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. Read more
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.
Anyone with access to a mobile device, a newspaper, or even a pair of eyes will be aware of the recent craze, ‘Pokémon GO’ hitting the world by storm over the last two months. The app based game, which incentivises walking outside so that the user can collect Pokémon and grow their collection, peaked with almost 45 million worldwide users in July. So what does this tell us about the future of augmented reality? Or even the future of elearning?
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.
People in Learning and Development love big data, or at least the concept of big data. It’s a perennial fixture of key trend lists, and we’re warned to ignore it at our peril. But there is risk involved in the L&D community viewing the collection of data as an end in and of itself.
In a previous blogpost, I discussed how and where to use video in elearning.
These days, creating video isn’t a demanding task, and there are many tools that can help you film and edit easily. But when it comes to using this video for training purposes, that’s a complete different story: you need to make it exciting, professional and impactful, all at the same time!
Challenging, but certainly not impossible.
It’s essential that your videos truly resonate with your learners, which is why I put together a list of my top five tips on how to take your videos to the next level!
Click. Enter. Double click. Voila!!!
Who would’ve thought that the pace of our daily lives would be dictated by these small words? Everything happens through the click of a mouse (or a touchpad) now, creating shortcuts for everything and everyone. eLearning is no exception to this phenomenon.
But is this evolution producing better outcomes for how we learn, remember and most importantly, for how we apply what we’ve learned?
The era of sitting in-front of a monitor screen, learning click-by-click with traditional elearning courses, will soon be thrown out of the window. Learning by simulation, putting people into a representation of their real working environment, will become the norm.
Virtual technology allows learners the freedom to move freely around an environment, interacting with objects, carrying out tests, making decisions (and mistakes) until they have mastered the learning objectives. Confucius once said about learning “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Virtual technology gives learners the ability to ‘see’ and to ‘do’, helping them remember and understand difficult content.
Looking back at the changes in design can be as painful as looking through your old wardrobe. Just like the questionable fashion choices of our past, some design trends are just a product of their period.
Don’t follow trends just for the sake of it! They may well have been popular techniques for good reason, but make sure it’s in your learners’ interest. I have listed 8 trends I hope not to visit again (optimistically)!
Where do you find your insights at work?
Where do you go to find insights and information at work? A Saffron Interactive survey revealed that people overwhelmingly turned to Google, with the second most popular response being to ‘ask a colleague’. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. Google is instant and easy to use, but provides information from the whole of the internet, making it difficult to filter the most relevant information. In contrast, asking a colleague is instant and contextual, but what happens when a trusted colleague leaves your organisation, and takes with her all of her knowledge and expertise? Read more
Yes, you’ve read that correctly, we can make learning sensational! Although the LMS landscape has evolved considerably over the years, with the introduction of sleeker interfaces and innovative features, there are still systems out there holding out against the change. It’s more important than ever to have a modern and engaging user experience for your LMS. So, let me expand on my formula for making your learning sensational.
Afraid of boring your learners? Try and breathe some life into your LMS with our three innovative methods for personalisation!
At Saffron we recognise that for learning to be engaging, it has to involve a certain degree of challenge. However, learners are often at different stages in their development, so you can’t challenge everyone with the same content. It’s the exact same problem faced by classrooms across the world: how do you structure your learning so that each student is working on the specific content that will suit their competence? In a typical class you’ve got Gregory in one corner who’s struggling to perform simple division and David in the other corner solving complex algebraic equations. How can you engage them both with the same lesson? Do you teach the hard content and risk leaving Gregory behind, or the easier content and bore David to tears? The same thing can often be found in a business context, with staff having different competencies in IT, compliance, process or literacy.
To get around this, you might split people up into separate groups depending on their competence, as is often practised in the classroom. The problem with this, as many of you have probably experienced, is that with such a balancing act even minor differences in competency can cause learners to fall behind or become bored. So, how can you structure your digital ‘classroom’ (your learning platform) to challenge each of your learners when they’re all so different? Here are just a few of our simple innovations that can help:
Here we are again. It’s the first week of the year, back to work we go. 2015 is now behind us, and now we all wonder how we can make the most of this New Year right from the start.
A new year means new challenges. A new year means new projects. And a new year generally brings new resolutions. Hang on… You don’t have one?
