Monday, December 12, 2011

Game Shows for Millennials (and Boomers, too).

We frequently get questions from clients and prospective game show users. Why not let everyone benefit from the answers? We thought we'd share here as well!

Q. I need ways to engage my Millennial-generation trainees without alienating the other generations. Will “Boomers” respond to the social/interactive game show as well?

A. Actually, even though game shows ARE a great way to engage the Millennial Generation—they aren’t unique in this.

It’s interesting that we’ve had a new wave of trainers “discovering” game shows—and that wave has been driven by the desire to engage the next generation. (For some reason, Millennials have gotten a “bad rap” as a generation that demands interaction and that you capture their attention.)

But the thing is: all generations need to be engaged and LIKE to be engaged. The Millennials just aren’t typically as patient when your training doesn’t include interaction.

Game shows might be a good way to mix your generations. The game play style is still familiar to Millennials and incorporates—perhaps--a bit of nostalgia for the Boomers. The Millennials will enjoy the peer-to-peer communication of team play, and the X-ers can triumph through competition.

We've seen clients using game shows specifically as a way to bridge the generation gaps in their company; the low-stress, friendly competition (incorporating a lot of positive emotion associations) is a great way to break the ice and get people working together.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Custom Game Show: A Fistful of Dollars

Company: Toyota (Financial Division)
Event: Sales Team Reward Breakfast
Custom Audience-Response Game: A Fistful of Dollars – Three different game plays
Graphics, Programming, Scripting and Game-play: Designed by LearningWare

Situation: Toyota wanted a way to engage and entertain their top sales reps while at the same time testing their company knowledge and giving them the opportunity to earn some big rewards with that knowledge.  This was a great teambuilding event in the morning; it gave the audience a chance to compete on teams and individually and allowed them important, low-stress face-time with top executives.

Toyota had already used a game show the previous two years—both times utilizing either LearningWare software (Gameshow Pro) or custom software programmed for their event by LearningWare. They wanted something to fit their Clint Eastwood “Western” theme and that would add variety from previous years’ play.

Solution: A custom Fistful of Dollars game show with three completely unique varieties of game play. The audience still played along using audience-response keypads, but there were a few variations:

Target Practice: In this game play variation, we asked extremely difficult multiple choice questions. The audience members, consequently, had three opportunities to get a question right.

The question was be asked the first time, and the audience saw what percentage of their team responded correctly. They did not know whether they—individually—answered correctly. They then got a chance to answer again—and they could either change their answer or stick with it. Again, the percentage of correct answers was be shown. They got one final chance to answer the question, and only their third response counted as correct or incorrect.

Do You Feel Lucky Punk?: (Wager Round) In this game variation, we utilized a team leader—someone with guts, daring, and willingness to take the glory or the fall.

Everyone on the team was shown a question. Before the audience votes, the team leader decided whether he/she thinks that 75% of the team will know the answer or not. If he/she is confident, then they’ll bet high. If not, they’ll bet low.

No guts, no glory. The team leader wrote down or verbally submitted their wager. The question then played out as a typical audience-response question.

Six-Shooter: (Speed Round/Final Round) Teams were asked a group of 6 questions—rapid-fire-style. They were NOT  shown the team results of their answers until after the questions are done, at which point the team scores rose (and failed to rise as much as they should) dramatically, determining the final winner.

Results: The game show was entertaining, challenging, tough, competitive and held a level of novelty—being different than the year before. The audience was engaged with each other and management for the entire morning.

Monday, October 17, 2011

63% Increase in Content Retention Cited Using Game Shows

Game shows have long been a fun and entertaining way to pass the time, but recently they’ve started to gain a reputation as something more than just entertainment. Game shows have been migrating into the training space with great success. They have the remarkable ability to engage trainees, revive the training space, and they are, of course, fun. However, are game shows really effective?

Candace Armstrong, the Corporate Training Director for ERC Properties, Inc. asked that same question. ERC faced several common challenges with their training:
·      Mandatory certification exams
·      Difficult and dry material (This ranged anywhere between strict federal regulations like tax credit compliance in managing apartments to ERC specific topics.)
·      A diverse pool of trainees with different backgrounds and individual learning styles 

“After going through orientation,” says Candace, “The trainees at ERC are typically overwhelmed with all the rules, policies and procedures that they have to memorize. Trainees are worried about having to pass the exam—that worry was not conducive to producing the best test results.”

This was when Candace found Gameshow Pro, a game show template software program. 

“After I first saw Gameshow Pro,” says Candace, “I couldn’t wait to go home and see how difficult the training would be to design…I couldn’t believe how quickly I could have the game up and running. I have to admit, however, I was somewhat skeptical about how I would apply government rules and regulations to a game.” 

Gameshow Pro would have to prove that it could:
1.    Improve trainees’ retention
2.    Convey complex, technical and difficult information, and
3.    Do all this while captivating trainees’ attention.

Candace first introduced Gameshow Pro into her training space in front of a group of superintendents. 

