Muzzy Lane Author CODiE Awards Finalist for 3rd Straight Year


A finalist in the “Best eLearning Authoring/Development Tool for Educators/Trainers” category, Author is the fastest way for course designers to add game-based simulations to their online courses. No technical skills are required to build with Author and WYSIWYG editors make creation easy and efficient. The resulting simulations are delivered seamlessly through the LMS using the LTI standard, and are WCAG 2.0 AA compliant and mobile friendly. Simulations are also a great fit with adaptive learning given their ability to generate nuanced data and provide feedback in the moment. Author was informed by a research study funded by the Gates Foundation into how game-based learning can improve outcomes for students in higher education.

We’re proud to have our efforts to improve student outcomes and engagement recognized by the SIIA CODiE judges, and offer our congratulations to all the other finalists. Winners will be announced at the SIIA Annual Conference June 13th in San Francisco – full list of finalists here.

Learn more about Muzzy Lane Author and sign up for a free account at our website.

Muzzy Lane partners with McGraw-Hill Education to bring simulations to higher education

We’re excited about the partnership announced today with McGraw-Hill Education. We’ve spent over a decade bringing the benefits of simulations – feedback, adaptivity, engagement – to students in higher education. Partnering with McGraw-Hill allows us to reach many more students and increase our impact. Embedding the simulations in Connect gives instructors and students seamless access including single sign on, gradebook integration, and rich analytics.

Muzzy Lane Author allows content creation teams to work together efficiently to create simulations. Subject matter experts collaborate with Instructional Designers to design activities, map to Learning Objectives, and create simulations with no coding required. Author’s workflow features allow teams to iterate and test their simulations as they develop them and publish for instant availability when ready. Maintenance is easy as well, and updates can be applied to active assignments or only new ones. All activities created in Author are mobile friendly, meet WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility guidelines, and support auto-assessment of student performance. If you’d like to learn more please contact us at info@muzzylane.com!

Read the press release here

Three Months In: How and Where is KidCitizen being Used?


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We launched KidCitizen in November, at the NCSS convention in San Francisco, and were very encouraged by the response it received in the presentations, posters, workshop, and demo sessions we conducted.

KidCitizen Primer: KidCitizen provides a set of interactive digital “episodes” where children explore civic engagement and Congress through historical primary sources from the Library of Congress, and connect what they find with their daily lives. KidCitizen also includes the cloud-based KidCitizen Editor that gives teachers the power to create their own episodes and easily share them with students. Access to the KidCitizen Episodes and Editor is free to teachers. KidCitizen is part of the the Civics and Primary Sources Project, and is supported by a grant from the Library of Congress.

It’s now been more than three months since the launch, and lots has happened, so we thought it would be interesting to give an update on how (and where!) KidCitizen episodes are being used by teachers and students. We’ll explore that in a series of blog posts. In this first one, we’ll look at our site visitors, and how the KidCitizen Episodes are being used.

KidCitizen website visitors:

In mid February, we crossed the threshold of 4,000 unique visitors to the the kidcitizen.net website. One interesting stat is that 46% of our visitors are coming direct (not through search, social media or referrals). That means these visitors know and remember our name, and type “kidcitizen” into browsers. So our name recognition is strong!

35% of visitors have come through referring pages, with the most coming from the press announcements of the launch, the loc.gov blogs on the launch, and (this is interesting) classroom.google.com. This indicates that there is a substantial group of teachers using the KidCitizen Episodes as part of assignments they are setting up in google classroom.

How are the KidCitizen Episodes being played?

As of February 13, the six initial KidCitizen episodes have been played a total of 3,309 times.

Not surprisingly, the introductory episode “What are Primary Sources” has the most plays, with about 1,000, but just edges out “Community Helpers” with 950.   That’s an interesting contrast there, as “What are Primary Sources” is the simplest (and briefest) episode, while “Community Helpers” is perhaps the richest and most complex. (there’s some competition there).

