Gamification in Education

Here’s a comment I just posted on the Coursera website inside the Gamification course forum:

I tried to read as many of the gamification in education posts I could find before posting this. There seems to be a good amount of interest in the subject but not much practical application yet.

So far the best higher education gamification effort seems to be from a joint program between RIT and Microsoft https://play.rit.edu/. According to their site they will be allowing other universities to use their platform after mid-2013. It’s not clear from that site exactly what all the mechanics of it are.

We also have The Multi-Player Classroom by Lee Sheldon that features a couple of gamified university courses.

From this Extra Credits video on Gamifying Education http://youtu.be/MuDLw1zIc94, it seems that the most important element to changing the educational paradigm is to count up like a game instead of down when it comes to grading. Personally, I don’t see much difference in calling them grade points versus experience points.

It also seems that most of the literature out there on gamification in education is more about games introduced into a traditional curriculum and approach than something truly gamified like Khan Academy.

What I’m interested in hearing from others is how to gamify the university experience over and above an individual course. What could a fully implemented experience be like? What elements would there be? Without knowing all the particulars of the RIT model, what would a crowdsourced solution from this forum look like?

Example:

Every student has a smart phone to engage the experience with (if not, then their ID and a station in the computer lab). When they begin to apply for admissions, they get a progress bar to welcome them in the application process. They may have a check-in or not and have the opportunity to share with friends. They may see a current running total of applications to their program, the overall completion rate and overall acceptance rate.

Once they’re accepted, they get a badge. They can recommend friends for acceptance. If their friends are accepted, they both get badges. When they go to orientation or visit their advisor they get a badge. When they’ve selected their major, they get a technology tree to follow their coursework. Other students who they have friended will be able to see their progress and decide to take courses together or not.

Completed courses are assigned skills. Multiple courses in the same subject increase their level. If they help other students, they receive some sort of currency to be used within the system – perhaps a tuition discount or something. When they visit university sponsored events and check-in, they get progress toward badges. When they visit cultural locations near the university, they get credit. When they participate in or attend sporting events, they get credit. When they participate in social clubs they get credit. Volunteering in the community could get credit. As they accumulate hours and advance in levels, there are more rewards.

If I remember correctly, I think it was mentioned in the Multi-Player Classroom that one day students will be able to “Like” other students’ comments in class. Students would start each class with a fixed amount of conversation currency. A student would spend currency to make a comment and other students’ liking would replenish their currency. That way the obnoxious talkers would run out and everyone else would get a chance to talk. Top contributors could earn badges. I heard of one class that introduced a Twitter feed into the class so even those in the back row could register their comments. We also have Unishared which I just read about here today. That’s supposed to be an open sourced collaborative note taking platform.

There’s a forum where student projects, work and videos would be featured. One of the most important features of a university is the ability to interact with peers in an academic context. For the most part that only happens in group projects within courses. If everyone had profiles where you could see their interests, projects, etc. then students could seek each other out for networking or collaboration. Of course they would have privacy settings like Facebook (public, university system only, friends only or private).

We’re moving toward more courses that are ripe for the introduction of simulators and serious games. Doing well in these could get you more points. Developing one would be a lot of points.

A system resource like this could poll students for new programs or course ideas. Only one university in the US now has a course on gamification and it’s way sold out. Any university with its finger on the pulse of culture and innovation will offer one too. A gamified system would facilitate knowing about that kind of demand. A system like this would also help with reviews and accountability for teaching staff. The world is moving too fast for tenure anymore.

Another thought I’ve had is that any professor that can be replaced by video should be. If they’re just going to lecture, then put it on YouTube or wherever and make it private if they must. Reserve class time for discussion and collaboration.

From a brainstorming point of view (we can decide what wouldn’t work later), what else could a gamified university experience look like?

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Networking Model is Live For Download

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working on several NLP models. I learned NLP modeling through reading David Gordon’s book and DVD and then creating a model that I had reviewed by two NLP Trainers.

This model may be my favorite because it’s something you can apply immediately and could lead to a substantial quality of life.

It’s on networking – for either business or social purposes.

