Carolyn's Online Learning Blog

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Personal Reflection on Learning Technologies

I have greatly enjoyed learning about and trying out new technologies and exploring how they can be used in education and training. In this post I’ll talk about which of this tools I could realistically implement in my professional life, which involves developing and delivering training to my corporation’s clients, and in my personal life.

Web 2.0 Technologies

I work for a large multi-national corporation. However, I am not in the position to advocate for a blog at the corporate level. Rather, my department operates almost as a small business. I think it would be nice to produce a blog related to the training we offer. We could certainly take a marketing approach and essentially use the blog to promote upcoming courses. But Cho and Huh (2010) found that corporate blogs are increasingly topic-oriented. I think we could author periodic blog posts related to new technologies and trending topics to supplement and connect to the training that we offer. The challenges would be finding a place to host the blog and having the resources to maintain the blog. Currently we try to drive traffic to our external-facing Learning Management System (LMS), where our online courses are hosted and where clients can register for instructor-led courses. I believe we could enhance the LMS to include a blog. Getting the resources to maintain a blog would require that my management buy into the idea of a blog and can find the funds to hire resources to write it.

We could use podcasts very similarly to the way we could use a blog. Anderson (2010) talks about the use of podcasts as part of a training program in the military and suggests that podcasts are useful for the one-way transmission of information but not for collaboration. We could use podcasts to disseminate information on trending topics just as we could use blogs. But with a podcast, I think it would be fun to have a conversation between an interviewer and a subject matter expert, where they discussed what was going on with a new technology or initiative. We would also need a place to post podcasts. I don’t think we would want to put them on a podcast platform such as iTunes or Stitcher because the general public is not our audience. Our audience is really just clients of our company. And there is a big possibility that these podcasts would cover topics that are made available to clients, but not to the general public. Perhaps we could post these podcasts on our LMS along with the blog. However, there is some content that would be appropriate for the public that we could make available elsewhere. I think that’s something to look at in phase 2 of podcast implementation.

Social Media and Collaborative Learning

My company has a Facebook page, but I don’t see Facebook as being a good training environment for my department. However, my department does have a page on LinkedIn. At this point, all the postings appear to be announcements about upcoming courses. Cooper and Naatus (2014) talk about LinkedIn as a tool for relationship building and as a sales tool for identifying potential clients. I believe if we included a little more substantive information on our LinkedIn page, instead of just marketing messages, we could improve relationships with our existing clients and find new clients.

Also, I’m impressed with how social media promotes discussion. While I don’t see us using Facebook for conversation, I would like to see us do more with discussion boards, particularly with our multi-session courses. We have the ability on our LMS to attach a type of discussion board to our courses, but rarely do so. And when we have, I don’t think they’ve gotten any use.  But I think we’ve just told learners that they could comment if they want. Liu (2016) indicated that learners need to be assigned to use the discussion board in order to get them to use it. We currently don’t include any assignments in our courses, as far as I know, but having an assignment that required learners to post to the discussion board could be a way to start.

The last use of social media that I think would be useful within my work group is using Twitter as a backchannel during events. We do a couple of large events each year.  Ross, Maninger, LaPrarie, and Sullivan (2015) talk about teachers using Twitter as a backchannel to comment on professional development events. Similarly, we could encourage attendees at our large events to use Twitter to comment on the sessions and collaborate with one another. We could facilitate this by creating a hashtag for the event or even hashtags for individual sessions that attendees could use when posting about the event or sessions.

Mobile Learning

I really don’t see my work group developing a mobile app in order to deliver training to our clients. We don’t have the money or the development resources to do that. The bigger concern is making sure that our LMS and the courses we post there will work on mobile devices. Theoretically they should, but we haven’t really tested it and I’m quite sure that if we did, we wound find some problems. So testing our courses on mobile devices is something we should do in the future.

I see mobile learning as being more applicable in my personal education. For this reason I really enjoyed researching educational mobile apps. In fact, I am still using the mobile apps that I found. I’m using Duolingo to learn Portuguese and I agree with Duffy (2016) who indicates that it has “solid content and language-building exercises effectively packaged in bite-size chunks” (p. 6) and who calls it  “the best free tool for learning a language” (p. 6). I’ve now completed 5 lessons and am working on lesson 6. And I’ve learned several words. One thing I like about it is that it displays strength bars for each completed lesson. Over time, the strength bars decline, and so you have to go back and review the things you learned in an earlier lesson to get the strength bars back up. I feel like this is an effective way to help me remember the things I’ve learned.

Another mobile app that I’m still using is Elevate – Brain Training. Whether or not brain training actually helps you is the subject of some controversy. Hurley (2016) reports that brain training shows real gains for certain populations such as elderly people at risk for dementia, car accident victims, and children with attention deficit disorder. I’m not in any of these populations, but I’ve been sticking with Elevate. I even subscribed to the paid version so that I can play more brain training games each day. I enjoy playing the games and the completion with myself to improve my scores. Whether it’s doing anything to improve my cognition or not, it’s fun and I enjoy it.

The last mobile app I wrote about was Udacity, which delivers Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). I started a class in Python programming on the Udacity app, but found the app to be hard to use. I could watch the videos, but it was hard to access the instructor notes, discussion board, and other assets connected to the course via the mobile app. So I deleted the app and switched to using the website, which works much better for me. Shrader, Wu, Owens, and Santa Ana (2016) found that MOOCs meet the needs of various populations, but are especially effective for older adults who are interested in lifelong learning and who have the self-discipline to stick with a MOOC. I’m an older adult who is interested in learning how to program in Python, and I intend to stick with it.


When I looked into gamification, I found that there are essentially two approaches – using educational games, and gamifying something by adding game-like elements to a non-game activity, such as adding points, leader boards and the ability to level up to an LMS. I don’t find gamification as particularly appealing in my corporate training work nor in my personal life. However, the concept of educational video games is interesting to me. I found several examples of people using games, such as the True Office game that teaches data security (Baxter, Holderness, & Wood, 2016), or simulations (Weinstein, 2016) to provide training in a corporate or business environment. I looked into a couple of tools for developing video games (Unity 3D and Game Maker). I think that they are both beyond the scope of what I’m able to do in my corporate job unless I learn some more programming skills. However, in my department we use a tool called Articulate Storyline to develop our online training. I didn’t write about this tool, but it can be used to create simple little games within a training module. I would like to do more of that. I used Storyline to create a cross-word puzzle in one of the courses I developed, but I believe I could do a lot more to make our training more effective and fun by including games. I would also like to do more with simulations.


