How World of Warcraft prepared me for facilitating online

Rita Chiu

Rita Chiu has over ten years’ experience as a learning designer across the VET, corporate and government sectors. But guess what? She also has ten years’ experience as a gamer. And it’s through gaming that she developed her online facilitation skills – skills that are crucial to her current role and associated flexible working arrangements.

Since 2004 I have been playing World of Warcraft

I have played since it first came out when it initially only had five player dungeons (an instance where you can play privately). If you’re new to the game you might be surprised by this! The game soon evolved to 40 player raids (a large private instance), then ten players raids which had to be organised prior to even joining the adventure. The ultimate goal of World of Warcraft (WoW) for player vs environment (PvE) (ie when you compete against the game) is to down the final boss (enemy) and to see the cut scene, as there is a strong narrative that you engage with throughout the game (for example the end scene for Mists of Pandaria). For player vs player (PvP) (ie when you combat other players) the goal is to be the best in the arena battles.

In the beginning guilds were where players congregated and helped each other out, and it was important that five players balanced out the class requirements (characters and their skills) in order to complete ‘runs’ or dungeons (quests). It was also fun to play with a group of friends where the ‘run’ could be completed through typing short instructions or hosting LAN (local area network) parties. Communication was key when you had bad gear and players of varying skills. Ultimately it was all about team work and surviving boss (enemy) attacks, and with a group of five people communicating via Skype we could give directions quite quickly.

The World of Warcraft learning curve

World of Warcrafters quickly learn about typing quickly, when running to avoid boss attacks (ie enemy attacks) using emotes (different actions). We also learned – early on – the importance of internet speed and how to time attacks or instructions when dealing with delays. In the beginning period of WoW, the quests were like riddles that you needed to solve and the quest item could be hidden in an obscure place. As a player you also quickly learned about the importance of the WoW wiki to:

  • support your game play
  • work out how to build your character
  • balance out your game play style and gear through your selected in game skill specialisation
  • find professions to support your class (characters with different skills and weapons)
  • figure out where to farm resources
  • determine areas for levelling up
  • find maps for dungeons.

The introduction of 40 men raids

The first two 40 men raids were Molten Core and Onyxia’s Lair. With the need to gather 40 people online at the same time, guilds or partnerships between guilds became essential. This meant networking online and proving one’s worth during five player ‘runs’ (adventures), where your skill and item level is on display. Guilds were merged to form larger guilds and guild management and hierarchy became important, as well as better communication tools during raids.

During the day-to-day management of the guild, guild chats and officer chats were important. To maintain and build guild relationships guild forums were used. The purpose of the forums was to:

  • communicate information to guild members
  • record participation points which would allow players to roll for gear dropped
  • provide a chat service as well as links to videos and recruitment information.

During the raids (attacks) we used Ventrilo, where we can talk as a group of 40 people or break up into teams of five. This depended on the needs of the raid. Sometimes we needed to work in small groups of five as part of a raid and manage our section of the boss. We utilised the chat function in WoW to give direction to the group of 40 and Ventrilo for the mini groups. This was important because we were trying to dodge fire balls, earth quakes, falling shards or random minions attacking our healers. We needed to communicate as each player had his or her own, unique view of what was happening in the raid.

What is it like for raid leaders (online facilitators)?

As an online facilitator you need to take into account different internet speeds. Participants with fast internet speeds will be able to have Ventrilo or Skype running while playing WoW. Other players with slower internet connections will only be able to have WoW running. Internet connection speeds will determine how you communicate – you will need one person to give direction on Ventrilo and one person typing the instructions in raid chat.

As to giving instructions to defeat a boss it is important to use several different methods to communicate to your raid members as everyone learns differently. Some members can follow after listening to instructions, others will need markers and physical demonstrations. When it comes to getting raid members to act out the fighting sequence, you will need to have one person typing out the instructions for people to follow, while others will need to see the fight in action. You might provide a youtube link for a particular role, for example, such as healer or DPS (Damage per Second – Attacker).

What happens when you fail? When things don’t quite go to plan, the raid leaders (usually you have a main leader with several officers supporting the raid) will reflect on the situation with the team. Weaknesses are analysed and suggestions made about ways to improve the fight next time. After retrying the same strategy several times the raid leader may propose a new strategy. The other supporting officers are there to raise morale and to discuss any concerns with raid members. Sometimes people give up after a couple of ‘Wipes’ (when the boss kills all 40 players), so officers will need to recruit additional players. There are also situations when players become abusive – after conversing with them you may find that you need to remove them from your raid.