I took the outline style you’d find in many NLP models and turned it into a narrative. I’d gone back and forth about whether to make an audio of it and charge more. I decided that more people would be able to benefit from it if I put it in the Kindle store and charged $5 for it.

Amazon allows you to do promotions so for the next five days, you can “buy” the article for $0.00. I hope you will and let me know what you think of it. It could use some reviews on Amazon too.

Depending on how this goes, I may release my other models through this medium too. I still have models of copywriting, design, self-defense and how to be good at math.

The article is live and $0.00 for the next five days. Get it here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00915CU1C

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Education That Doesn’t Suck

I was recently speaking with a professor about what I wanted to do with a PhD in Arts and Technology. The program I’m in seems to be mostly self directed and so I’ve been trying to figure out how to go about it. The main specialty of the program is video game design.

After being drilled about whether I wanted to start a company or work for a company and what games I’ve played (not many), I tried to explain that I’m most interested in educational simulators.

I’d like to take NLP modeling to the next level.

While you can learn a new skill with modeling, you have to practice that skill to get really good at it. We already have simulators for pilots and health care professionals. We’re starting to get simulators for other skills too such as leadership. More graduate schools are adopting simulators especially for MBAs.

Another professor was introduced to our conversation and told that I was interested in “educational games that don’t suck.”

That description for simulators suggests to me that this professor isn’t as interested in them as she probably is in games for pure entertainment.

A couple of days later, a light went on for me. I realized it wasn’t “educational games that don’t suck” that I was interested in. Rather, I’m interested in education that doesn’t suck.

We’re trending toward interaction and engagement which is more naturally how we learn. The current model of lecturing and testing isn’t nearly as effective though it makes for a straightforward business model.

It’s my plan to help the trend of bringing education more in line with learning.

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Doing What You Do Best

Being yourself

If you’ve followed this blog for long, you’ve seen it morph from a copywriting emphasis to NLP copywriting to NLP marketing and most recently daily small business ideas.

I recently finished reading the business classic, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. In it, Collins talks about how great companies figure out what they can be the best at and do that.

In an interesting chapter on technology, it turns out none of the great companies focused on technology even though a casual observer (including the media) might have though it was the deciding factor. The principle was that unless you could be the best at a particular technology, it was probably a distraction.

I think I’ve been having that experience with curation. I first heard about curation about a year and a half ago. I tried it at that time and got bogged down with the daily repetition. And then another big name marketer came out with a product on it and I dove in again.

I hired two different employees in the Philippines to do it for me because I can’t do the daily repetition of it. The first one didn’t want to do it (I had to keep reminding to do things) and the other didn’t have good enough English to follow my instructions. I probably would have gotten a better employee had I paid more.

This blog – under the banner of Small Business Ideas – was my third attempt. I love the idea of innovation in small businesses. I love marketing. But for some reason or other, I can’t make myself read news and write a post more than about 3 weeks in a row without loosing all motivation. Part of me thinks there’s no way anyone is reading this if I can’t even stand to write it every day. Yes, it’s maxing out the SEO – but it’s boring. I wouldn’t read it.

When I ask myself what I CAN do best, it isn’t curation. I strongly suspect it’s NLP modeling. I’ve created five models personally though I haven’t released any of them publicly yet. I’ve been distracted by the technology and other life projects.

Whenever I’ve actually delivered a product, it’s sold and I’ve made some money. I can’t say the same for blogging or any fancy plugins or traffic generating tactics.

If you look at other folks who are doing well with their product/blog mix – Tim Ferriss and Ramit Sethi for example, you see solid products supported by blogs. No doubt their marketing people are using lots of SEO tactics but that’s not what they’re the best at.

Another issue I’ve had is getting the proper channel for the models. Originally I was thinking of doing something like a Paraliminal from Learning Strategies. Those are dual induction hypnosis sessions. The difference was going to be that I was doing a model of an actual skill rather than just a personal improvement topic like self esteem which you can’t measure well.

During that time I had an interesting pricing experience. I had one product that I’d originally priced at $97. It sold a few but not many. I put the price down to $17 and it started selling more. Then an affiliate picked it up and I sold 100 in under a week.

Then consider the Kindle marketplace and independent publishing. There are companies raking in millions of dollars selling products for $0.99. At that price, the volume is much higher.

