Taking on the challenge of mastering new tools

Mastering new tools for work will happen regularly for most of us today. I often try out new tools to see if they could be beneficial to me and if I like what they do, I will take on the challenge of mastering the new tool. For some tools this is a quick and easy process, for others, it takes you on a bit of a learning curve.

The tool I am mastering at the moment is Evolve Authoring, a well-priced e-learning authoring software. I have used Adobe Captivate before and that was a learning curve too. Like everything, the first time using it is about finding your way around and then playing around with the functionality in a bit of a trial and error kind of way.

I did look at their Academy videos to get me started in understanding the capabilities, but until you start using it, it is academic knowledge at best. What I like about the software is that it gives you live previews, so you can verify whether what you are doing is showing up as intended or not.

Originally I was going to delegate the task to the team and for a variety of reasons, then decided it would probably be useful if I knew the true capacity of this authoring tool too to create some good out of the box gamified content. Congruent with my learning gamification framework. When I master the content creation tools, I can also teach others and advise of functionality that may make learning more powerful.

I have to say as rapid authoring tools go, I am quietly impressed with Evolve Authoring. It includes branched scenarios out of the box, it allows for confidence testing up front, a multiplayer game and social elements at the course level, which is usually reserved for the learning management environment with other tools. It also includes a fairly logical structure for making content visually pleasing and adding progression mechanics easily. And it includes gamification mechanics out of the box too, so if your learning management system hasn’t yet gone that far, you can create it at the content level.

What I got stuck on is where titles go and when they appear, there are simply too many places where you can add titles. With the graphics theme set-up, I fumbled and still haven’t quite figured out how to get the logo to display in the theme somewhere. But I felt after a few hours fiddling with graphics, that maybe I needed to set it aside and start creating content and then come back to investigate what I am doing wrong with the graphics. It seems like the kind of authoring tool, where the order in which what was done, isn’t all that important.

In the initial stages of my journey to mastery, adding content and having it display as I intended was good to see. Then levelling it up to add more interactions and making the display of the content look better also gave me some inner motivational boosts. Testing out different interactive elements to see which one fits all the text best and how the related graphics and audio would work was another fun exploration.

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I haven’t managed to test it all, but my big reward objective is to create a first full module of a multiple part course in it before meeting a client later this week. If this then works well, we may use the tool to iterate quicker from concept to storyboard to fully created elearning. Most of the time we use storyboards to finalise the content in, but for one client this is proving troublesome hence testing this method.

It means from an operational perspective that I will need to find instructional designers open to doing rapid developing in the Evolve Authoring tool (If that appeals to you, do get in touch, it is freelance only at this point).

Journey to mastery

So as I am learning the various parts I also wanted to take note of how my journey maps out, to then test if it can be re-applied elsewhere too. I started by evaluating the tool for fit first with their trial license, I took all the levels in the academy before effectively starting to play around and experiment. For me, when I analyse it, that is my way of learning. If a tool is easy I may skip straight to trial and error. I think that’s how I taught myself Microsoft Office, before there were many help functions available, having come from Lotus tools the transition was not too hard. True mastery comes over time.

I also consciously wanted to check what motivated and frustrated me along the way, but to keep progressing regardless. Leaving the graphics to come back to for example is a case in point, I couldn’t work it out quickly so I did the basics and then moved on to create more content, which I was able to master much quicker. In most of my instructional design days, graphics and development were left to someone else, my work stopped at the approved storyboard and I verified the developed version to make sure the interpretation was as it was intended to be.

Seeing content come to life is definitely a motivator for me. I often found that with games too, once you have a playable version it starts to be rewarding to see it come together. I benefit from having Q&A people around to review and test all the fine details. It’s one part of the job that I have learned to delegate, especially when have been closely involved. I find over time I become blind to some of the errors, yet fresh eyes will give you that perspective.

I know I am nowhere near finished on my journey to mastery with the Evolve authoring tool, but I know at least I have started and that initial progress is promising. To me, that is happily motivational. Knowing you have more to learn, with the confidence that you will probably be able to handle it because the early indicators give that impression.

I didn’t set external rewards, in fact, the work in itself, the creation was enough to get me moving and to keep me going. Maybe after the initial big learning curve has been climbed, this may change.

Gamification considerations around how we learn

When you set out to learn a new tool, how do you start? What is your process? Which parts do you find frustrating and which parts do you find motivational? How do you handle frustrations? What do you do to keep going? Was the work in itself motivational or did you look for external rewards?

These are the types of questions I would ask when embarking on learning gamification projects. If the work is motivational within itself, then the setting of external rewards on top of it may not be necessary nor good for future sustainability. Self-selection of rewards and adaptation of rewards to our motivation level linked to different places of the learning curve we may be on, could prove to be more beneficial than one size fits all.


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