Winter is here. The long dark wait for the next season of Game of Thrones has begun. This break from the action allows me time to ponder a question that I’ve been asking myself for a while now. What exactly makes it one of the most popular TV shows in the world?
The Game of Thrones Season 7 finale set another ratings high with 16.5 million viewers of the live airing alone, and this insane popularity shows no sign of abating. George R.R. Martin’s best-selling book series, ably brought to life by HBO, has been compelling enough to capture the hearts and minds of people around the world. In the digital age, it may just be the most streamed and downloaded TV series of them all. Not bad for a fantasy epic set in a magical medieval kingdom.
But what have dragons and drama got to do with elearning? How might we take the elements that make it such a phenomenon and use them to make learning that’s just as popularly consumed? After all, using pop culture in learning can have tangible benefits.
It’s accepted wisdom now, at least in enlightened circles, that a learning or content management system needs to have the learner’s user journey and experiential needs at the forefront of their minds. At the basic level, every platform should ensure users can easily navigate and interact with the system and, in the age of the social LMS, with each other. But let’s look at 10 ways to use heuristic evaluation to make that user experience so smooth that learners will just keep coming back for more.
If they’re not getting the right training, that is. If you’re not developing your team properly, they’re 12 times more likely to leave. And if they leave, good luck replacing them, as the chance to learn new skills and grow professionally is the #1 driver for talent to join an organisation.
That 40% is a frightening number. Yet it’s easy for those of us in the learning and development community to become complacent and think it couldn’t possibly apply to our organisation, given how much of our time is taken up by delivering training. However, two out of every five employers have provided no training at all within the last twelve months, and for the three out of the five that have, plenty of it isn’t hitting the mark.
This deficiency in learning provision not only reduces productivity and efficiency, it also disengages employees, leaving them feeling both stranded and uninspired. In the worst cases, they can become a drain on others’ time by requiring frequent guidance, or just stop trying to develop entirely.
How can we, as learning professionals, remedy this disengagement stemming from insufficient or inadequate learning opportunities? The truth is that for learning to be truly effective, you can’t just put your learners through a formal training session and send them off into to the workplace, to be dragged back in in another six months.
Over the last few decades, HR has been afflicted by bad press. Labelled with questionable misnomers like “human remains,” it’s suffered from employees and board members’ lack of faith in its:
- Business acumen
- Financial capability
- Global perspective
- Customer focus
In short, it’s not been perceived as adding value to an organisation, but rather as a cost. Sweeping changes to the world of work in the near future will mean this perception needs to be changed, but how can it be?
I was lucky enough to have really cool teachers at school – you know, the type who taught game theory using the bar scene from A Beautiful Mind, or aspects of US government systems using episodes of The West Wing, or Freud’s idea of the Return of the Repressed using the opening episode of the 2nd series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Making a connection between whatever you were learning about and the big TV shows of the day, a classic film, or a national sport would instantly attract the full attention of us pupils and automatically attribute a degree of Awesome to the teacher. Suddenly something we already cared about was relevant to the lesson; so of course we were going to be more engaged, pay more attention and be more likely to recall that lesson. They were using pop culture in learning.
Now that the final version of iOS 11 is available to download complete with ARKit capabilities, the app store is overflowing with AR apps to explore. Apps such as Ikea Place have been spearheading the flood of AR puzzles, games and tools making their way onto consumer phones across the globe in the last few months.
As much as I’m excited by the prospect of adding random AR GIFs to my surroundings, the sparkle of some of the more frivolous apps will begin to wear off very quickly. Once AR fever dies down, we’ll be left asking an important question: what value does AR add to an experience?
Whether designing websites or learning experiences, one of the issues a developer needs to consider is accessibility. This means being able to design content that can be consumed by as large a target audience as possible, including those with any form of sensory impairment. A key feature that is often overlooked when striving for accessible design is colour selection, and how the eyes perceive these colours. This article will take a look at how to properly use accessible colour design whilst keeping your design vibrant.
“You don’t have to be an Ad to work here, but it helps” — how Strategic HR will be the new Don Drapers
As HR moves from the operational to the strategic there are going to be changes.
