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That's Realistic Gamification!

Instructional designer and CEO of Anchored Training, Vanessa Alzate, joins me to chat about ways to realistically incorporate or pitch gamification in your ID projects. Vanessa is no stranger to keeping things real. In fact, it's one of the core values of her freelance instructional design business. Vanessa's advice for keeping gamification realistic is to start small. Another big tip is to consider your audience. For instance, not everyone responds well to a leaderboard, but sales people might love it!

You can connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn, find her on Youtube, or listen to her Anchored in Learning podcast.


The following transcript was auto-generated and may include typos and spelling errors.

Leslie Early 0:00

Okay, today I have Vanessa Alzate, the CEO of Anchored Training and the host of the Anchored In Learning podcast here with me today. Thanks for joining me, Vanessa.

Vanessa Alzate 0:10

Hi, thank you for having me.

Leslie Early 0:13

So do you want to take just a couple minutes to kind of introduce yourself to the listeners and talk about what you're doing these days?

Vanessa Alzate 0:21

Sure. So I, like you mentioned, Vanessa, I'd say, so I own Anchor Training. I have been in instructional design and training since 2009, it was actually my first job right out of the field, which is, I know, a little bit unique for someone in the industry, I just had some student leadership opportunities while I was in college that involves training and developing educational programming. And so I knew that was always training was gonna be something that I really enjoyed. And so it ended up being one of my keyword searches, and, by some stroke of luck, found a job that said, you know, this is actually an entry level position. So you don't need to come in with a ton of experience, you just need to have that a little bit of, you know, like that, that essence of training and that and that thing that you can't just teach. And so that's how I got my started in the software industry. And if you ask anybody before that, that I told anybody that's going to be in software, they would have told you that you were lying. But it's actually my love. You know, I do love work with software companies. So that's where I started and then through the years, so after I left there, I started working full time, but also freelancing, nights and weekends developing elearning for a lot of software companies, and then I branched out into some other organizations, as I became more comfortable. And I had a little bit more time I started, everything kind of snowballed. And so in the end of 2017, I had just given birth to my second daughter, who may or may not pop in today, though. Um, so I just given birth to her and I was freelancing full time, and I was working full time, and I was a mom of two that were only a year apart. And I just looked at my husband and I said, I can't do everything. So let's pick something. And after a lot of soul searching, and a lot of thinking about what I wanted my life to look like, not only in business, but just for my family life, we decided that opening up anchor training and making it really official and creating something a little bit larger than myself was going to be the way to go. So we officially opened in 2018. So we've been working with a lot of clients on their software training. And we've been doing a lot of vILT conversions.

And we like to be that realistic partner with our clients, so we try to sell them solutions that are going to fit their needs, where they need to be at the moment. So I know that's something that we're going to be talking about today. But they definitely something that is part of our values, and how we love to work with our clients. We don't want to sell you something totally extravagant. If you guys are not ready for that yet. Well, we'll take baby steps in order for you to get to that really big.

Leslie Early 3:19

Wow. Right? You got to sort of ramp them up hold their hand a little bit. So yeah, that's that is why we're here to talk today. And I really like this topic, because you mentioned it. I mean, we're going to talk about gamification and how to make that realistic, right. So gamification is such a big thing, like out there, like, especially when you're researching instructional design, and how to make your things like fun and interesting. There's all these gamification things, but in my experience, and what I've heard from people who work with clients, I mean, I don't have as much experience, but you know, some of my colleagues say, yeah, we always try to pitch this. But once that once the client finds out how much time and resources it takes to make this, you know, like, really gamified, like games, games, right? They just scale back automatically, like, Oh, no, no, no, like, like, let's just do point and click Next. Next, next. Right. So. So, I mean, it sounds like since this is one of your core values, you have some experience in this. So I mean, do you have any tips for how to keep it realistic how to do that pitch this in a way that's more palatable, you know, to clients? Yeah.

Vanessa Alzate 4:33

Yeah. So I agree with you. I think that once you can sell them on this really big, great gamification course and module and whatnot, but then they see not only the time, but the money that has to go into it, and that's where they're like, Nope, sorry. Well, we'll do something totally different. And that's why I love to, to kind of ease them into something like that. I'm not a gamification expert by any means. I leave that strictly to the experts. And I am not I was not much of a gamer per se unless it's a really good board game and game night and I am actually. But I do love the aspect of making learning fun. So a lot of time when I'm, you know, introduce myself, I'll always say that I'm making, I've been making learning fun since 2009. And that's, and that's using those gamification principles. So some of the things that I love to do that kind of makes the learning a little bit more engaging more game, like edit it, it warms up my clients up to more gamification is including things like avatars. It's so simple, and it's so silly. But being able to pick your character, you're automatically a little bit more invested, because you're like, oh, who do I want to be, or, or whatever the case may be even using something as as simple. And I know, it's that Oh, it's that simple. But it's something like Vyond is easy to use, it takes a little bit of time to, you know, get used to it, but you can really go down rabbit holes, creating avatars. So I know you and I met through designed by humanity, and we're using Vyond and I know you're your team also used it as well. And so we started creating characters, and our developer was like, I had to stop myself at one point, because you know, you could do all of these things. And that's a really cool way to make the learning a little bit more fun, a little bit more personal, right, because you can have so many and have the, and have the learner pick. It's another way also to encourage inclusion in your course, right? You could make different avatars that look a little bit more like you. And that really goes a long way for for learners where they feel like they could see themselves in the course.

