Home Sweet Home Series : Instructional Games for Interior Design Lovers

Yesterday I downloaded the trial version of this highly addictive game called Home Sweet Home  at www.bigfishgames.com.

I just could not stop playing. I was totally hooked into this game.If you love interior design and would like to try it out in a virtual set up, Home Sweet Home might interest you too.       

Here is a snapshot of the game interface picked up from the Big Fish Games website:

 Home Sweet Home allows you to design just the living room. Home Sweet Home 2: Kitchens and Baths allows you design not only the living room but also kitchen and the bathroom.

 In these games you design the interiors of a flat depending on the client (flat owner ) requirements. At the outset the requirements of the client are clear.

An example of a requirement could be : Ms Green wants lots of greenery inside her kitchen. So you as an interior designer, design the kitchen in such a fashion that there are lots of interior plants placed in the kitchen. You have a budget  and also restrictions on how many items you can use. Your goal is to exercise your creative skills and create the design the client actually wants and increase client satisfaction levels. The more the client sastisfaction level is, the more you earn.

At every level you are given clear requirements and all that you have to do is design the flat accordingly. There is a budget, there are workers using whom you build the interiors, there are deadlines and the game gets interesting as you play.

The most interesting part is using the money earned by interior design you get to design your own room or flat. Here is a snapshot of my virtual living room:

You can use your imagination and mix and match colors, try different furniture and furnishings. You can use your creative ideas to the maximum to create something new and innovative using existing material/options.

I specifically enjoyed this game because there is more to just entertainment in this. There is also some kind of learning here. This reminds me of the building set that my dad once got when I was a girl.

A building set has all the material to build a small independent house with a garden enclosed by a fence.  In a building set the materials are fixed and standard. However you can be creative enough to put the existing material together to create something new every time. The challenge of the game lies in your creative skills, it all depends on how you organize and put things together to create a piece of art.

Home Sweet Home is similar to this. The game does not have a wide range of furniture and furnishings. However you can try various combinations and create something new and nice every time you play.

For example the first time I played, I found it challenging to decide where to place the television, in which direction to place the furniture and rugs, where to fix the lights, which color to use for curtains so that they match the walls, where to place the book cabinets etc. All this just to make the living room looks pretty, organized and gorgeous.

While I enjoyed playing this game, I also thought on how to improve the instructional element in this game.Check out my next post for my ideas on enhancing the instructional element of this game.

My To-Learn List – Still in the Making


I readily attempt this month’s Big Question because this is exactly what has been going on in my mind recently.

I do not have a to-do or to-learn list on paper. But yes I have been really thinking hard about it. I guess before you have a to-do or a to-learn list for career advancement or career shift sake, you need to have a clarity about what you want to achieve in your career, in the sense you need to have a achievable career goal based on which you decide on what you need to do or learn. A to-do list or a to-learn list prepares you for a career shift or a career jump. So clarity,patience, perseverance and organization are very important. I think creating a to-do or to -learn list can be quite challenging, at least it is turning out to be challenging for me.

This whole thing gets challenging when you want to reach out to something totally new and something that you havent been doing at all. I have been thinking of getting into game writing recently. I want to get into the game industry and get into the role which will require me to visualize games. I do not want to be on the technical side as in programming and graphic design. I want to create plots and characters for games.

Now this is going to be a steep learning curve for me. I am passionate about games and I enjoy playing games. But I do not actually know the tips and tricks of making games. I need to acquire all the necessary skills to become a game writer. I have no clue what a game writer exactly does, what skils he/she must have. So  I need to research and understand the requirements for a game writer job. I have to spend ample time reading about the gaming industry, gaming jobs, how people visualize games, how do they create storyboards etc etc. I also need to find out how many gaming companies in India offer such game writer positions.

This nice site  talks of game design and development. It seems really useful. This will help me get started. While I learn about gaming in general, I must exercise my creative skills.

Most of all I need exercise my imagination and create a sample game design. This will tell me how creatively I can think.