HR is now responsible not only for the operational needs of payroll, reward and recruitment, but also for growing the greater brand culture.
Culture is of course all-important from a compliance perspective. From Travis Kalanick at Uber to Trafigura dumping toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, movements fail not because the controls were too lax but because the value culture was absent amongst the worker population. Likewise, I would say that for compliance breaches, reporting and process failures are not entirely due to ignorance, but because employees don’t feel responsible. You can’t police every infraction. You’re going to need strategic methods of improving compliance.
Things move fast in the artificial intelligence sphere. With Elon Musk and other AI influencers calling for a ban on automated deathbots, and an AI bot created by his own start up, OpenAI, now able to beat humans at complex games, a distant future of sentient robots doesn’t actually seem that distant at all. But how could these developments be harnessed to improve organisational or individual performance? Let’s take a look at some of the potential uses of AI in learning to find out.
We’ve previously covered some of AI’s potential applications in the learning sphere, and its limitations, considering whether AI could ever replace the blood, sweat, and tears of a human instructional designer. With the pace of change increasing rapidly, however, there are some steps which AI may well be taking into the learning environment very soon.
Modern slavery is still a huge ongoing global issue, with 20 to 30 million people still estimated to be enslaved in 161 countries worldwide, and 20 new suspected victims found in the UK just this morning.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires all businesses with a turnover of over £36 million to publish a statement setting out the steps they have taken, during each financial year, to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place anywhere in their supply chains and in any part of their own business.
It’s a small step towards greater regulatory control and awareness of modern slavery. However, the current issue with modern slavery reporting is twofold. Firstly, added documentation is often used as a salve for insufficient understanding resulting in additional paperwork being created, but little impact on-the-ground. Secondly, accountability tends to be pushed down the supply chain, with confirmation of good practice being asked of the next in the chain until we reach those with no interest in acting honestly, or who simply don’t care.
Learning could address both these issues of understanding and passing the blame, but it isn’t being used to do so. Here’s how it can, and why it should.
The expectation amongst modern employees is that work equals learning. Indeed, learning and development opportunities now rank more highly in graduate employment priorities than salary, according to EY. EY’s head of student recruitment, Julie Stanbridge, stated “we are seeing moves away from structured classroom-based seminars and Powerpoint slides to on-the-job learning in dynamic teams, and through working collaboratively on projects.”
This fits with the prevalent 70:20:10 model, as explained here by Charles Jennings, its biggest proponent, and further explored in his Insight article for us on the subject (coincidentally, I’ve just spotted Charles in our London office). Without getting too hung up on the exact ratio, the idea of the model is that learning and development takes place in three main areas. Only a small proportion (the 10) of this is through structured, prescribed learning. Of greater importance is the 20, representing the time spent learning from others, through mentoring and coaching. Finally, there is the 70, the on-the-job aspect where the learner’s everyday experiences constantly guide their learning.
We’ve talked a lot recently about the understated importance of user experience (UX) in learning, and how to improve it. But it’s not just learning or web design UX that are important to our everyday lives. In fact, the user experiences that have the biggest effect on us are physical user experiences.
What do I mean? Well, it’s any off-screen experience, from a trip to a shopping centre to navigating a hospital. Your commute, your grocery shopping, your evening meal at a restaurant… all of these are user experiences that have been designed, and so can be improved, as can our learning.
Our last blog discussed how to take your learning UX and UI to the next level. This week, we’re going to take a slight diversion from the learning sphere to an area that we all experience as a user at some point or another – the web. Increasingly, though, we’re becoming not just web content consumers but also creators. It’s easier than ever for the user to become the designer, with a multitude of cutting edge web and app UI and UX design tools available to make that transition happen effortlessly. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best.
We believe the employee engagement dilemma to be so pressing that last month we held a conference, Engage Change, to bring together a host of Heads of Learning, Talent, Engagement and Change to discuss strategies of how to tackle the problem head on. If you doubt the gravity of the issue, then look at these statistics and consider what that means for the world economy in an increasingly digital age. One of the key factors that allows an organisation to remain agile and respond to disruptive technologies whilst still growing is having a high employee engagement rate. Employees themselves, and millennials in particular, cite learning and development opportunities within an organisation as ranking higher than pay in keeping them engaged. So the burden of responsibility falls upon L&D departments to rekindle that engagement. But does this mean sweeping changes within an organisation? Here are 3 key employee engagement misconceptions our conference dispelled.