Leslie Early 6:53

Because you certainly you can get - Vyond is awesome. Because Yeah, like you said, there's so much you can definitely vary your characters, like I mean, the storyline ones are pretty like, cut and dry, like maybe a little outdated looking not great. But yeah, to use something like beyond, you can create characters or have avatars that. Look, as you as you already said, they look, you can make them look diverse, first of all, so like, whoever your learner is, if they have a chance of seeing an avatar that maybe closely reflects them or closer than what you would normally see. Right? Like just like, man, white woman, and like that's it. Those are your two choices. Yeah, so Vyond is a great tool for that. I didn't even think of that, for sure.

Yeah, so so that's definitely one to one. And I've done a couple of courses where we kind of introduced scenarios. So I love the idea of giving. And this goes back to the gamification aspect is I like to give tasks and allow them to earn points and or give them scenarios, right. And then you can create a quick, you know, 10 second video of your avatar and incorporate that into, you know, the scenario and things like that, it gives them a little bit more, it does vignette does kind of in and of itself, just by nature has more of a game type feel with our cartoon like characters. So that definitely helps. It's a tool that is more expensive for a freelancer. So I think that you definitely work up to purchasing a license. But for a, for an organization, it's not that expensive. Yeah, right. And they can get so much use out of it. And you even as a freelancer can get too much use out of it. So I think that using a tool like that, and set, it started to set up like scenarios and things like that really help with the gamification, even just earning Little things like points for completion of tasks. So like I said, I do a lot of software training. So a lot of my training is around, what are the tasks that you are going to have to do when you're, you know, when you're at work. They don't care about the Help menu and how to navigate it. They want to know where it is in case they need to use it. That's great. But how to click a link to show the sub menu. No, now you're just wasting their time. Yeah. And you're frustrating learner, right? So why spend the time on that spend the time on what they're actually going to have to do at work and make that into a game where they earn points as they go along. And they deduct points. If they get something wrong. Even something super simple. It's just a couple of variables that you can include, or even the timer, right. like think about all of the games that you play. And once there's a timer like your heart starts racing once you get closer and closer.

Yeah, there's a little anxiety.

Vanessa Alzate 10:03

Exactly like your anxiety. That's probably not what you want. But

Leslie Early 10:13

But, you know, a certain amount of stress is actually good because it engages, you know, it engages you a little bit more. A healthy amount of stress, let's say, the amount. Yeah, that's too stressful, then you don't want that. But yeah, I wanted to go back to what you're saying about not explaining the Help menu and everything. And that kind of actually goes into something else, which I hadn't really thought of is gamification, but sort of is is like, sort of using good like UX principles. So that like, if someone's looking, they can jump into it, like most video games, you just jump in, and you start doing it right or like, but right, but there's like, certain conventions of like, where would the help be? Where would certain things be that you're looking for? And as long as you follow those conventions, you don't need to explain it every time. Just let people jump in and do it.

Vanessa Alzate 11:08

Kills me. Every time someone says, Well, where's the course navigation side, I'm like, they need to know that the next button takes them to the next slide, or the previous button takes. We haven't moved more that the play button plays the course. Like I don't understand why we're explaining this. I'll do it. I don't agree with that. And that's and that's at the end of the day. That's what my stance, right? There are some things that I don't agree with. And, and I will, as an instructional designer, and as someone that's been in the field for a while, I will just let you listen, this is not sound instructional design. But if you're gonna fight me tooth and nail that you really want, of course navigation slide, I'm not gonna that's not going to be my walkaway moment. Right? That's not gonna be it, I'll do it. I'm not gonna like it. And I'm gonna let you know that that's your learner's or not, it's gonna be annoying to them. Yeah, you don't want to set up, you don't want to set up a course that they walk in. And like you said, like, you're not using good UX principles. So they don't know how to just dive in and, you know, make the character jump or something like that, you know what I mean? And you're right, there's not that many games, if any, that I could think of that really come with a huge manual of you just kind of jump in and you figure it out.

Leslie Early 12:21

Yeah. So I mean, you have experience in both a traditional corporate kind of l&d role, and also you have your own freelancing business? So do you think there's any difference? Like, I've heard that, you know, certain types, like Freelancer versus corporate, like, you may get a different reaction? If it's like an outside client or something, an internal project? Do you have any experience with that?

