Sun Microsystems recognizes that attracting the next-generation worker in the competitive technology industry is increasingly difficult. To gain competitive advantage, Sun’s Learning Services organization recently implemented an immersive game-based learning solution to help build knowledge and awareness about Sun and its culture. The games can be accessed by all of Sun’s new hires, as well as the general public, via a new collaborative online learning environment.
I sat down with Sun Microsystems Chief Instructional Designer Brandon Carson to discuss this initiative.
Leveckis: What business problem were you trying to solve?
Carson: We compete for the smartest brains, so we want potential new hires to be able to “look under our hood” and see what kind of workplace Sun has. We made the Web site and the learning games publicly available for anyone to access. We also want new hires to come into work on day one armed with as much knowledge about the company as possible. The Web site also allows new employees to log in and review important documents, create their own personal profile pages, connect to other new hires, and comment on and rate existing information.
Leveckis: What are the learning objectives?
Carson: The two most prominent learning objectives around the games were to help our new hires achieve speed to competency before day one. Sun’s culture and work processes are very unique, so we wanted to provide new hires with relevant information as early as we can. We also wanted new hires to understand what businesses we are in, what we share and what our vision, mission and cause is. They get this information while playing the games.
Leveckis: Why did you pick a video game solution?
Carson: We are moving toward more immersive learning environments and thought the audiences would get more value from this modality than from simple presentations. The demographics we are shooting for are more amenable to gaming and expect a different approach when consuming information.
Leveckis: What genres did you pick?
Carson: We created two games to accommodate new employees’ varying levels of video gaming abilities. One of the games, Rise of the Shadow Specters, is an arcade-style platform game that caters to gaming enthusiasts who are comfortable using keystrokes to jump over enemies, dodge lasers and drag obstacles. As learners enter new realms of Sol City (our fictitious environment), they use special powers based on Sun technologies to solve puzzles and progress through the game.
The other game, Dawn of the Shadow Specters, is a classic adventure game geared toward employees who are less familiar with video games. Players explore a vast, futuristic complex, engage in conversations with representatives from each of Sun’s core businesses and solve challenging puzzles.
Leveckis: What results have you achieved?
Carson: So far, we have just begun to release the site and the learning games to our broad audience. The feedback is very positive, and we are beginning to gather more in-depth analytics and measurement of the games’ effectiveness.
Sun Microsystems is now looking to capitalize on these gains and develop more immersive solutions for a broad array of development needs of managers and individual contributors. The challenge is to find the right solutions that easily fit its current technology architecture and standards and still provide the robust gaming solution that next-generation workers expect.