I’ve learned about a lot of new learning tools over the last several weeks and I believe that my department at work should implement blogs and podcasts, be more involved with our LinkedIn page, maybe use Twitter for backchannel communication during events, and add more games to our training. I need to share the relevant blog posts and the research I’ve done with my coworkers and managers to convince them of the opportunities that these technologies present. For my personal life, I’m really enjoying learning Portuguese and training my brain with mobile apps, as well as learning Python programming through a MOOC. I will leave this blog up with the things I’ve written about the different tools that I’ve researched in the hopes that it will be useful to someone in the future.


Anderson, J. (2010). Learning technologies: Connecting the financial management workforce with the mission 24/7. Armed Forces Comptroller55(3), 30-34.

Baxter, R. J., Holderness Jr., D. K., & Wood, D. A. (2016). Applying basic gamification techniques to IT compliance training: Evidence from the lab and field. Journal of Information Systems30(3), 119-133. doi:10.2308/isys-51341

Cho, S., & Huh, J. (2010). Content analysis of corporate blogs as a relationship management tool. Corporate Communications, 15(1), 30-48. doi:

Cooper, B., & Naatus, M. K. (2014). LinkedIn as a learning tool in business education. American Journal of Business Education7(4), 299-306.

Duffy, J. (2016). The best free language-learning app adds bot chats. PC Magazine, 85-90.

Hurley, D. (2016). The for-real science of brain training. Scientific American Mind27(3), 58-65.

Liu, S. (2016). The perceptions of participation in a mobile collaborative learning among pre-service teachers. Journal of Education and Learning5(1), 87-94.

Ross, C. R., Maninger, R. M., LaPrairie, K. N., & Sullivan, S. (2015). The use of Twitter in the creation of educational professional learning opportunities. Administrative Issues Journal: Education, Practice, and Research5(1), 55-76.

Shrader, S., Wu, M., Owens, D., & Santa Ana, K. (2016). Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs): participant activity, demographics, and satisfaction. Online Learning20(2), 199-216.

Weinstein, M. (2016). Are you game for learning?. Training53(5), 44-47.


Educational Games

The term “gamification” refers to applying game-like elements in a non-game environment (Cheong, Filippou, & Cheong, 2014). Distinct from but related to the concept of gamification are full-blown, or serious, games that aim to teach something. An early example of this is the Oregon Trail game, which was designed to teach kids about the westward settlement of the United States (Eakin, 30 July 2013). With the proliferation of video games in recent years, many educational games are available. In this post I will talk about how educators and companies have used educational games to teach or train people, and introduce two tools that you can potentially use to develop your own educational games.

Educational Games in Education

One of the most common ways to use games in education is to create a simulation. Teaching using a game or simulation gives students the opportunity to make mistakes and try new approaches without the consequences that they would encounter in the real world (Squire, 2015). Jagger, Siala, and Sloan (2016) used a simulation in an interactive 3D computer game to teach business ethics to college students. The game followed a character named Anna, a marketing manager, who had to confront various ethical dilemmas. The students in this study felt that the game was useful because the scenarios related to real life. They also indicated that they were motivated to stick with the game because of the points and rewards aspect of the game (Jagger et al., 2016). In fact, one of the key reasons to use games in an educational context is to motivate students. For example, one study used a video game called Zeldenrust to teach math concepts to low performing students (ter Vrugte, de Jong, Wouters, Vandercruysse, Elen, & van Oostendorp, 2015). These researchers commented that games are especially appropriate for students with low levels of intrinsic motivation. In this study, many of the students who participated showed significant gains in their understanding of the concepts that were taught. However, those students who lacked basic computational skills did not learn from the game (ter Vrugte et al., 2015). This shows that an educational game needs to be at the appropriate level to build upon the knowledge that students already have.

Another point that ter Vrugte et al. (2015) made was that when students play educational games, they may not realize explicitly that they’re learning. Many of the students in their study were unable to articulate what they had learned when the game was over, even though they had gained the skills. To this point, the researchers indicated that an educational game should not stand alone, but be accompanied by in-class reflection to solidify the learning (ter Vrugte et al., 2015). Similarly, the students in the Jagger et al. (2016) study indicated that the game was a good supplement to the ethics class, but could not substitute for it. This evidence suggest that educational games are good part of a blended learning approach.

Educational Games in the Corporate World

The use of educational games in the corporate world is not much different from the use of games within school environments. For example, Baxter, Holderness Jr., and Wood (2016) used a game called True Office to teach IT students about data security. They also used the game to teach employees at a large multinational bank. The employees in this study indicated that the training they received via the True Office game was more fun and engaging that training that had received previously. However, in a test of the knowledge they gained from the training, those who participated in the True Office game did not score significantly better than individuals who had received no training (Baxter et al., 2016). Perhaps the educational aspects of the True Office game built on the knowledge of college students but were not challenging to working adults. Contrast this with a study in which medical personal were taught with simulations and achieved significant gains (Weinstein, 2016). As with using games in an educational environment, educational games in a corporate environment must be at the appropriate level to build on employees’ existing knowledge.

Developing Educational Games

While some educational games, such as True Office, are commercially available, you might find yourself in a situation where you want to create a custom game. However, creating a custom game is not easy. Video game development takes a great deal of skill. I have identified the following two tools that you can use to develop games:

  • Unity 3D
  • Game Maker

I will describe how to get started with each of them.

Getting Started with Unity 3D

Unity 3D that is supposed to make game development easier and could theoretically be used to develop educational games. However, my short experience with Unity 3D is that some computer programming knowledge is required. It’s not for the novice. Nevertheless, I will discuss how to get started with Unity 3D. You can use Unity 3D for free if you’re just learning about it and using it for your own non-commercial purposes. But if you’re part of a company that makes money, you need to pay for it.

