The Monthly Chat Session was held on the 23rd of October. This time our esteemed guest was with Ajay Menon, Vice President, Tata Interactive Systems. He answered to our questions on the topic TECHNOLOGY IN LEARNING – with special focus on E – Learning, Gamification and Business Simulation.

Question: How we can lower the price of E – learning solution for more penetration across the platform? With technology in L&D is it the right time for seeking gamification certification to be relevant in future?
Ajay: Cost of development of eLearning has been coming down over the years. However, I think the best way of managing budgets is to prepare designs for the learning modules yourself and only commission to the eLearning companies. Designing for a module is not as complicated as one would think…as long as the learning goals are clear one can decide what are the important points of consideration and goals and then proceed from there Commission development to eLearning companies.

Any formal recognition of Gamification will help in further legitimizing the model. So far gamification is either too exotic for one’s learning needs or too expensive. So if there is a certification then it obviously helps in assimilation of games into mainstream learning.

Question: Keeping Gamification in mind, What training themes are presently being deployed? How do we know difference is due to gamification in terms of ROI

Ajay: Currently I categorize simulations, serious games and alternate reality games all under game design. And just in case we are talking about certification within games then we follow the Points Badges and Leader boards as ways of engaging learners.

Sales training, Negotiation, Business acumen, process training can all be effectively managed through games or simulations. I generally don’t like focusing on ROI for determining efficacy because the impact is seen over time. So if you want to see impact of investment this year you might have to wait for a couple of years. That being said games or simulations allow you to apply learning which is the closest you can get to the real thing so yes they do have a significant impact. Companies want to use simulations and games for the effectiveness and also the novelty. And we have seen our annual business from India having a huge contribution from sims and games

Question: How much percentage of E Learning  do you recommend in terms of hard skills and for soft skills in terms of SME budgets and how much more cost effective is ELearning in the current deflated IT economy?

Answer: That is a tricky question and extremely subjective. But if left to me, all preparation and sustenance of learning can be through eLearning. Actual theory can be in class, application can be 50% class and 50% eLearning (including sims and games here)

 Question: Any current model on gamification available online so that I get the hang of it as I apply in the intervention and then kick start my own model? Is it a practical approach to the idea?

Answer: There are a few models available. From simulation point of view, I always liked what guys at forio do. They have a cool engine. For practice oriented games like checking documents in banks or insurance companies we have devised a framework that helps us churn out custom games fairly rapidly. [: As far as determining whether this is the right way to proceed that depends on your bandwidth and your clients. Best way is to ask experts to do this for a couple of projects and then see if you want to do this yourself.

Question: As someone extremely active on social media, I wish to understand if any of the social gaming (e.g. Clash of clans) is being used or can be used for e-learning.
Answer: I am not aware of any mainstream games being used for learning. They are seen as productivity killers. But most games for learning are custom built for client needs. At least that is what we do. Also there might be IP issues in using them.

Question: How can a trainer facilitate learning when games/ stimuli is used when the trainer is not present?

Answer: It can be managed if the games are hosted on a common platform like a learning management system or a portal. You can then manage this as an administrator by debriefing at opportune moments, breaking the game into specific modules as per the learning plan

Question:
The trends for employee appraisals is changing across the world, how can we leverage technology in learning to achieve that. Are the companies on India open to such a change?

Answer: Technology can be used to facilitate learnings directly tied to Office Assessments too can be used to check the improvements but I don’t think a non-performance framework would find purchase amongst employees. It’s like telling a footballer that I would rather test his sense of understanding if strategies than evaluate the actual performance on field. Technology can be an add on in evaluation not the core, if you understand what I am saying

Question: As per recent studies, the HR spend is going to increase in the following year, what percent of the budget would be reserved for buying technology focussed on learning and development

Answer: Budgets should never be for one aspect of the training agenda. Sure you can go granular to plan but the important question to ask yourself is what are the goals that I have, what is the time I need to prepare folks to achieve these goals, what competencies are needed to be addressed…how best can we address these (class, eLearning, games, sims) and then what it would cost. After that you can work backwards based on your priorities.
Companies prefer using their own environments to train employees. If it is generic learning like data analytics, negotiation, sales skills then initial learning can be through publically available mediums like MOOCs or online university or physical classrooms.  Further org specific training can be then done.