Can you think back to the most powerful learning experience you’ve ever had? Was there a class that you always looked forward to?
Mine was a class at university, not exceptional in its content but transformative because of the teaching methods used by the professor. He skillfully used the flipped classroom methodology to reach the promised land of education: it made me realise the unknown unknowns, the blind spots I never knew I had.
These experiences initiate deep learning moments, a rush of hormones that have us wanting to come back for more. In education, they have us diligently preparing for classes and continuing animated conversations long after they’re over. At work, quality learning re-ignites our excitement for what we do, energising and empowering us to create, think and do. In other words, it engages us.
Alright, so it’s been well over a year now since we all started to hear whispers of a revolution within the digital dimension. I think it’s safe to say that we’re not quite at the point where we can celebrate some sort of VR Bastille day just yet. But let’s look at what we already know about VR learning, and where it’s going.
As Egle mentioned in her recent blog, much like gamification before it, VR and AR is in vogue at the moment. Her hesitancy to jump on the virtual bandwagon is valid, but I want to take this opportunity to make the case for why VR is here to stay (and why it’s going to take over).
All organisations are governed by processes and procedures that appear crucial at first glance. Some are officially part of company procedure, and others simply become intrinsic over time from being the “done thing.” But just how valuable are they when given a deeper examination? In fact, most organisations could benefit from shedding extraneous tasks and undergoing a lean process transformation, making sure processes increase value rather than just expanding time and effort. L&D departments are no exception. Read more
‘All hail the kale’ was a big craze on the health food scene a year or so ago. Incidentally, that was the first thing that I thought of when I saw all the VR and AR banners at the Learning Technologies 2017 show a few weeks back.
Virtual Reality seems to have finally arrived and as learning designers we’re tempted to buy into its promise of effortless learner engagement and, let’s be honest, an opportunity to play around with the gadgets ourselves!
As a teenager I applied for a job as a cashier at a major high-street pharmacy. The first round of assessment, with compliance in mind, was an online quiz on good practices and ethics. We had thirty statements and had to give a true or false answer to each. One of the statements was:
True or false: “It is always wrong to steal.”
Quite a stupid question to offer a generation that grew up on Aladdin!
And so, within minutes of interacting with an employer I was being trained to lie to them. Rather ironic for a test designed to ensure quality of character. In comparison, I applied for a similar position at a popular British department store. They had an excellent test that put you on the shop floor with day-in-the-life challenges. I tried to follow the same line and rightly failed. Their ethics test was good, it filtered for dishonesty and heartlessness.
And yet, even as good Instructional Designers, we all too easily fall into the trap of writing compliance interactions like this:
One of my Saffron colleagues wrote a blog last year, Musings on my performance appraisal, in which he considered how he could build time into his day for reflection on improving business performance. Well, his blog did part of its job, getting me thinking – well, reflecting to be more accurate – on the power of reflection. One reflection led to another and then to this blog, where I’m exploring the impact reflection can have on learning.
Reflection is a search for connections, a way of linking and constructing meaning from our learning and experiences that encourages the creation of insights and even wisdom. Reflection links a current experience to previous learnings. This involves drawing upon cognitive and emotional downloads from a variety of sources including visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile, as well as intuition. Reflection creates self-knowledge; it helps us take responsibility for our own learning and development; it is a tool for continuous improvement.
Many of us, after what seems like weeks of eating, drinking and being merry will vow to start the year with a healthy new outlook. Resolutions to ‘cut out wine’, ‘eat more veg’ and ‘start jogging’ will be flying around. Many of these will have been given up on, if not completely forgotten, by January 15th.
