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.
In ‘The Motivating-Uncertainty Effect: Uncertainty Increases Resource Investment in the Process of Reward Pursuit’, Shen, Fishbach and Hsee have found that uncertainty is more effective than certainty in boosting motivation towards a goal by creating positive, exciting experiences.
A study used to illustrate this point is the truffle test. Researchers asked a group of 138 students to bid for bags of chocolate truffles. One group were shown a bag containing four truffles, while another weren’t shown the contents but told that the bag either contained two or four truffles. Results found that participants bidded 125% more for the bag with either two or four truffles, than those who were certain they’d get four.
Another study had similarly staggering results. Participants were asked to drink a large amount of water within two minutes. One group was told they’d receive $2 if they completed the task, while another was told that they’d receive either $1 or $2 for completing the task, dependent on a coin toss. Those offered the certain reward completed the task 43% of the time, while the group offered the uncertain reward completed the task 70% of the time.
So, as odd as it may seem, we’re likelier to invest more time, effort, and money in pursuing uncertain rewards, even if they have lower potential value than certain rewards. This is because uncertainty generates excitement.
There are numerous examples of companies already harnessing the power of uncertain rewards. Uncertainly is the fuel that powers social media sites like Facebook and Twitter: users keep posting updates in anticipation of likes, shares, and retweets. It can also be seen in Pret a Manger’s decision to allow staff to give out a limited amount of free hot drinks and food to customers they like or find attractive.
But the power of uncertain rewards isn’t limited to making us squander our time on social media, or part with our cash. The implications for elearning are apparent and the advantages are abundant, not least in that they are inexpensive to put in place.
Building uncertain rewards into elearning needn’t be complicated. Many courses involve the collection of badges, which are awarded upon completion of each module. While this strategy might help keep learners motivated, Shen, Fishbach and Hsee’s findings suggest that it would be more effective to break up this fixed schedule of rewards.
It would be better to respond to learner interactions unexpectedly. For instance, if a course has a resources section with additional content, promote curiosity by rewarding learners when they open certain documents. Because humans crave predictability and seek patterns, even when they don’t exist, this will lead learners to engage more with the content, hoping to receive further rewards for similar behaviour.
Reward interactions also offer the opportunity to inject some humour into the course, or create a change of pace. For inspiration, take a look at the following example from email web app MailChimp.
They use simple, witty GIF animations as rewards throughout the user’s journey.
Understanding what motivates us should be of paramount importance to learning designers, as it allows us to better align our work to how people learn. Finding ways of building uncertain rewards into elearning is something we should all be doing: uncertain rewards increase emotional investment, draw attention towards the process rather than the outcome, increase enjoyment, and motivate people towards achieving their goals. All of these things are the raison d’être of digital learning… or at least they should be.
A recent email campaign from our friends over at Training Industry promises big things from small learning:
“Microlearning is a training method that solves the challenges of aligning and educating organizations in the 21st century. Carefully designed 60- to 90-second lessons deliver content in bite-size pieces to increase learner consumption, retention, and performance gains. In an era of shrinking attention spans and rapid technological change, microlearning is the most effective way for organizations to give their employees the skills they need.”
(If you don’t have time to read this whole article, jump to the summary)
I think the idea of micro-learning is pretty great for learners, for designers, and for stakeholders. And we are big exponents of ‘quick’ here at Saffron. Over the years our typical unit has got shorter, the amount of text on the screen has fallen, the platforms have got snappier, and the devices themselves have got smaller.
This reflects the way the digital environment is changing our brains and it’s no bad thing.
But the radical proposition of replacing everything with “carefully designed 60- to 90-second lessons” is even more alluring. Learners like it because it sounds short. Designers like it because it sounds quick to make. Stakeholders like it because it sounds cheaper.
Last October, it was announced that there are officially more mobile devices than people in the world – over 7.2 billion. “Mobile,” with respect to technology, is summed up in the words “portable” and “personal”. For the new generation of digitally connected workers and students, it means carrying a device which enables you to learn in a new way compared to the old model: just in time and just enough.
So what is driving organisations to adopt a mobile-first learning strategy? Here are five key advantages of the mobile miracle.
1. Convenience and ease of access
mLearning provides easy access to learning at a time and place convenient to learners. Since learners normally have their smartphones or tablets with them most of the time, they can have access to courses or learning tools anytime and anywhere, such as between client meetings, while travelling or waiting.
