Blog Pile

Great Design Challenge (hey Mom!)

Presentation number two today was my part in the The Great ILS Challenge 2.0 a presentation idea that intrigued me when Mark Oehlert first described it; as a knock off of the Great Design Challenge done at the Game Developers Conference.

Last year a roomful of lucky attendees got to watch as three top-notch designers created game-based solutions to deal with an incredibly difficult learning challenge. This year we’ve invited three more ILS/Serious Games experts to step up to the challenge.

The Guild understands that, whether you call them Immersive Learning Simulations (ILS), Serious Games, or the greatest thing since sliced bread; you are looking for ways to use these powerful technologies and methodologies to improve learning outcomes for your organizations. You are also looking for inspiration and ideas for any and ALL of your e-Learning projects.

The premise is the 3 panelists are presented a scenario for a project, idea and they need to conceptualize an original or creative solution for it- not actually do it, but present the idea.

Last years one had something to do with designing a game to reduce recidivism among people just out of jail. Now that is a challenge. Ours this year was a bit more nebulous (by design Mark says):

A large, North American corporation that you are either already employed by or hired by, wants you to develop something (we know it will be an ILS) to help them integrate two recent acquisitions, one a company in Africa and the other a company located in Korea. These two new divisions directly impact your production capability and so alignment and a shared culture between all three entities is critical. Design an ILS that will foster this shared culture and common understanding. Challenges include a mix of languages, religious backgrounds, socio-economic differences, and educational levels not to mention time zones. Oh, and the big shareholder meeting is coming up too. Go.

I was stymied for a long while with this. I was thinking the other panelists might take structured or technical approaches, and I mulled it over until the concept hit me. I’d have to say, my idea was off on a different curve- I really appreciated the different approaches taken by the other panelists, who ticked off carefully constructed plans, rationales, outcomes…. I just ran with a metaphor.


I looked for something everyone in every culture has in common, or “what unifies us”… and came up with…. Mom.

That’s what I said.

So I started with the fun part; I had a collection of fabulous mother and child pictures found on flickr (there is one fantastic set from phitar that is just incredible) and played it with the sounds of Paul Simon’s “Mother and Child Reunion” in the background.

There was as topping point in the middle on the photo of a mom at a computer, where I asked if there could be anything more challenging than needing to help Mom use technology. I shared my story from the weekend of helping my Mom, who’s wretched PC web mail program flows past the edge of the browser screen (and truncates in printing).. mainly because of the way Internet Explorer handles margins. So to fix it I had to edit the Windows Registry.

Yeah, like my Mom was going to know how to do that. Heck I had to look it up on Google to find the steps.

I thought the images and music were groovy, but the audience seemed to barely shift in their chairs. Must be dreams of SCORM compliance in their eLearning heads). I cannot reproduce the exact show as I ran it all from iPhoto on my laptop, but I did upload the pictures to a set.

Ahh, but there is more and it leads to my concept.. there is at the last 1/3 a shift to pictures of matronly or mother images from virtual worlds.

So then I moved into the concept idea, which is built around this company I called “Acme International” and its plans to open a business operations center in a virtual world. So i was not talking about engineering a game for an employee growth activity; my ILS was going to be about doing real work (as real as it gets in a virtual world).

So I paged through some maps of the countries, how we use the time zone differences as an advantage, and then talked through the concept of the virtual building and how it woudl merge the 3 cultures.

But the unifying concept for the stockholders meeting was “Bring Your Virtual Mom to Work Day” – each employee has to help their Mom create an avatar (if they dont have a Mom, Acme offers a “Rent-a-Mom” service), bring her into the virtual world, and have Mom be able to introduce her “child” to another employee.

Well, I had fun doing it- here is a slide set on BubbleShare that has the visuals, but the audio is…. well just i my head.

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Thanks to Mark for inviting me (if I never hear from him, I will be sure I was off the curve) and also to my colleague Rachel for creating some graphic for the show.

I have one more presentation up my sleeve for tomorrow. Then it is off on a big jet plane to LA for another gig.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Alan, if I’d been there, I’m pretty sure I would have been stuck in the this-is-serious mode — even though I think there’s a reason “SCORM” is so close to “scorn.”

    But I’m a big believer in metaphor, and I think your idea could truly shatter preconceptions within a real merger like this. What kind of work do I do? How can I explain it to my mother? Because if I can explain it to her, I can probably make sense to my new colleague in Kango or Busan.

    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  2. Hi Alan, just want to say that I really enjoyed your presentation for the ILS Challenge (as well as your other sessions). I was very moved by the imagery and music (I did shift in my chair!), and thought it was a wonderfully simple, immediate, and powerful way to connect people across cultures. Thank you!

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