Installing Unity 3D

The first thing to do is to install Unity. This takes a lot of disk space and a lot of time.


  1. Go to the Unity site at and click the Get Unity now You’re taken to the Unity Store.


  1. Click the button for the plan you want. Since I’m a beginner at this point, I clicked the Download now button in the Personal section.


  1. Review the system requirements to make sure you meet them and then click the Download Installer button.


  1. The downloaded file will appear in a different place depending on your browser. I used Google Chrome. After the file finishes downloading, open or run it.


  1. The Unit Download Assistant opens up. Click Next on the next several screens as you move through the installer. Eventually, the program will start installing.


  1. Now you wait for a long time. A really long time.


  1. After a while it started installing Visual Studio as well. Visual Studio is the code editor you use while developing games in Unity.


  1. Finally the installation finishes, but you’ve got to reboot your computer. Select Reboot now and click Finish.

Creating a Unity Account

Before you use Unity for the first time, you need to create a Unity account. You’ve just rebooted after installing Unity and now you have a Unity shortcut on your desktop.


  1. Double-click the Unity shortcut on your desktop.


  1. Since this is your first time and you don’t have an account already, click the create one link to start the process of creating a new account.


  1. A webpage opens. Fill out the form and click the Create a Unity ID button at the bottom of the page.


  1. You are sent a confirmation email. Go to the email and click the Link to confirm email. You’ll get a message that your email has been confirmed. Close this page and return to the previous page.


  1. On the page that notified you about the email confirmation, since you’ve already confirmed your email, click the Continue button.


  1. You’re taken to your account settings. You don’t really need to do anything here. Now you’ve finished creating your Unity ID and ready to start using the program.

Running Unity 3D

The first time you start Unity, you need to sign in. When you open Unity subsequently, you are presented with a list of your existing projects and are already signed in. You can click a project to continue working on or start a new project. In this procedure, we’ll go through signing on for the first time.


  1. Launch Unity from your desktop again, enter your sign in information, and click the Sign In button.


  1. Indicate the type of license you’re using. Since I’m just beginning and I want the free version of Unity, I selected Unity Personal. Click Next.


  1. Unity asks you about your license again. They really want to make sure you’re not using the free version when you’re not entitled to. Again, I’m just doing this for fun and learning at this point, so I selected the last option. Click Next.
  2. I had to fill out a short survey about where I’m from and what I was using Unity for.


  1. When you’re done with the survey, click the Start Using Unity button.


  1. You can’t do anything in Unity without a project, so click the New project button.


  1. Specify the name and location for your project, indicate whether it is a 3D or 2D project, and click the Create a project button.


  1. The new project opens. You’re ready to start developing. But you’re going to need some training to get started. It’s time to learn more about Unity 3D.

Learn More about Unity 3D

Unity 3D offers a variety of tutorials to get you started. You can find these tutorials at

I started with the Roll-a-ball tutorial. It’s supposed to teach me some basic things about how to use Unity.

Unity 3D also offers tutorials by topic.

If you’re serious about learning how to use Unity 3D, you can purchase courseware from them at

They also have documentation available at

Finally, they have a user community where you can get tips and answers from Unity experts at

The biggest things I’ve learned in my short experience with Unity 3D is that you need to learn how to program in C# in order to develop games in Unity. The Roll-a-ball tutorial steps through writing the C# code you need for that game, but if you wanted to branch out on my own, you would definitely need to learn C#. The following resources are available for learning C#:

Getting Started with GameMaker: Studio

Another option for developing games is GameMaker: Studio by YoYo Games. Their website claims that you can develop games in GameMaker: Studio without writing any code, which makes GameMaker easier to use than Unity 3D if you’re not a software developer. You can use GameMaker: Studio for free or you can pay some money to get more features.

Installing GameMaker: Studio

We’ll start by installing GameMaker: Studio.

  1. Go to, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and then click on Game Maker: Studio under the Download heading to start downloading the installation package.


  1. When the download is finished, open or run the installation package.


  1. Click the I Agree button to agree to the license agreement.


  1. Click Next after selecting the components to install. In this example, I’ve chosen to install both shortcuts on the Start menu and a separate program called GameMaker: Player.


  1. To start the installation of GameMaker: Studio, click the Install button and proceed through the installation screens.


  1. When the installation process is done, check the box to start GameMaker: Studio and click the Finish button.


  1. GameMaker: Studio starts, but since this is the first time launching it, you need to create an account. Click the Register button in the Create Account area.


  1. A web page opens. Complete the options under I REGISTER on the right side of the page and click the Register The system sends you an email.


  1. Sign in to your email and click the link in the email to create a password.


  1. A web page opepns. Enter a password of your choice twice and click the Set Password You’re taken to the license page.


  1. Click the link near the bottom of the page to Get a free GameMaker: Studio license button.


  1. The system generates a License key. Copy this license key to your clipboard and return to the GameMaker: Studio program.


  1. Paste your license key into the License Key field under Studio License and click the LICENSE button.


  1. GameMaker: Studio opens. You’ve already created your account and got your license key, so you’re ready to get started.

Learn More about GameMaker: Studio

YoYo games offers several video tutorials to get you started using GameMaker: Studio. I went through the one called GameMaker Basics and learned about rooms, backgrounds, sprites, and objects.


They have more tutorials that involve building games.


These tutorial videos are all available at

YoYo Games also has a support forum available here: and documentation available here:

In addition, the first tutorial that I went through talked about writing code, which I believe is written in something called Game Maker Language (GML). Apparently you can get a long way in GameMaker: Studio without writing code, but the presenter in this video recommended learning how to write code. You can find documentation on GML in the reference section of the documentation (

In addition, a variety of resources are available to help you learn GML. Here are a few of them:


Baxter, R. J., Holderness Jr., D. K., & Wood, D. A. (2016). Applying basic gamification techniques to IT compliance training: Evidence from the lab and field. Journal of Information Systems30(3), 119-133. doi:10.2308/isys-51341

Cheong, C., Filippou, J., & Cheong, F. (2014). Towards the gamification of learning: Investigating student perceptions of game elements. Journal of Information Systems Education25(3), 233-244.