“The utmost thing is the user experience, to have the most useful experience.”
Slick interactions create a more dynamic elearning course that responds to the user and allows the user to really play and interact with your content instead of just looking at it. HTML5 has come a long way from its predecessors, and with the JS libraries which are currently available it’s time for us to push it to the next level! Below are six ways you can start exploring the full potential of HTML5.
1. SVG – Scalable Vector Graphics
In this cool example they show how to create an interactive infographic with SVG and CSS. This experiment with motion blur effect shows that there are plenty of ways we can bring life into animations with an SVG object.
“To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.”
To turn a good design into a great one is not rocket science – you just have to think outside the box. The box I refer to here is a colossal text panel over a bland image – which is usually what elearning ends up looking like. But there are hundreds of ways to bring a new dimension to your design. Here’s six to try out:
1. Substitute large chunks of text for images that tell a story
Thinking visually, large chunks of text often look dull. Instead, try telling the story using a scrolling, parallax animation. Here’s an example that comes to mind.
There’s been a colossal amount of development in AI research. Last week my colleague Jay wrote about the origins of artificial intelligence (AI) and its application to modern day society. Today I want to talk about its future and highlight some of the challenges that currently prevent AI from becoming mainstream in learning technologies.
In elearning there are undoubtedly benefits to using artificial intelligences which correspond and react to human behaviour. Wherever it may not be possible or desirable to incorporate real people (for example, a mentor who guides you through the introduction to a programme or LMS) is where an artificial intelligence can come into play. A system that learns with the student simultaneously and acts as a peer that can match its own capabilities to that of a human creates just the right level of competition.
Remember that AI has been involved with computer games for decades. By 1950, Alan Turing had invented a software programme to play chess named Turbochamp. There was no computer powerful enough to run the programme at the time, so Turing played games himself by simulating the computer – taking half an hour per move. Finally, in 1997, the hardware caught up with the software. IBM built a computer program, Deep Blue, which beat the world chess champion at what he does best – chess. The involvement of AI in computer games gets us thinking about how it could be used as part of a gamification strategy: a simple AI program could compete with learners in an adaptive way in order to produce a more challenging and addictive elearning experience.
Although artificial intelligence as an independent field of study is relatively new, it has some roots in the distant past. In fact, we could say that it started 2,400 years ago when the Greek philosopher Aristotle invented the concept of logical reasoning! The effort to finalise the language of logic continued with Leibniz and Newton. George Boole developed Boolean algebra in the nineteenth century, which finally led to the base design of computer circuits.
However, the main idea of a thinking machine came from Alan Turing, who developed a hypothetical model for a ‘Turing engine’ that could handle any algorithmic computation, and proposed the Turing test which is still used today to measure the success of artificial intelligences. The term “artificial intelligence” itself was first coined by John McCarthy in 1956.
AI is now known as the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It’s related to the concept of using computers to understand human intelligence, but AI does not have to confine itself to methods that are biologically observable.
Bulk uploading can be an effective way to maintain large sets of users on an LMS when connecting to external databases and self enrolment are not options. This can often be the case in a corporate environment when an LMS is in its early phase of deployment or when HR systems are in the middle of an upgrade.
Moodle provides powerful and flexible bulk user upload and update facility. If you can learn to exploit all of the functionality it removes a lot of the pain from managing users and enrolments. So are you ready to transform your monthly upload from a brain-trauma into a breeze? Try my top ten tips for CSV success.
For consumers and many companies, gone are those days where low bandwidth and connection problems were an issue with accessing the internet. But because of those problems, elearning companies or developers are used to taking the ‘minimum’ approach to visual and animated assets when designing elearning experiences.
At Learning Technologies 2015 we delivered an interactive seminar with IBC, a leading Danish business school, which is shaking up the market for online business education. In partnership with Saffron Interactive, IBC is spearheading the move to offer learners a ‘consumer-technology’ user experience on any device.
When was the last time you spent a day without receiving any performance feedback?
I don’t mean just at work (that was probably quite recently). I mean generally.
