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Sunday, January 20, 2008

New Hires Role-Play as Action Heroes in Serious Game by Enspire

Austin-based Enspire has developed a series of training courses that incorporate alternative realities and serious games for companies requiring training for distributed populations. Enspire's recent serious game / simulation allows new employees to role-play as action heroes as they learn about the company, company policies, and other necessary procedures. While serious games have been used in corporate training, the way that Enspire used game technology in new hire orientation opens a number of new possibilities, and makes one ask fundamental questions about the nature of new hires, and the "boomer to gamer" transfers of knowledge and experience.
Created for Sun Microsystems, the action-hero serious game, or, "new hire portal," was for new hires. The new-hire portal recently won Best Synchronous Learning Course at the E-learning Guild's Demofest in San Jose. Through this portal, employees can participate in social networking, read and write blog entries, and play educational onboarding computer games.

Specifically, Enspire created "Rise of the Shadow Specters," a platform game and "Dawn of the Shadow Specters," an adventure game. Both games teach Sun's core businesses and corporate culture by navigating Ray (the hero) through Sol City.

A demo is available at . Enspire’s Interactive Content Experience™ (ICE) game engine powered the experience, which was honored at the DevLearn 2007 DemoFest and featured in the Austin Business Journal.

Onboarding is a great place to incorporate serious games and role-playing because it allows people to develop a sense of community. Better than Second Life or because the environment is controlled, content is official.

There are other perhaps unanticipated results of using an action-hero video game for new-hire orientation:

1---Corporate culture. The simulation provides a wonderful opportunity to introduce individuals to the corporate culture.

2--- Developing community of learners. Having a sense of a community is absolutely vital for individuals who can learn from each other and ask questions in an environment that encourages questions, support, and answers.

3--- Instructing one in procedures. Role-playing and practice are effective ways to learn.

4--- Engaging the learner, maintaining interest. Using serious games and simulations is a great way to engage the learners and keep them interested and receptive to learning.

5--- Developing a belief in the corporation that is very positive. Perception is reality, they say, and if employees perceive their employer to be very forward-thinking, caring, and innovative, it helps develop a positive belief about the company and encourages vision and mission coherence.

6--- "Boomer" to "Gamer" Knowledge and Experience Transfer. The challenge of finding ways for employees with distinct learning styles and preferences can be overcome. Specifically, "digital immigrants" of the Baby Boomer generation have an opportunity to share knowledge with the "digital natives" who grew up playing video games.


Managing Expectations: There is always the downside of arousing expectations, and giving the impression that the company is a lot cooler than it really is. This can be a challenge which will need to be managed very carefully, with a great deal of coordination with the Human Resources department.

Assessment Tools: What are the learners really learning? Assessment tools need to correspond with the learning style used in the original training.

Program and Training Effectiveness Evaluation: It is important to have a non-interested independent third party take a look and make sure that learning styles are being accommodated and that ADA accommodation requirements are being met. This would not be expensive, but it is invaluable. A trained instructional designer / program evaluator would be ideal. Adjustments could be made quickly and easily.

Enspire White Papers

In addition to providing custom solutions, Enspire offers white papers on games and simulations used in training. They are available at the blog:

The white papers also describe how Enspire's solutions for training and professional development can be best used. The fact that Enspire offers a full suite of services is comforting. It indicates that the individuals understand the real needs of the entity and are focused on learning, rather than simply repurposing game code.

It would be very exciting if Enspire devoted an entire series of pages to assessment via simulation. This is where most serious games and simulations fall short. In courses such as conflict resolution or training, it is important to understand the underlying principles (or, in the case of a new-hire orientation, the corporate policies). The problem with most simulations and serious games is that they do not test in the same manner in which they present the original material, nor do they offer practice tests.

There are huge opportunities for serious games and simulation programmers to show how they are accommodating multiple learning styles, not just in interacting with the interface (and other avatars), but also in assessment. This is most acutely the case when learners must perform in standardized tests (licensing boards and other exams). Enspire is doing groundbreaking work and I am looking forward to more examples of their innovative use of simulation and games for training and e-learning.


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