So I’m here to make 2017 the year that you stick to at least one resolution, because I’ve got some really great, easy ones for you to put on the list. I give you –
Emily’s Learning Resolutions
The movie Avatar is on TV again, but in 2009, when it was released, did you subject yourself to the 2 hours and 42 minutes because you thought you were one of the few who hadn’t seen it? And do you try to avoid the ‘free taster’ stands in supermarkets because you can’t trust yourself not to buy something from them afterwards? And don’t even get me started on the stampedes caused by a rare Pokémon appearing in Hyde Park…
I have a friend called Ed. He is smart, alert and doesn’t try too hard to be funny. Separate to this, he is a Reinsurance Analyst. No-one knows what a Reinsurance Analyst is, few care to find out. This creates a quandary because he likes his job, it’s interesting and he wants to talk about it. But it’s hard, because there are few ways to sell Reinsurance analysis without trying too hard to be funny. Few listen.
OK, so it wasn’t so much mine but more ours. I sat down recently to review Saffron’s achievements with our independent accreditor and it was two hours of reflection on probably 2000 hours of my effort. That’s quite something to review, relive, and almost certainly a time to renew. Renew my commitment to improvement, acknowledge achievements and reassign priorities.
To anyone who doubts the great pace of human accomplishment, I give you this anecdote: I had to spend a bank holiday reading the works of a 16th century French philosopher to impress a Welsh girl.
It’s 7:05, you left the house two minutes late, struggled with your keys in the door and have just got to the end of the road to see your bus heading towards the bus stop at a startling rate. You have two options here – your survival instincts kick in – it’s fight or flight time. Instead of waiting for the next bus and risking being late for work you choose the latter. You set yourself the target, “if I can get there in the next six seconds, I will make it and the rest of my day can run to plan.” So you run, legs flailing and briefcase akimbo, feet pounding the concrete. You see the queue of people lessen and you know that any second now that plastic door will shut and your dreams will hit a harsh reality. But no! The adrenaline pumps through your body and pushes you just that little bit faster and you slam your hand out just in time. You made it! The driver laughs, your fellow passengers woop and applaud. As you make your way down the centre aisle, school children, ladies with prams and pensioners high five you and congratulate you on your achievement. Well…not quite, but it feels pretty good to set short term goals and achieve them doesn’t it?
I wanted to mark the start of season 2 of the hit TV show Mr. Robot with this blog post. The show is a gripping drama following a young programmer named Elliot who works as a cyber-security engineer by day and a vigilante hacker by night. Aside from the many awards the show has won lately including Best Television Series at the Golden Globes, what has really impressed me is the level of realism of the hacking techniques used in the show. This is a fresh change from the usual inaccuracies you see in hacking and computer scenes in Hollywood, often painful to watch for a technical professional.
So what is simulation?
Simulation in elearning is a fully immersive experience in which real-life situations are replicated to interact with the learner. A good use of simulations thrusts the learner into a scenario and grip them enough to absorb and learn by doing. This is a rapidly growing trend in elearning and one that Saffron have been talking about forever! But it appears to have suddenly made resurgence as the need for ‘engagement’ in learning becomes more essential. It’s an exciting concept for a graphic designer. Executed well, simulations in learning provide learners with intuitive interactions, premium videography and fully immersive communication. A great example of simulation elearning has been recently created by the Resuscitation Council UK. The ‘Life-saver’ simulation aims to spread knowledge on CPR to the general public. The outcome is compelling, intriguing and educational all rolled into one. Yep it’s what every creative team within elearning strive for… So how has this been achieved? Keep reading!
So for those of you who’ve been living on one of Saturn’s moons for the last 12 years, World of Warcraft (or WoW for the indoctrinated) is what’s known as an MMORPG or Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (you can see why they abbreviated it, although it is quite fun to say it phonetically, go on, try it!)
Muhmorepuhguhs…ahem, excuse me, MMORPG’s have been around for about 20-25 years or so in various incarnations but WoW was the first one to really find a global audience, at one point boasting over 12 million subscribers! Keep following as I’ll get to the CV and learning bit soon…
Thesis v1: Bespoke elearning will never be produced by robots. Artificial intelligence is simply not going to replace the blood, sweat and tears of instructional designers, graphic designers, developers and project managers.
And when it does, we will find other things for them to do.
Let me explain. An algorithm can put text and pictures together and format them. An algorithm can assemble meaningful questions from raw content. In other words, an algorithm can probably do what a bad instructional designer or a bad elearning developer can do.
