How Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp’s Learning Game Design Process Works


Last week we announced Sharon Boller and Dr. Karl Kapp’s new book on learning game design on the BLP blog. It’s called Play to Learn: Everything You Need to Know About Designing Effective Learning Games. We also kicked off the Play to Learn Book Tour, which blends conference workshops, webinars and guest bloggers to expand the learning game design conversation.

Naturally, the Knowledge Guru blog had to be the first stop on our tour! After all, the learning game design principles outlined in “Play to Learn” have been critical to the creation of Knowledge Guru games over the years. I thought it would be fun to show how the nine steps to learning game design Sharon and Karl outline in their book have guided our team’s efforts.

Here’s the abridged version of how each of the nine steps has shaped Knowledge Guru.

1. Play entertainment games and evaluate what you play

Our product team plays a new board game together at least 1x a week. Our iPads and phones have folders full of interesting games that we use for, um, research.

In all seriousness, playing lots of games and doing that analysis is critical. You wouldn’t write a novel without reading a whole lot on the subject first. So why would you try to design a game without playing them first?

2. Explore learning games

Building on the first, more fun step of simply playing and evaluating lots of purely fun games, we also spend time focusing specifically on educational games. These could be either educational games geared towards an academic setting or brain training games designed as casual play experiences for adults.

3. Set the learning foundation

While Knowledge Guru games can incorporate many different types of content, we spend time up front planning out what types of instructional goals a game is well suited for. For example, one mini-game in Knowledge Guru’s Drive app is specifically designed for learning objectives that use verbs like “compare” or “distinguish.”

We also spend a lot of time analyzing our target learners. We survey customers and create personas that give us a fictitious yet accurate depiction of who the end user is.

4. Link learning design and game design

Some of the most ‘fun’ mini-game ideas don’t make it off the shop floor. Why? Because every game mechanic must support the learning objectives! Our team comes up with lots of fun game ideas, then must slim them down so that only essential game mechanics that help accomplish the desired learning objective make it into the final game.

5. Determine scoring and rewards

Testing, testing, testing. There’s no shortcut to getting a game’s scoring and rewards right. The scoring in Knowledge Guru games goes through many iterations before each release.

6. Build the initial prototype

I’ve participated in paper prototyping sessions as our team has designed new games and user interfaces. Many instructional designers are surprised when they learn the degree to which software and game developers rely on paper to sketch their designs. It’s certainly much easier to draw and scribble than it is to write lines of code.

7. Playtest and iterate on design

Like I said before, testing. It’s a way of life for game designers. Paper prototypes become digital prototypes which become… you get the idea.

8. Develop and iterate

As the development process continues, we often ask for feedback from our account managers to make sure the game designs are matching the needs they have heard communicated from clients. We also rely on user testing to catch UX issues the team might have missed.

9. Deploy

Voila! Knowledge Guru customers get a fun, spunky email telling them a new release is live and ready. Easy, right?

How Will You Use Sharon and Karl’s Game Design Process?

“Play to Learn” explains how to follow this learning game design process in much greater detail. And as this book tour gets going, many great learning thought leaders will share their perspectives, too. Follow along with the tour here, and learn more about the book here.

Attend the Webinar

On Tuesday, March 28th at 1 pm ET / 10 am PT, Sharon and Karl will share tips and best practices from “Play to Learn” in a live webinar. Attendees will hear their perspective on the three most critical learning game design steps and have the opportunity to participate in Q&A.


Knowledge Guru Drive: Training Reinforcement That Adapts to Each Sales Rep (Webinar)


The wait is over. Knowledge Guru Drive is here and we hope you’re as excited as we are! We unveiled the app at DevLearn 2016 on November 16 and are showing it off to clients and customers in a private webinar today. On December 6th, we showcased Drive in a public webinar.

Drive is the newest app in the Knowledge Guru family

Drive is a training reinforcement tool that helps sales reps build their confidence and competence in minutes a day on their smartphones. Learners complete a short confidence assessment, then receive customized daily mini-games that teach topics such as features and benefits, objection handling and how to compare competitors. Drive adapts to learners over time to help them master their weakest areas and build on their strengths.

