Our Work

Over the years we have worked with a wide variety of clients doing projects with differing scopes and audiences. Here are some snippets from a few of them:

RoomDesign
RoomDesign for Sales Associates

Furniture Training Company

RoomDesign was conceived to fill a need in the furniture sales associate training world for sales people who could help their customers pick out furniture to design their homes.

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Many sales people can not successfully recommend furniture to fit within a design, because they do not understand the basics of interior design. This program helps sales associates start from the beginning and gain a fundamental understanding of color, styles, placement, and design elements.

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An important part of learning to design visually is to be able to see how color decisions affect a design. This activity is reviewing the basic color schemes, but it also shows the learner how color can be used in a room and how those color schemes work together to create pleasant design.

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It's essential that the customer and the sales person can both visualize the room that the furniture will go into. Many people are intimidated by drawing a picture for someone else, so we devoted an entire lesson to helping sales associates get comfortable with the idea of drawing a sketch of the customer's room for reference.

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Because design principles tend to be abstract, we were sure to show lots of examples in order to make the connection between theory and real implementation. This was to help the sales people understand that these seemingly abstract ideas could be leveraged to improve their own room design skills and help their customers in their buying decisions.

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In order to help the instruction sink in we forced the users to slow down and do some mini-activities or manipulatives. In this case, clicking on the color wheel will change the colors of the couch. A few clicks later, a salesperson can easily see how color schemes work in a practical application.

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After the instruction is finished, users can play a video style game called the RoomDesign Challenge. This game is simply another way to review the material in a way that is engaging and fun.

Boystown
Expedition Literacy

Boys Town

This suite of Flash games was created to help remedial readers in middle and high school. It helps with syllabication, spelling, sounding out words, definitions, and meanings of words.

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Boystown started this project by asking for a suite of games that would keep their students engaged. One of their objectives was to try and appeal to kids that were a bit older and more "sophisticated." The photographic visual style was created in order to try and appeal to students who did not want "cartoony" graphics.

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The menu system went through several iterations before actual development even started. In the end, a navigation order was created that minimized the number of clicks to get into the games, yet gave the students access to the features of the program. The order of the navigation allowed for preloading to be used extensively to keep the user experience as seamless as possible.

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Sometimes just playing a game is not enough. As an incentive to do well, the "Souvenir Shop" was added to the gameplay. Getting a high score and a good medal would earn the user points that could be spent on "souvenirs" corresponding to the places visited during the game.

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The Boystown folks were worried that the actual gameplay might be boring. Much of the early design process involved coming up with new and varied interactions that also achieved the instructional goals. We wanted to make each game as different as possible from the other games. Actions include a "Frogger" style sentence creator, finishing a maze, sliding tiles into place, throwing snowballs at ice flows, etc.

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The temptation as a game designer is to make a complicated game where skill with a mouse or fast reactions are more important than the learning goals. The Yukon game relies on timing and quick mouse work, as well as spelling, so a lot of testing was done in order to make the interactions easy enough for an unskilled computer user but difficult enough to stave off boredom in more advanced users.

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Experience has shown that students like the opportunity to earn rewards in a game. We added a progress section of the game to help the student, and not just the teacher, see how he or she is doing. Earning medals and souvenir points keeps kids motivated to do better and earn more rewards.

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The last part to build and test was the administration system. By tracking common missed words and average scores, the lists of words used in the games could be adjusted based on ease or difficulty. A feedback loop is created where the administrators can continually improve their program based on hard data and not guesswork.

Fish and Wildlife Service
Neighborhood Explorers

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This project was put together as a way to get kids excited about the outdoors. The obvious irony of making a video game to get kids off of the computer and outside was not lost on us.

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The Neighborhood Explorers program was created with the goal of getting children excited about the outdoors. It was a part of the "Let's Go Outside" initiative. The Fish and Wildlife Service wanted a program that could be brought to schools and also be hosted on their website that would help children have a desire to recognize nature and use it appropriately.

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After the first version went live, the folks at the Fish and Wildlife Service found that their users were skipping the instruction to play the games. This brought about a redesign of the menu system. Originally, users could navigate to anything from the Treehouse menu. In the new version, a system of locks was put in place that are opened by doing the instruction and taking a quiz. Passing the quiz will open up the game associated with that character. This effectively incentivized the kids to view the instruction before playing the games.

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Each instructional lesson is based on several learning objectives. Each lesson takes the viewer into the story of one of the characters as they spend the afternoon on a wildlife refuge. In this case, the character Lucy has run into a biologist who takes the time to explain what invasive plant species are and has Lucy help her pick some from the field.

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One goal of the program was to inspire kids to take a job with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Several of the resources in the program show kids videos of the work involved in working for the Service.

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In order to facilitate actual outdoor activity, the Reporter feature was put in to guide children into going outside and observing nature in their area. After this was done, the child would return and fill out a very short report. A reporting patch could be earned by getting enough reports.

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The games were built to mimick real life activities. This game was about birding. The object is to match the name of 6 birds to the birds in the field. A field guide and dichotomous key help the children identify each bird. Until a bird is clicked on, the only way to identify birds is by their silhouette, something that happens frequently in the wild.

STAR Sportsmanship
STAR Sports

Learning Through Sports

This project was actually several projects targeted toward different audiences. With sportsmanship on the decline, the purpose of this instruction to teach students to treat other players with respect.

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The STAR High School program was created to model good behavior in sports. Examples of good sportsmanship and bad sportsmanship are contrasted and talked about.

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Parents have a large role in the way their children behave in sports. This program teaches the parents about the power of their influence and how to model good behavior for their children.

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STAR Middle School - The Secret of Baldwin High - teaches kids about sportsmanship, self control, and teamwork. The instruction is infused into the story of Seb and his family. As Seb tries to create a school basketball team he must face peer pressure and the temptation of drug use.

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The best way to teach kids about sportsmanship is to start young, before they have gotten into bad habits. The elementary school version of STAR Sportsmanship is an age-appropriate lesson on being kind to other athletes and the Golden Rule.

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Bullying is a big problem in elementary and middle schools. This program examines what bullying is and why it happens. It also helps kids understand what feelings they might have if they are bullied.

SalesForce - Selling with Service
SalesForce - Selling with Service

Furniture Training Company

Many sales people don't know much about what they are selling or how to make a sale. This vocational training teaches furniture sales people the nuances of selling furniture without being pushy.

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Video was used extensively throughout the program to show good and bad examples. In this case, the sales associate greets his customer properly in order to start building a relationship of trust.

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An important part of the instruction was the Tip From A Pro. In order to gain credibility with the audience (who may be skeptical), a "pro" was shown who talked about his experience putting a principle into practice. By giving an anecdote, the principle being taught was reinforced and the users can visualize a practical application.

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Keeping users engaged visually is vital to keeping users' attention. Lots of effort was put into making the activities more than just a multiple choice test where you would click on choices A-E. The visual style was chosen to keep the mood light and fun.

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It is important to review the material learned and make sure that the proper connections have been made mentally. At the end of each lesson, there is an activity that tests the pupil's understanding of how to actually use the material they have learned.

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Things will not always go smoothly when making a sale - as anyone in the business can attest. Much of the instruction in this project was geared towards helping salespeople overcome the common pitfalls in the sales process. The salesperson is taught to identify a potential problem, such as an objection, and how to help customers overcome their concerns.

Kaplan, Inc.
Kaplan, Inc.

The Kaplan Learning Innovations team has a mission to improve the quality of online education throughout the company. Since 2011, we have been working as an extension of their team to evaluate and design courses and coach internal ID teams.