A Gamified, Applied Fiction Solution for a High Stakes Problem
Leaders and managers in the utility industry find themselves wrestling with a challenging learning problem: In response to the threat of cyber-attacks by hackers and terrorists against our nation’s power grid, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) requires utilities to comply with a sweeping set of new cyber-security standards. FERC needs utilities to take these standards seriously, so violations of these Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) standards are costly, with fines of up to $1,000,000 per day per incident for the period of non-compliance.
To equip employees to support these standards, utilities have struggled with effective training programs since the material is naturally disengaging for employees – the Standards are long, written in legal language, and not what employees signed up for entering their profession. Whether delivered by training professionals or through home-grown slide decks, CIP training always falls into the same pattern—it’s boring, difficult to understand, and disengaging.
One utility paid a training company to spend an entire week reviewing the CIP Standards with employees and the result was a step back for the company. Employees were frustrated, ill-equipped, and unable to perform their duties. This utility suffered 7 self-reports, 2 violations, a very poor onsite audit, and 3 audit findings in the two years following the training.
eLearning Brothers took our vision and executed on it to meet aggressive timeline and the result is an eLearning product unlike any other. Everyone knows eLearning Brothers makes good training. What most don’t know is that they can build a game engine, do crazy advanced stuff, and bring other people’s ideas to life. The solution that eLearning Brothers constructed fully met our goals as we transitioned from our live events to an eLearning-based system.
With the guiding principle that people learn best when immersed in a story that teaches why a concept—like CIP—is important, MetaMythic knew this problem was solvable. When partnered with eLearning Brothers’ visual explosiveness abilities and innovative focus on building an engine to bring it all together, nothing less than awesomeness was the outcome.
MetaMythic’s story immerses learners in a story that connects them with the importance of the CIP Standards—protecting America’s utility infrastructure—by giving a face to the threat and a create a fun learning environment. The premise? The CIP Standards were secretly created by the government to help utilities thwart a pending robot invasion from outer space. The robots have advance forces already operating on Earth to disable and sabotage our power grid before the fleet arrives. No power = no defense.
The government created the CIP standards to empower utilities to protect their facilities from these robot attacks. The trainee becomes a recruit in the defense of Earth, chooses a call-sign, learns the backstory, and must learn CIP to defend their utility and ultimately Earth. MetaMythic also created a guide named CTANLEE (“Stan-lee”) who engages, supports, and encourages the learner along their journey.
To connect the recruit with the physical facilities they protect in the real world, the learner builds and customizes a virtual facility with defenses based on the CIP standards. In this simulator, recruits see the real impact of a robot cyber-attacks against their facility, add CIP defenses to protect the facility, and then re-run the cyber-attacks to see how the defenses work.
Role Specific Acknowledgement
After each chapter, customers add specific duties for their employees. These duties take the general concepts taught in the training and apply them to different employee roles. For example, the chapter may teach the reason CIP requires door security systems, while the duty section teaches that MondoPower Company uses badge readers for their system.
The product captures all valuable data: duration, quiz answers, user choices, and more. Leadership can use learn about their employee base. Scores identify learners who may need targeted follow-up after the training. Scores and decision data identify topics to be strengthened and employees who need one-on-one follow-up.
The final solution, the “CIP Defender” e-learning program, consists of 5 episodes with 2-3 chapters each that follow the “watch attack”-“build defense”-“watch defense” pattern. At the beginning of each section, the recruit watches an animated robotic attack on their fictional facility through the CIP Defender simulator. After witnessing the attack, the recruit then learns the CIP concept that is used to protect against these attacks. Recruits are given three options to implement a CIP defense. These range from serious to humorous, but all successfully meet the requirement. The recruit then watches the attack thwarted by the CIP defense they just installed.
For this project, Metamythic (the client) provided the vision, content, story, and methodology for the course. eLearning Brothers partnered with Metamythic to provide:
- Animation – bringing the characters to life in a way that made the story believable and personable
- Development – building a one-of-a-kind training engine that tied the story, simulator, quizzing, and animation sequences together, while allowing Metamythic to customize the content per customer
- Simulator – as part of the ELB engine, we added one of the only – if not the only – cyber-security facility simulator in the world that truly allows the learner to play a game: defending the facility from attack
The first 1200 recruits to go through the training indicated an 83% positive response on engagement.
Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning
Gold, 2016 “Best Advance in Custom Content”
Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning
Silver, 2016 “Best Advance in Compliance Training”
Learning Technologies Award
Bronze, 2016 “Best Use of Learning Technologies to Ensure Compliance”