Product managers use Drive to turn launch training into an engaging experience reps interact with a few minutes a day on their smartphones. Sales trainers use it as a virtual coaching tool that adapts to each rep and helps them improve their confidence and competence.

Drive works alongside our other two Knowledge Guru apps, Quest and Legend. Learn more about the platform.

See Drive in our Product Webinar

Attend our webinar, Knowledge Guru’s New ‘Drive’ App: Training Reinforcement that Adapts to Each Sales Rep. The webinar will be held on Tuesday, December 6th at 1 pm ET / 10 am PT. In the session, we’ll cover:

  • How the Knowledge Guru platform uses game-based learning, adaptive learning, and microlearning.
  • How the Knowledge Guru platform can help reinforce training after product launches and enable coaching at scale.
  • The challenges faced by today’s sales reps.
  • How sales reps can increase their confidence and competence in just a few minutes a day on their smartphones.
  • How to help your sales reps do and say the right thing at the right time.

A recording of the session was sent to all registrants.

Access Knowledge Guru’s New ‘Drive’ App webinar and learn how Drive can help sales reps become more confident and competent.


8 Can’t-Miss Sessions at DevLearn 2016


While this is Bottom-Line Performance’s fifth straight year exhibiting at DevLearn, it’s only my first. And I am so excited to join my team in Vegas this year! I’ve heard so many great things about the conference and can’t wait to see what all the hype is about. So naturally, I made a list of “must-see” sessions I want to attend at DevLearn and let me tell you, it was a long list. So for your sake, I narrowed it down to eight. These are my “can’t miss,” “must-see” DevLearn sessions this year:

1. Play to Learn: Designing Effective Learning Games

Presented by: Sharon Boller and Karl Kapp

Tuesday, 11/15: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM

If you are interested in how emerging learning strategies such as games can be used to motivate and reinforce key skills, this workshop is for you. For the past few years, Sharon and Karl have been co-presenting on game design all around the country. In their workshop, you will explore a variety of games to identify what makes them playable, and then you’ll design your own learning games using a step-by-step approach. You will leave this session with an understanding of how games are powerful tools for crafting learning solutions that engage, motivate and reinforce key skills and techniques.

Learn more

2. Knowledge Guru’s New ‘Drive’ App: Training Reinforcement that Adapts to Each Sales Rep

Presented by: Steven Boller

Wednesday, 11/16: 10:00 AM – 10:45 AM

BLP’s Marketing Director, Steven Boller, will showcase Drive, the newest app in the Knowledge Guru family at the Strategic Solutions learning stage Wednesday morning. Sales reps need a way to ramp up on their products, competitors, and industry landscape fast. With Drive, reps can increase their confidence and competence in just a few minutes a day on their smartphones. This session will cover the challenges faced by today’s sales reps and demonstrate how the Knowledge Guru platform uses game-based learning, adaptive learning, and microlearning to reinforce training after product launches and enable coaching at scale.

Learn more

3. Calm the Mobile Turbulence: An Alaska Airlines Flight Attendant Case Study

Presented by: Leigh Shocki and Jennifer Sovey

Wednesday, 11/16: 10:45 AM – 11:45 AM

In this session, you will learn how Alaska Airlines taught flight attendants about their devices on their devices. You’ll learn about device operation, flight attendant apps, and compliance policies. Learn how Alaska leveraged a mobile ecosystem to push forth a test case for an all-mobile eLearning initiative, under a strict timeline with much at stake, and the clever technology workarounds that were used to ensure a quality user experience in a short turnaround time. If you have employees who work remotely and struggle to access training, this session is for you.

Learn more

4. Using Simple Game Mechanics to Increase Retention

Presented by: Ken Murray

Wednesday, 11/16: 10:45 AM – 11:45 AM

Life’s daily distractions make it difficult for learners to remember information they need on the job. This session promises to show how to apply seven simple techniques in your eLearning projects to boost your learners’ dopamine and enable them to learn more effectively. You will discover how to leverage scientific knowledge of the neurochemical dopamine, which is linked to the reward centers of the brain to deliver learning that maximizes retention and desired outcomes.