 I have a sample game design outline which I picked up from the web. I will use it to put down my ideas in the right format.

Even if i do not get into game writing, I am sure this exercise is going to help me a great deal in my job.

Right now I am sure that I have to read up a lot about gaming and then take up short creative exercises, may be try putting up ideas together to make a game. I can also use tondoo to give a visual layout.

There is more to my to-do list or a to-learn list which will gradually add up in the coming days, may be when I am clear about what exactly I want to do.

Since game writing is not so common in India, (atleast thats what I think, if it is not true please educate me)my efforts may not pay off, yet I guess this would be a great creative exercise for me. 🙂

Designing Attention Grabbers for Your E-Learning

I just read an interesting post titled: Hooking learners with a simple story by Kevin. I appreciate that he has shared some good examples to show how you can start a course with a story line to get the learners interested in the course.

This post also reminded me of my post on Attention Grabbers which I wrote sometime back.

Instead of starting a course with learning objectives, it is a good idea to introduce the course with a story or an exercise. This would motivate the learners to take up the course and morever it immediately conveys the relevance of the course to the learner.

But then desgning attention grabbers can be challenging. The first challenge comes with your creative thinking. You have to generate interesting and creative ideas to design your attention grabber. Using similar ideas for every course might not be effective. This is just like creating an advertisement for a product.  Advertisements work wonders when it comes to luring people to buy the product. The product gains popularity through advertisements. But then some advertisements stay in your mind and make you want to try the product and some don’t.

Similarily, the beginning of a movie makes an impact on you. There have been so many times when I haven’t felt like watching a movie because the beginning was not that great.

Even games have attention grabbers. Pick up any game, you just dont get into the game immediately. There is always a story to start with. This makes the game interesting.

Games have lengthy text based stories and it just makes me press the Skip button. I have seen a couple of courses and even games, that start with a story but are majorly text based. You have a background image and you see text (story) coming up on the screen. You might just get tired reading so much stuff and you might just want to start off. 

Such attention grabbers do no good. Therefore you need to put in lot of thought in designing the introduction of your e-learning course.

I prefer attention grabbers that are less text based and more visual.

Coming to attention grabbers in e-learning, scenarios, stories, images and exercises are some good building blocks . You generate some creative ideas for a course and using the building blocks, you create an effective attention grabber.

I remember having worked on a course targeted at freshers joining their first job. It was basically about dos and donts during the probation period in the first job. My colleageue suggested a very creative cartoon strips as the introduction slide for the course.

The first cartoon strip had a guy who looks happy having crossed lots of hurdles and because he thinks he has crossed the final two hurdles labelled Graduation and Job respectively.

Probably something like shown below:

Please note this comic strip has been randomly picked up from the web and tweaked a bit for llustration sake.

 The next comic strip shows the guy surprised because he sees one more hurdle that he has to cross. The hurdle is labelled First Ninety Days in Your First Job.

Again something as shown below:

Please note the comic strip below has been randomly picked up from the web and tweaked a bit for llustration sake.

This simple comic strip conveys so much about the importance of the course. It touches upon the common notion of fresh graduates who think they have achieved all by graduating and seeking a job. The attention grabber here touches upon this generic notion and conveys the important message that it is extremely important to take the probation period in the first job very seriously.

I would like to share more such interesting attention grabbers whenever I come across one. Please do feel free to share some interesting attention grabbers, if you have one.

Moved to Bangalore…

I have just relocated from Hyderabad to Bangalore and am still settling down in this place. I haven’t found time to write anything. It takes so much time and effort to shift homes.

However I have been actively following up with quite a lot of blogs.

Now that I am in Bangalore, I expect more Instructional Designing opportunities and forums here.

I am looking forward to all the fun and excitement 🙂

To Lock or Unlock Elearning Course Navigation

I just read a post Here’s Why Unlocking Navigation Will Create Better Learning by Tom Kuhlmann and totally agree with the way Tom argues that unlocking course navigation contributes to better learning.

I have gone through quite a lot of courses where the navigation is very much controlled.