They appeared very disgusted that I would even suggest playing a game,” says Candace. However, after they started, they changed their tune, “They were standing in the chairs, yelling the answers and even trying to cheat! The losing team demanded a rematch and we played the game twice. The transformation was amazing—to this day, when I see any of those guys, they all want to come to training if we can play that game again.”

The first run of Gameshow Pro was a success with a tough crowd, and definitely energized the room—even with very detailed material. 

“To my surprise, the more difficult the regulations, the better they seemed to fit into the games, and the easier they were to comprehend,” says Candace. 

After Candace and her compliance director heard comments like, “Can we do this again?” after every training with Gameshow Pro, they started looking at the impact it made on trainees’ test scores. Candace and her colleagues measured test results while playing a Gameshow Pro game as a review versus orally reading the same Gameshow Pro questions as a review. Every other factor in the training was the same, including the material, instructor, questions and exams.

The results: 
63% more people passed the exam reviewing with Gameshow Pro, the passing scores in these 3 groups were also higher—as were the overall scores. 

As one can see, Gameshow Pro had a significant positive effect on trainees’ exam scores. 

“Playing the game really makes a difference,” says Candace, “I have had many students tell me after the exam that they would never have passed without playing the review game. They could even remember who answered what question and whether or not they answered it correctly.”

Part of the ERC University goal was to ensure that necessary information was delivered to the appropriate personnel in a timely and efficient manner. Part of that efficiency means that the material has to be retained, remembered and utilized by all trainees—no matter what their learning style. With the help of Gameshow Pro, ERC achieved that goal.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Case Study: Game Shows in the Classroom – Increasing Content Retention Pre-to-Post Test.

Case Study: Game Shows in the Classroom – Increasing Content Retention Pre-to-Post Test.

Jack Gallegos, Ph.D, discovered that game shows (specifically, game shows using the Gameshow Pro software product) were instrumental in producing higher test scores from pre to post test. He conducted an independent study with his high school Economics class in the first semester of the school year, showing the specific increase in test scores and, most dramatically with lower-scoring students.

Jack Gallegos administered 21 question, free-response (fill-in-the-blank) pretest. It was the vocabulary terms for the chapter on Gross National Product. There were 25 students who took the test. Average number correct 2.08. The students never saw the results of the pretest.

Gallegos then taught the chapter using traditional methods - lecture, notes, activities, handouts, et cetera. The class took a posttest (same as pretest). The number correct was 8.18. The class then played two rounds of Gameshow Pro - Game 1. They took a second posttest (same test, again students never saw the results of the pretest or first posttest). The average score after playing Game 1 was 11.13.

Students: 25
Ages: High School; 16-18
Subject: Economics
Number of questions: 21
Question Type: Open-ended.

Correct answer average, pre-test: 2.08
Correct answer average, post-test: 8.18
Correct answer average, post-game show: 11.13

There was a 36% increase in the scores after playing Gameshow Pro - Game 1.

Further analysis and comments
Gallegos suspected there would be an increase in scores, but there was more to it than that.

Dividing the pretest scores into the better scoring students (upper half) and lower scoring students (lower half), another result became evident. Gallegos compared the increase in scores after playing Game 1 by student breakdown. Both groups showed an increase in scores, but the top half students increased their scores by 32% while the bottom half students showed an increase of 62%.

Not only did the Gameshow Pro game increase test scores from test to test, but it also increased test scores where it really counts: with the lower scoring students. As teachers continually struggle to engage students in the classroom, the use of game shows has broad implications for increasing content retention in a way that is both effective and fun.

To quote Jack Gallegos, “Great product, great results; especially for those students who need it the most.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Introducing: LearningWare Services

Introducing the launch of LearningWare Services! 

Why Utilize LearningWare Services?

Using games can improve your training immensely. Compatible with any type of training, they turn a potentially boring, dull or stagnant classroom experience into an engaging, fun and highly interactive session. 

When we entered the game show software market with our pioneering product-- Gameshow Pro--we knew that it would make learning more fun. But it surprised us to find that it also made learning more effective. We received reports from trainers that engagement and motivation were soaring, test scores zooming UP, etc. Since then, independent academic research has also confirmed that using game shows in a learning session can dramatically improve content retention and comprehension.

We now have over 15 years of game show experience, and have learned how to maximize the effects of games in the training classroom to completely engage every student. We even published a book—“I’ll Take Learning for 500; Using Game Shows to Engage, Motivate and Train”—on the subject, and have spoken as trusted experts on game shows in training at several training conferences and company events.

Bottom line? We want you to get the most out of using game shows in your training, whether it be:
            New Product Introductions
            Sales Training
            Audience engagement
            Academic classes (K-12 or Collegiate level)
            Or any other training session

Consulting Services:
We'll help you integrate games into training to maximize engagement and retention. We'll consult with you to understand your training objectives and put you on a course to successfully implement games. We'll show you:
            - Where to implement games
            - How to put them into practice smoothly (including hosting training, etc.)
            - What games to use and when
- How to design your game, develop your questions, set up your session, etc.