Eakin, M. (30 July 2013). Read this: A detailed history of the genesis and development of The Oregon Trail. Retrieved from

Jagger, S., Siala, H., & Sloan, D. (2016). It’s all in the game: A 3D learning model for business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics137(2), 383-403. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2557-9

Squire, K. (2015). Creating the future of games and learning. Independent School74(2),

ter Vrugte, J., de Jong, T., Wouters, P., Vandercruysse, S., Elen, J., & van Oostendorp, H. (2015). When a game supports prevocational math education but integrated reflection does not. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning31(5), 462-480.

Weinstein, M. (2016). Are you game for learning?. Training53(5), 44-47.


The term “gamification” refers to applying game-like elements in a non-game environment (Cheong, Filippou, & Cheong, 2014). Many different game elements can be incorporated into an educational environment. Cheong et al. (2014) detail categories of game elements with increasing levels of abstraction. The category with the least amount of abstraction is game components, such as avatars, levels, points, and badges. The next category is game mechanics, such as challenges, competition, and cooperation. The most abstract level is game dynamics, such as the narrative, emotions, and relationships (Cheong et al., 2014). As you implement more and more of these elements in a gamified environment, you’re crossing the line into actually developing a game, as opposed to just applying game elements in a non-game environment. I talk about full-blown educational games in another post. This post focuses on applying elements from the first category, such as avatars, levels, badges, and to a lesser extent, elements from the second category, such as challenges and competition in a learning environment.

Gamification in Education

I found a couple of examples of gamification in education. In the first one, a study by Frost, Matta, and MacIvor (2015), they retrofitted the Learning Management System (LMS) at a large Midwestern university in 2012. The gamified design of the LMS was the result of a competition by students in a class called Gamification of Education. The students created different designs and chose what they thought was the best one. The game elements that they implemented were a storyline, avatars, and a leaderboard. The objective for each weekly assignment was referred to as a “monster.” Students were ranked on the leaderboard according to their performance in the assignments. Students were also given Olympic colored medals corresponding to their score on each assignment. Furthermore, each student was given three “lives,” represented by hearts on the LMS, at the beginning of the semester. They could use each “life” to turn in an assignment up to 48 hours late with no consequences. If they didn’t use any of their “lives” during the semester, they received extra credit (Frost et al., 2015). This modification of the LMS qualifies as gamification because they applied game elements to the LMS, but the class assignments themselves were not games.

The researchers in this study did both a quantitative study, in which they measured the performance of students using the gamified LMS against that of students using the regular LMS, and a qualitative study in which they asked the participating students to give their impression of the gamified LMS. The open-ended responses from the students were overwhelmingly positive, with the students indicating that the gamified LMS gave them more feedback. However, the quantitative results showed no difference between the students who used the gamified LMS and the students who used the regular LMS (Frost et al, 2015). Their results show that you can’t improve a class simply be introducing gamification. Some students might perceive the class as more fun, but just adding game elements doesn’t help students learn better.

Contrast this example with the study done by Kingsley and Grabner-Hagen (2015). In this study, a middle school teacher in a Midwestern metropolitan school used 3D GameLab, which is essentially a gamified LMS, in a science class. Within 3D GameLab, “students earn XPs, badges, and awards competing against themselves to progress through hierarchical tasks” (Kingsley & Gabner-Hagen, 2015, p. 54). According to my 14-year-old daughter, XPs are experience points that you accumulate in order to “level-up.” The teacher turned the course curriculum into “quest chains,” which is a standard approach in 3D GameLab. Each quest in the quest chain was a different assignment and each had a certain number of XPs assigned to it. The students didn’t have to do all of the assignments in a quest chain, but could pick the ones they were most interested in. But they had to do enough quests to earn the XPs to level up. As they moved through different levels they earned badges. Because this was a science class, the badges were named to correspond to different states of matter. For example, the students started out as solids, with the goal of eventually achieving sublimation. The tests were referred to as “bosses,” with the final test being the “final boss” (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, 2015). I’ve heard my kids talk about video games enough to have heard a lot about trying to beat the “final boss” at the end of a game.

Unfortunately there was no control group in the Kingsley and Grabner-Hagen (2015) study to determine whether the students who used the gamified course learned more than students in a regular course. The only feedback in this study came from the students. The students overwhelmingly indicated that they looked forward to attending this class on the days that they used 3D GameLab. They also indicated that they felt that 3D GameLab made learning easier, that their work was of a higher quality than it would be otherwise, and that the subject matter was easier to learn that it would have been otherwise (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, 2015). Of course this is subjective feedback from middle-schoolers. It’s apparent that they really enjoyed using 3D GameLab, and perhaps this made them more motivated, which may have helped them learn more. We just have no objective evidence that 3D GameLab improved their learning.

So why the difference in these two experiences? A few things come to mind. One is that the students in the Kingsley and Grabner-Hagen (2015) study were younger than the students in the Frost et al. (2015) study, so they might have been more drawn in by the game atmosphere on account of their age. Another issue was brought up by Frost et al. (2015), who commented they might have gotten better results with a natively gamified LMS as opposed to their retrofitted one. 3D GameLab certainly qualifies as a natively gamified LMS. The final issue that I believe contributed the success of the Kingley and Grabner-Hagen (2015) study is that it gave students the ability to choose which of the available assignments they wanted to do. One of the students in the class commented that this was better than having to do all the assignments as he had to do in his other classes (Kingsley & Grabner-Hagen, 2015). The choice of assignments (or quests) introduced an element of autonomy. The researchers in Frost et al. (2015) talked at length about the importance of autonomy as a key to helping students to feel engaged. Their attempt at introducing autonomy hinged on their use of the three “lives” that the students could use to turn in assignments late. This is a much smaller attempt at granting autonomy to the students than the choice of assignments in Kingsley and Grabner-Hagen (2015). Given these differences between the two studies, I believe that we can conclude that giving students more autonomy, results in a better experience for students.

