Saffron has been confirmed as the exclusive sponsor of the Champagne Reception at this year’s E-Learning Age Awards. These awards help to drive excellence in our industry and to reward teams that are willing to take risks and go that extra mile in pursuit of engaging, exciting and behaviour changing e-learning programmes. We’ve always been big supporters of the E-Learning Awards so we’re thrilled to be able to sponsor this year’s event.
To find out more about the Awards, please visit the website.
So everyone knows that the best way to get your message across in an e-learning course is to show you mean business and know your stuff by adopting an authoritative, intellectual and formal tone, right? Wrong. People – and your learners are people, after all – learn best when they receive information in a conversational tone, not when they are confronted with fancy grammatical constructions, intimidating legalese and incomprehensible jargon.
Our latest Advance™ article sets out a convincing argument for banishing the business speak and injecting a little life into your e-learning. To find out more about the Advance™ programme and joining the Saffron 100, please click here.
All too often potentially great e-learning courses suffer from poorly thought out questions. The spring issue of Head Light Communications’ newsletter features an article by one of our instructional designers about how to create better, more effective questions that test behavioural choices rather than just factual recall. Click here to read the full article or click here to find out more about Head Light Communications.
Put your hands up if you love learning!
Yes, we all love learning something new, especially when we do it in a just-in-time manner. I’m talking mainly about learning that provides practical instructions for everyday tasks. The ‘show me’ and ‘tell me’ kind of learning. The type of learning you wouldn’t necessarily sign up to a class for, but could very well need at some point in your day to day life or work.
So I ask, how many of you have actually sat through Microsoft PowerPoint’s help wizard function to learn ways of enhancing presentations? Not many, I’m sure. I learnt to use PowerPoint back in high school, with the luxury of spending a whole class session learning how to make various types of animated presentations. But what if time is of the essence? Reassuringly, I now know I have alternatives and discovered ‘smarter’ ways to feed myself with condensed and practical information in a timely manner. Most importantly, these alternatives offer a learning experience I actually enjoy and appreciate. In my case, I have Apple to thank – the iPod has jazzed up my learning.
My iPod Classic (which runs both audio and video files) can virtually teach me, inspire me or at least provide me with tips on anything that my heart desires. How, you ask? Well, through the various podcasts, videocasts and audio books I have downloaded onto my pod. For example, I have been learning how to be a better sales professional by downloading weekly advanced selling techniques casts. I’m sure some of you are silently saying ‘why would you do such a thing – surely it must be mind numbingly boring?’ Simple, I appreciate the value of it to my everyday life!
It’s this immediate and tailored value and the ability to access it wherever and whenever I want to that makes this kind of mobile learning perfect for me, allowing me to absorb the information precisely when I choose to or when I need it. These particular casts are humorous, light hearted and (I stress) to the point, making them ideal to listen to – not only are they informative but I actually enjoy listening to them and look forward to downloading the latest weekly cast. Furthermore, the ‘pain’ of learning is eliminated: I don’t need to read paragraphs of boring sales spiel all I hear are practical day to day examples of certain methods which have worked. It’s more like a friend or a colleague sharing their advice than a formal learning intervention. In my experience, if you appreciate the learning, then the likelihood is you will retain the information relayed and even feel motivated to put it into practice.
Another (more risky) example: if I dared to, I could even learn how to cut my own hair by following professional hair cutting demonstrations shown in a number of video casts. Or, amazingly, I could learn how to create a free website from scratch. Sites like http://www.tinkernut.com /let you download, share and subscribe to all kinds of ‘how to’ videos – the categories range from sharing photo tips all the way through to programming tips; the varieties are endless. http://www.howcast.com/ offers a similar service, where you can also browse through a number of ‘how to’ Wiki guides.
This type of learning works in a more business focused context, too. A financial company recently piloted an audio learning programme, passing out iPods to about 300 employees and creating digital audio training programmes that employees could download and listen to at the gym, at home or during commutes. The pilot feedback was incredible: more than 87% of participating employees said their iPod based training was a worthwhile investment of their time. Now all 32,000 employees download training programmes and podcasts of company related speeches and employee forums.