We’ve consulted with dozens of clients on game show utilization including: Procter & Gamble (Marketing University), Johnson & Johnson, Mystic Tan, Intel, Toyota, Lawson Software, Transamerica, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Comcast, etc.

Custom Game Development:
We'll develop a classroom or web-based games that is perfect for you. This can include large-scale audience response games, branded games with custom graphics, unique game play formats, etc. Our in-house programmers work with you to make a game show solution that will revolutionize your training or event, and looks like nothing else out there.

Train-the-Trainer Workshops
We want your game show roll-out to be smooth and successful. We offer train-the-trainer workshops to ensure that everyone in your organization is up to speed on game show implementation for their training sessions. These workshops are highly interactive, and will teach:
-       The where-when-how of using game shows in training
-       Question creation best practices
-       Setting up the rules and games in your software
-       Choosing the best game for your content
-       Hosting best practices and tips

Depending on your need and workshop format, experts will be on hand to walk each attendee through creating their first games; this means that everyone will leave the session absolutely primed for a successful first game show experience.

Large Scale events
We’ll work with you to produce a game show at your next tradeshow, conference or workshop that will engage your entire audience.

Our production ranges from on-site implementation of existing game shows, to custom game design using audience-response systems, and everything in between.

Game shows can be used in a large event as:
-       Main-stage entertainment
-       A teambuilding activity
-       A competition throughout the event
-       A unique presentation sure to be remembered
-       A review tool after key presentations
-       An evening activity
-       A featured trade show attraction
-       A tool to make workshops/breakouts incredibly engaging

We’ll consult with you to make sure your game design is flawless and be onsite to ensure that it is executed perfectly.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Is your game show a speedbump or a smooth operator?

After doing hundreds of game show training sessions, we've picked up quite a few best practices for structuring the game show event.

One tip: Game shows sprinkled throughout a longer session can keep the trainees' energy high, refresh engagement, and add important review points.

However, this sometimes worked better than other times. Occasionally the game show question set would seem like an interruption--or the energy just never picked up like we expected it to.

What was the problem? The game show was a speed bump and not an integrated part of the training.

Why was this happening?

We were asking single questions, or questions in groups of two. The audience never had time to get back "in" to the game show experience. Instead they answered one question (that had little overall consequence), cheered a little, and went back to the training material dutifully.

The rule of three seemed to apply; when we asked questions in groups of three or more, the energy would build progressively. Participants became more engaged with the questions, and the energy and engagement lasted through the next training session until the next set of questions (which were inevitably greeted with more enthusiasm than the single-question-sets).

In short: Give your game show enough significant time for the audience to get into the game play. Ask at least three questions in a set and you'll reap the rewards of increased engagement throughout your training session.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Top 5 Mistakes That Bring Your Game Show to a Grinding Halt

In the classroom or online, you want your training game show to flow smoothly. Questions and game play should proceed at a steady pace without too much interruption (save for breaks in matches, content explanations or elaborations, etc.).

What you *don't* want to do is have your game show crawl along like the slow snail in the gene pool; making the experience unpleasant or awkward, and taking the natural energy of competition out of your game show event.

Here are the top 5 mistakes that slow down your game play (and how to solve them):

1. The questions are too difficult. Questions should be challenging, but not mystifying. Questions that are too advanced, or even hard to read or understand can result in the crickets-chirping phenomenon. This not only slows down game play, but it can become quite frustrating when trainees aren't able to get a taste of success.

If you're playing a review game, ask a slightly-simpler question in the competitive part of the game show, and then ask more challenging follow-up questions in your info screens (either for extra points or for knowledge alone).

Make sure that your questions are up to date (i.e. that you've covered the material in your session that you intend to review in your game).

If you have a long or complex question, break the question into pieces. Add an intro screen before the question and take time to explain the scenario--making the question itself fairly brief.

2. Timers are set incorrectly. If no one knows a question (no one is ringing in) and yet it takes the ring-in timer a long time to expire, there can be a lot of waiting around.

Keep your timers between 10-15 seconds each, or set them to manual mode. We find that manually controlling the timers can give the trainer more flexibility to spend time on a question when everyone is involved, or speed through a question that is less relevant to the training session.

3. Contestants don't understand the rules. Confusion is the cousin of chaos. Contestants need to know what they're supposed to do within a game show or they will: a.) Do nothing, b.) Dispute everything ("Hey, but they didn't answer in the form of a question, isn't that against the rules?"). Both of these scenarios suck time away from game play and disrupt the flow of training information.

Be sure to clearly explain the rules before the game starts--even if you think contestants will know how to play. A game doesn't have to be complex to be engaging; try simplifying the rules so that the focus is on playing the game--not HOW to play the game.

4. There's a logistical/tactical mismatch. Game shows can be played successfully in a large group. They can also be played successfully over a longer period of time. However, you have to have the right set up for your game and use it thoughtfully in a large group or a long session.