Gamification in the Corporate World

I could not find any examples of gamifying an LMS in the corporate world. The articles I read about using gamification in corporate training talked mostly about using simulations. Depending on the nature of the simulation, a simulation could fall on either side of the fuzzy imaginary line between gamification and an all-out game. Furthermore, working adults might not be as interested in video games and their associated elements being applied to learning as young students are. I’m taking a class at work that awards badges for completion of a course and I couldn’t care less about the badges. I believe that adults prefer being trained with practical knowledge in realistic situations that they might encounter. For example, Weinstein (2016) indicates that medical personal who used simulations in training appreciated the interaction and realism that the simulation provided. Adults like to have fun just like kids do, but you need to make sure that the approach you take to education or training is appropriate for the individuals  you’re teaching.

Implementing Gamification using 3D GameLab

3D GameLab is now called Rezzly, but still carries the 3D GameLab logo. It is free to students. You can try it out as a student using a code they provide on their website, but in a real class environment, the teacher would send an email to the students inviting them to enroll. You can try it from the educator or teacher perspective free for two weeks. You have to give a credit card number during enrollment and you’ll get charged if you don’t cancel before the two weeks are up. The educator price is $9.95 per month if you pay for a whole year at the beginning. The price goes up a little if you pay quarterly or monthly. I’ll go through both types (student and educator) of enrollment.

Enrolling in 3D GameLab as a Student

  1. Go to and scroll down to the bottom of the page.


  1. Copy the course code to your clipboard and then click the link.


  1. Select the Student option and click the Continue to register button.


  1. Complete the fields as required and click the Sign up button.


  1. A message at the top of the page indicates that a confirmation email has been sent to you. Go to your email and find the email message. Presumably you would get an email with a link to confirm your email. However, I did not receive an email.


  1. You are logged in to 3D GameLab and your first quest is available. Click on this quest.


  1. You have the options to start the quest or view details about the quest. I clicked the Start Quest button.


  1. This quest contains videos that tell you about 3D GameLab and a small assignment.


  1. When you’re done with the quest, click the Complete button.


  1. Specify the time it took you to complete the quest, a rating, comments, and click the Submit button.


  1. Now a new quest called “Blow Up the Grade Book!” is available. If I take this quest, I’ll learn more about 3D GameLab and receive more XP (you can see that I got 15 XP from the first quest).

Enrolling in 3D GameLab as a Teacher

  1. Go to and scroll down to the bottom of the page.


  1. Click the View Plans and Pricing


  1. Scroll down to the bottom of the page. You have to choose a payment plan. I’m going to click on the monthly plan even though it costs more per month because I’m just trying it out at this point and don’t want to pay for a whole year or even a whole quarter if I fail to cancel my subscription in time. Click the button for the payment plan you want.


  1. This time the Educator plan is selected and the 2 week free trial period is noted. Be sure to select the billing plan that you want. It defaults to one year even if you clicked one of the other plans on the previous page. Click the Continue to register


  1. Complete the fields and click the Sign up


  1. Enter your credit card information. Note that you will not be billed until the end of the 2-week trial period. Click the Subscribe


  1. Click the On to the Academy!


  1. You have a quest to get you started with learning how to use 3D GameLab as an educator.


  1. After you finish the first quest, more quests become available to you. As you complete quests, you earn badges. You have to earn four badges in order to unlock the teacher dashboard, which will enable you to create your own quests and invite students to participate. Here is a description of the four badges that you have to earn:


Learn More about 3D GameLab

The best way to learn about 3D GameLab is to log on and try it yourself. The introductory quests are designed to teach you how to use the system.

The Rezzly website also gives an introduction to 3D GameLab. See

If you want to pay, you can attend a Teacher Camp. Sign up at

Common Sense Education has a page where you can view teacher reviews in which teachers tell how they’ve used 3D GameLab. See


Cheong, C., Filippou, J., & Cheong, F. (2014). Towards the gamification of learning: Investigating student perceptions of game elements. Journal of Information Systems Education25(3), 233-244.

Frost, R. D., Matta, V., & MacIvor, E. (2015). Assessing the efficacy of incorporating game dynamics in a learning management system. Journal of Information Systems Education26(1), 59-70.

Kingsley, T. L., & Grabner-Hagen, M. M. (2015). Gamification: Questing to integrate content knowledge, literacy, and 21st-century learning. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy59(1), 51-61.

Weinstein, M. (2016). Are you game for learning?. Training53(5), 44-47.

Mobile Learning – Elevate

Elevate is a free app for training your brain in the areas of “speaking, listening, reading, writing, processing speed, memory, math and pronunciation” (Gill, 23 January 2015, n.p.). You can do the challenges for free, with three challenges presented per day. The first day I played it I had challenges in Brevity (in writing), Processing Speed, and Memory. On the second day, I got three more challenges: Error Avoidance (in writing), Retention (listening) and Measuring (math). The Measuring challenge was essentially multiplying fractions. You can get the pro version by paying the $5/month fee, which unlocks all of the challenges for you (Gill, 23 January 2015). I chose this app just because it sounded like a fun challenge. I think it might be useful to a child of mine who is very bright but struggles with processing speed.

Elevate in Education

While the games in Elevate have a distinct academic flavor and address tasks such as reading, writing, spelling, and math, I don’t see Elevate as playing a role in formal education. Taking the example of math, the problems that Elevates present to you are determined by the app. So a classroom teacher, for example, could not set it up to drill particular math skills that she wanted her students to master. That being said, motivated students who wanted to learn informally on their own could certainly use Elevate.

Elevate in the Corporate World

Elevate is really geared toward adults who want to improve their cognition. Anand, Chapman, Rackley, and Zientz (2011) suggest that as people live longer lives, maintaining brain function is a significant challenge. They go on to say that we can improve brain fitness by exercising our brains with cognitive challenges that are neither too easy nor too hard (Anand et al., 2011). Harper (21 September 2016) cites a study that found that Elevate users scored 69% higher than non-users on a performance test. However, I would take that figure with a grain of salt. She does not cite the study and the link that she provides appears to go to a website owned by the makers of Elevate, but the link is broken.

Whether brain training games, such as those provided in the Elevate app, actually improve cognitive function seems to the subject of some controversy. Hurley (2016) indicates that brain training games aren’t going to turn you into “a Shakespeare or an Einstein” (n.p.), but that they can help adults delay the loss of cognitive abilities. Hurley (2016) indicates that exercises in processing speed are particularly effective. Elevate does contain specific exercises that have to do with processing speed. But all of the exercises give extra points for quick answers, so there’s an emphasis on thinking quickly throughout the challenges.