There are times when all 40 players are not ready for a certain boss. In this situation we might we might go and ‘down’ another boss to ‘gear –up’ in an effort to raise morale. From there we can work on something as a group, such as helping each other improve our gear, and reflect on where we went wrong before we try again next week.

So what have I learned?

World of Warcraft has helped me to develop a range of skills that I now apply to my working life as a learning designer. Honestly – it’s not just an excuse to spend my free time gaming! You may already have thought of some of them, or even have your own to add to the list:

  • Using multiple avenues when communicating with other participants (players) – links, wikis, images, online demonstrations, practical experience and so on.
  • The importance of activities (raids) that both stretch our skills and capability and those that are achievable, in order to build confidence and team cohesion.
  • The impact of technology on learning and group work, as well as planning and implementation of activities (raids).
  • The importance of clear, calm verbal commands to reinforce information and instructions. This is a good technique for running raids and online classes with 40+ learners.
  • Managing disruptive behaviour This may occur during an online session, via forums, or outside of the institution on social networking sites.
  • Networking and forming partnerships. I have made a lot of friends and even professional contacts through World of Warcraft.
  • Project management: planning, risk assessment, resourcing and managing resources, lessons learned and so on.
  • Typing at the speed of light, especially when the boss is shooting out beams of light while minions are after you and there is FIRE ON THE GROUND!

Sound like a typical day in the office?

We would love to know your thoughts on all of this.

Learning with eModules – is it ‘all that’?

Billy Juntovski is the professional and vocational product manager at Cengage Learning – a leading educational content, software and services provider. He has been happily working in the training sector for over 10 years – both in publishing and in training and assessment. Also an avid traveller, Billy has squeezed his passion for the VET sector in between soaking up the sun in New Caledonia and winning big in Las Vegas. You might have seen his smiling face at various digital learning conferences around Australia. Now he tells us why eModules really are all that.

E-Learning – you think you’ve heard it all

E-learning is nothing new. RTOs and TAFEs have lead the charge in delivering digital content to students for a long time now. But as new technologies, new platforms, new devices and new ways of e-learning becoming available, teaching methodologies must continue to adapt. In many institutions, learners now undertake their studies in fully online environments, complete with interactive workbooks. Assessments allow teachers to deem competency in their chosen qualification. Maybe you think you’ve heard it all before…

But have you heard of eModules?

eModules are increasingly popular in online study. Learners can complete as much, or as little as they need in order to fulfil their training requirements. This format is also perfect for corporate learners – upskilling staff to fill gaps in their training schedules.

Recently one of the large TAFE providers in Victoria moved over to digital eModules for their automotive students. Previously they used print based resources to deliver training and assessment. Students come and go in various classes and practical situations and do their theoretical components in their own time – at home, or on the go through tablets and smartphones.

Students love them:

It’s so much easier to focus on one subject at a time. I complete what is needed and can get access to videos and PowerPoints to help me pass.

And teachers get fewer grey hairs:

eModules have been great – student focus per topic is greater and retention of information has doubled. It’s cost-effective to us, as well as the students – they buy what is required when needed, without breaking the bank upfront.

eModules and VET Commons

Teachers can now access popular courses from Cengage Learning as eModules through the VET Commons ready-made plugin. This means teachers can purchase individual competencies as eModules, upload it into their own Moodle and have their students working through the material and assessments – with minimal set-up required.

Each eModule contains all the theoretical components needed for the competency. Support materials often include:

  • Videos – reinforcing ideas for learners.
  • Testbanks – so instructors can pick and mix from a bank of questions.
  • Customisable PowerPoint presentations.
  • Chapter summaries.
  • Solution manuals.
  • Student materials such as activity sheets, glossaries, flashcards and more.

It’s so easy to have content that is accessible and current to the training packages – ready to be integrated into Moodle, at the click of a mouse.

What have you got to lose? Preview content today with VET Commons.

Personalising learning with e-portfolios

Lauren Sayer

Lauren Sayer is Head of Teaching and Learning at The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne Education Institute. The Institute works in collaboration with young people, families, schools, and education and health professionals to ensure that children and young people continue to engage in learning and remain connected to their school community throughout their health journey. Below, Lauren shares their story about trialling e-portfolios as part of eWorks’ e-learning successes competition.