One of the most painful game show experiences we've seen was when a client wanted to use a large number of teams and then have the teams take turns answering questions (taking out some of the competitive aspect). While team 1 was answering, team 8 had no incentive to pay attention and vice versa. The game dragged for participants.

While playing in a large group, consider having fewer teams and utilizing small groups of trainees to represent those teams--then switching out the contestants during game play. Make sure that the non-playing audience is assigned to one of the playing teams so they have a stake in the game.

When wanting a longer game show, be sure to add variety; switch up the game format, double the points, change participants or break the game show into smaller sections throughout the session.

5. Equipment failure. We once had a projector go out in the middle of a game show. Once we procured a new projection device, the momentum of the game show had been lost, and it was a bit of a slog to get through the rest.

Sometimes there's not much you can do about spontaneous equipment failure, but you can make sure that you practice with the equipment you're going to use. Test your laptop, slammers (are the batteries turned the right way?) and projection systems. Run through your game to make sure everything is set and in the right order. If there's too much of a delay, sometimes it's better to save the game for another day, or send a follow-up version after the session that trainees can play online (i.e. Quiz Point).

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Changing the Game Plan with Wager to Win

Before a product goes out, we do extensive internal and external testing.

This is both for quality control and for game play control; we don't always know if the game play in a new game is going to work in the classroom the way it's supposed to.

Originally, the game play with Wager to Win--the new game format within AllPlay Web--allowed participants to wager a percentage of their bank on every question. Their wager was dependent on how confident they were in their own ability to answer the question.

Naturally, we were really excited about this game format. Not only could individuals play against each other, but the element of wagering--and risking--was very compelling. Development and programming ensued, and we ended up with a beta (pre-release) version of Wager to Win.

There were a few elements we built in based on anticipated game play:

  • We were afraid that if people were allowed to wager all of their points, there was a potential for someone to end up with a score of zero early and not be able to play the rest of the game. Therefore, people could only wager a certain percentage of their points.
  • We wanted the ability to add variety, so we added multipliers by difficulty level. If a question was very difficult, for instance, the payout could be 5:1 instead of 1:1--and anywhere in between.
We set about testing Wager to Win--having friendly office-wide competitions over the web that involved a lot of trivia and a lot of smack-talk. Unfortunately, something happened in game play that we hadn't anticipated: because there were no real stakes for us, we all wagered our maximum amount possible every time regardless of the question difficulty level.

Because of the multipliers involved, the moment one person got a question right that no one else did--they were way ahead. If this happened in the beginning of the game the potential for a blowout lead was huge.

It was frustrating for the players lagging behind.

So what we did was modified the game. Wager to Win will now have two question options:

1. Bank-Building questions in the beginning--where people have an opportunity to gain points at a 1:1 ratio, don't have to wager, and don't lose points for incorrect answers.

2. Wager questions with a percentage limit--as described previously.

Now--voila!--AllPlay Web's Wager to Win is even closer to being released--with already-improved functionality.

Throughout the product testing process, we've also incorporated suggestions for how to display the data and results, game play and more from beta-testing clients, independent testers and trainers. We really do design our software with the training situation in mind; with the best possible experience for the trainer and the participants. We should also say: we are always open to feedback about improvements, changes and issues with the game play in our products.

We're constantly developing and constantly learning--and we hope you are too!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Audience Response Keypads vs. Smartphone Systems

Many companies make an effort to keep up with the latest technology in their training classrooms (and training events). This can aid in engagement and make the training seem more technologically relevant to a younger or more tech-savvy audience. Audience response systems are a great way to engage everyone in an audience, involve trainees in competition, and encourage interaction.

We've been hearing quite a bit about using smartphones as audience response devices lately. Naturally, we're intrigued since our Gameshow Pro and AllPlay software incorporates audience response keypad technology. We've also helped clients produce larger training events using audience response systems--so we have some thoughts.

We love the idea of an audience response device that the trainee can always have with them, keep with them, and is multi-purpose. That's what we love about the smartphone audience response concept.

However, the smartphone technology still has a few things that need to be worked out:
  • Not everyone has a smartphone yet. Hard to believe, but true! Unless the company is providing the smartphone, it can be hard to reconcile the availability of technology AND make sure that the audience response system is compatible across all platforms.
  • Reception. It can be difficult to get reception in a training room. Though smartphones can often hook on to internal wifi, etc, this may pose security issues of another kind. Therefore, you have a legitimate concern with steady connectivity. If someone's cell signal gives out at a game-winning moment... We'd hate to be the judge on that one!
  • With a smartphone, everything is at hand. Literally. It's easy to get distracted by an incoming text, email, the internet, etc. Additionally, if you're using this in a large event it encourages people to have their cell phones out (when it can already be difficult to maintain their attention spans). 
  • Cheater, cheater. . . having a phone in-hand while voting makes sending a game show answer to a friend just a quick-text away. Not that we'd question the integrity of trainees, but stranger things have been known to happen. 
While we think smartphone response systems are a great concept, we think they have a long way to go in terms of practical application in the training classroom or training event. For right now, we'll stick with our good ol', reliable, radio-frequency audience response keypads.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Study: It's not the teacher, but the method that matters.