Not to worry, we’ll save you some embarrassment. Here are the Top 50 in full. Who says you can’t pick a New Year’s Resolution off the shelf?
But seriously, here are three ready-made ideas to help you start 2016 successfully, and give you a taste of what to look forward to at stand E13 and our seminar at the Learning Technologies in London’s Olympia from 3-4 February!
It’s almost the end of the year. Soon, you’ll be enjoying some down time with your family and friends, and having a break from your manic routine! You really need it, especially as last week, you had the mother of all incidents at your company when someone managed to send a data file of all your customers to your supplier. That was more than a cold shower, given all the time and money you’d spent on your compliance training strategy! And now, you have to find an appropriate solution to cope with the first visible disasters that have arisen, and all before the office closes this Thursday….
If this sounds familiar then I might be rubbing salt in the wound here, but there’s at least three ways you could’ve avoided this.
It’s Monday morning in the busy life of a compliance officer. Fresh off a great Strictly weekend (you still can’t get over Helen’s exit) you are absolutely raring to go, ready to attack the week. As your monstrously slow machine turns on a flood of emails appear. There has been a breach, the mother of all breaches, the Titanic of all breaches. “How has this happened?” you wonder aloud, “we’ve just rolled out a suite of information security elearning!” “We’ve blown most of the compliance budget on these courses” a nearby colleague mutters grimly.
With seemingly a breach every week since October, I’m sure this is a scenario that has played out in many organisations. But the fact is information security is changing.
We’ve been conducting some research at Saffron, intended to investigate the current state of satisfaction for learning management systems (LMS). We’ve surveyed people from various industries, from retail through to financial services – and one solitary but effluent waste management professional. We’ve gleaned fascinating titbits like ’44.5% use an open source LMS’, ‘50% are unsatisfied by the level of gamification/incentivisation in their LMS’ and ‘18% think LMS stands for ‘Lubricated Manure Shovel’’… OK, I might have made that last one up.
MOOCs took the education world by storm. Since the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was launched in 2008, the number of courses and users hasn’t stopped multiplying, mostly due to the fact that they are free to enter.
As a graduate sales and marketing assistant in a digital learning organisation, I couldn’t help but explore the possibilities MOOCs offer to elearning.
In this blog, I don’t aim to list differences between a MOOC platform and a learning management system. Instead, I’d like to share five key MOOC platform elements I’ve identified as being transferrable to drive organisational performance and success in an internal learning management system.
It seems as though it’s all about rapid tools or bespoke development in elearning lately. But defining these terms does not receive the attention it needs and unsurprisingly, their meaning is not undisputed. That’s where my post comes in – I want to shed some light on this.
First off – what exactly is rapid development? Don’t let the terminology fool you, the term ‘rapid’ doesn’t actually describe the whole building process. In fact it refers to the software that is used to create the course. There are several in that category, among which are Adobe Captivate, Lectora or Articulate Storyline, that my colleague Karthik describes in his very insightful blog post. All offer a slightly different user interface and approach to creating a convincing elearning experience; what unites them is the output: a SCORM package in some shape or form which is compatible with most learning management systems.
First things first, just to make sure we avoid any misunderstandings and confusion: What exactly is compliance?
When looking for a definition I consulted the Oxford Dictionaries, which defines compliance as “the state or fact of according with or meeting rules or standards”. Organisationally, compliance is about following a set of rules on a particular area of the business.
Having just left university, and begun my working life, I’ve seen compliance in a completely new setting. In a working environment, compliance stipulates (or should stipulate) the vast majority of decisions we make on a day-to-day basis. These decisions should have direct correlation to the outcome, and the outcome is what matters: it’s directly linked to organisational performance.
Each action performed by each and every employee independently in an organisation impacts overall performance. Non-compliance starts with individuals – and it can stop there too. Do employees need to be constantly warned and bombarded with endless workshops and training to stay compliant? Thankfully, the answer is no.
That’s why building and sustaining a culture of compliance in an organisation is critical.
Four surprising reasons why you need to personalise absolutely everything (and see my session at the ELN conference)!
On 11 November at the exciting and brand new eLearning Network Conference I’m going to be giving a session entitled: “The tyranny of Taylorism and the digital citizen: a manifesto for a brave new kind of learning and performance environment” as part of Stream 1. “Strategy and Tactics for Digital Learning”. It is going to be a belter.
