From 0 to Learning in 60 Minutes

I had the opportunity this week to work with a local meteorologist on an mLevel mission to teach people about the weather. Weather is such an interesting topic – “ubiquitous” is how he described it – with so many interesting facts and myths and terms and concepts and history that are at least a little familiar for most of us. Anyways, while the ultimate goal is to produce a highly professional mission to be experienced by weather newbies and aficionados, our more immediate goal was to quickly prototype the concept to demonstrate the process and capabilities. After an hour or so of demonstrating the mLevel platform, and then taking questions and engaging in a discussion about how it could be used to educate people about the weather, we jumped into creating a sample mission.

Stepping back for a second…an mLevel mission is the packaging around a specific objective. For businesses, this might be an objective to increase sales along a specific product line or increase customer satisfaction metrics in a call center. For more consumer-oriented scenarios – say conference organizers – maybe they’re looking for a way for attendees to get more out of the conference by learning about the speakers and agenda, or even the city where the conference is being held. For the example for our meteorologist, it was educating people about storms.

mLevel missions consist of topics covering the information that is necessary to learn in order to achieve the objective and the games that deliver this content to the learners. In our case, we selected the topic to be types of storms, such as tornados, blizzards, hurricanes, etc., which we listed in the first column in an Excel spreadsheet. Then, we discussed and chose several attributes of these storms that we felt important for people to know – things like top wind speed, typical geography and season, emergency preparedness, famous examples and several others. These we listed across the top row of the spreadsheet. Finally, we filled out the middle of the spreadsheet with actual data, such as the top wind speed of a tornado is 300 mph, and a famous example of a hurricane is Katrina, etc. We didn’t fill everything out, but just enough so that we could test out our mission. We imported this content into mLevel, which automatically created a topic knowledge base to hold the information.

One of the really important features of the mLevel platform is that you don’t have to write out questions – the platform automatically does this for you, based on the content and templates that define the desired structure and style. Question templates use a mix of static text and dynamic placeholders in their definitions. For example, if you wanted questions about top wind speed to appear in a game, you might construct a template like this:

Which of the following types of storms has a top wind speed of {{value}}?

{{value}} is simply a placeholder that will be replaced with actual top wind speed values from the topic knowledge base when questions are generated.

Here’s another example:

What is the top wind speed of {{item}}?

{{item}} is another placeholder, this time replaced with actual type of storm values from the topic knowledge base.

We created 5-6 question templates, including those listed above, to cover several different aspects of storms. From the limited set of content and few question templates, mLevel generated over 50 unique questions that would be presented in our weather mission’s first game.

The really amazing part is that we did all this AND deployed AND were playing our first game in about an hour. That’s 60 minutes. It took me longer to write this post! And, while my colleagues were playing, I spent an additional 20 minutes or so creating a few question templates for the second game and deployed that before they were finished playing the first. Granted, I wouldn’t call this a professional-looking mission – it didn’t have images, and it needed a bit more content. But, for our immediate purpose of quickly prototyping the concept, it was an impressive display of the power of the mLevel platform.

Now, why should you care? For the instructional designers out there, start with not having to write pages of good, objective questions. Writing questions is hard, often not reusable, and always time-consuming. On the latter point, it may take 60 minutes just for a page of 4-5 questions; with mLevel we generated 10 times the number of questions in the same amount of time, oh, and delivered them through fun and engaging games, instead of a computer-based test. Of course, content (and questions) become stale after a while. With mLevel you simply update the knowledge base with new, updated content and regenerate questions. The learners immediately see the new questions with the new content.

For business managers, think of the impact of this ability to quickly deploy learning objectives on the productivity and knowledge of your employees. You can reduce – and sometimes eliminate altogether – traditional classroom-based training, giving your staff more time to sell, service, or whatever their “real” jobs call for. And with greater knowledge, they can do all of this more effectively. Better learning leads to better working.

Please contact me if you want to learn more. And download mLevel from your favorite app store (Windows App Store, Amazon App Store, Apple App Store or Google Play) and be on the lookout for a fun and informative weather mission in the near future.

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Empowering learners Together

We’re excited to announce that we are now a part of the Axonify family. To all of those who have supported the MLevel journey, we thank you!  Here’s to the next chapter and to furthering data-driven learning.