AP: University of Columbia
One of our customers sent us this news story:

Study: It's not teacher, but method that matters.

While you can read the entire article at the link above, the gist of the story is that it doesn't matter whether a teacher is new and inexperienced, or a seasoned lecturer--the delivery method is what matters.

Using interactive methods, such as " 'clicker' quizzes, demonstrations and question-answer sessions..." produced a better and more effective learning experience.

Students being taught with the interactive method scored 74% on a test, versus lecture-method students scoring 41%. The highest scores in the lecture class were below average for the interactive class. Not only that, but interactive-method classes were better attended.

That's in-class "clicker" quizzes like Gameshow Pro (including AllPlay functionality) using audience response pads. We've seen these results anecdotally--trainers and teachers often report the tremendous difference in effectiveness between using an interactive game show and using traditional lecture methods. What's exciting to us is that these results are being validated by Nobel-prize-winning scientists.

Carl Wieman of the University of British Columbia states:
"This is clearly more effective learning. Everybody should be doing this. ... You're practicing bad teaching if you are not doing this."

Wieman also said that "the need for a more hands-on teaching approach isn't an indictment of a generation raised on video games. It has more to do with the way the brain learns."

Game shows, quizzes, interactive tests, response pads...anything that actively engages a student in an interactive way is going to be a more effective method of teaching information than straight lecture. We're happy that these results are spreading the word and validating instructors already using interactive training and instructional methods.

You can read the whole article here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The International Appeal of Game Shows

We're often asked if we have used game shows internationally:

Do game shows even translate in concept with an international audience? What about cultural barriers? Will the rules be too foreign to understand or explain easily?

Not only have we used game shows internationally with great success (and with international audiences locally) but game shows tend to have a rare universal appeal.

Consider this: Jeopardy! has over 25 international adaptations, and is screened in many more countries around the globe.

Consider also, the sheer volume of game shows around the world.

This not only leads to a game show having a shorter learning curve in an international audience, but it's also a great way to bring audiences of varied backgrounds together in a universal way.

All game shows share a common goal. The base of a game show is a task or a question. The base goal of a game show is competition, collaboration, and ultimately scoring the most points. No matter what game show you use and in which language you use it, the concepts and goals are the same.

Do adjustments need to be made? Aside from language barriers/translation, we haven't come across any game show elements (in American game shows) that are taboo in other cultures. There are slight shifts in hosting demeanor (in England, the host can get away with being "meaner") and in challenge execution (Japanese game shows have more of an angle of sensation and physicality), but the base product is the same.

And in the training classroom? A game show is a great way to bring an international audience together for a commonly understood goal. When it comes down to it, it's an activity that fosters communication among peers in a relaxing, fun environment.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wager to Win AllPlay Web Preview

LearningWare, pioneers in game show software and the first to bring game show learning into the webinar space, has a new innovation launching: Wager to Win.

Wager to Win is a brand-new game format within AllPlay Web (the amazing tool that allows you to bring a competitive, interactive game show into a webinar for ultimate attendee engagement).

The category is displayed before wagering.
AllPlay Web will shortly include two different game formats: Team Showdown (the standard AllPlay Web game that pits teams against each other for an exciting competition) and Wager to Win. Other game formats are also currently in development.

Here's some preview information about Wager to Win:

Contestants enter their wagers.
• Contestants play individually in this game of risk and reward.
• Individuals wager from their point bank depending on how confident they are in the subject/question.
• To keep the game going, the host can set the maximum amount of allowed wager percentage. (Contestants are never allowed to wager ALL their points and "check out" of the game.)
• The webinar host can display the top scorers at any time to stoke competition.

Answer on screen or using a virtual keypad.
 However, we haven't just added a single game to AllPlay Web. In addition to developing more new formats (ongoing), we've made significant improvements to the software that will be released with Wager To Win:
  • Improved log-in process allows the webinar host to set more flexible options for logging in.
  • New assigned game rooms with password protection keeps your game going and re-enterable (even if your webinar is knocked offline).
  • Contestants can play with an on-screen game board, or using virtual keypads.
  • AllPlay Web is embedded within omNovia and Adobe Connect (and is fully compatible with ALL webinar programs). 
  • New option to play with up to 30 teams (or 30 individuals if each one is a team) in Team Showdown. (Unlimited number of players per team/individuals playing overall.)
  • New leaderboard options and designs.
  • Updated Graphics.
  • Improved results reporting.
And, of course, AllPlay Web still maintains its flawless ease-of-use, robust question bank, ability to add graphics and sound, ability to do polling questions in any order (and mixed with competitive questions) and question-interchangeability with all other LearningWare software products. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Play-Doh Principle: Engaging Kinesthetic Learners

A little peek inside the LearningWare office space reveals a creative secret: We keep Play-Doh in our conference room.