Engaging learners throughout their health journeys

Students managing a health condition that involves frequent or extended absences from school feel valued as learners, and more confident about their return to school, when they are offered meaningful opportunities to continue to engage with their learning. At The Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute, we work with children and young people in hospital to accommodate different learning profiles, rates of learning and individual passions, through the development of an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) for every young person that we support.

Why individual learning plans?

Individual Learning Plans describe a set of strategies to address the particular educational needs of students in a range of situations. They can keep the student engaged in their learning and confident about themselves and school. We recently commenced a trial of e-portfolios to further develop our evidence of learning activities that students take part in while learning at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH).

As a teaching team, we agreed that the use of e-portfolios would be:

  • holistic in its approach to the student’s learning and education,
  • age and development appropriate,
  • flexible and future-oriented,
  • based on student strengths with a focus on potential,
  • able to show evidence from the student, their parents or carers, and schools in relation to achievement of learning goals,
  • a way to document how the student is progressing.

Overall, it was agreed that our e-portfolios should be a useful transition tool when the student moves into a different setting.

So far so good

A trial of the use of e-portfolios for learners was undertaken in 2014 with promising initial outcomes. E-portfolios will now be fully implemented at the RCH in 2015. Currently each teacher in our team has a minimum of four e-portfolio examples with which they have been working with students:

  1. schools,
  2. families gaining feedback on the format,
  3. students gaining feedback on the format,
  4. information and areas for improvement.

We expect that full implementation of e-portfolios will mean that when students leave the hospital they will take with them strong learning evidence of their time with the Education Institute, facilitating a smooth transition into the next stage of their education and lives. We will let you know how we go!

Do you have an e-learning success story to share? Then please tell eWorks.

Flipped classroom and intrinsic learner motivation

Flipped classroom is a term that has recently been associated with the use of digital technologies for education. Its meaning originated more than a decade ago, in a paper titled Inverting the Classroom: A gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment. [1]

Industrious classrooms or flipped classrooms?

In his TED talk on Changing Education Paradigms, Sir Ken Robinson had this to say about the nature of the current design of education systems:

“I believe we have a system of education that is modelled on the interests of industrialism and in the image of it. […] Schools are still pretty much organised on factory lines; ringing bells, separate facilities, specialised into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches; we put them through the system by age group—why do we do that?”

In all forms of communication since the Gutenberg press, traditional methods have been broadcast and unidirectional. It is not surprising that most traditional education methods employed similar processes in delivery. Looking at my experience with western education, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in methodology with my daughter’s education, although the standardised testing—like NAPLAN—begins a lot earlier these days.

I remember when…

A memorable teacher makes a classroom lesson an engaging experience, interacting with the class, encouraging and answering questions in a provocative way. Followed by this is an assignment that often takes longer than class time allows, and becomes homework. At this point, the students have a grasp of concepts and have had a discussion. If they are lucky and time allows, they may start the assignment in class, and may even get some individual attention from the teacher to help get them started. They then take this project home. If they are luckier still, they find a parent there that has the knowledge and skills to help them continue their assignment, helping when they get stuck.

Flipped classroom is not a technological trick, more a change of workflow. In a nutshell, the flipped model attempts to move the lecture to afterhours so students complete assignments at school with the aid of the teacher and classmates.

Why not flip classroom?

So why aren’t all teachers already using this model where the student studies the theory at home in order to spend the class time working? There will always be a large number of reasons, but as with many issues relating to education the root cause is likely learner motivation.

The ideas behind flipped classroom are more easily enabled and implemented with good use of technology, i.e. YouTube providing lectures, Hangouts providing group discussions and so on. But what if the learner is not motivated to do the required work outside of class? The advantage is not just lost: the learner is left behind, further impacting their motivation to learn. This underlying issue is broader and more ingrained into our society than a simple change to teaching methodology or better use of ICT. If you are interested in what it might take to change learners’ extrinsic motivations to become intrinsic, have a look at Finland’s education system and read this thought-provoking article that highlights some key aspects.

What are your thoughts on the flipped classroom methodology? Join the conversation on Twitter: @eWorksTweets – #flipclass.

[1] Maureen Lage, Glenn Platt, Michael Treglia (2000), Inverting the Classroom: A gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment [PDF, 878 KB], Journal of Economic Education.