In January and February, the episode “Welcome to Congress” saw a big jump in plays – so we suspect that a few teachers are putting that to use with a number of students.  Over the next months, we’ll publish some posts diving deeper into the different episodes, and how you can use them.

If you are interested in seeing a KidCitizen episode, you can play them in your browser from Kidcitizen.net.  And they are free.  

About our data: Because KidCitizen is supported by the Library of Congress with an important goal of making its resources easily and freely available, we do not require users to give us information to access the Episodes. We do include a voluntary ask for zip code for teachers that download teachers guides. So we’ll report on what we do know, and make some surmises from that.

In our next post, we’ll look at where KidCitizen is being used thus far. (Spoiler alert: all 50 states!)

KidCitizen is part of the Congress, Civic Participation, and Primary Sources Project, supported by a grant from the Library of Congress.

 

 

 

 

Encouraging Results from Student Orientation Primer at ASU

ASU’s Orientation for their online courses is showing strong impact: Students that pass Orientation tend to have GPAs a half point higher on average than students who don’t.

As part of their Pilot with Muzzy Lane Author, ASU Online has created a game-based Orientation Primer, that engages students in a conversation with four student-characters, exploring challenges they all face, and how the Orientation can help them deal with key challenges like time management.

Access the results here

Tools of the Trade

During this month’s SXSWedu conference, Dave McCool and I met for dinner on the patio of The Cedar Door in Austin to enjoy the weather and discuss the day’s events. We had just announced that Muzzy Lane offers individual licenses to our Author service (free to start; $29.99 per month for a personal license to create and deliver assignments to students).

Before SXSWedu, we had focused on institutional deals. In dining terms, we sold to restaurants and restaurant chains. Now we were ready to sell to the people who make the food.

As if on cue, two chefs walked out onto the patio with black canvas knife bags slung over their shoulders.

“Mind if I take your picture?” I asked.

“Uh, ok, I guess,” the tall one said. He had a beard and arm tattoos.

“As long as it’s not for social media,” the other added. Her hair was pulled back with a green headband and her smile asked who are these clowns?

They had the easy but intense demeanor of contestants on Chopped.

I promised I wouldn’t post the photo, which is why you won’t see them here, and explained that Muzzy Lane makes software tools that help instructional designers create active learning experiences; food for the brain instead of the stomach. That was enough to get the two chefs to talk shop.

Chefs are very picky about their knives.

“Which are your favorites?”

They rattled off a long list of names – too many to recall – but the enthusiasm in their voices was unmistakable. Both agreed that Misonos were the most versatile and held the sharpest edge. The chef with the green headband also likes Henckels and Wüsthof knives for their “everyday chopping power.” She carries both Japanese and German knives in her kit.

“Do you share them?” I asked.

They looked at each other and laughed. They share recipes. They share techniques. But no one touches his or her knives.

Both chefs frequently update the knives they carry. They value the opinions of their peers. But each knife has to prove itself over time to earn its way into their bags. A superior product could replace one of the “chosen ones” at any time.

What a chef looks for in a knife:

  • Affordable
  • Sharp blade that holds its edge over a long period of time
  • Helps you do your job faster
  • Balanced and easy to use
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Suited to a specific task

What a course designer looks for in an authoring tool:

  • Affordable
  • Makes it easy to slice-and-dice (and update) learning content
  • Helps you do your job faster
  • Balanced and easy to use
  • Flexible and versatile
  • Suited to a specific task

Of all the tools chefs work with on a daily basis it’s only knives that they won’t let out of their sight.

Chefs are protective and passionate about which knives they use because knives are the tools that translate their culinary skills into fine dining experiences. If they deliver enough of those experiences they will move on to bigger restaurants and better salaries.

If you’re making courseware instead of food, you carry authoring tools from one project to another. You might use an Adobe tool for one task; Articulate for another, reaching for each based on the benefits it delivers to your students. Such tools become an extension of your design thinking. You use them to put ideas into action. You need to upgrade your tools in order to improve learning outcomes for students.