Vanessa Alzate 12:49

I think it could go either way. So personally, I have not experienced where I've had a manager, anything like that, that completely shied away from from an idea, but that's also part of my branding, right? So when I walk in, I set up, you know, who I am my values, even when I was in an, you know, in a, in a corporate world, and I was more as an internal employee, right, who I am, you know, I made sure that I, you know, provided good quality work, and I was doing things that were trying to enhance the learning for our, for our students, or learners, but also looking to save the company time, money, and you know, looking at that, at that ROI, so that really did help built up my credibility in the organizations that I worked in. And everyone knew that I had that kind of realistic look, and how things should be done. And I think that one of the greatest compliments I've gotten in the past is a manager said to me, she said, you know, you don't just talk to talk, and a meeting, I've been watching you, and you will just, you won't say anything, but I know that you're processing the information. And then when you do speak, it's actually something of value. And you've been thinking about all of the different components and all the different ways of looking at things, right. So by building up some of that credibility that helps you shoot for the stars, right? Because I ended up saying, hey, let's try this really awesome, cool game, or let's try this totally new style of how to do an elearning module or something like that, or even introducing gamification pieces. That's not like I'm gonna run in and say, hey, let's just try to gamification. I'm going to do little things. I'm going to pick the perfect project that I know is the perfect project to start introducing some of those things, right. I also worked a lot with pharma clients and by nature, I was working with their sales teams, they are more they're motivated by fun and by engagement, they're more extroverted type. So I knew I could push the envelopes on that side, right? So including things like a leaderboard, that's more fun for that type of group. I don't love them, per se. But the other cool thing is a lot of pharma companies also have like sweat like, company stores. So you can tie points and leaderboards and achievements to their to their company store. So they get company swag, right. So it really doesn't cost Yeah, it really doesn't cost the company much. You know. And so that's another thing that I think that if you have that ability to do something like that, and then including a reward, you know, even a 10 $5, Starbucks gift card $10 amazon gift card, those little things go a really long way. And who doesn't want their Starbucks paid for because it gets so expensive? Yes, it is. So I think that if you go in and whether you're a freelancer and this is a principle I take now, right? As you know, business owner or freelancer, if I set up my credibility from the beginning, and read the room,

Leslie Early 16:07


Vanessa Alzate 16:07

If my room is going to be so I do have one, one company, or one client that I work with, and we do a lot of work with, like headquarters, more data people, that's not going to be my audience. Right? They want in out, they are scanning my elearn for any sort of grammatical error and things like that, like those are the things I know that they notice. My salespeople, they don't care if there's a if you forgot a period at the end of a sentence, they want fun, they want engagement, they want those types of things. So I need to know how to read my room. Yeah, so and then when I walk in as a business owner, now what I look at a company that comes to me for for solution, those are some of the things that I'm looking at. So I'm looking at their website, I'm looking at their social media, I might look at some of their key players on LinkedIn and just kind of see like, what's the vibe there? Is this a company that I could really try to push their envelope with these little gamification tools doesn't mean that the other companies I won't. But I'll be a little bit slower, and then helps me understand like, Where can I start with pushing the envelope by introducing some of these pieces, if I think that eventually the solution for them, or if I do eventually think that they want to go into a full blown gamification course. And at that point, I will say, I have the perfect people, let me introduce you to, you know, whoever, they will go ahead and build that full simulation for you. And that's where I turn them over to the experts on that. Yeah, that's not, that's not me. And that's not going to be my brand. But I like the realism. And I like the ability to inch people towards it. And I just think that a lot of times as freelancers, we read books, we listen to podcasts, and you watch YouTube videos, we go to conferences, and we watch these presentations. And they're like, I did this amazing gamification course, and it was, you know, this full simulation, that's like, that's cool. My clients don't have that kind of money. Exactly. I don't have that credibility. And that's where and that's why you shy away from it. And that's why it's so intimidating for you. Yeah, where we all possess those little things that we can include, that are very simple, not cost prohibitive, that can into towards using those principles of gamification. So if we start thinking of gamification as a full game, and think of it as the principles that like motivation and engagement, I think you win, I think you get, I think you'd get what you need.

Leslie Early 18:34

I like that, this cut this concept or the theory, not what's the word I'm looking for? The model of like, just taking little bite sized pieces, and slowly introducing them also makes it easier on the instructional designer or the developer, right? Because they're not being overwhelmed. Like I have to develop a whole game. And like, you can build your skills that way, as well. Just like introducing little things at a time little breadcrumbs. I love that.

Vanessa Alzate 19:03

Yeah, or like a little like, instead of a knowledge check, traditional make it into a game. You know, maybe that could be more true game like, you know, there's some great templates on the storyline, community, their particular community, that could be a great jumpstart for people.

Leslie Early 19:21

Well, thank you, Vanessa, so much for your time and your insight. Yeah, that's, I have a lot to think about now, though, introducing these things good. Where can learners connect with you if if they have other questions?

Vanessa Alzate 19:36

Yep. So you can always connect with me on LinkedIn. And I'm also on Instagram at anchored training. And then I have my YouTube channel at Vanessa anchored. And then also is my podcast anchored in learning so I'm on all the things I'm on everywhere, easy to find. So I like to be accessible so people are able to, to reach out as needed.

Leslie Early 19:59

Yeah. Great. Well Again, thank you so much for joining me this morning and I hope you have a good rest of your day

Vanessa Alzate 20:05

You too. Thank you.

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