Bianca Woods: Gameful L&D and the eLearning Guild | Episode 121

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Bianca Woods is Senior Manager of Programming for The eLearning Guild and the founder of Clever Raptor, an L&D design studio. With degrees in both art education and education media design & technology, she’s passionate about demystifying design and technology for others. She loves designing course content and media, test driving new learning technology, and taking photos of bizarre warning signs.

A regular day for Bianca is wildly different from day to day as she works in the event space for learning professionals and it depends where in the flow of events she is at. She works from home and therefore doesn’t have to commute. Day-to-day it can range vastly with tasks, from reaching out to speakers to research into development. With Bianca’s background in visual design and multimedia, a lot of what she specializes in is how you leverage this in ways to help people learn which she does a lot of next to her job at The eLearning Guild.

One of Bianca’s favorite fails involves one of the conferences ran by The eLearning Guild where they try a lot of different things. They use a conference app that allows you to look up the program as well as interact with other attendees. With it, they tried to implement a gamification feature, it rewarded attendees for reviewing the sessions they had been to. This was great in theory, however, a while after implementing it they realized people were taking advantage of the system leaving poor reviews and reviews for sessions they had not even been to. After this, they decided to drastically reduce the points assigned to incentivize the feedback they wanted to give rather than simply the rewards. The key learning Bianca took from this that they now use for any gamification throughout the event is putting themselves in the headspace of their audience. Also realizing that some people will become so motivated by the points that they lose sight of the thing they would like the audience to do and then try to mitigate this.

One of her favorite stories of success comes from a challenge she has faced. It has to do with the fact that a lot of people in her field aren’t necessarily people who play games, therefore Bianca has been trying to help people start playing games and picking apart the games to understand what makes it enjoyable and functional as well as what game elements it’s made of. One example of something she has implemented to deal with this challenge is a ‘share a game’ where people in the same room play the game that is shared and debrief afterward about the game elements, picking it apart in order to better understand what game and gamification look like in the world. Having someone who understands the game to walk people through it helped them understand how you can break down a game to start looking at its elements.

Bianca’s process for approaching anything is first getting into a headspace of who the content is for which is especially important for games in her opinion. It’s important for her initially to understand what her audience knows, how do they feel about games, how do they feel about the content and what they know/don’t know that they need them to know. One thing Bianca finds helpful is knowing what previous experience they’ve had with the content. It is always important to dig in as much as possible into the topic to be taught because even when having a subject matter expert there are subtleties that might be fundamental to be considered for the situations to make sense to the audience.

A best practice for Bianca is user testing, not only regarding games and gamification but also learning and development in general. The app story from earlier is a perfect example of this. She believes if she had done more user testing in that scenario, it might have been a situation that could have been avoided. By having people who don’t have any experience, that come into it just like your intended users, they’re going to find things you as the expert can easily miss.

She would recommend Julie Dirksen to be on the podcast, she works in the field of behavior and looks at how behavior impacts learning and habits. She would love for her to be on the podcast so we can hear her thoughts on how the brain learns, behaviors and habits and how this applies to games and gamification.

Bianca would recommend the book Immersive Learning by Koreen Pagano, it’s about how you can leverage simulations and games to help people learn. Her favorite game of 2019 was Untitled Goose Game as it’s a great simulation of exactly what it would be like to be a goose that likes harassing people. She finds it charming, with intuitive gameplay, that it teaches you how to interact with the world without just giving you an instruction booklet and is a great example of something that was developed on an indie game budget now with over 1 million downloads.

Bianca’s superpower in her opinion is branching and trying to make the choices in those branches to feel real and complex in training and learning. It’s very easy for this to feel simple and has even been seen in some high budget games. Bianca likes to bring complexity to the experiences she creates.

Her final advice is to support games on Kickstarter, that way you can help them and also have access to awesome first-hand information about their choices and decisions.

We can find her on Twitter @eGeeking. Of course, there is great information to find at The eLearning Guild where she works.


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