Among the latest technology headlines for January 2013: Deloitte Acquires Bersin & Associates, Organizations to Increase Virtual Learning in 2013, Gartner Says 80 Percent of Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives by 2014, MIT Appoints First Director of Digital Learning, Brandon Hall Group Announces Winners of 2012 Excellence in Technology Awards, Many Working Adults Plan to Return to School and Take Online Courses. 

Deloitte Acquires Bersin & Associates 

Deloitte has acquired substantially all of the assets of Oakland, California-based Bersin & Associates, LLC, a provider of research-based membership programs and advisory services in the human resources (HR), talent, and learning market.  

“The rise of globalization, changes in the labor model, shifting workforce dynamics and significant cost pressures are elevating the strategic importance of the HR function among the C-suite,” said Barbara Adachi, national managing director of human capital, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “The acquisition provides our clients with an enhanced portfolio of HR and talent management research, benchmarking, and advisory services to help them address these challenges—all from a single source. Together we can help companies navigate the future direction of HR while adding strategic value to their bottom line.”  

“The talent management market is ripe for innovative and new approaches to help leading companies differentiate themselves in the war for top talent,” said Andrew Vaz, principal and chief innovation officer, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Adding Bersin’s unique portfolio of research-based offerings to Deloitte’s leading Human Capital practice is a game-changing moment that will help our clients unlock the power of tools like analytics to help inform new strategies that will help set the bar for the industry.”  

The Bersin team will remain intact focused on delivering analytics, research, and tools that employers use as a foundation for day-to-day decision making and will operate under the name “Bersin by Deloitte.”  

“Through this acquisition, Bersin will gain dedicated resources to expand into new content areas, globalize our offering, enhance our information services platform, and provide Chief Human Resource Officer-level insights and services,” added Josh Bersin, founder, CEO and president, Bersin & Associates. “We are excited about the combination both firms will bring to help clients manage the spectrum of their talent management needs to serve the workforce of the future.”

Organizations to Increase Virtual Learning in 2013 

ON24 Inc., a webcasting and virtual event services firm, announced the findings of its survey of more than 3,000 registrants of the Virtual Learning Edge, a virtual conference dedicated to virtual learning.

As high as 91 percent of HR and training professionals plan to increase the use of virtual training in 2013, and 33 percent even said they would be increasing use by more than 25 percent. The biggest benefits noted were reduced travel time (83 percent), more convenient (83 percent), more cost effective (79 percent), easier to involve company experts (52 percent), higher participation rates (43 percent) and more consistent training (38 percent).  

ON24 conducts research evaluating virtual training perceptions and adoption on an ongoing basis, and this most recent survey revealed what HR and training professionals think about virtual training, as well as their use of it in 2012 and plans for the future.  

Moreover, the survey found that 81 percent believe compliance training is best suited for a virtual environment, followed by:

  • customer/product training – 64 percent
  • on-boarding – 62 percent
  • administration – 57 percent
  • sales training – 48 percent
  • IT training – 41 percent. 

When asked which characteristics matter most in a virtual trainer, the top answer was effective user of quizzes, polls and social media (88 percent), followed by:  

  • facilitation skills – 83 percent
  • voice inflection – 74 percent
  • good with technology – 69 percent
  • subject matter expertise – 60 percent
  • funny – 50 percent.

The survey was fielded among a broad range of industries, including banking/finance/insurance (19 percent), technology (17 percent) and health care, government and education (each roughly 10 percent).

Gartner Says 80 Percent of Gamified Applications Will Fail to Meet Business Objectives by 2014 

As gamification moves from the leading edge to more widespread use by early adopters, now is the time to understand and evaluate this important trend, according to Gartner, Inc. Gamification is currently being driven by novelty and hype. Gartner predicts that by 2014, 80 percent of current gamified applications will fail to meet business objectives primarily because of poor design. 

“The challenge facing project managers and sponsors responsible for gamification initiatives is the lack of game design talent to apply to gamification projects,” said Brian Burke, research vice president at Gartner. “Poor game design is one of the key failings of many gamified applications today.”  

“The focus is on the obvious game mechanics, such as points, badges and leader boards, rather than the more subtle and more important game design elements, such as balancing competition and collaboration, or defining a meaningful game economy,” Burke said. “As a result, in many cases, organizations are simply counting points, slapping meaningless badges on activities and creating gamified applications that are simply not engaging for the target audience. Some organizations are already beginning to cast off poorly designed gamified applications.”  


Gamification is the use of game design and game mechanics to engage a target audience to change behaviors, learn new skills or engage in innovation. The target audience may be customers, employees or the general public, but first and foremost, they are people with needs and desires who will respond to stimuli. It is important to think of the people in these target audiences as "players" in gamified applications. 

While game mechanics such as points and badges are the hallmarks of gamification, the real challenge is to design player-centric applications that focus on the motivations and rewards that truly engage players more fully. Game mechanics like points, badges and leader boards are simply the tools that implement the underlying engagement models. 

Gamification describes the use of the same design techniques and game mechanics found in all games, but it applies them in non-game contexts including: customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, sustainability and health. Virtually all areas of business could benefit from gamification as it can help to achieve three broad business objectives 1) to change behavior; 2) to develop skills; or 3) to enable innovation. While these objectives are very broad, more opportunities may emerge as the trend matures.  