In all these courses, you need to go module after module. You cannot skip modules. For instance onlyafter you complete the first module, you can proceed to the second module. Even worse sometimes  each module has a Check Your Understanding (CYU)  which you have to complete and meet a specific score.

For instance the first time I completed the first module of a particular course and attempted the CYU, I scored 60%. The second module button didnt get enabled. I had to score 70% for the module button to get enabled. I had to go through the entire first module all over again. All through the course,  I never focused on the subject or the content. Actually I just could not. I was just getting frustrated and tried all my best to move forward by hook or crook. I didnt gain anything from these courses. I just got irritated and impatient.

Most often the learner is not interested in everything that you give in an elearning courses. This happens with all of us. When you are reading a lengthy pdf, you search for topics and portions that is of immediate relevance. You just dont go page by page, reading every line in the right sequence.

Instead of focusing on navigation, you need to focus on the essence of the content you to give to the learners. Learners need to gain something out of your course. How learners navigate through the course is of less importance. Rather what they will gain through the course and how they will be able to use is it is of more importance.

As Tom rightly says The goal isn’t to get them to read all of the content.  Instead, the goal is to get them to DO something.  The content only supports the DOING.

I agree with Tom that problem solving exercises can actually add value to the learning experience. A course created with lot of thought can make a lot of difference.  You need to challenge the learners while you teach them something. That’s where they will get enthused to learn more.

What Everybody Ought to Know About Instructional Design – An Interesting Read

I just read an excellent post by Tom Kuhlmann on the value of Instructional Design.

You have loads and loads of information on the web. Yet an e-learning course does make a difference by specifically focusing on what the learner wants to learn and by helping the learner learn in a way he or she wants to.

Unless and until the learner makes sense of the information you give in an e-learning course, there is no meaning to the course at all.

Every e-learning course must provide the learner with a rich learning experience and the learner must gain value from it.

Thank you Tom for all the insights you give!

Relevance is the Key to Effective Training/Learning Material

I just read a post by Tom where he talks of the importance of giving the right information, leaving out all irrelevant ones to target audience in e-learning courses. He says that three questions that will help you in finding out the right information to give your audience are:

1. What’s the learner supposed to do?   

2. What course content will help the learner meet the course objectives? 

3. How will the learner use this in the real world? 

I think what Tom says in this post is very true.

I work in a software company and information is there everywhere, in wikis, ppts, documents, videos, podcasts etc etc. I just cannot use the information as it is. I need to be really selective and I need to clearly understand why I am writing a particular document or a specific tutorial or workshop. I need to know what purpose it will serve  and what the audience will do with the information they get.

I have been working on lots of tutorials.  I use real world business use cases in all my tutorials. I start with an overview summarizing a real world problem. Then I introduce the product and how it can solve the problem. Then I demonstrate using the product and its features how the user can solve the real world problem.

I basically write instructions for tasks that a user can perfom in the application. While introducing each feature and related tasks in the product I mention what is the use of the feature, why the user needs to perform each task, in what sequence the user needs to perform the tasks and how it will help him/her achieve a bigger objective.

This really helps. Just techie information as it is does not help.

The other day I needed to explain the concept of what exactly happens when you execute rules in a BRM. I knew the steps to execute rules, the steps were something that you do on the interface. But then I had loads of information on executing rules, very conceptual and very technical. I was not able to relate the concepts to the tasks I performed to execute rules.

I guess there was more information than was needed and I needed to pick out that information that was relevant to each of the steps that I actually performed on the product. I needed to know after each step what exactly happened within the application. The information as it is did not help me. It was just to technical. I needed to talk to people and find out what information I had to put so that it is relevant enough. 

I guess you really need to work hard on any kind of content you are going to give in the form of learning material.

Magic Pen – A Game of Shapes

Recently I played this game called Magic Pen and I liked the instructional value in this game.

I guess this game is most suited for kids who need to get introduced to basic shapes. This is actually a fun way of learning shapes. The game has all the elements to grip you. Its is very challenging and engrossing.