During last year’s Learning Technologies show, I was exchanging ideas with the Ministry of Defence’s development adviser, and was interested to hear that they were providing simple just-in-time language training to troops out in Iraq. Troops were given iPods loaded with the simple icons to depict certain functional objects or commands along with the Arabic characters and the words written phonetically. Users would scroll through to pick and choose the relevant icons necessary for their communication. Simple and practical! Imagine how this could support foreign aid volunteer workers sent out to various countries on short notice (and that’s just one example of many).
I could go on and on about all the infinite possibilities and ideas for enhancing learning. But for now, there’s a whole host of content out there which can be accessed and downloaded onto your iPods and mp3 players. If you are a business manager and would like to provide refreshing ways of providing learning, training, or simple reference material to your employees, then my advice is this:
- Keep it to the point (only include what is necessary)
- Think of creative ways of delivering the content (is it going to be funny, chatty, scenario based, conversational style etc.?)
- Ask yourself if the medium of delivery is the most appropriate (how long is it, how much information does it contain, should you be considering an alternative medium?)
One thing is for certain – these possibilities offered by my iPod have made me reconsider my view of ‘traditional’ learning principles.
For those of you who would like to learn how to create your own podcast, you can view a video post on YouTube which provides you with step by step instructions for creating and publishing your very own podcast/casts.
…this is a performance improvement strategy.
There’s a lot of talk about blended learning and a lot of hype around leveraging social media to help learning. But in my experience – and by no means am I suggesting that this is always the case – training providers are often still engaged to work on projects that have already been scoped and defined. By the time the client gets us involved, they’ve decided what the business need is, that e-learning is the best way to address it, the drop dead go live date and, of course, the budget.
By this time, it’s really too late to make substantial, effective use of other tools and methods. So often, once we get stuck into the material we realise that actually it lends itself better to an i-Cast course, or once we’ve had the chance to engage with end users we think a combination of e-learning and classroom training would be the most effective route. In principle, the client might be thrilled with these suggestions – until you mention that they’ll need a bit more money or a bit more time.
In these situations, all those great ideas get put on the back burner. Of course, we meet the client requirements, often we exceed their expectations, but so often we aren’t in a position to really add the value we’re capable of adding.
In his recent session on creating a successful technology based learning strategy at the eLearning Network’s ‘Making the case for eLearning’ day, Charles Jennings highlighted manager engagement as a key challenge facing training professionals. The role we can and should be filling is that of consultant – helping managers to identify and address their business needs – rather than that of simple supplier. More often than not a manager’s learning priorities are how it contributes to growth, productivity, transformation and strategy.
One of the most interesting things that came out of the presentation for me was his discussion around who has the biggest impact on improving performance (based on research carried out by Broad and Newstrom in 1992 and 1998). He asked the group who they thought was the most important in terms of improving an individual’s performance following a training intervention: the manager, the training designer or the learner, either before, during or after the intervention.
The result? Roughly a third of the audience thought it was what the manager does afterwards that has the biggest impact. The reality? It’s actually what the manager does before the intervention that has the biggest impact, followed by the training designer before the intervention, and the manager afterwards.
So the person with the biggest influence on improving performance is the manager. So managers need to tell users what’s expected of them, what it’s about, what they are expected to do before, during and after the session, and how they will be measured. And designers need to think about who they are designing for, what their needs are and how the intervention can meet those needs and the business needs.
What I’m asking for then is for clients to recognise the added value that comes from a close relationship between business managers, training providers and users at this early stage. Work with us as consultants – don’t just come to us with a brief. Let us work with you to assess your business needs and training requirements, to develop a plan for the best way to achieve those needs and requirements, to help you maximise your influence by getting that crucial buy in from end users before they sit down to take the training, and to actually measure results and monitor performance afterwards.
In the end, this kind of partnership – buying not just a training programme, but a performance improvement strategy – really does drive the benefits, delivering learning solutions that don’t simply meet an immediate business need, but really do contribute to growth, productivity, transformation and strategy.
Saffron Interactive believes that there is a sure fire formula for ensuring that your e-learning is relevant and engaging: focus on the choices that your people make, every day. We also believe in putting learners back where they belong – at the centre of your e-learning.
We’d like to help you achieve these things in your own learning solutions. Saffron’s one day instructional design for e-learning workshop shows you how to put Saffron’s formula into practice. To find out more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.