Goals: Skylab Learning aims to support English language learning and development of basic skills for adults in the workforce, while minimizing time spent away from the job.
Approach: Programs combine mobile games, online resources, and in-person discussion groups to integrate relevant vocabulary (both basic and industry specific) that supports English language learning. Skylab offers three program options (6, 12, 18 weeks long) that companies can choose from depending on the role of their employees (from internal support staff to customer-facing roles). The programs incorporate the use of three mobile games of increasing difficulty with face-to-face discussion groups that provide employees with opportunities to practice what they have learned. As of summer 2014 the games are focused on adults working in the industries of food service, hospitality, retail and healthcare.
Implementation: When Skylab Learning sets up a relationship with a company, they discuss learning goals and decide upon any customizations for the program. The basic structure of the games is standard, but the learning modules, instructional group sessions, and vocabulary sets (including texts and symbols) can be customized.
Pricing: User licenses range from from $49-$99 per user depending on the breadth and depth of the program. Additional fees for setup, implementation, and customization depend on how much a company’s HR department wants to be involved vs. a turnkey solution (see below).
Who is Using It: As of summer 2014, Skylab’s Skypass program is being used by Boston-based Flour Bakery and Cafe to support 40 employees in English language learning.
Skylab Learning designs game-based learning experiences that support English language development for adults in the workforce, particularly those in food service, hospitality, retail, and healthcare. Their mission is to support employees in their jobs, help companies develop their employees and open up larger economic opportunities for under-skilled employees.
Skylab Learning aims to minimize the time employees are away from their jobs, by leveraging the personal time they spend on their mobile devices. The company’s approach is to introduce the games during in-person group sessions and to offer opportunities for employees to play the games on their own time over the course of 6-weeks, 12-weeks or 18-week programs. These games support reading, writing, listening and speaking and helps build both general and industry-specific language.
The Skypass Program
The Skypass game-based learning program is used by companies to support employees in English language learning. The program can be 6, 12, or 18 weeks long, including weekly instructional group sessions that are 1-2 hours in length. These sessions can be facilitated by Skylab Learning or by the company. The games can be used on laptops, tablets and mobile phones enabling employees to play on their own time at home or while commuting.
As of summer 2014, the Skypass game-based learning program includes three games for English language learning in the workforce: Star Gaze, Wave Crunch, and Code Breaker. The games are focused on four industries: food service, hospitality, retail and healthcare. They are designed to be played over the course of 6-weeks, 12-weeks or 18-weeks, depending on the needs and preferences of the company.
The 6, 12, or 18 week sessions involve a combination of gameplay, mission logs, and weekly instructional group sessions that can be facilitated by individuals hired by Skylab or by the company. It is suggested that English Language Learners play the games for at least 2-3 hours a week. They can use their mission log to review words and phrases they have encountered in their games, practice sentence construction and develop “word clouds” for related vocabulary.
Instructional group sessions are generally 1-2 hours per week and offer team members opportunities to converse, engage and write with their colleagues. The sessions typically include a brief discussion around a language concept or skill, followed by instruction through peer-to-peer interactions such as interviews or role-playing business interactions. This is followed by a real-time game experience that occurs in-person to to provide employees with a social, collaborative, and sometimes even competitive game environment.
Rather than traditional curriculum modules, each game is designed around missions. Team members can move through the missions independently or along with their group. The missions increase in difficulty so that players can progress through various levels. During workplace instructional group sessions, advanced English Language Learners are encouraged to coach their peers. Each learner has a mission log, which stores all of the words and phrases the player has been exposed to in the games. The mission log also includes a list of external resources called the “Toolkit.” The toolkit includes Google Translate, Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary, ESL videos on YouTube, and more.
All team members have the Skypass dashboard, which provides access to games, missions, profile information, and scoreboards so that they can track their progress and even go back and review all of the words and phrases they have used. They can also compare their scores with others through the leader board.
Skylab has also more recently added what it calls a "Test Flight" sequence that lets companies try out the program for up to 25 employees. The Test Flight package includes an on-site six-week introductory instructional program with a three-month games license.
The games that are available currently are called Star Gaze, Wave Crunch, and Code Breaker. They are built upon a database of high frequency, general vocabulary words, as well as industry-specific vocabulary sets. The content is presented in the form of text, audio, and visual symbols. Each game has 50 levels and is designed to be short enough to play while standing in a line or waiting for a bus. As the levels increase, the words become more challenging and more industry-specific. The games are most frequently accessed through mobile phones and tablets.
When Skylab Learning sets up a relationship with a company, they discuss learning goals and ensure that the missions are aligned to the company’s goals. They also discuss and decide upon any customizations for the program. The basic structure of the games is standard, but the learning path (or mission path) can vary per industry and company. There are templates for 6, 12, and 18 week programs, and the modules can also be reconfigured to meet the needs of a particular client. The weekly instructional group sessions can also be customized. In addition, Skylab Learning can add new vocabulary sets, including text and symbols, with ease, particularly in Wave Crunch.
Business Model and Pricing
Skylab Learning games are available for purchase by companies looking to support their employees in English language learning. For companies looking to run the program using their own trainers, pricing is based on a license per user in addition to setup and training fees. Skylab Learning also provides onsite instructional and implementation services. Pricing for these services varies as it is based on the number of employees participating in the program and the length of the program.
Licenses start at $49 per user for industry-specific programs (Ex: food services). A license for the full program gets you access to content sets for all available industries (Ex: food services, hospitality, and retail) and is $99 per user.
Setup and implementation fees range from $10,000-$30,000 depending on how much support a company would like from Skylab. There are also optional customizations (with additional fees) for content integrations, further onsite training and optional evaluation administration.
Throughout the program, employers get weekly progress reports as well as access to a variety of data reports including total amount of time played, what levels their employees have reached and when each employee is playing a game.
Who is Using It
As of summer 2014, Skylab’s 6-week Skypass program is being used by Boston-based Flour Bakery and Cafe to support 40 employees in English language learning. Skylab Learning designed six modules (one per week) that are aligned to Flour Bakery and Cafe’s goals as a company. The modules are: greetings, people/objects, directions, food and menus, personal needs and teamwork.
More Information on Skylab's Games
Skills Covered: Star Gaze helps learners strengthen and build vocabulary by matching audio to texts and symbols. It supports listening and reading.
How To Play: A series of connected hexagons appear. Players tap one hexagon and listen for a word. To the left of the screen there is a scrolling list of words and to the right, there is a scrolling list of symbols. Players match the word they hear to the text or symbol that represents it. When a player is correct, the hexagon lights up. When a player gets three connected hexagons to light up, the trio of hexagons disappears and uncovers an surprise image, which is typically something familiar, perhaps from their company or industry. Images can be customized.
Skills Covered: Wave Crunch helps learners develop listening skills and vocabulary development by offering practice with sentence construction.
How to Play: A player clicks the microphone icon to listen to a sentence. A bank of words and symbols appears. The player must recreate the sentence by selecting the correct words and symbols and placing them sequentially. A player can click the microphone icon to hear the sentence as many times as they wish. Once a player has recreated the sentence successfully, a green light appears and they hit “Go” to move to the next sentence. Each level includes a series of five sentences. The sentences are industry specific, and can be customized to meet the needs of a specific company.
Skills Covered: Code Breaker is the most advanced game. It helps learners develop vocabulary in context by having the player engage in word identification exercises.
How to Play: A player listens to a series of pre-recorded audio clues and reads text hints. Then, the player guesses the word based on the clues and hints that have been presented. In some instances, a field of three options will appear so that the player can choose the correct word.
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