Try playing this game!

Did you know?

I haven’t blogged this month.  I have been bogged down with loads of work. I guess this is not a reason for not blogging. I just did not have anything to say. It happens sometimes…. you just don’t know what to discuss or write about….

Well, I have been working on a lot of end to end scenario based product tutorials. These are basically text and screenshot based tutorials which teach you how to work with the product. What is nice about these tutorials is that the tutorials are very complete and exciting to take up. At the end of the tutorial you create something real and useful using the product.

When it comes to product tutorials I have always felt that end to end scenario based tutorials are more effective than feature based tutorials. When I say end to end scenario I refer to those tutorials which introduce a scenario and help you create or do something with the product to staisfy the scenario. Feature based tutorials most often focus on just one feature of the product and teach you how to work with it.

For example the Netbeans site has a lot of end to end scenario tutorials. My all time favourite has been the tutorial which teaches you how to create a simple loan processing application using Netbeans. The tutorial is very complete in the sense you do not have to think and create anything on your own. It is complete in itself. The tutorial tell you and gives you everything you need to create the application. You just have to follow the instructions carefully.

Such end to end scenario tutorials are not only useful but very relevant. It tells you how the product can help you solve real problems. Ultimately if you are buying a product, you need to know how it can help you. So I always look at creating end to end scenario based tutorials.

In the Netbeans tutorial that I have referred to, there is no conceptual information given. It is task based. The tutorial introduces a workflow and teaches you how to create the worflow using Netbeans. No concepts have been dealt with in this tutorial.

In the end to end scenario based tutorials I have been creating, I also have to explain the concepts. I do not want to introduce the concepts first, the scenario next and then the  procedure to create the workflow. I am sure none would bother to read loads of factual information in one go.

So what I have been doing is to put the factual information as precise statements with a Did you know? tag , highlight the section and introduce them, wherever relevant, during the course of the tutorial.

I have seen this Did you know? tags in encyclopedia. I find them very cool. They are good enough to grab the learners’ attention.

So my tutorial is complete in every possible way. It not only helps you create something but also tells you what each feature you use is all about.

I am still busy working on my tutorials. I hope the reviewer and the production team likes my idea of Did you know tags 🙂

Please share your views on this post, if you have any…

Working/Learning Blog Carnival – May 2008

Dave Ferguson started the first Working/Learning blog carnival. The Working/Learning blog carnival for April 2008 was hosted by Manish Mohan. I am glad that I got a chance to host this Blog Carnival this month.

Blog Carnivals are effective because it gives people an opportunity to collaborate and share their ideas/views/suggestions . Also you find a collection of posts carrying views/ideas/suggestion about a particular topic/theme in one place.

This time, the theme of the Blog Carnival is again “Work at Learning/Learning at Work“. The objective of this Blog Carnival is basically to collect ideas and views from people who work in the training/learning area on how they go about their learning or how learning happens in workplaces.

We have a quite a few interesting posts this time.

  1. Natalie in her post, has some interesting suggestions on how to conduct orientation for newbies. She talks about how mentorship works well when it comes to training newbies.
  2. Taruna Goel in her post talks about the advantages of using tools and technologies in training/learning.
  3. Clark Quinn in his post says that learning must be fun. I liked the way he says: And I do believe passionately in self-learning; if I’m not learning, I may as well be dead. Play is learning, and I intend to keep playing.
  4. In his post : How I Got This Way Dave Ferguson tries to answer questions posed by Karyn Romeis to learning professionals: How did you get started with social media, how did the journey unfold, and what difference has it made in my professional practice?
  5. Viplav Baxi in his post talks about Learning 2.0 Fomal Methodologies that organizations can adapt.
  6. Rupa in her post illustrates how it is important for a person to identify what skill he/she must focus at to do his/her job well.
  7. Prof Karl Kapp has some nice thoughts about learning in his post.

Thanks to all contributors for taking some time to participate in the Blog Carnival 🙂