As with the world of education, I don’t see Elevate operating in a formal educational role within the corporate world. However, it’s fun and I think it’s a good way to exercise your brain that can be used informally by any adult. It may or may not help, but it won’t hurt.

Using Elevate

Here’s how to get started with Elevate (at least how I did it on my iPhone):

  1. Search for and install Elevate – Brain Training from the app store (if you have a smart phone, you should know how to do this.


  1. You’ll first see the welcome screen. You can swipe to see different screens that talk about what Elevate does, or you can tap Skip to move to the next stage without viewing those screens.


  1. I swiped and eventually got to a screen with a message about telling the app how I’d like to improve. If you get to this screen, tap the Get Started button.


  1. The app asks you a series of questions. Respond as you wish.


  1. You will eventually get to a screen that asks you to take a short test. Tap the Begin button.


  1. This is an example of a question. Respond to the questions as you see fit.


  1. When you get to the end of the questions, tap the Get Results button.


  1. Your results are shown. Tap the Finish setting up account button.


  1. Tap the Next button.


  1. Select an option to indicate whether you want to receive daily reminders and then tap Next.


  1. You now need to create an account or sign in with Facebook. I signed in with Facebook.


  1. Specify your age.


  1. Tap the option to start a free trial of a pro membership or tap the option to continue with regular training. I chose to continue with regular training.


  1. Tap the Begin Training button.


  1. Tap the Next button.


  1. Tap the Next button to begin your first challenge.


  1. Read the instructions for the challenge and then tap the Play button.


  1. Proceed with the challenge. Your first challenge might be different than what I’ve shown here.


  1. When you complete the challenge, you are shown your score. Tap the screen to continue.


  1. Depending on your score, you might receive a level up. Share the news or tap the screen to continue.


  1. Your results might unlock another game. Tap the screen to continue.


  1. You are shown your score in graph format. If you take the same challenge multiple times, your new score is added to the graph.


  1. You are taken to the next challenge. When you have completed all challenges for the day, you are notified that you session has finished. Tap the screen to continue.


  1. You receive a report of your session. You can tap the Play more games button or close the screen by tapping the X in the upper left-hand corner.


  1. You are taken back to the main page. You can repeat the challenges you already did to try to improve your score.

When I accessed the app on the second day, I had three new challenges. I expect that I’ll keep getting new challenges every day until I have unlocked all of the challenges. I could unlock all the challenges at once by purchasing a pro membership, but I’m not going to do that.

Learn More about Elevate

I couldn’t find any scholarly information specifically about Elevate, or even any blogs or reviews that are particularly informative. However, the following sites give review of the Elevate app:


Anand, R., Chapman, S. B., Rackley, A., & Zientz, J. (2011). Brain health fitness: Beyond retirement. Educational Gerontology37(6), 450-465.

Gill, R. (23 January 2015). App exercises your brain. Newsday, (Melville, NY).

Hurley, D. (2016). The for-real science of brain training. Scientific American Mind27(3), 58-65.

Mobile Learning – Udacity

Udacity is a free app for learning computer programming. It is actually a delivery vehicle for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOs) (Renz, Staubitz, & Meinel, 2014). It is available for iPhone and Android.

Many course materials within Udacity are free. However, to earn a nanodegree from Udacity, a kind of certification or credential that they offer, you have to pay a fee (Udacity, 2016a). The cost is $199/month. They expect nanodegree programs to take between 6 and 12 months to complete (Udacity, 2016b). I assume you would have to pay the monthly fee for the entire time you were enrolled in the program, if you took 6 months to complete the program it would cost $1,195. Manjoo (16 September 2015) indicates that Udacity pays back half of your tuition when you complete a nanodegree. The courses are self-paced, and so the speed at which you complete each course or program is within your control, to some extent.

I enrolled in a free beginning course on Python programming because I know a little bit about computer programming and am interested in learning more. My oldest son suggested that Python is a good language to start with.

Udacity in Education

Within the educational community, Udacity is most often used at the college level. For example, Firmin, Schiorring, Whitmer, Willett, Collins, and Sujitparapitaya (2014) detail the use of Udacity in three math classes at San Jose State University (SJSU).  Firmin et al. (2014) mention the perception that only high performing students do well in MOOCs. I assume this is because sticking with a MOOC such as Udacity requires a high degree of personal motivation. In fact, Professor Sebastian Thrun, the founder of Udacity, found early in his offering of Udacity that fewer than 10% of enrollees completed the course they enrolled in, with not all of that 10% received a passing grade (Chafkin, 14 November 2013). While online courses such as MOOCs offer a learner-centered approach where a learner can take charge of and direct their own learning, many learners are not up to the task. However, Firmin et al. (2014) found that with proper support in place, even struggling students could succeed equally whether attending a face-to-face class or using Udacity. Based on these findings, I believe that online tools and MOOCs such as Udacity can play a successful role in formal education.

Udacity in the Corporate World

Udacity is very well suited to learning in the corporate world. Manjoo (16 September 2015) details the case of Kelly Marchisio, a 25-year-old with a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who completed Udacity’s “full-stack developer” course and was then able to get a job working as a software developer at Google. Manjoo (16 September 2015) goes on to explain that some companies, such as Google and AT&T, now accept the nonodegrees offered by Udacity as legitimate certification. Udacity is a great fit for the motivated working adult who wants to improve their skills or move into a new career.

Using Udactiy

Here’s how to get started with Udacity (at least how I did it on my iPhone):


  1. Search for and install Udacity from the app store (if you have a smart phone, you should know how to do this.


  1. Open the Udacity app. If you’re opening the app for the first time, it will open to the catalog.
  2. Scroll around until you find the course you want to take. Unfortunately there does not appear to be a search feature. I decided to take the beginner-level Programming Foundations with Python course.


  1. Tap the course you want to start.


  1. Scroll to read through the course summary and syllabus.


  1. When are finished, scroll back to the top of the page and click the Start Course button.


  1. At this point, if it’s your first time accessing Udacity, you are prompted to create an account. You can also log in with a Google account or with Facebook. I chose to log in with my CSU Global Google account, and so that’s what is shown here.