When I was a kid, I thought the way to become a millionaire was to get a million people to give me $1. This may be the first time in history that’s possible for the average person.

Back to the model channel. I’d previously hired profession talent for dual induction hypnosis sessions. Part of me thought though that I might be overcomplicating it. If I can get results easily, do I really need to appear to add a black box to the mix? If I were the customer, would I be more likely to buy a dual induction hypnosis session or a straightforward audio recording I could play while driving?

And now that the Kindle has come along (or rather I just got a Kindle so I’ve come along), I think the channel that feels most congruent with myself is publishing the models as individual articles priced at $2.99 each.

I apologize if I seem to be jumping around a bit. There’s another thread I wanted to mention that’s influenced my decision to head this direction with everything.

There was a TED Talk by Rodney Mullen where he was talking about innovation in the context of skateboarding. He got really good and won a championship. But then each year it became about defending his title and less about innovation. Finally his spark went out, he lost the title and all the fame went looking to the next thing.

The main theme of the talk was to maintain your love for what you do rather than chasing the titles or the money. That’s how you keep innovating. A secondary lesson I took from it was the idea of raising up humanity through open source sharing. Most of the innovation happens when more people have more access to more ideas.

I realized that the models I’ve created aren’t helping anyone while I sit on them trying to figure out how to get more traffic or what channel to use to distribute them.

While $2.99 isn’t open source, I’m of the opinion that people don’t value what they haven’t invested in. $2.99 is basically free considering the value. That’s why people buy so many apps, iTunes songs and Kindle books. The power is shifting away from the huge publishing houses to independent publishers and individuals.

Hopefully all that means that we’ll all get better content. More publishers means more variety. Maybe we’ll get to hear more than just the same 5-10 songs on the radio over and over again. Maybe if I publish 10 models, 10 more people will publish 10 and we’ll all be able to learn anything we want much faster than before.

As I write this, the name of this blog is “Daily Small Business Ideas.” I’ll change it. I’m not sure what to yet. I’ll probably start with my name since that’s the domain and see what else inspires me. If you have an idea, feel free to send it.

The good news is that I won’t be trying to post every day, I’ll be posting my models as ridiculously inexpensive Kindle articles, and – most importantly for this blog – each post will have much more love and attention (though probably not SEO) given to it.

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Small Business Idea: Be Awesome

We’ve been talking about different channels to get the word out about a small business idea. A new one today is to be awesome.

An Awesome Small Business Idea

The Awesome Foundation is another way to gain publicity for a small business idea. The basic idea is that a board of 10 trustees meets once a month to award $1000 to an awesome local idea.

To be a trustee, you pledge to contribute $100 each month to keep your local chapter up and running. Then you get to vote on the most awesome idea of the month. Chapters are limited to 10 trustees to allow the possibility for consensus.

While there aren’t any numbers on the potential ROI of investing time in such an organization, there’s no doubt that the good karma from giving away $100 every month to something awesome would not only be great fun but get your name out in the community.

While some with a small business idea may want to get involved with the organization as fund seekers, it seems like a greater gain could be had by being a trustee. Most local small businesses can benefit from giving back to the community and $100 a month is within the advertising budgets of most.

The only criteria for winning an awesome grant is that the idea be awesome. Any individual, group or organization can submit an idea.

A Local Awesome Small Business Idea

One article featured the Halifax chapter of the foundation. They hold a market where trustees – 60 in all – circulate and talk to pre-screened awesome ideas.

From the article, it appear they pay $400 at a time to be a trustee. The article says there are only 30 trustee slots so it’s not clear exactly how they’re structured.

“Sometimes, it’s just a small amount of money someone needs to advance a great idea forward … or to see if their idea will make it,” Awesome Halifax co-founder Colette O’Hara said in a recent interview.

“That’s what this is really about, getting enough money in somebody’s hands to get to the next baby step they need to take. It’s not about huge amounts of funding; it’s to keep progress happening.”

Sources:

Awesome Halifax supports business dreams

The Awesome Foundation

Comments:

Crowdsourcing for a Small Business Idea

As crowdsourcing takes off to fund a small business idea, we’ll have more varieties of it. While The Awesome Foundation seems to be a smaller scale version of it, it’s still enough to get interest and get people thinking about awesome ideas.