At any given meeting, brainstorming session, information de-brief, etc., you'll find at least one LearningWare employee kneading Play-Doh (if not sculpting something similar to the dragon/dinosaur/ambiguous creature seen here).

Some visiting our office have asked about the Play-Doh, wondering if it wasn't more of a distraction than an aid. It's a fair point that can be asked of providing trainees with any sort of kinesthetic plaything in a training session. Some presenters are uncomfortable without the eye-contact-attention of their audience.

However, most trainers know that learners don't all learn the same way. The very basic learning styles can be broken down into auditory, kinesthetic, and visual. Auditory learners need to hear the information spoken. Kinesthetic learners need to touch and feel and move while learning. Visual learners need to see the information presented (or read it) in order to learn.

It makes sense, then, that a company dedicated to engaging the three types of learners with game show software would have Play-Doh on their conference table. Our founder, Dan Yaman, was one of those students who just couldn't learn in a traditional way. School was frustrating, but things like games (spelling bees, etc.) were fun. Thus, Gameshow Pro was born. It engages learners in auditory, visual and kinesthetic realms.

What are some other ways to engage kinesthetic learners?
  • Have hands-on demonstrations of new products
  • Have students engage in activities that get them moving around the room
  • Incorporate frequent breaks
  • Use toys (like Play-Doh) on the tables for students to interact with (in a non-distracting way)
  • Make sure there are places to take notes (some people need the action of writing notes, even if they never refer to them)
  • Game shows, of course!
  • Encourage activities that require physical manipulation (i.e. word-match reviews, assembling a plan-o-gram from cutouts, etc.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Question Bowl: The Underutilized Game Show

Gameshow Pro has 7 game show formats, and by far the most popular is the Jeopardy!-style "Categories" game. (This is with good enough reason; it's easy to use, easy to understand, culturally ubiquitous, accommodates many categories of content, etc.)

However, the reason there are 7 game formats instead of one or two, is that different formats will accommodate different content and purposes. For instance, a Classroom Feud game is great for content with multiple steps or any questions with multiple correct answers.

One of the best, and also least-played, games in the Gameshow Pro arsenal is Question Bowl. This highly theatrical, versatile game is plays like a College or Quiz Bowl and is great in both the classroom and at events. Here are three reasons why it should get more use:

Variable question types: There are three question/round types in Question Bowl:
Toss Up--This is a question format similar to those used in Categories. A question is displayed and teams "ring in" to get the opportunity to answer the question. (Note: this can also be toggled so that teams take turns answering the toss up questions.)

Follow Up/Bonus--These questions optionally follow a toss up question. They can only be answered by the team that answered the toss up question. This is a great way to elaborate on a topic. A trainer can add as many follow up/bonus questions as they'd like...or none at all.

Speed Round--Teams must answer as many questions as they can get through in a set amount of time. If they're quick to respond, this can be a great way to rack up the game points. These questions can be toss-up/ring in or take-turns.

Leisurely or Fast-Paced, Competitive or Collaborative game: The way a trainer sets up the game can make it useful for extended play (with lots of toss-up/follow-up questions) or can facilitate quick bursts of energy within a training session (speed rounds). The game accommodates multiple choice or short answer questions, and trainers can choose whether teams are ringing in to answer questions, or whether teams take turns to answer questions.

Flexible rounds: Questions can be used in any combination of rounds. For instance, a trainer could have 3 toss-up questions (with our without various follow-up/bonus questions) then two speed rounds, a take-turns question round, a toss-up question round and then end with a speed round. These rounds can be combined in any order and at any frequency--making the variety in game play almost infinite.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Badges, Barons, and the Game of No Prizes

We've stated before that prizes aren't really a necessary payoff to doing well in a game show. People tend to receive this statement with mixed reviews; on one hand, it's fun to give prizes. On the other hand, prizes can be difficult to come by, blow your budget, and tricky to price (too high and scrutiny and cheating go through the roof--too low and why bother?).

Never was the lack of a need for prizes more clear to us than when everyone here at LearningWare went to lunch together. Two of us immediately got out our smartphones and "checked in" to Yelp. "Ha!" one of us exclaimed triumphantly, "I'm now the duke of this eating establishment!" A non-yelper asked us what we got for being a duke or getting a badge.

"Well. We don't get anything. Except to be the duke."

Then it occurred to us; the currency of involvement in many social media outlets--from foursquare to the aforementioned Yelp--isn't any kind of prize or currency. These groups garner tremendous investment and involvement from participants simply by engaging their sense of competition and collection. They want to have the most badges, be the mayor or baron or duke of a place or even a be king of the hill.

The same principle works with game show competition--and it's why you don't need prizes. In this fast-paced world of Millennial trainees and social networks, people are used to playing for bragging rights. This may also be why leaderboards can be incredibly effective--especially when you play a series of game shows, or keep the competition going through an extended period of time (a training session, a few days, a week, a month or even a quarter). Acknowledgment of success over one's peers can be a powerful motivator.

