will only detract or hide your content.
  • Charts / Tables – Do you really need that chart or table that shows 50 different points of information.
  • Animation – I’ve never found animated stars or arrows to help the presentation. If the slide is structured properly you shouldn’t need them.
  • Clipart – Please. Don’t.
  • Volume – You may feel that your one hour presentation needs 100 slides. I’m pretty sure your audience/class doesn’t. 

If in doubt about any aspect of your use of PowerPoint, the best time to find out how you’re doing is now, while you’ve time to go and check it all out and not half way through the most important presentation of your career. Would you rather a slightly awkward conversation in private now or suddenly realise the conference venue has emptied for lunch 45 minutes early, just after you start your 16th of 135 slides?

Go find your friendly learning technologist (yes, we are friendly!), ask us to look over it and tell you what we think. We will be honest but we’ll be critical and, most importantly, constructive. We will offer support and suggestions, we will give your pointers on how to cut the information on the slides (and how to deliver it too, if you want) and we will be there to help you feel comfortable creating slide decks in future and deliver them. Every learning technologist I’ve ever met will do this, without question and without judgement; we’re just happy we can offer our expertise and make your job easier (and more successful).

There are plenty of online tutorials and help websites if you want to find out yourself about using PowerPoint ‘well’. Try sites like this and this and this.

If in doubt this video – Life after death by PowerPoint – will help you see the error of your ways.

Image source: EU PVSEC (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading: Lurkers as invisible learners

I’ve always been annoyed at being called a ‘lurker’, it’s a term that has a different meaning for me when talking about the engagement, or not, of students in an online class – read my post ‘Listener or Lurker?’ from 2013. In this instance the paper ‘Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners‘, by Sarah Honeychurch and colleagues, defines as a ‘lurker’ or ‘silent learner’ or ‘legitimate peripheral participant’ as.

“… hard to track in a course because of their near invisibility. We decided to address this issue and to examine the perceptions that lurkers have of their behaviour by looking at one specific online learning course: CLMOOC. In order to do this, we used a mixed methods approach and collected our data via social network analysis, online questionnaires, and observations, including definitions from the lurkers of what they thought lurking was … [our] research findings revealed that lurking is a complex behaviour, or set of behaviours, and there isn’t one sole reason why lurkers act the ways that they do in their respective communities. We concluded that for a more participatory community the more active, experienced or visible community members could develop strategies to encourage lurkers to become more active and to make the journey from the periphery to the core of the community.”

I’m far more comfortable with the terms used here, and reasons why students don’t engage perhaps how we’d like them to, or indeed in the way we design the course. We need to accept and address that not everyone taking online learning, whether it’s a free MOOC, paid-for CPD course or fully online degree, wants to be social, vocal, or indeed visible in the online environment. We can provide the base materials and ask the students to go off and read around the subjects, we can offer opportunities to engage and ‘test’ themselves on different types of course activities. The only way we know the students are engaging in the subject and materials is usually if we assign marks or grades to the activities, especially if those marks carry weight on the course’s final grade.


Honeychurch, S., Bozkurt, A., Singh, L, and Koutropoulos, A. (2017). Learners on the Periphery: Lurkers as Invisible Learners. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Jun. 2017].