“As gamification moves from being leveraged by a limited number of leading-edge innovators to becoming more broadly adopted by early adopters, it is important that CIOs and IT leaders understand the underlying principle of gamification and how to apply it within the IT organization,” said Mr. Burke. 

Additional information is available in the Gartner Special Report "Gamification: Engagement Strategies for Business and IT.” 

MIT Appoints First Director of Digital Learning 

Sanjay Sarma, the Fred Fort Flowers and Daniel Fort Flowers Professor of Mechanical Engineering, has been appointed MIT’s first director of digital learning. In his new capacity, Sarma will work closely with the Institute’s faculty, staff, and students to assess how new models of online instruction—such as the edX online-learning platform; MITx, the Institute’s course offerings on that platform; and other online tools that enhance students’ educational experiences—might become integral parts of MIT students’ on-campus education. These tools can also allow global learners access to MIT-quality instructional experiences. 

"As director of digital learning, Professor Sarma will serve as a convener and synthesizer," Reif wrote in his letter to the MIT community. "He will explore, collect and build on the wisdom and experience of individuals and groups across our community, and lead us in shaping a coherent vision. On the subject of blending online learning and residential education, he will also serve as experimenter-in-chief, assessing what is working best in MIT’s current educational model, what we could do more effectively and what kind of changes we should pursue, from the way course content is delivered to the way we shape the campus itself. Throughout, he will work hand in hand with our edX team, led by Professor Anant Agarwal, and our edX partner universities, especially in interpreting the huge flow of edX data about how people learn."

While edX is a vehicle that can be used to teach entire courses online, Sarma will examine how this tool—and others like it—might support parts of courses on campus, augmenting traditional teaching at MIT. For example, professors might use online platforms for certain types of interactive lectures or instruction, freeing up classroom time for experiments, lab work, or further discussion of topics introduced through online instruction. Students could watch such online lectures at their own pace, repeating segments as necessary to boost comprehension.

Additionally, modules covering specific topics could be deployed for use in multiple courses, and experiments with blended uses of online and traditional methods will be explored. MITx will also pilot courses on a newly released “edX edge” platform, intended both for internal deployment of subjects as well as experimental deployment more globally.

Brandon Hall Group Announces Winners of 2012 Excellence in Technology Awards 

Brandon Hall Group, a research and analyst organization, recently announce the winners of the 2012 Brandon Hall Group Excellence in Technology Awards. Now in its 19th year, the program honors winners with more than 70 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in 30 categories. Winners awarded gold awards include  

  • Certpoint Systems for Best Advance in Learning Management Technology
  • Cisco for Best Advance in Performance Support Technology
  • Adobe for Best Advance in Content Authoring Technology
  • Zenler for Best Advance in Gaming or Simulation Technology
  • OnPoint Digital, Inc., for  Best Advance in Mobile Learning Technology
  • InfoPro Learning, Inc., for Best Advance in Social Learning Technology
  • NComputing, Inc., for Best Advance in Technology for Virtual Classroom Training or Conferencing Technology
  • Janison for Best Advance in Technology for Testing or Learning Evaluation. 

Entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group Senior Analysts and Executive Leadership. Rachel Cooke, Chief Operating Office of Brandon Hall Group, Inc. stated, “This year’s entries underwent a rigorous judging process and arriving at a final decision on this year’s award winners was extraordinarily difficult for our judging panel.”  

Evaluations were based on the following criteria:

  • Product: What was the product’s breakthrough innovation?
  • Unique differentiators: What makes the product unique and how does it differ from any competing products?
  • Value proposition: What problem does the product solve and/or what need does this product address?
  • Measurable results: What are the benefits customers can expect to experience as a result of using this product?  

“It is our honor to recognize this year’s award winners, who exemplify the commitment to innovation and excellence that drives growth and over-the-top business results,” said Mike Cooke, Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group, Inc. 

For the complete list of winners, please visit Brandon Hall Group’s Awards Page

Many Working Adults Plan to Return to School and Take Online Courses 

Many Americans have education in their short-term plans and the majority of working adults plan to take an online course to advance their careers, according to a recent survey from University of Phoenix. The report finds that nearly 90 percent of employed Americans believe there is still room to grow in their current careers.  

Forty-one percent of Americans who are not in school full-time said they plan to return to school at some point in the future, with 64 percent of them expecting to do so in the next two years, the survey said. Working adults are even more likely to return to school, as 54 percent said they will head back to school. 

The survey found that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans said they are taking or will take an online class to advance their careers. The desire to take online courses is not limited to the youngest adults, however. In fact, adults between the ages of 25-34 were most likely to say they are taking an online course or plan to in the future (74 percent), followed by those ages 18-24 (63 percent). Fifty-eight percent of adults aged 35-44 said they plan to take an online course, followed by 46 percent of adults aged 45-54 and 21 percent of adults aged 55 or older.  

Americans who are employed are even more likely to take online courses, according to the survey, with 59 percent of working adults saying they are taking such a course or plan to in the future. Of these, 10 percent are taking an online course and more than half (52 percent) intend to do so within in the next 12 to 18 months.