If you'd like, you can even give out your own game show badges. Just for fun, a little brainstorming:

Fast Finger: For the person quickest to hit the slammers every time and ring-in.
Know-it-All: The person with the most correct answers overall.
Wicked Wagerer: The person taking big risks in wager games or on final questions.
Team Titan: The person most helpful to their teammates.
Short Answer Sherpa: The queen or king of the short-answer question.
Multiple-Choice Maven: Either by guess or by guile, this person owns the multiple-choice question.

...or maybe we'll just stick with scores, leaderboards, and the natural appeal of competition.

Friday, April 1, 2011

When Contestants Cheat

We recently developed a custom game show experience for a pharmaceutical company's annual sales event. By all accounts, the event and the game were incredibly successful--keeping participants engaged, motivated to absorb presentation content, and keeping the event energy high.

However, we were amazed to find out that whenever the teams could, they were trying to cheat to get ahead or win. (Our sense of game show fairness was appalled!)

The kicker? The content was all about rules and regulations within the industry: how they couldn't bribe, cheat, make false or leading claims, or imply incentives in trying to sell their drug into the medical industry. The content? About not cheating in the industry. The game show participants? Cheating. And shamelessly, too.

When we were writing our game show book, we sent an advance copy to fellow training game guru Thiagi. We had included tips on how to prevent cheating (though we never imagined it on this grand a scale), and Thiagi commented: "Advise trainers to think: What does cheating say about the culture of their organization?"

And what *does* cheating in a mere game show say about the mentality of the audience? It's not all bad:
  • They're invested in the game 
  • They want to win
  • They're highly competitive
  • They may break rules to get to success

In this case, the highly competitive sales force in a very lucrative field just didn't want to lose. In their industry there are multi-million-dollar penalties for subverting the rules. Because the cheating was happening on such a grand scale in the event, there was no way to fairly enact penalties--the teams that "weren't" cheating just weren't getting caught, and at some point one must be careful that the host doesn't devolve into scolding and penalizing above conveying information.

The cheating was allowed to continue, but only because the following elements were in place:
  • Low-value prizes. The higher the value of the prize, the more people will be at each other's throats about cheating and the enforcement of the rules. 
  • The contestants were getting the information--and in some cases were reinforcing the information more through their cheating ways than would have normally occurred. We didn't mind that they were looking up answers in their materials in some cases since it was still reviewing the information.
  • The host was willing to go-with-the-flow and game play was not interrupted significantly by the teams' antics.
  • Judges were used to keep the host out of the fray.

If the prizes had been great, the content had been taking a back seat to winning, or the event was being disrupted then penalties or a pause in the game would have had to be enforced.

There are a few ways that one can help minimize or prevent cheating--though we find that if a team is determined to cheat it is very hard to fight against that drive successfully and come out looking like a positive host.
  • Keep prizes small. In most cases, we find that winning is a prize in and of itself and contestants don't even inquire about what they're going to "win" when they get into the game.
  • Have judges. Judges can spot infractions and enforce penalties without the host having to sully their hands.
  • Clearly explain the rules beforehand--this way when one is broken, everyone acknowledges the reference/rule.
  • Enact small penalties for rule infractions. You don't want to turn into "bad-cop" trainer, but knowing BEFORE they cheat that there will be a penalty for that behavior can prevent cheating. 
At the end of the game, the point isn't to win--so some rules of civilized game play can be discarded or treated with a light touch. As long as contestants are engaged and involved with the content (accomplishing the game's purpose of aiding and abetting learning) and are in good spirits about the game play, a little cheating doesn't always significantly harm the game.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Creating Questions: Creating Knowledge Experts

We do a lot of custom game creation for clients--either as part of a consulting/launch package with Gameshow Pro, or as part of their event, workshop, etc. This entails taking their content--often in packets, brochures, PowerPoints, etc.--and distilling the important information, then making that information into questions.

What we've found is that, well, we're learning a LOT about a lot of different topics. Question creation is creating subject matter experts out of us! (Go ahead, ask me about the double loop process in knowledge database creation...)

This makes sense. It takes a deep understanding of material to create good questions. You have to find the key content, have a question that is appropriately relevant AND create plausible distractors.

This isn't a unique discovery, however. For years, we've been hearing how teachers have used Gameshow Pro with their students--having the students create questions for each other. So maybe it's time to start bringing question creation into the corporate world as a learning tool for trainees.

The benefits of question creation:
A creator spends an extended amount of time with materials--familiarizing themselves with both the content and where to FIND the content.
This creates a feedback loop of question creation--sharing--answering that reinforces information multiple times without feeling redundant
The creator has to absorb more information than merely contained within the question

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Implausible Distractors

One of the tricky parts about writing multiple-choice game show questions is including plausible distractors. Those are the answer options that are NOT correct, but still sound correct enough to provide an appropriate level of challenge.

