Bejeweled Versus Candy Crush - Which is a Better Model for Gamification?

by Paula Moran

A few years ago a friend said, "I think you'd like this game called Bejeweled." On that advice I promptly lost many hours of my life to that game playing against my Facebook friends. We clawed our way up the weekly leaderboard.      

As time wore on, the weekly Bejeweled leaderboard emptied. Apparently everyone had moved to this game called Candy Crush. One day I decided to "try out" Candy Crush, and promptly lost many more hours of my life to my iPhone screen. 

 As I learn more about gamification, I think about these two games that have harnessed countless hours of otherwise productive time. The most engaging question in my mind is why is the Candy Crush obsession lasting longer than Bejeweled?


For those that are not familiar with the games, both are Tetris style games in which you must match up 3 pieces of a single color and the pieces disappear from the board. Points are scored for each set of three you remove. In each game there are special pieces that either explode or inhibit play.  

The most addictive form of Bejeweled was Bejeweled Blitz. In Blitz, you have 60 seconds to eliminate as many pieces as possible. You compete against your Facebook friends to see who can get the highest score.


Candy Crush has levels. Each level has a board with a different layout.  The levels are grouped into areas on an overall game board. Every time you enter a new area new challenges enter the game. Connecting Candy Crush to Facebook allows you to give and receive benefits from your friends that you would otherwise have to pay for. 


So why have people stuck with Candy Crush longer than bejeweled?  I attribute it to the changing game play. As you become better at the game the levels get correspondingly harder. It also has greater replay value with the changing game board.  

Each of these games was wildly successful and can give a model for social gaming. Bejeweled is a great model for one-time initiatives, such as learning a new product line. It can be highly addicting, but has poor long-term replay value. If you have a long-term program that has to be repeated annually, such as safety or security training, Candy Crush is a better model because of the superior replay value. 

Being Realistic About Estimates

by Paula Moran

I'm not the best estimator of time. What's my saving grace? DATA

Periodically I time myself to see how long certain tasks take me. With that information in mind I can realistically plan smaller projects, and keep stakeholders informed about progress.

But what about totally new things? At one point I'd planned to learn Camtasia, Articulate, and Captivate and produce example work for each during the month of March. Considering everything else on my calendar I was wondering if I really had time for all that? 

I became more realistic about what I could accomplish after watching this slide share summarizing research findings about the actual time it takes to develop learning.

There are generalizations in Chapman Alliance's estimates, but they provide decent benchmarks to estimate for the overall amount of time to it will take to develop face to face or elearning. 

To improve my future estimates I'm tracking the amount of time I spend developing training. The creative process of designing and developing learning ensures that no estimate will never be entirely accurate. There will always be unforeseen problems and opportunities. Many of those will come up as instructional designers process through the material they are designing learning for and develop new understandings.

Once I have more personalized information I am likely to begin using a set of elearning project calculators produced by Mark Steiner. Given realistic time estimates his calculators enable you to calculate a customized budgets.

***Update: Quick article on top considerations for estimating time for elearning projects.

Project Manager, Use Small Words to Win Me Over

by Paula Moran

rational real.png

Some of you laughed at that cartoon and some of you don’t understand what’s so funny about it. The key to understanding the cartoon is being fluent in mathematics terminology. The cartoon isn’t funny unless you know that i is an imaginary number and π is an irrational number.

Project managers are generally comfortable discussing projects using PMBOK and PMI terminology. That universal terminology is valuable for effective communication within the project management community. But it is unlikely the rest of your team members will be as familiar with PMBOK terminology. As professionals we need to keep this in mind.  While we may be comfortable throwing around PMBOK terminology such as “integration management plan,” that terminology can exclude team members and stakeholders from the conversation, just like the math cartoon at the beginning of this article excluded some people from the humor. 

Don’t be the project manager who makes people feel excluded by using lots of big words and jargon.

As a project manager it is your responsibility to do your due diligence consider and plan the ten management processes to whatever degree appropriate for your project with the help of your team. Using simpler every day terminology not only creates a more inclusive and productive conversation, but it helps the team discuss more of the management processes. If you work in an organization with few formalized project management processes it can be the tool to improve the quality of your project management without creating a fuss of implementing a formalized process.

Instead of directly asking team members “What should be included in the procurement management plan?” You can start with simpler questions such as "Who can authorize purchases over $5,000?" or "What did finance say was the new policy for selecting vendors?" Followed by more in depth questions “If gas prices go up and our widget shipping cost goes over budget what expenses can we reduce or cut?” The conversation these and other questions create map out the procurement management plan without all the lengthy terminology. 

The following are some examples questions to start the management plan conversation without saying the deadly term "management plan":

Integration Management Plan:

  • What systems do this need to be coordinated with?
  • Who manages each system?
  • What happens if system x goes down?

Scope Management Plan:

  • Let's define what we won't do.
  • What are the essential things for this project to achieve?

Time Management Plan:

  • Is there any flexibility in the deadline?
  • What happens if we finish early?
  • What happens if we finish late?
  • If we fall behind what is the best part to crunch?

Cost Management Plan:

  • What's our budget?
  • How will we measure progress?
  • Who has approval authority for purchases?
  • Who's tracking expenditures? What system is she using?

Quality Management Plan:

  • How will we know if the deliverable is “good enough”?
  • What measurements will our client make?
  • Are there any standards we have to meet?

Human Resources Management Plan: 

  • Who is assigned to this project?
  • Are there any dates key people aren't available?
  • If Mr. X leaves the project how will we replace him?
  • Are there any other people we need to worry about leaving?

Communication Management Plan: 

  • How are we tracking project progress?
  • Who do they need to be reported to?
  • Our project sponsor is Jan, how long an email is she likely to read?
  • What information do you want to see in the weekly team reports?