Learn more

5. Virtual Reality Learning Strategy

Presented by: Steven Skiles

Wednesday, 11/16: 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM

This session is a case study of how Samsung Electronics America implemented its VR learning strategy in just three steps. In this session, you will explore the world of virtual reality for learning. You’ll examine the different VR hardware and platforms, and the technical requirements to implement VR in your organization. Most importantly, the session description says that participants will learn about best practices and the expertise your organization needs in order to implement this technology.

Learn more

6. Using Virtual Reality in Corporate Learning

Presented by: John O’Hare

Wednesday, 11/16: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

In this session, you’ll learn how VR can be used for learning, especially in a corporate environment. You will gain a solid foundation in understanding what VR is, what equipment you need, where to find free learning resources, and how to develop your own content. You will also learn about the experiences and lessons learned from using VR for learning at the Nokia Corporate University.

Learn more

7. The Quantified Learner: Using Wearables to Enhance Training

Presented by: Mathias Vermeulen

Friday, 11/18: 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM

In this session, you’ll explore wearable technologies like the Fitbit, Spire and Apple Watch. You’ll discuss new emerging trends and how to use these tools to enhance learning and development approaches. You’ll also take a look at how you can use these wearable technologies for an important goal: improving performance. I encourage you to attend this session on the final day of the conference. Mathias is a compelling speaker who will motivate you to continue learning about performance improvement long after the conference ends.

Learn more

8. Sales Enablement and Beyond: Using Games to Drive Performance

Presented by: Sharon Boller and Steven Boller

Friday, 11/18: 10:00 – 11:00 AM

We kick off this session with a case study from a successful medical device product launch that used games throughout a phased curriculum. Then, we discuss what sales enablement learning objectives lend themselves best to a game-based approach and identify what good game design looks like. To learn how to design games that appeal to target learners, participants will use a worksheet to craft learner personas that are similar to the buyer personas that marketing departments create. The session ends with seven implementation tips you can put into practice when using games for learning.

Learn more


Knowledge Guru adds ‘Drive’ Adaptive Learning App to Platform for Fall ’16 Release


BLP customers and Knowledge Guru subscribers got the big scoop last week on our Fall 2016 release. But now, it’s time to tell the world: we’ve just added a new app called Drive to the Knowledge Guru platform. Drive is a training reinforcement tool for sales reps, and it will be included as part of a Knowledge Guru subscription.


Built for Sales Reps


Many of our Knowledge Guru customers use the platform to train sales reps. Drive is for them: it includes a variety of minigames specifically designed to teach topics like comparing against competitors, objection handling, features and benefits, and responding to customer questions.

Adaptive Learning


Sales reps take a short confidence assessment the first time they open Drive. As they play minigames, Drive compares reps’ perceived confidence against their actual performance on your training topics and customizes their experience accordingly to help them achieve mastery.



Knowledge Guru Drive was designed with busy sales reps in mind. The app delivers reps a “Daily 3” of minigames that take about five minutes to play. If they have more time, they can hone their skills in the practice area.

Engaging Minigames


Drive’s minigames are simple, elegant and fun. Clients who have piloted Drive have commented that “even our kids would think this is cool.” That’s high praise, and we’ll take it.

Mobile-first Experience


Drive is available as a smartphone app in the iOS and Android stores. While reps can play it on the web on most devices, it was designed from the ground up as a smartphone experience.

Personal Stats


Drive is like a fitness tracker for training content. As reps progress, they get detailed personal stats on their perceived confidence versus their actual performance on each learning objective.

Simple Creation and Editing

Like all Knowledge Guru apps, Drive comes with a game creation wizard that is easy to use. Trainers can quickly create, edit and launch Drive experiences with our web-based authoring tool.

Watch the new product tour

Our new video has a full description of the platform:


Watch the launch webinar recording

We officially launched Drive at DevLearn 2016 in Las Vegas on November 16. If you couldn’t make it to DevLearn, you can still watch the Drive launch session via webinar. We held a public session on Tuesday, December 6th and the recording is now available for all.

If you’re already a BLP client or Knowledge Guru customer, check your inbox. We sent you an invite to a private webinar just for clients.