Not just because of my aggressive presentation style, but also because it’s the second session of the morning – just when the audience’s first strong cup of coffee usually kicks in.
My manifesto is directed primarily at a man – F. W. Taylor – who died exactly 100 years ago. His famous theories on manufacturing efficiency are, of course, obsolete, long since replaced by better ones like Kaizen.
But Taylor’s ghost lives on the Human Resources practices that his pseudo-scientific management theory gave birth to. They stopped building cars like Taylor thought we should decades ago. But we still build the kind of learning programmes and learning software he would appreciate.
It’s all summed up in his phrase: “the one best way”: everyone has a separate goal, and there’s one best way to achieve it.
So he wouldn’t like personalisation. Because personalisation requires the opposite: everyone shares the same goal, but there’s no best way to achieve it.
I can’t possibly hope to explain myself without a list of four surprising reasons which miraculously came to me whilst I was putting my slides together.
So here we go with my preview: four reasons why you need to personalise absolutely everything (“everything!?” I hear you cry). Yep, you heard me: everything.
Augmented reality (AR) has been a buzz word for some years, in fact Minority Report already had me hungry for the chance to experience a new digital dimension. Companies like Disney are using static content, a marker and a camera (could be webcam or my personal favourite, a mobile phone camera) to bring content to life and in this example they take sketching to a whole new level!
The marker, which is sometimes called “a target”, can be a barcode or simple series of geometric shapes. When the computer’s AR app or browser plug-in receives the digital information contained in the marker, it begins to execute the code for the augmented reality program. So far, AR has been mainly used in: entertainment, retail, travel, advertising, and social communication.
How best to respond to “We’d like just nuggets, please”?
Am I right to feel a little uneasy when a customer or potential customer (I can’t bring myself to use the ugly term ‘prospect’) says that all they want is ‘just nuggets’?
In the back of my mind there’s a kindly relative asking “Just nuggets, Dear? Really? That doesn’t sound like a nourishing meal to me! “
“Are you sure you’re eating properly?”
written by Paul and Sophie – two sorely afflicted students
Don’t forget to complete our survey on the role of the learning platforms and get a chance to win tickets for the football game between France and England on 17 November 2015 at Wembley Stadium, London
It’s that time of the year again: Thousands over thousands of new students have started University recently, which brings along countless little obstacles they have to overcome. It seems a bit hard to understand that an LMS is one of them. Don’t get us wrong, it is indeed a wonderful platform, as it provides loads of functionalities and enables a fantastic remote workflow. We just want to get the message across that organisations which use an open source software should not take this ‘out-of-the-box’ but instead go for a bespoke version which is customised to their specific needs. This post shows why saving costs at the outset will eventually annoy everybody to no end: students, teachers and most of all IT administrators. So if you are in the position of choosing an LMS for your organisation, please do consider the following five stories, fresh from University:
You’ve been transferred to a foreign branch of your company. You’ve studied the language at school but you haven’t used it in years and you’ve never been to that part of the world. Besides, to comply with local regulations the work procedures are different. Now imagine, it’s your first day in your new role. You walk to your desk, log into the local system and start your work as normal. The phone rings, it’s your local client who wants to amend something on their project. The call isn’t in English but you manage to understand your client and agree on how to implement the changes. After the call, you email your team to inform them of the changes… all of this in the local language.
Well, who wouldn’t want to be? Agile, I mean. Given that there are so many antonyms of ‘agile’, including dull, ignorant, inactive, lazy, lethargic, lifeless, rigid, slow, and for good measure, probably sluggish too.
My background is in software development and traditional IT classroom training on topics including programming and project management. I gained twenty years’ experience as a software team leader and programmer before my involvement in instructional design at Saffron, which commenced about fifteen years ago.
The Instructional Designer role has never been considered particularly cool. But, just like mainstream indie or double roundabouts, the only reason it hasn’t been replaced is that no one’s agreed on a suitable alternative. Come to think of it, it’s pretty hard to pin down exactly what an ID is meant to be doing. Wikipedia quotes Utah State’s University to say that Instructional Designers create “instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” That’s a start, but this kind of definition feels problematic. For example, what’s an ‘instructional experience’? Presumably it’s one that instructs the learner in their topic of choice, but how can this be effective and appealing without the presence of an instructor to breathe life into the words? And why does the definition put such emphasis on efficient acquisition? Surely learners must be able to acquire knowledge at their own pace in order to retain new skills and information in the long term.