  1. Enter your Gmail address and click Next.


  1. Enter the password for your Gmail account and click Sign in. You will also receive an email prompting you to verify your email account.


  1. Click Deny or Allow. (I’m not sure what happens if you click Deny because I clicked Allow).


  1. You are taken to a list of modules within the course that you selected. Tap the module you want to start with.


  1. Each module is divided into short sessions. Tap the one you want to start with. You can also click the down arrow to download the section if you want to view it offline.


  1. The first section begins to play. The courses are video based, and so you might want to rotate your phone to landscape orientation.


  1. Some slides have instructor notes. You can scroll down to view them.

If you close Udacity and then go back in, you might be taken directly to your enrollments. Alternatively, you can go to the course page in the catalog and tap the RESUME COURSE button that appears where the START COURSE button used to be.


It’s pretty easy to follow the prompts that come up. For example, there are quizzes scattered throughout the course.


  1. When it’s time for a quiz, click the START QUIZ button.


  1. A short video plays to introduce the quiz. You can let it play or click the SKIP TO QUIZ button.


  1. When you get to a quiz question, select the answer you want and click SUBMIT.


  1. You receive a response based on your answer. Click CONTINUE to go the next section.

Learn More about Udacity

The following two articles given an interesting view into the origin of Udacity, the goals of its founder and what Udacity can do:

If just want to see what courses are available in Udacity and how they work, I suggest you download the app and give it a try. There’s no cost to browse and even to take the courses, unless you want a nanodegree.


Chafkin, M. (14 November 2013). Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, godfather of free online education, changes course. Retrieved from

Firmin, R., Schiorring, E., Whitmer, J., Willett, T., Collins, E. D., & Sujitparapitaya, S. (2014). Case study: Using MOOCs for conventional college coursework. Distance Education35(2), 178-201.

Manjoo, F. (16 September 2015). Udacity says it can teach tech skills to millions, and fast. Retrieved from

Renz, J., Staubitz, T., & Meinel, C. (2014). MOOC to go. International Association for Development of the Information Society.

Udacity. (2016a). Are Nanodegree course and project materials available for free? Retrieved from

Udacity. (2016b). How much does a Nonodegree program cost? Retrieved from

Mobile Learning – Duolingo

Duolingo is a free app that helps you learn foreign languages. It is available for both iPhone and Android devices. Duolingo gives you the option of setting a goal for how many minutes a day you’re going to use the app. Lessons proceed in progressive order and each lesson includes a variety of different exercises to help you learn the language. There is no explicit conjugating of verbs and the like, but rather has you dive right into learning words and phrases.

I installed Duolingo on my iPhone and have started using it to learn Portuguese. I’m interested in learning Portuguese because one of my sons is on a mission to Brazil for the next two years and is going to come home speaking fluent Portuguese.

Duolingo in Education

I could not find any examples of the Duolingo app being used in a formal educational environment. However, there are examples of students using other online approaches to foreign language learning. For example, in a study by Procter-Legg, Cacchione, and Petersen (2012) students used an Android app called LingoBee to supplement the foreign language learning they did in the classroom. Using the app in this way required that the students use their own motivation and independence to use the app. In another example, eighth-grade students used an app called Fast Hands to supplement their study of vocabulary in a foreign language class. A control group was given word lists to study. Based on a pre-test that showed both groups of students to have roughly equal skills, and a post-test to measure their learning, the study concluded that the students who used the Fast Hands app showed greater improvement (Trihandayani & Sofwan, 2016). Just as the students in these studies used a mobile app, Duolingo could be used informally to supplement students’ foreign language study.

Duolingo in the Corporate World

An app such as Duolingo might be even more applicable in the corporate world that in a classroom. The acquisition of a second language can advance the career of many working adults. For example, Gu, Churchill, and Lu (2014) studied the use of mobile apps for informal learning in the workplace and found that a desire to use a mobile app to learn a language was common. As a working adult myself, I’m interested in some informal foreign language study. A variety of apps and online tools are available for foreign language learning, and Duolingo is a popular choice. In 2013, Apple named it the app of the year (Stevenson, 26 January 2014). PCMag recently gave Duolingo an Excellent rating with 4 ½ stars (Duffy, 31 August 2016). I’ve been using Duolingo for three days now and I’m excited to keep using it.

Duolingo uses goals to motivate you to keep using the app. My current goal is just 10 minutes/day, which is easy to achieve. Karch (2016) agrees that the goals in Duolingo provide good motivation. However, Duolingo doesn’t give you the ability to converse with real people. Karch (2016) suggest that you use Duolingo to supplement your language learning with something that involves talking to people in your target language. Just as with education, language learning apps such as Duolingo are a good informal and partial solution to learning a foreign language in the corporate world. You need to talk to people face-to-face as well.

Using Duolingo

Here’s how to get started with Duolingo (at least how I did it on my iPhone):

  1. Search for and install Duolingo from the app store. (If you have a smart phone, you should know how to do this.)


  1. If you’re new to Duolingo (that is you don’t already have an account), tap the Get Started button.


  1. Tap on the language that you want to learn.


  1. Select a goal to indicate how long you intend to practice each day and click the Set goal button.


  1. If you haven’t studied the language before, tap the Are you a beginner? area. If you have studied the language before, click the Not a beginner? area to take a placement test. I clicked the Are you a beginner? area.


  1. You are taken to the first lesson. Tap the START button (you have another opportunity to test out here).
  2. You are presented with a series of activities of different types. Here are some examples of activites:
    • Select the answer and tap the Check button. You are told whether you were right or wrong and given the correct answer if you’re wrong.



    • Tap the English word and its equivalent in the language you’re learning in sequence. When you have identified all of the pairs, click the Check button.


There are other types of activities as well.

When you reach the end of a section and it’s time to save your progress, you are prompted to create a profile if you haven’t done so already.


    1. Enter your name, email, and a password of your choosing and click the CREATE button.


    1. After each lesson you complete, you are shown your progress. Click Continue to move on to the next lesson.

When you start Duolingo again after leaving it, you are taken directly to the course you started and can tap the appropriate area to start where you left off. So far I have met my goal of using the app 10 minutes/day for three days in a row. I’ve learned several words.