At Muzzy Lane, we’re passionate about our Author service. We want to earn our way into your toolkit. Our goal is to help translate your course design expertise into engaging and effective learning experiences. We’ll sharpen the authoring tools and leave the content creation to you. It’s fast, cheap, and powerful. Please call or email us at sales@muzzylane.com if you’d like to learn more.

Easy Enough Never Is

Product developers need to know the customer they’re building their products for and how those products solve real customer problems. User-centered design employs personas – fictional composite characters that represent key customer behaviors – to focus and accelerate this process.

Personas can range from simple bullet point lists to thematic design canvases to back-stories worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster. As long as the personas you create inform great design, help you understand and care about your customers, and result in delightful customer experiences, you’re doing it right. The world doesn’t have nearly enough of it.

At Muzzy Lane, we’ve built personas for instructional designers based on how they describe the demands of their jobs. Every instructional designer, or ID, is different. But IDs share the goals of increasing student engagement and student success. They also share the obstacles of unrealistic timeframes, strained budgets, and resistance from administration and faculty. They want tools that allow them to rapidly iterate on course designs based on input from subject matter experts, instructors, and students.

IDs excel at structuring and sequencing learning outcomes. But they’re not game designers. We wrestle with whether Author can help them figure out how to develop great interactive role-playing activities. But the truth is that building tools for IDs is only part of the design puzzle we need to solve.

Like them, we care most about whether students benefit from what our partners create with Muzzy Lane Author. We don’t control the content or flow of what IDs build. Our ability to influence and improve the student’s experience must reside within the tools themselves.

rdolls

Tight feedback loops drive continuous improvement. While IDs carefully sift through feedback to improve the organization and presentation of content (which they can edit and re-release without any involvement from us), Muzzy Lane studies the same audit trails for clues about how to make navigating and interacting with the tools and activities more intuitive and polished. Our guiding principle: Easy enough never is.

If you’re a tool developer and there’s a content builder between you and consumers (whether it’s students, employees, or something else), it helps if the personas you keep in mind for those consumers are real people, not mash-ups. That way you can’t fake whether you care about them. You either do or you don’t. It will show in your product.

Our research on The Potential for Game-Based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students, funded with a grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provided us with an opportunity to interview and interact with hundreds of students.

We learned a lot from their stories and channeled those lessons into developing Muzzy Lane Author. Here are two examples.

Meg (not her real name) studies part-time at a community college where she seeks a phlebotomy certificate. Her classes are a mix of in person and online. She’s in her late thirties, married with two kids. “Actually, I think of my husband as my third child.” She claims to get five hours of sleep per night but concedes she often gets closer to three or four. She works full-time as a home health care assistant. Any day can turn into an unintentional Take Your Daughter to Work Day. When she’s in a line at the store or waiting to pick up one of her kids, she fits in school assignments on her phone. Her schedule is a constant juggling act:

a-day-in-the-life-of-meg

Joe is single in his mid-twenties. He works full-time on the 11p-7a shifts as a certified nursing assistant at a large hospital. “I hate being a CNA but I still try to do a great job every night.” He sleeps for a few hours in the morning before going to the gym to jumpstart his brain for schoolwork. Joe’s a full-time student working toward an associate’s degree in computer science. Once he earns that he hopes to complete his bachelor’s degree at a four-year school if he can swing financial aid. His most essential study tool is his phone. He uses it for everything from video and audio lectures to flash cards to actual programming (yes, he codes on his phone). Full-time employee. Full-time student. No support system. What could possibly go wrong?

smartphone-usage-for-studies

Meg and Joe identified time management as their #1 challenge. Family demands, financial pressures, and work conflicts can trip them up at any moment. So they need learning activities and assessments that fit into the cracks between their other responsibilities. By necessity they learn in sips, not gulps. Quick concentrated learning on their phones holds appeal. Mobile first assessments that function as virtual internships can help them prepare for real jobs. They want value and they want it fast.