2016 Brandon Hall-Winning Product Launch Training Uses Knowledge Guru


The Knowledge Guru learning platform was used as part of a product launch that won Silver in the 2016 Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Awards. The platform was used as part of a product launch training curriculum designed by Bottom-Line Performance for Ventana Medical Systems, Inc. (Ventana), a member of the Roche Group. It uses game-based learning and the power of story to help reps show the value of a new product.

It was the second award win of 2016 for the VENTANA HE 600 product launch training curriculum, and the sixth win in the last two years that BLP has partnered with the Roche group to win. To date, the Knowledge Guru platform has been used as part of 6 Brandon Hall-winning projects.

The HE 600 uses Knowledge Guru as a pre-work activity to help reinforce key product information. Learn more about the curriculum here.



Question Types Available in Quest

The kinds of questions you can create in Knowledge Guru’s Quest app include “Multiple Choice,” “Select All That Apply,” and “Answer in Order” questions (aka ranking questions). These question types enable you to provide learners with variety and increase the learning power of a Quest game.

We have created a short game called QType Guru that contains questions about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning.

The game shows you good examples of all three question types available for Quest games. Current Knowledge Guru users can use their existing username and password to register. Others will need to create an account before registering to play.

Here is an example of each question type and how it looks in the game:

Multiple Choice


This is an example of a Multiple Choice question type in Quest. Learners click one of the rectangles to select an item.

Select All That Apply


This is an example of a Select All That Apply question type in Quest. Learners click in the circle to select an item.

Ranking/Answer in Order


This is an example of an Answer in Order question type. Learners move the response choices around to reflect the appropriate order.

Using Select All That Apply questions

Select All That Apply questions can be easier or harder for learners to do, depending on what cognitive skill the question requires. A simpler question merely asks the learner to recall a set of facts from memory. A harder question forces them to apply a rule or use judgement. The examples below show how you can use this question type to address different cognitive skills that range from “comprehension” all the way up to “evaluation” on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning.

Knowledge/Comprehension (lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy)

You want learners to be able to identify or recognize something or distinguish one thing from another thing – and you want them to do this with multiple examples. Here are three examples of questions that match this description. To be successful in answering either of these examples, the learner must distinguish the good examples from the poor or irrelevant ones:

  • Select all the questions that might be appropriate to ask a customer who is focused on quality.
  • Select the cues that might indicate a customer’s need is quality versus price.

Perhaps you need for learners to identify multiple attributes that are all associated with a single item or category. Features versus benefits is a terrific example of when this might be true. Product benefits often are supported by two or more product features. A sales model typically contains multiple steps. A Select All That Apply question helps you verify that learners at least recognize the things that are part of a whole. Here are two examples:

  • Select the features that support “ease of use” of ACME’s product.
  • Identify the three steps of the ACME sales model.

Higher Levels of Thinking: Application and Evaluation

You can also write Select All That Apply questions that move higher up on Bloom’s taxonomy to let learners apply something (a policy or a rule, for example). Here are two examples that fall into this category:

  • Click the Resource link to review ACME’s personal leave policy. Then review the four leave requests and select those that fall within the policy guidelines. (Learners must be able to correctly apply the leave policy to specific situations as opposed to only recalling facts about the leave policy.)
  • “It’s” is a contraction. “Its” is a possessive. Review the sentences and select the ones that correctly use “it’s.” (Learners must be able to apply the grammar rules related to “it’s” versus “its”.)

You can also use Select All That Apply questions to push learners to the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy. Imagine that you need learners to be skillful in interpreting data and using it appropriately in a sales situation. Or imagine that you want to help a sales manager build coaching skills. Here’s how you might write a question to support those skills:

  • Review the chart comparing Customer X’s sales to Customer Z’s. Then select all the conclusions you can reasonably discuss with Customer X about how they compare to Customer Z.
  • Watch the video and decide which areas of the sales model the sales rep needs coaching on to improve performance. 

Using Answer in Order questions

What’s most important versus what’s least important? Quest’s Answer in Order (aka ranking question type) pushes learners to decide. Ranking questions are good ones to use when you want learners to apply judgment to a particular situation based on the specifics of that situation. Here’s an example:

  • Watch the video. Your sales rep mishandles several areas of the sales call. However, you know you have to focus your coaching on one or two areas at a time. Given that, prioritize the coaching needs listed below from most important to least important.