If you have a small business, you can go to the The Awesome Foundation’s website and look up your local chapter. Many major cities still have not formed chapters so there’s plenty of opportunity yet to get publicity and fund a small business idea.

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How to Frame a Great Small Business Idea

Source: Mike Cline via Wikipedia

Today’s small business idea is on how to frame that great small business idea. After you have a USP, you need a way to tell everyone about it.

Let’s look at different ways to frame a hook as well as a great way to distribute those hooks.

Media Hooks for a Small Business Idea

CBS posted an article with 15 hooks you can use to get publicity for a small business idea.

They include using a news event, sharing expert advice, coming up with a Hall of Fame to honor people, having a contest, making a prediction, holding an event, starting a petition, busting myths, sharing recipes, sharing relevant historical events, making a list as this article did, making a quiz, writing an editorial, or starting an index to rank something.

This was a part two article so there are further ways to promote your small business idea in the previous article as well.

YouTube for a Small Business Idea

Another article today was on ways to share your small business idea through YouTube with relevant examples.

They reported that YouTube has said that it’s “how-to” channel has become it’s most popular channel showing that businesses are catching on to the power of consumer education prior to making the sale.

Their categories for video production are branding, consumer education, how-to videos, selling  benefits related to the product, problem-solution, as your main service (Khan Academy), product demonstrations, advice, tutorials, or as something intended to go viral.

Be sure and watch a few of the videos to understand the concepts.

Sources:

More media ‘hooks’ to get your business noticed

10 top small business uses of YouTube videos

Comments:

You probably know from personal experience that you hate watching most commercials but you’ll watch a how-to video no, problem. One of the major uses of the internet is to find solutions to problems and how-to videos are often the easiest to use.

Successful Small Business Idea Videos

The list of businesses that have become successful through promoting how-to videos is long indeed. If you combine these two concepts above – finding a hook and creating videos for customers’ enrichment – there’s no limit to where you can take your small business idea.

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Getting Starting With Small Business Social Media Tactics

If you haven’t gotten started with social media tactics, here are a few suggestions. The two biggies are Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t set up a Facebook page, it’s fairly easy.

You can do it yourself if you want, you can hire someone on oDesk or Fiverr or hire a full service company like ProFacebookPages.com.

Where to Get Ideas for Social Media Tactics

If you’re running short on places to get ideas for social media tactics, consider hopping over to a coffee shop where other entrepreneurs are likely hanging out. If you’re in a friendly enough location you might be able to eavesdrop or join in on an interesting conversation.

Additional Social Media Tactics Channels

If you’ve got Facebook and Twitter down, you’ll want to consider other social media tactics depending on your particular small business: Tumblr, Yelp, Google maps/places, Foursquare and Pinterest.

Said one business owner:

“Foursquare became one of my best tools. The ability to do free campaigns enables you to run your own promotions when you want. Foursquare gives you (the business owner) the control instead of paying for advertising.”

Sources:

Noobis Releases ProFacebook Pages for Small Businesses

 The Coffee House Isn’t Just Your Corner Office: Small Biz Ideas

Comments:

Social Media Tactics Strategies

Of course your small business social media tactics are going to depend on your overall strategy.

More than a few companies ended up getting burned by their Groupon experience when they weren’t able to handle all the traffic it sent them. So the bigger picture has to be considered.

Your marketing will be more effective if you can consistently broadcast your USP. Then it just becomes a matter of finding additional channels for your social media tactics.

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VCs Still Sourced for Small Business Startups

There was talk that the JOBS Act would move small business startups away from venture capitalists and toward crowdsourcing options. It appears it’s not an either/or situation but both/and.

Funding Stats Regarding Small Business Startups

From a survey done by national law firm Dorsey & Whitney (originally done in 2010 and recently updated), we learn that:

  • 36% of small business startups in major metropolitan areas did a round of funding (29% prior in 2010)
  • 30% of CEOs expect to raise between $1M to $5M (23% prior)
  • 15% used business incubators (9% prior)
  • CEOs strongly preferred to seek funding from established relationships (i.e. not crowdsourcing)

Another Crowdsourced Option For Small Business Startups

While I mentioned crowdsourced consulting in an earlier post, it seems we have another similar company.