To be effective, elearning has to be on a par with the best face-to-face training in its engagement, memorability, and potential for behaviour change. It has to put the learner’s needs at its heart while living up to their employer’s expectations. It has to prove its own worth through creating measurable change. The world is awash with compelling digital media and new generations of professionals have a world of choice at their fingertips. How, then, is elearning going to make an impact? Well, we could lose the Instructional Design title for a start. And let’s face it, the market’s already flooded with alternatives. People are being as creative with their job title as they are in their design. Here are just a few options to pick from. Do any of them apply to what you do?
In an age of simplified, some might say distilled, mobile gaming where simple interactions lead to addictive gameplay (i.e. ‘flappy bird’, ‘angry birds’, anything to do with birds) – businesses and instructional designers have desperately grasped for a mechanic that can transform their learning from mind-numbing compliance into addictive learning gameplay.
For me, however, they seem to be grasping at the wrong mechanics. Scoring and rankings are great, but they require difficulty to become interesting (if Flappy Bird was easy, it would never have caught on). That difficulty is the mechanic through which a user, or a learner, becomes interested in bettering themselves and beating the game. The difficulty in flappy birds is derived from the precision it requires to guide the least aero-dynamically shaped bird in existence through an increasingly complex series of jutting pipes.
No, the answer’s not having a very good lawyer or an alert public relations officer. The rules to the game have changed!
The Environment Agency has grown a sharper pair of teeth. It has recently used its new sentencing powers against a utilities company to make a statement:
- Fines for environmental breaches are now going to be much, much higher…up to a 100% of a company’s pre-tax profits!
- No excuses will be accepted. Companies should allocate means to prevent or fix any environmental issues their business may face, no matter their size or financial situation.
- Self-monitoring and inspection checks are no longer the only means of reporting incidents. The general public has access to a 24/7 hotline.
We’re used to seeing dramatic depictions of corporate misdeeds in Hollywood movies. But usually the focus is more on a black and white moral message than on the mundane reality of business processes. The bad guy gets his comeuppance at the end, but what you don’t get to see is the two thousand page report put together by the regulator. The harsher sentencing guidelines highlight that the consequences for companies getting things wrong aren’t the same as in the movies, but they’re very real nevertheless. Read more
I’ve just finished my placement year of my engineering degree at Saffron Interactive. But my placement journey began not at Saffron, but a while before that. Having been rejected from a few multinational tech organisations (not going to name any names), I felt deflated and so I decided to venture into a different field: elearning.
eLearning was an alien concept – not so much the invention itself, but in the thought process behind it. It felt for me like an after-thought, something that was regurgitated by companies who didn’t have the time or resources to give their workers or learners their full-fledged attention. Instead they could only afford to sit them down and have them interact with a plethora of meaningless multimedia, hoping that the information was actually being transmitted. How wrong I was. Now I feel proud to say I’ve worked in this industry, especially alongside the pioneers of learning technologies.
With my placement year at Saffron coming to an end, I’ve decided to reflect upon my time and articulate seven things that I learnt here as an engineering student.
Nothing can quite disengage me as much as being forced to complete a task, when I can’t see the point of it in the first place.
That’s how I used to feel when I had to wake up early on a Saturday for the dreaded “Spring Clean”. Two things used to bother me about this. Firstly, it was just as likely to happen in November as in April. And secondly, I couldn’t, at the tender age of 7, see the benefit in it for me. Why was I cleaning when I could’ve been playing football, riding my BMX or better still playing even more football?
That’s how I think most people feel about compliance training. Even the word itself removes choice from the equation.
So how then do you engage learners from the outset and throughout? How do you influence a learner to choose to be impacted?
Enter Dale Carnegie. Not literally Dale Carnegie, but his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. The book sets out a framework for people to become better influencers in their workplaces, schools and homes. But why is this relevant?
Life is full of uncertainty. It is something most of us try to avoid and, for centuries, it has long been assumed that humans favour certainty over uncertainty, especially when making decisions. But new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research has thrown up some surprising revelations.