As its name implies, active learning means getting students to do something: role-play a job, solve a complex problem, or apply what they’ve already learned. If your user’s active and engaged, getting automated feedback and understanding it, failing safely while progressing through a series of micro learning challenges, you may be onto something. There are several great tools out there for building such activities.

Retention and completion percentages don’t lie. The educational odds are stacked against Meg and Joe. But all of the forces that could derail them are what make the schools, publishers, and technology providers that serve them so determined to help them succeed. For us, little things, like knowing that Meg’s daughter gets bored when Meg takes her to work and doesn’t do her homework, and eventually Meg caves and lets her watch TV, motivate us to do the best job we can in the tiny slivers of time Meg can give us. Her daughter needs to get an education, too.

Our cloud-based Author service recently turned one year old. In software years, that puts it roughly in middle school – full of potential but still awkward and gangly, trying hard to impress and fit in, pimply but increasingly attentive to its looks. From a developmental standpoint, our Author partners and their end users are helping us raise Author to maturity. It’s a thrilling and occasionally terrifying process, just like raising real kids.

We try to keep ourselves honest by conferring upon users like Meg and Joe the status implied by the relative sizes of those snug-fitting Russian dolls. “How will it work for Meg?” is a great question to ask alongside “How will it help IDs?” before implementing any new features. “How can we help Meg get outside of (i.e. consume, master, digest) these learning objectives most effectively?” If it doesn’t work for the people we care about most, why are we doing it?

Who are your Megs and Joes?

We still have a ton to learn. If you are a software-as-a-service provider with similar challenges, an instructional designer or SME test-driving interactive authoring tools, a teacher or champion of cutting edge UX, or a student/employee, we would love to hear and learn from you.

Muzzy Lane Accessibility Policy

Muzzy Lane Software Accessibility Policy

Updated 8/10/2018

Muzzy Lane Software is committed to creating universally accessible products for any and all learners, including individuals with disabilities. Our Muzzy Lane Author Toolkit was designed with this philosophy in mind.  Accessibility features are embedded in the authoring process to enable usability by all learners.

Muzzy Lane Software is committed to meet or exceed the WCAG version 2.0 AA guidelines and best practices with all new content and software produced using Muzzy Lane Author.

Muzzy Lane Software strives to train employees and resource providers on accessibility guidelines to support compliance with WCAG 2.0 AA development guidelines.

Muzzy Lane Software will engage users to provide feedback and validate that the content produced with our software is compliant and usable for learners.

Muzzy Lane Software will seek best practices and continue to improve on our toolkit. Many accessibility initiatives and guidelines are new or don’t directly apply to the types of activities that can be created with Muzzy Lane Author. As new standards emerge that directly affect the interactive space we will strive to remain current with those standards.

Muzzy Lane Software has processes in  place to make accessibility and meeting the WCAG 2.0 AA guidelines an integral part of our product development. We will continue to monitor our progress to ensure we continually make improvements to address evolving industry standards.

Muzzy Lane Software is not responsible for activities whose content is solely created by users of Muzzy Lane Author if those users choose to not take advantage of the embedded accessibility features when creating activities using the toolkit.  However, such activities must meet the standards of accessibility before being deployed using our service or if Muzzy Lane Software is a content contributor for the specific activity.

Muzzy Lane Author VPAT

Integrating Game-Based Learning with LTI

Founder and CTO Dave McCool continues our series on the technology behind Muzzy Lane Author. This video describes the vital importance of LTI, Learning Tools Interoperability, as the standard by which game-based learning and other rich content tools are able to integrate with Learning Management Systems.

Educator creativity on display at SXSWedu Author Workshop

“Worth the price of admission,” “Can’t wait to play more,” and “Keep your eyes on Muzzy Lane Author for educational game development,” were some of the remarks tweeted by attendees of our hands-on, do-it-yourself Author workshop at SXSWedu 2016. Over the course of two hours, attendees got their first look at Author and developed their own game-based activities and assessments. CEO Conall Ryan recaps this exciting event.