But the algorithm cannot choose the best picture. The algorithm cannot devise the right question. It cannot do what a good instructional designer can do. And as soon as it can, the good instructional designer will go one better.
I’m being deliberately contradictory. And this blog post is not the place to solve the conundrum of what endows a digital object with value. But I suspect it’s human effort, not software.
‘This time, Nigel,’ Vivienne insisted, ‘we want some different and special and not the same old, same old that we can get from any other elearning provider.’ Michael, a senior manager at the same management consultancy was equally demanding: ‘When it comes to the test, for heaven’s sake don’t call it a “quiz” (which sounds as though it’s something trivial, we need to test their ability to apply what they’ve learnt and not simply to repeat phrases from Schwab’s The Fourth Industrial Revolution.) We need consultants in the field who can do so much more than simply talk the talk – that’s the added value that our clients are paying for.’
It’s that time of year again, you know, when at the top of your inbox is an all staff communication reminding you to put time aside to prepare for a career development conversation with your manager. The question is, do you:
1. Get annoyed at the thought of yet another item for your ‘to do’ list
2. Get cynical about how ‘valuable’ your last one was
3. Dread the thought of having to think about where you’re going in your career
How important are questions when delivering learning content? Do they really help to make the learner feel engaged? And does the learner really sit there and answer these questions in their head? Well, you can probably answer that based on how you responded to the last three!
Our traditional conception of pedagogy presumes that after a certain point, people no longer require instruction. We go to school, then to college, then to university, some do further training in a specialism. After that, we’re thrown out into the world to get on with the rest of our lives. In his talk ‘The Difference between Coaching and Teaching,’ Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande explained that elite athletes flatly reject this model. They believe it’s naïve, and that few people can maintain their best possible performance by themselves. For instance, upon being ranked world number one in 2011, Novak Djokovic didn’t sack his coach. In fact, he probably gave him a raise.
As this summer of sport approaches, with Euro 2016 kicking off in Paris tonight and the Olympics in Rio less than two months away, I wanted to investigate the impact that good teamwork (and good team management) can have on performance; in sports as in business.
The role of a manager or head coach in football is an odd one. At times underplayed, when critics praise the individual talents or work ethic of their players, and often oversold, when eulogising moments of tactical brilliance or lucky substitutions. What impact can a manager truly have on their players? Are they just impotent spectators on the side-lines, or are they the puppet-masters, orchestrating the action we see on the pitch?
Virtual reality (VR) has been talked about so frequently, both in and out of the learning industry that it seems to have lost its buzz. For a technology that would offer gamers, and now learners, the chance to experience a scenario first hand, the hype around it seems to have run itself into the ground.
In this day and age people have so many choices about even the most basic of things — what to do, what to eat, what to read. So with all this choice only a click away, why would anyone waste their time on a product that was inaccurate, broken or that didn’t function intuitively? For a learner who might have little interest in a piece of elearning in the first place, problems with the software or copy might disengage them forever!
How confident would you be in the learning outcomes of a course if it has spelling mistakes, alignment issues, or is not branded correctly? Would you still be interested enough to go through the course? This sounds extreme doesn’t it? But there’s plenty of web copy that I’ve seen that shows that attention to detail and consistency is sadly missing.
Being a quality assurance analyst it goes without saying that delivering quality and frankly, respecting the learner, is my passion, but it’s also critical to the end outcome and effectiveness of a course. Perhaps a change to the way you assure your work can help put this aspect of course development at the heart of it rather than as an afterthought.
These three tips will help with this:
Gone are the days of the LMS as a platform with rigid, static architecture! In the past, it evolved with a singular focus: to be used for the efficient distribution and tracking of learning content. This limited focus has meant the traditional LMS has struggled to adapt to the new demands placed on it by administrators and learners (as we have looked at in our recent white paper): new functionality on an older system often seems like it is ‘bolted-on’ or an afterthought.
Thankfully, in the wake of recent coding technology and a veritable revolution in web application design, a new generation of LMS has already started to become more responsive, and is finally fulfilling the all-important role of helping administrators align training to their organisation’s strategy.
So are you planning a system that dances to the music of the future, or are you about to saddle up a dinosaur? Here is my take on the top key features of the next generation.