An Answer In Order question can also be useful to verify that learners can recall the correct sequence of action within a process or procedure. For example, if you are verifying that employees understand safety procedures, you may want them to demonstrate recall of the sequence in which emergency steps need to occur. You might craft a question like this:

  • You find your co-worker unconscious in her cubicle. No one is around to help you. Put the following emergency responses into the correct sequence you need to follow.

Creating Question Types in Quest

As part of question creation in Quest, game authors can select which question type they want to create. The default type will be “Multiple Choice,” but authors can click the drop-down next to this option to reveal the other two options.


If you opt to create a Select All That Apply question, you’ll see the screen adjust to allow you to identify which response options a learner should select.


If you select Answer in Order question type, you’ll see that the ranking order is specified as shown below:


Things to know:

  1. You can have a maximum of four items for learners to evaluate in either question type.
  2. You can have as few as two items for either question type, but we recommend that you always have four.
  3. Knowledge Guru’s engine randomizes responses on your behalf each time the learner sees the question. So if learners make a mistake the first time they respond to either of these question types, they will see the response options in a different order when they go back to re-try answering the question.

Knowledge Guru Adds Player Analytics and Reporting Automation


Great things are coming to the Knowledge Guru platform as we head into the second half of 2016. We start things off with the first of two Summer releases. Our June 24th release provides users with three enhancements:

1) Automated Reports

Coaching helps cement knowledge and skills for most of us. With that in mind, we’ve made it easier for learners’ managers to see what their employees are accomplishing within a Knowledge Guru game so they can easily have coaching conversations. When game authors create a new game, they can quickly set up automated delivery of any standard report. They can choose what reports to send, the frequency with which to send the reports (daily, weekly, or monthly), and establish a stop date.


2) Player-Facing Reports

Players have always been able to assess performance by monitoring their score within Knowledge Guru, but now they can get detailed feedback on their performance on each learning objective associated with the game. They can also get a question/answer summary for questions they’ve already encountered in the game. This report makes study and review simple. Here’s the mobile version of the report:



3) Cloning and Converting Capability

Lots of users want to re-purpose an existing game for a different audience. Perhaps 80% of the game content will remain the same, but 20% of it needs to be revised to fit the needs of a new audience. Now, you can easily do this with two clicks. You can also convert games from one game type to the other (Legend to Quest or Quest to Legend).  This task is performed at the system administrator level, not at the game author level. System Administrators access the “Create Game” menu option off of their main menu. They then choose an option from the Clone From drop-down menu as shown in the image below.

Still to Come in 2016

We’ll have a second Summer release in August that provides game authors with two new question types to use in Quest games. Game authors will be able to create Select All That Apply questions as well as a Ranking question that requires learners to put a list into the appropriate order.

Our most significant release will come in November 2016 when we introduce a new reinforcement and coaching app for mobile devices. The biggest pain point for training initiatives is the lack of post-training reinforcement options. Our new offering will provide an effective reinforcement option that requires only minutes/day from users. Users will reinforce and strengthen knowledge and skill via a variety of mini-games they can complete in a few minutes at a time. Users and their managers will receive analytic reports  that help them identify areas where users have:

  • High confidence but low skill.
  • Low confidence and low skill.
  • High skill but low confidence.
  • High confidence and high skill.

Stay in the Know

Want to be the first to hear about Knowledge Guru releases? Subscribe to the Knowledge Guru newsletter at the link below:


BLP Wins 2015 Horizon Awards for Knowledge Guru Mobile and Custom Game-Based Solution


Bottom-Line Performance (BLP) is the proud recipient of two awards in the 2015 Horizon Interactive Awards competition. The prestigious competition receives thousands of entries each year, and only 65% of all entries receive a Gold, Silver, or Bronze distinction for excellence in interactive media. These award-winning solutions build on BLP’s recent success in the Horizon awards: BLP has now won six Horizon Awards since 2013, including two awards for the Knowledge Guru platform.