GenCrowd is also provides crowdsourced outsourcing for small business startups. It’s unclear from their website whether they’re familiar with their competitors or what their USP might be over them.

They have a similar story from the previously mentioned AskYourUsers.com.

“The volume of work that startups have to do, atleast initially – from idea brainstorming and validation, brand naming, tagline and slogan generation, logo design, web design and development, content and copywriting, all the way down to website and usability testing, SEO and marketing, analytics research, customer service, and a whole bunch of other issues – can take a real toll on people and businesses alike,” said Barun Rath, founder of GenCrowd.

“Going through the steps, GenCrowd was conceptualized from these issues that we personally faced when starting a business – we were looking for resources to provide us with different ideas and perspectives on different aspects regarding the business we were working on at the time. And so, the idea behind GenCrowd was formed – an online marketplace allowing people to crowdsource ideas, content, and feedback for their business needs.”

GenCrowd seems different in that it allows “blind” listings which means you can solicit feedback without any of the experts being able to see each others’ solutions. Of course it’s hard to beat AYU’s ties with LinkedIn – whatever that benefit might be.

Sources:

Startup CEOs Crave Venture Capital, Not Crowdsourcing

GenCrowd Leverages “The Wisdom of Crowds” to Help People Get Ideas, Content, and Feedback for Their Business Needs

Crowdsourced Consulting Small Business Ideas

Clive Thompson: Why Veteran Visionaries Will Save the World

Comments:

It seems to go without saying that we prefer working with people we know when that’s an option. But to extrapolate that to the conclusion that crowdsourcing isn’t gaining traction does small business startups a disservice. It’s zero sum thinking.

Before, venture capitalists were the main game in town. You may have got funding based on your relationships with them. Of course you had to have a solid idea too. But the relationship needed to be there.

With crowdsourcing, a whole new source of funding is opening up to the market. People without prior VC relationships will now have options where they can prove their idea and expertise.

Small Business Startups Demographics

Of course there’s the debate about preferred startup CEO ages. If anyone does a demographic study on that, I’d like to know. One I saw said the average age of startup CEOs from 1995-2005 was 39 but that older professionals start different kinds of companies than younger ones.

Clearly the older ones are going to be the ones more likely to seek funding and in all likelihood, the younger ones be more inclined to pursue crowdsourcing for small business startups.

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Selling Baby Boomers’ Small Businesses

Small business or health care?

Most people are aware of the impact of baby boomers on the health care system. If you’re looking for stable employment, it hard to do better than working in health care as the baby boomer generation needs more and more care.

Another implication most people aren’t aware of is the boomers small business market. Yes, we realize they’re looking to retire in the next few years but most don’t realize that means the ones that own small businesses that they operate may be looking to sell.

In fact that’s what we’re see happening now already.

More Small Business For Sale, Lower Prices

Bizbuysell.com is a site that lists small businesses for sale. They report that while selling activity has increased to 2008 levels, prices have fallen 3.2% in the last quarter:

“Business owners are continuing to adjust their pricing in order to expedite a sale,” said Mike Handelsman, group general manager of BizBuySell.com. “While some may still be holding out for an economic recovery, many more are trying to exit at acceptable prices, even if it means settling for a lower number than they originally expected.”

Small Business Selling Tips

If you are a small business owner looking to sell, the WSJ has some tips for you based on common mistakes. Most of them are to do the opposite of the mistake.

Mistake: The business is dependent on you.

Mistake: Not planning for tax implications of the sale.

Mistake: Not getting a realistic appraisal.

Mistake: Only looking at the bottom line of an offer.

Mistake: Not hiring experienced professionals to handle the deal.

Mistake: Not being prepared for the emotional consequences of selling the small business.

Sources:

Sales of small businesses rise as prices decline

Ready to Sell Your Business and Retire?

Comments:

One small business idea is clearly then to be any sort of professional who can assist a small business owner with the sale of their business. Alternately, now and in the near future will probably be a great time to acquire a cash flowing small business.

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