Learn More about Duolingo

The best way to learn about Duolingo is to download it and use it. It’s free. Why not? The user interface is straight forward enough that you don’t really need documentation.

An article I found interesting is an article in Slate by Seth Stevenson that reviews Duolingo, but also explains how Duolingo manages to make money and remain free to users. You can find this article online at

The review in PCMag goes into some detail about the crowd sourcing features of Duolingo, which I as a new user have not encountered yet. You can find this article at


Duffy, J. (31 August 2016). Duolingo. Retrieved from,2817,2402570,00.asp

Gu, J., Churchill, D., & Lu, J. (2014). Mobile web 2.0 in the workplace: A case study of employees’ informal learning. British Journal of Educational Technology45(6), 1049-1059.

Karch, A. (2016). Duolingo Review: The quick, easy and free way to learn a language. Retrieved from

Procter-Legg, E., Cacchione, A., & Petersen, S. A. (2012). LingoBee and social media: Mobile language learners as social networkers. International Association for Development of the Information Society.

Stevenson, S. (26 January 2014). How do you say addictive in Spanish? Retrieved from

Trihandayani, R. & Sofwan, A. (2016). The effectiveness of using computer game “Fast Hands” to improve students’ vocabulary mastery for junior high school (A quasi experimental research at the eighth grade students of SMP Negeri 1 Muntilan in the academic year of 2014/2015). ELT Forum: Journal of English Language Teaching, 5(2). Retrieved from

Social Media & Collaborative Learning – Facebook

Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg, then a 23-year-old student at Harvard, in 2004. Originally geared towards students at universities and later at high schools, Facebook became available to the public in September 2006 (Phillips, 25 July 2007). Facebook has continued to grow in terms of its technological capabilities and number of participants. Statista (n.d.) reports that as of the third quarter of 2016, 1.79 billion users have at least monthly active participation in Facebook.

Facebook in Education

One of the most common uses of Facebook in education is to facilitate student discussions outside of the classroom. For example, Liu (2016) reported on a group of student teachers in Taiwan that were assigned to participate in a Facebook group during their student teaching. This study found that browsing the postings in this Facebook group led to a sense of community and a perception of having learned collaboratively. It also found that those who posted frequently experienced the advantages of working collaboratively (Liu, 2016). Similarly, Magogwe, Ntereke, and Phetlhe (2015) report on the successful use of Facebook to facilitate group work and collaboration on a class presentation for an Advanced Oral Presentation Skills class at a university in Botswana. These examples are typical of the literature detailing the use of Facebook in education.

Many tools that are used in education today mimic Facebook by including discussion board capabilities. For example, Schoology, which is used at Colorado State University – Global Campus includes a very Facebook-like discussion board that is used in each class. Also, I am currently taking a class from a company called Insync Training through my employer. This class uses Moodle, which also includes a discussion board. So I’ve been thinking about whether it is better to use a discussion board within a learning management system or to use Facebook. Some students have concerns about privacy with Facebook (Magogwe et al., 2015). While you can use a closed group in Facebook to restrict the discussion to members of the class, a learning management system offers more privacy and security. But advantages of Facebook over a discussion board in a learning management system are that students are already familiar with Facebook and many are in the habit of checking Facebook regularly. This familiarity may promote more frequent posting. Facebook also might be more convenient for many students. But probably the main advantage of Facebook over a learning management system is that Facebook is free. A teacher who does not have access to a learning management system can easily and quickly implement a class discussion group in Facebook.

Facebook in Corporate Training

The use of Facebook in a corporate training environment may be very similar to the use of Facebook in a school-based educational environment. Individuals learning in a corporate environment can reap the same benefits of community and collaboration using Facebook that students do. For example, Abbasi (2016) suggests that corporate training environments create a Facebook page for each training program or course and use it to facilitate discussion among the people engaged in the course. However, my sense is that many corporations are more concerned about privacy than educational institutions are. Just as schools could host discussion groups within their learning management system instead of on Facebook, companies have other opportunities for hosting discussions. For example, the company I work for (in addition to having a learning management system) has implemented a tool called Chatter, which is a product of (, 2016). Chatter works very much like Facebook, allowing you to write posts, comment and like posts, create groups, and so on. An internal corporate training team could easily use either Facebook or an enterprise tool such as Chatter to conduct online class discussions in much the way that schools do.

Using Facebook

Many people already have Facebook accounts and getting a Facebook account is very easy. Just go to and complete the form shown here and follow the instructions on any additional screens:


If you’ve got a smart phone, you probably want to download the Facebook app. I use Facebook pretty much exclusively on my phone.

Rather than focusing on how to join Facebook, I will instead explain how to create a private group within Facebook, since that is a task that educators and training developers might use, but might not already know how to do.

  1. Log in to Facebook at


  1. Along the left side of the page, locate the CREATE heading, and click on Group.


  1. In the Create New Group widget, enter a name for your group.
  2. Enter the names or email address of people you want to add to your group. You will be able to add more people later. Facebook pulls up a list of your current Facebook friends who match the text you enter and suggests other friends you might add.


  1. Select the privacy setting that you want.
  2. Optionally check the box to add this group to your favorites.
  3. Click the Create button.


  1. Select an icon to represent your group and click OK or click Skip to proceed without adding an icon.


Your group is created and you are taken to your group page, where you can upload a photo to represent the group, write posts, add members, add a description of the page and tags that will allow people to search for the group, and more.

Learn More about Facebook


Abbasi, I. (2016). Get social. TD: Talent Development70(3), 26-28.

Liu, S. (2016). The perceptions of participation in a mobile collaborative learning among pre-service teachers. Journal of Education and Learning5(1), 87-94.

Magogwe, J. M., Ntereke, B., & Phetlhe, K. R. (2015). Facebook and classroom group work: A trial study involving University of Botswana Advanced Oral Presentation students. British Journal of Educational Technology46(6), 1312-1323.

Phillips, S. (25 July 2007). A brief history of Facebook. Retrieved from (2016). Chatter. Retrieved from

Statista. (n.d.) Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 3rd quarter 2016 (in millions). Retrieved from