Disrupting Muzzy Lane

Founder and CTO Dave McCool describes the process of creating Muzzy Lane Author. See how instructional designers, subject matter experts, and educators can integrate the dynamic content they create with Muzzy Lane Author into existing curricula and online courses.

Continue reading

Game-Based Learning and Nontraditional Students – A Report

Muzzy Lane Software has released The Potential for Game-Based Learning to Improve Outcomes for Nontraditional Students, a report on the findings of a research grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Study

The goal of this research was to investigate how game-based learning can help improve outcomes for nontraditional students in higher education.  Muzzy Lane conducted one-on-one interviews with educators across the country, held focus groups and interactive design sessions with students from community colleges and adult education programs, and collected over 1,700 student surveys.

 

Who are “nontraditional students?”

For this research, we defined nontraditional students as students who may be returning to school after pausing their education; working and balancing family and parenting responsibilities while going to school; lower income; English as a second language learners, and the first members of their families to attend college. For our focus groups and surveys, we looked for students that met at least two of these criteria.

 

The Results:

Students expressed a consistent need for mobile first activities and assessments that make productive use of their time and fit into their busy and unpredictable lives, helping them study on all of their devices while juggling the responsibilities of family, work, and school.

There is a clear opportunity to help these students through improved digital materials, and game-based learning can be an important tool in this work.  The composite that emerged from Muzzy Lane’s research suggests five promising directions for game-based approaches:

 

  1. Auto-assessing whether students can apply what they have learned
  2. Building employment skills in real-world contexts
  3. Providing safe environments where students can learn through trial and error
  4. Developing and assessing critical thinking skills
  5. Facilitating learning strategies and student success skills

 

Download a free copy of the report:

MuzzyLaneResearchReport

Once you have read the report, we’d love to hear your thoughts and questions.  Contact us at: info@muzzylane.com

Press Release:

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/can-game-based-learning-improve-outcomes-for-nontraditional-students-300206693.html

 

 

 

Muzzy Lane Author

Muzzy Lane Author is a cloud-based authoring service with extensible tools that put the power of developing dynamic game-based content in our partners’ hands. Read the FAQ.

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Muzzy Lane Author Templates

Tools to Create Dynamic
Micro-Learning Opportunities

Each Muzzy Lane Author template has a different purpose. Choose a specific template each time you build a new Author activity, and discover interesting and innovative ways to create activities that appeal to students and fit into your overall course structure.

 SmartChatSmartChat

Create lively, real-world conversations in a simulated chat environment that includes sound, images, and video, and provides continuous feedback.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


InsightsInsights

Demonstrate comprehension of comparative data. Assume a role, review research, make a decision based on interpretation of that research, and defend it against cross-examination in a 3D virtual environment.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


SmartPickSm

SmartPick

Build connections between concepts and images with rich feedback and scoring options.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


VoteSm

Vote

Compare a sequence of images organized in pairs, voting for preferences until only the top choice remains.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


AlignSmAlign

Sequence multiple items, associate words and images, or demonstrate concept comprehension.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


SetSceneSm

Slideshow

Build quick, intuitive web-based slideshows to present a narrative context or challenge or present data.
LEARN MORE AND PLAY SOME EXAMPLE ACTIVITIES


 

 

Template Development

We continue to improve existing templates and add new ones, and your feedback is a valuable part of that process.  Play some activities and tell us what you think!  author@muzzylane.com

Experts Debate Edtech Pros & Cons

NYCtickerAfter buying a $5 street umbrella on my way to the Tyton Education Summit last week, I looked up at the news crawlers ringing Broadway and 7th Avenue in Times Square and wondered, “If the headlines were about edtech, what would they say, and would anyone care?”

Our industry has never been short on hype. The problem is that like street umbrellas turning inside-out in the wind as soon as they’re opened, many products struggle to do their jobs.