The Knowledge Guru mobile reinforcement and gaming app earned a Silver designation in Mobile Apps – Education. The new app allows learners to start playing Knowledge Guru on their smartphone and finish on their laptop. Scores and achievements sync seamlessly between the web app and native app version of Knowledge Guru.

“The Horizon Interactive Awards competition has always been about excellent design” said Sharon Boller, President of Bottom-Line Performance. “Winning this award with our Knowledge Guru app is a great honor and reflects the efforts of our product team to bring the full Knowledge Guru experience to mobile devices.”

BLP also won a Bronze Horizon Interactive award for Password Blaster, an arcade-style game that helps Cummins, Inc. employees learn how to create secure passwords. Players must “blast” the bad passwords while letting the good passwords pass by. It is part of a larger Information Asset Protection curriculum design to help Cummins employees protect sensitive information.

“BLP helped develop resources to address and mitigate global threats facing employees, facilities and information assets. They created a multitude of interactive modules that fit within a one-stop-shop Security Toolkit designed to help our employees access and navigate our security resources and learning portals” said Bryan Langley, Global Security Manager at Cummins, Inc. “Their product has been globally acclaimed and we look forward to continuing our future collaboration with them.”

The Horizon Interactive Awards is a prestigious international competition recognizing outstanding achievement among interactive media producers. The competition recognizes and awards the best web sites, videos, online advertising, print media and mobile applications. Each year, the Horizon Interactive Awards receives thousands of entries from all over the world. A panel of industry professionals, from diverse multi-media, graphic design and marketing backgrounds, review the entries to determine the work that is to be recognized.

BLP showcases Knowledge Guru, along with award-winning custom solutions like “Password Blaster,” at the 2016 ATD International Conference. Learn more and register here.

About Bottom-Line Performance

The Knowledge Guru platform is imagined by Bottom-Line Performance, a learning design firm serving a wide range of corporate clients. Since 1995, we’ve helped clients choose the right learning solutions for their learners, while also helping them to design and develop learning tools effectively. Areas of focus include product launches, customer training, internal process training, safety & compliance and more.


Knowledge Guru Adds Smartphone App in 2015 Fall Release


The Fall 2015 release of Knowledge Guru is so small, it fits in your pocket.

What I mean is that we are releasing a new smartphone app for iOS and Android. Learners will be able to play Knowledge Guru games across desktop, tablet and smartphone the week of November 2nd.

Multi-Device Gameplay

Your learners can start playing on their smartphone and finish on their laptop. Scores and achievements sync seamlessly between the web app and native app version of Knowledge Guru.

Seamless Authoring and Analytics

Create one game with the Knowledge Guru authoring tool that players can access across all devices. Achievements and analytics will sync for all players, no matter what device they access

Mobile-First Experience

On-the-go learners will never need to access a computer to play Knowledge Guru. Every interaction and screen has been optimized for the mobile experience.

Push Notifications and Email Alerts

Set up reminders for your players to invite them back into the game and to what they have learned. Players can select between receiving push notifications on their mobile device or email alerts when it is time to come back and play a new topic.

Already a Customer?

We’ve created a Knowledge Base Article with more details for Game Authors and Players to get started:

Getting Started with KGuru Mobile – Game Author & Player QuickStart Guide


Ally, Bottom-Line Performance Win Brandon Hall Excellence Award for Knowledge Guru Game


Bottom-Line Performance and Ally partnered to win a 2015 Brandon Hall Excellence award. The winning submission won a Bronze in Best Use of Games or Simulations for Learning. The game was created and implemented with the Knowledge Guru game-based learning platform.

Knowledge Guru customers use the platform to help employees learn and retain things like product knowledge, policies, procedures and compliance information. Gameplay is linked to learning science so employees retain facts by playing. The platform has won four Brandon Hall Excellence awards since 2014, including two “Gold” distinctions.

“We have continued to advance and evolve our product with customers as our guide,” says BLP President Sharon Boller. “It’s a wonderful thing when a client has tangible success, whether that’s through our Knowledge Guru platform or one of our custom learning solutions.”

The entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group Sr. Analysts and Executive Leadership based upon the following criteria: fit the need, design of the program, functionality, innovation, and overall measurable benefits.

Read about all four of our Brandon Hall 2015 wins on the Bottom-Line Performance website.