However, there are some times when you want a multiple choice question, but the plausible distractors aren't so obvious or even necessary. Perhaps you just want a quick review, and it's more important to reiterate the information than to make the question challenging. Perhaps you're looking for a speedier game that relies on quick recall instead of making a judgment call. Perhaps there's just a lack of available distractors in your content.

Whatever the reason, occasionally you need an implausible distractor... and this is when we like to add a little humor into the game show. For instance, I was recently creating questions for a customer using their content, and this was a question used [content changed slightly to protect information privacy]:

Q: What's “in it for you” to search the answer database if you already know the answer?
A. Search-typing builds finger strength
B. You don’t have to retype the solution

C. It validates your answer
D. Both B&C

 The answer was D, of course. Answer option A is an implausible distractor--you pretty much know that's not going to be the answer, but it is slightly amusing. In this case, the client didn't want to conflate the content by adding more benefits or benefits that were slightly-off or *could* technically be right, but weren't.

The benefits of using humorous implausible distractors can be:
  • They break the pattern of thinking, causing a participant to pause in the routine of game play
  • They can increase the level of cognitive processing without increasing the difficulty of a question
  • They add entertainment value (and can be a place to insert relatable in-jokes)
  • They can highlight the point you're trying to make
  • They are also fun to write
Implausible distractors aren't always necessary, but in the right game play situations, they can add a level of levity and fun to even a serious game--without detracting from the content.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Hey! Keep it Down in There!

We recently helped a client Gameshow Pro 5 in their educational workshop.

This session was part of a multi-day event, and attendees could sign up for any session that they so chose. Groups would rotate after a set amount of time--giving attendees the opportunity to be in more than one session and making the presenters give multiple presentations with the same content.

When our client came to us, they were concerned about the interest level of their content. This was a sales group we were dealing with, and they had heard all about the new customer management system (the topic of their workshop), but they weren't adopting the technology as the sales leaders had hoped. So how were they going to generate excitement around not-new information?

With a game show, of course*!

The workshop ended up being structured like so (game show sections in italics):

Introductory game questions (2 questions using Gameshow Pro 5's AllPlay game)
Subject: Account Planning
Review game: Account Planning (5 questions: GSP5 AllPlay)
Subject: Customer Management System
Review game: CMS (5 questions: GSP5 AllPlay)
Summary, additional info and questions
Review game: Both topics (6 questions: GSP5 Classroom Feud)
Closing words

We divided the audience of 60 into two teams--based on the complex criteria of being either on the left or right side of the room. For the AllPlay games, every member of the audience had their own keypad and entered answers individually--the percentage of correct answers going toward their team's score. For the Classroom Feud game, we took several volunteers from each side to come up and play for their team (while the audience cheered them on).

The entire session ended up being about 90 minutes--with games interspersed to keep the energy high.

And boy, was the energy ever high! Aside from a marked increase in attention to the content (just in case anything came up in a game), and retention of the content (as seen in tracking their individual responses) there were two stand-out results:

1. Since the workshop breakout rooms were beside each other at the hotel, you could hear the game being played in other classes. Not the game sound effects, mind, but the cheering, encouragement and general good time. One of the other leaders--jokingly--asked the facilitators to "Keep it down in there!"

2. As a result of the energy spilling out of the room, spontaneous attendance to the workshops increased dramatically. The client had people come up and say, "I know I wasn't signed up for your class, but do you have room for one more..." People *wanted* to come in and play, because it sounded like there was life and energy in the session. It attracted quite the crowd, and as a result MORE people received and retained the information than would have otherwise.

The game shows were a great success. Both the presenters and the audience had a tremendous amount of fun--but it wasn't fun without a purpose. Most importantly: the audience walked away with the message.

*Disclaimer: Game shows may not be the answer to everything... just most things. ;)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What'll be new in 2011?

2010 was an amazing year for game shows in training!

Here at LearningWare, we:
  • Developed new ways to embed AllPlay Web within a webinar using Adobe Connect, omNovia and other platforms. 
  • Got a new keypad partner in Meridia--allowing for our customers to have greater flexibility with their audience response keypad choices. 
  • Released Gameshow Pro 5--adding new game boards, a new design, a new backend, AllPlay functionality and MORE to the most popular game show software for training.
  • And more (including moving into a new office)!
BUT we're not resting on our laurels. Here's what's on the docket SO FAR for 2011:
  • New games for QuizPoint, our popular online game show software.
  • New games for AllPlay Web, bringing more variety and engagements into webinars, elearning and virtual classrooms.
  • An iPad control app: The ability to completely control our Gameshow Pro 5 software using your iPad.
  • OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 Construction games: Pre-packaged, plug-and-play games making OSHA training entertaining, effective and far more engaging.

But that's just a start. Going into the next year, we'll continue to innovate by leaps and bounds--helping instructors deliver more engaging, effective and fun training.

So what do you want to see in 2011?