Tyton recognizes this and brings industry leaders together to explore more durable solutions. Once inside the impressive TimesCenter — a 600-seat auditorium with a glass-walled atrium framing a tall stand of birch trees behind the stage — Tyton served up a thoughtful program for edtech investors, practitioners, and consumers.

Here are some of the ideas, issues, and questions that struck me as worth sharing.

Measureable outcomes | Adam Newman of Tyton asked: “Can we better reverse engineer the outcomes we want and make the systemic changes needed to meet those outcomes?” This theme of setting and measuring results without unnecessarily impeding innovation recurred throughout the conference. “In pharma you can’t get a drug approved that causes a small amount of arrhythmia in a tiny fraction of patients,” said Paul Freedman, CEO of Entangled Ventures. “But we don’t measure education nearly as closely.”

Broken system | Bill Hughes, Chief Strategy Officer of Learning Objects, summed up a view of K-12 procurement shared by many: “The system is broken. We’re spending $10,000 per kid but where does it go?”

Loyalty is a two-way street | Paul Freedman also cited a rising source of corporate angst: Employee training no longer ensures employee retention. Starbucks has partnered with Arizona State University to offer free courses to all of its employees. Many corporate-university partnerships have followed. Will lifelong learning as an employee benefit become the new normal?

Network fit | Perhaps retention depends more on hiring the right people in the first place. Jean Martin, Executive Director and Talent Solutions Architect at CEB, puts it this way: “Network fit is what companies are most hiring for now. Not a cloud engineer but an Apple cloud engineer.”

Maximize learning. Minimize debt. | Mohua Bose of Excelsior College articulated a formula many online schools want to put into practice: “For non-traditional learners how can we maximize education while minimizing debt and time away from the workforce?” Schools that succeed in delivering on this value proposition could put schools that don’t out of business.

Don’t forget the learner | After the session Are You Ready for the Workforce? I met Diane Inverso, Senior Director of the Mayor’s Commission on Literacy in Philadelphia. Diane has spent 25 years working with disadvantaged adult learners. She thought we had heard too much about meeting the demands of employers and not enough about serving the needs of learners with limited literacy skills.

Life skills needed | Doug Walcerz of Essex County College expanded on this topic during a session on Institutional Change Management moderated by Rahim Rajan of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Essex graduation rates have risen from 5% to 10%. Math remains the key barrier to graduation. With just $4,000 per student to spend on a total population of 13,000 (95% need remedial help), great adaptive programs like ALEKS can only do so much. Walcerz says math instructors need to teach other skills like time management and learning strategies.

MOOCommunities | Chris Liedel, President of Smithsonian Enterprises, asked this question about MOOCs: “How do we keep the community going when the class is over?”

Critical thinking | Jeff Braden, dean and professor of psychology at North Carolina State, and his colleagues are working on better ways to assess critical thinking. This is a key focus at Muzzy Lane, where we’re developing tools to automate such assessments, so I was grateful to meet Jeff and learn more about how NCSU’s tackling this important issue.

Uber Edtech | The phrase “We are the Facebook for [edtech burning need]” seems officially to have been replaced with “We are the Uber or Airbnb for [edtech burning need]” but the underlying substance of such claims remains dubious. Prasad Ram, CEO & Chairman of Gooru, framed market inefficiencies this way during a session called Will Free Models Win?: “Like Airbnb if Airbnb also needed to worry about supplying the linens.”

Technical Debt

rocketMuzzy Lane is a 13-year-old technology company. That’s a lot of time to build up technical debt. Our largest debt by far was relying on our Sandstone browser plugin, created to deliver engaging, multiplayer 3D educational experiences. The plugin, so necessary in the early days, had become a steady source of technical support issues and a barrier to adoption, especially in locked down computer labs on college campuses. Add in browser vendors’ recent decisions to remove plugin support and it was definitely time for a change. So change we did.