Risk Management Plan:

  • What could go wrong?
  • What events would destroy project success and can we prevent them?
  • What could go right that we should take advantage of?

Procurement Management Plan:

  • Who has the authority to approve purchases?
  • What documentation does finance need for their new system? How will we provide and track that?

Stakeholder Management Plan: 

  • Who needs to know about the project expenses?
  • Do they need to know detailed progress or just milestone completion?
  • Who is likely to raise objections during the implementation of the new software?

The PMBOK may be the "bible" of project management. But it is a dry boring read cluttered with vast amounts of technical jargon. The technical jargon and endless definitions are important because they provide project managers with a common vocabulary for discussing issues with each other. But keep that vocabulary to conversations between project managers.

Want a Better Course? Focus on One Thing at a Time

by Paula Moran

No matter how long you work in a field you can always benefit from reviewing the basics one more time. This past week I participated in the Instructional Design Workshop put on by the ASTD Golden Gate Chapter. During the workshop I was forced to follow instructional design best practices while working through the analysis and design steps for a course.

By the end of the two day workshop we had developed all the details to create a design document. The design document is the lynch pin that communicates between the subject matter experts (SME), instructional designers, and content developers. Even though in many projects individually do more than one of those roles, curriculum development should never be a one person job.

The design document has the following format:

Key Takeaway from an Instructional Design Workshop - image.png

For those familiar with the ADDIE model, you should exit the design phase with this document and use it to guide the development phase.

At most of my employers the primary focus was producing courses at breakneck speed. Supervisors wanted to see content being produced because that proved you were working. The consequence of this was that people on my team wrote content as we designed the course. Often the early content would be revised several times over as the design was finalized.

During the ASTD workshop I was forced to develop the key points of the content without simultaneously developing activities or presentation slides. I was able to craft clearer key points in a more logical order in record time. I used this isolated approach again when working on a presentation I’m giving next week. I allowed myself to write the instructional steps into a PowerPoint without simultaneously developing graphics and slide layouts. While my PowerPoint currently looks awful, the content is clearer and I know it won’t be hard to make it look good and creating the content handouts. Writing content separately from the visual design improved its overall quality.

Producing content is important and your end product will suffer if you spend too much time in the design phase crunching development and testing timelines. That said, the human brain cannot multitask to working separately on information gathering, course design, and materials development allows your brain to focus on each task separately and do a better job on each part.

If you don't have the time to prepare key points and instructional design before moving to development consider using an iterative project management style such as AGILE (what Allen Interactions calls SAM).

This is particularly important for larger and longer courses.

Learn More by Crafting Better Interview Questions

by Paula Moran

I love making people think, not letting them off the hook until they've really used their brain. I love challenging people to think deeply and develop stronger more robust understandings by asking questions they can’t answer immediately. You can learn a lot about a person when you make them think. You can learn things like how long they will work at a difficult problem, or how robust their background knowledge is.

They key to all this is crafting a good line of questioning is writing questions that engage the brain at different levels. Bloom’s taxonomy is a handy tool to help you construct questions at all levels of brain engagement. Blooms taxonomy categorizes tasks and questions by how much they engage the brain. There are six levels of the taxonomy: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. The taxonomy language was updated in the 90s it was changed from nouns to verbs. More details about the update can be found about it on this site. You may still hear L&D professionals use the old terminology which was knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

By Xristina la (Own work) [<a href="">CC-BY-SA-3.0</a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

By Xristina la (Own work) [<a href="">CC-BY-SA-3.0</a>], <a href="">via Wikimedia Commons</a>

To illustrate the different levels of Bloom’s taxonomy here is an example of questioning about a box of crayons at each level of the taxonomy.

  • List the colors in your box of crayons
  • Select a red crayon from the box
  • Place your crayons in rainbow order (for this you have to know the definition of rainbow order and apply it to the crayons in the box)
  • Differentiate between the shades of orange crayons.
  • Given the current colors in the 64 box of crayons pretend you are an executive and justify what new color should be added to the box based on current color composition.
  • Assemble the optimal pack of 10 crayons for a car trip.

Simpler questions or tasks don’t require you to think as much but they are essential to establish foundational knowledge for later use. For example, you must understand what the current computer policy is before you can analyze it and debate what changes need to be made. Starting a line of questioning in the lower levels helps build confidence and establishes a common ground that can be referenced later. Many interviews start with basic level questioning. For example, “describe what you do at your current job,” is an understanding level question. As the interview progresses questioning should progress through the levels of taxonomy.

Common interview questions don’t use all levels of the taxonomy. Questions such as “what is your greatest strength?” or “Describe how you dealt with a failure” are on the lower levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. You learn the most about people by asking carefully crafted higher level questions.

How to write higher level questions

There are several websites that will offer word prompts geared at each level of Bloom’s taxonomy. I find having one nearby helps me craft higher level questions. Here are some examples:

  • Applying: organize, generalize, prepare, choose, sketch, use, apply, show, etc.
  • Analyze: compare, classify, distinguish, differentiate, select, subdivide, etc.
  • Evaluate: judge, relate, support, critique, summarize, appraise, etc.
  • Create: compose, design, construct, plan, invent, organize, etc.

For more word prompts I would recommend visiting this site.

If I were interviewing a candidate I would construct a line of questioning that involved multiple levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. For example,

  • We are having X problem, explain how you would solve it.
  • Compare your solution to a problem you successfully solved at your old job to show why they are effective solutions.
  • If faced with the same problem from your old job again, summarize what you would have done differently to solve it this time.
  • Organize your answers from the previous questions and explain the problem solving strategy you composed.

Writing questions around the same topic with escalating levels of difficulty allows the interviewer to ask higher level questions while providing common conversational ground for the interviewer and interviewee to reference.