The other day I had a great conversation with John Deligiannis. John has been in the L&D space for his entire career, and joined a company called mLevel almost 2 years ago now. John had some really interesting things to say about the learning industry and what mLevel is doing to increase learner engagement.
Kapp: You’ve been in the Learning and Development space for a long time, what is the most profound change you’ve seen over the course of your career?
Deligiannis: I would say the dramatic but constant shift away from classroom-based training. Don’t get me wrong, we will always have classroom training. But when I started, most instruction happened in the classroom. It was much more common to have 2-day, 3-day, 1-week training sessions. Today that’s much less common. Any time you pull someone away from their day-to-day job, you’re going to have really justify it. Learning professionals have had to get much more creative and use a much wider variety of tools: eLearning, job aids, performance support, games, assessments, and more. We have to be more targeted and efficient with our learning interventions. I guess that’s another change I’ve seen – a greater focus on the learner as opposed to the content, the materials or the instructor. In both cases, I see them as positive developments and trends we are definitely helping drive through our work here at mLevel.
Kapp: Can you tell me a little about mLevel? What is the company about?
Deligiannis: mLevel is a casual learning platform that makes it easy for companies to build and deploy game-based learning solutions to their employees via their desktop or mobile device. Authors can take just about any kind of content, upload it into the platform and create questions that will power simple, fun games. There are 15 different activity types to choose from, and there is no coding required. The various game templates address different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and there is also a scenario-based game template where authors can create their own easy learning simulations. mLevel basically makes it incredibly easy for learning designers to quickly create fun, engaging learning activities that employees will play again and again. Employees can compete against one another through in-app leaderboards, and the competition can get pretty fierce. This fuels repeat plays, and repeat plays fuel more learning. Finally, the platform has an extensive reporting dashboard that provides detailed data on how employees are performing – specifically, what they know and don’t know at a level most learning and business professionals aren’t used to seeing.
Kapp: That’s very interesting, thanks. Can you give me an example of a how a customer has used mLevel?
Deligiannis: Lots of examples! Our customers have found quite a bit of success using mLevel to train their sales force, both on product knowledge as well as sales process. We have a specific case study on our website with US Foods, where employees who performed well on the mLevel mission had a direct correlation to increased sales. Several customers have used mLevel in their new hire orientations. It’s a fun and engaging way to introduce new employees into the culture of the company. Compliance is another big one. As you know, all companies have to do some level of compliance training, and it’s typically pretty boring. A recent customer is a leading provider of education services, and their recruiters have strict protocols for how they conduct themselves with prospects.
They deployed an mLevel mission in place of their typical page-turning eLearning course and saw high levels of engagement and proficiency. Coming back to the idea of fewer hours in the classroom, we’ve also seen lots of our customers reducing the duration of instructor-led learning by taking some of that knowledge-based content and putting it into an mLevel mission. One customer was deploying a new CRM system and deployed an mLevel mission to teach users about initial commands. They were able to reduce required classroom time by several hours, while also allowing for more hands-on practice in the classroom.
Kapp: The field of game-based learning is growing rapidly, what do you think a trainer, facilitator or instructional designer should know about game-based learning to successful implement it into their organization?
Deligiannis: Game-based learning is a means to an end. Learning professionals shouldn’t seek first to use a game for the sake of using a game. Like any learning, the game should have a purpose, ideally tied to a metric that can be measured. A game should seek into increase employees’ knowledge on a specific topic, and that knowledge should be tied to something specific. It could be increased sales of a line of products, it could be increased efficiency in a given process, it could be the reduction of errors on a particular tool. The game should aim to accomplish something beyond just fun and engagement. Having said that, engagement is another key element. Just because it’s a game doesn’t mean it’s going to be engaging by default. The game should be well designed and activate engagement in the end user. Just like anything else, if it’s poorly designed you won’t get the results you’re seeking.
Kapp: What advice would you give to graduate students going into the L&D field?
Deligiannis: Think of learning as part of the business, and conduct yourself as a business professional. Don’t think of learning as something separate. You’ll hear a lot of people talk about learning having a “seat at the table”. You have to earn that seat by demonstrating tangible outcomes with the various lines of business. Leaders don’t want to hear about learning objectives, they want to hear how learning is going to make a difference in their sphere of influence. Will it help them sell more products? Will it help them work more efficiently? Keep that seat at the table by showing how the learning function can directly influence business results. Stay focused on the right things for your organization, demonstrate value, and you’ll have a great career in the learning field.