We recently completed our major technology transition into a post-plugin world. The advent of standards like WebGL and WebSockets allowed us to re-architect our platform to deliver game-based learning experiences natively in the browser and on mobile. We are now a true web services platform rather than a desktop experience shoehorned awkwardly into the browser. Our service is hosted at Amazon Web Services, runs on Node.js as its task management core, and manages the vast volume of user data with MongoDB. Our client side experiences are now native web and take advantage of the best the web has to offer from standards such as HTML5, WebGL, WebSockets, and WebAudio to frameworks and libraries like PlayCanvas, Unity, and JQuery.

This transition delivered the benefits we expected. Removing the plugin requirement dramatically reduced our support issues. Managing our platform became easier and more cost effective. But it also brought benefits we had not anticipated. Because we are now a true scalable web service with our stateful data in MongoDB we can deploy updates in a rolling fashion with no downtime. This is a huge benefit for us and our partners in the education market. Our user base is global so there is no good time for an outage. Friday night into Saturday morning EST remains the low point for usage, although not exactly the time engineers want to be working. It’s extremely liberating not to need them.

So what’s next? For us the next frontier is putting content authoring into the hands of our partners. One of the challenges of the current game-based learning scene is that the game developers are creating all of the content. This is at odds with the rest of the educational technology market where developers create systems and subject matter experts create the content using tools provided by the developers. Our new platform architecture has been created with this in mind. We are rapidly moving towards a future where the Muzzy Lane development team creates the activity templates for game-based learning and provides tools to partners so they can create and deploy content for those activities. This not only allows our partners to create their own content but also allows them to maintain and improve their content without needing to come back to us. We’re very excited about this move to authoring tools – but that’s a topic for another blog.

Learning Through Conversations

Valued since the Greeks, and what it means for online learning today

Conversations are fundamental to being human. They are also central to our learning. A toddler learns by asking her parents “Why?” incessantly. Socrates began his famous dialog with Meno: “May we find out the meaning of virtue together?”  Conversations promote learning through an exchange of ideas.

Muzzy Lane and others have been thinking about how conversations can benefit online learning. One source of inspiration is digital game design, where simulated conversations have been an important strand.

Early role-playing games featured computer-controlled characters that delivered monologues. Later, games like Neverwinter Nights added more complex interactions with characters. Players could now choose what to say, and character responses and game outcomes changed based on their choices. Popular games like Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney have made conversation the central activity. Players gather interview evidence and interrogate witnesses to win cases in the courtroom.

Virtual Conversations become valuable learning tools for teachers and students when they:

  • actively engage students to seek evidence and express opinions
  • provoke questions, analysis, and decision-making in context
  • provide rich adaptive feedback for choices made in conversation

Computer-based characters can provide mentoring and scaffolding through conversations. In our work, we use different conversation models to meet particular learning objectives.

In Past/Present, students take the role of an immigrant mill-worker in 1906. Through conversations they gather evidence on mill unrest to help decide whether the mill workers should strike.

PMO_CheckIn_01
In Practice Medical Office, students build their skills in a real-world context by conversing with patients in authentic contexts.

Health-game developer Kognito has focused on creating immersive learning experiences to  practice difficult conversations around health. ChangeTalk provides training in managing challenging conversations about childhood obesity.

In Practice Spanish: Study Abroad, students build language skills through interactive conversations based on the kinds of situations they would encounter actually studying abroad.

Quandary (from the MIT Education Arcade and LGN) engages students in ethics by helping them take different perspectives as captain of a space mission. They speak with space colony members to understand their opinions and what lies behind them. Then they negotiate important decisions to keep everyone alive.

What’s next? At Muzzy Lane, we’re working on tools to enable educators to easily create conversation-based learning experiences.

What learning experiences would you create using conversations?

What subjects, issues, and objectives are you thinking about tackling? We look forward to hearing from you, and in future posts we’ll talk more about the tools we’re developing, and other aspects of Conversational Learning.