Such as: when was the last time you walked down a street with no awareness of how you were affecting other pedestrians, motorists… street furniture? Or how about the last time you received no ‘performance feedback’ at all from a nagging partner about an annoying habit you have? Or the last time someone rolled their eyes instead of chuckling at your particularly dull anecdote and you completely ignored the put-down, and told another boring story? Without the vital impact of performance feedback in the latter two cases you would be a very lonely human. And in the first case, you would more than likely be a very dead one too.
Browser testing has to be a key part of any project process. Everything from IE8 to iPads are now widely used in corporate environments, and, users are beginning to expect multi-device options, meaning that all software is subject to increasingly rigorous browser testing.
Automated testing for web-based applications is a cost-saving tool way which allows us to focus manual testing where it adds the most value. Recently, organisations have started to rely on open source test automation tools (which have now become so advanced they rival the commercial ones) instead of investing in their costly commercial counterparts. With no licensing costs, these open source testing tools provide competitive features for automating the testing of software applications as well as web platforms.
Did you miss Learning Technologies this year? Or perhaps the whole mêlée was so overwhelming that you’re still struggling to process some of the great ideas you saw in action? Either way, there’s no need to worry. Here’s four of our favourite trends and highlights from the event. It’s almost as good as being there, and you needn’t leave the comfort of your desk!
Saffron’s free, interactive seminar with IBC takes place in Theatre 1 at 10.15am on 28 January at the Learning Technologies exhibition.
I like to think that 2015 is the year that most of us realised we were now, in fact, living in the future. As I drunkenly yelled for several hours on New Year’s Eve, 2015 is in fact ‘the future’ of Back To The Future.
Trade shows can be perilous places – sore feet, leaflet overload and worst of all, being sucked into a conversation about the ‘next big thing’ in learning technologies without being able to decipher the sense from the spiel. Here are a few questions you might want to ask to translate the trends into success at this year’s Learning Technologies.
Lists. Often when talking to clients about designing a dashboard for an LMS, we have to gently remind them that ‘at the end of the day, guys, it’s just a list’. A list of courses, a list of action points, a list of statuses or a list of things to do. That’s not a bad thing, as lists are also deeply satisfying things – they are how we throw a hoop around our complex lives so we can sit back and say: ‘that’s under control.’ And as BuzzFeed’s success demonstrates, absolutely any content is immediately more appealing if it’s in a numbered list.
After Christmas’s over-indulgence, self-improvement is most definitely at the top of everyone’s agenda come the New Year. In that spirit, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite learning apps. There’s no excuse not to get learning when these resources are at your fingertips (plus, they’re less taxing than joining a gym)!
Creating a sequel is easier said than done. We’ve seen some software, games and movies losing the plot completely. But, with Storyline 2, Articulate have excelled themselves. Storyline 2 includes new and enhanced features, giving us multiple ways to bring our content to life with more control over how it looks and behaves. The new and enhanced features are exciting but I should warn you: as much as I love it, it runs a little sluggishly.
The 360 assessment tool began life in the Second World War as the German military sought to appraise one another’s performance. Nowadays, it’s not (always) a case of life or death, but the idea of personalising a method of assessment to achieve an impact has remained an important one when it comes to performance management.
With a new office and new website, the past few months have been a busy time for Saffron! To top it all off, we’ve also introduced new brand guidelines. Two of our team members, Sonja Gebetshammer and Carina Weingast, have been charged with updating Saffron’s branding, and they’re here to share their insider knowledge about how they’ve transformed the Saffron brand.
A pictogram, also called pictograph, picto or simply icon, is the most simple and efficient way to convey a message or an idea and has been used throughout civilization – from the prehistoric age, to ancient Egypt, until today. Pictograms have constantly evolved over the centuries. Often they’ve been associated with magic powers, used to convey religious ideas or even been used as a secret code.
When it comes to iconic figures in pedagogy, you can’t deny that Mary Poppins’ learning approaches were well ahead of the curve. Whilst watching Saving Mr Banks last weekend (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it), I realised that there’s plenty we can learn from Mary P’s approach. She knew about everything: from gamified learning, to the endowment principle. This blog post will take a look at a few occasions on which Mary P showed us how a successful learning intervention can be done: Read more
On Tuesday I was invited to attend the Parliamentary launch of a new report which has found that that our failure to fully address perinatal mental health problems carries a total economic and social long-term cost to society of over £8 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK. Of that, £1.7 billion is borne directly by the public sector. It would cost a mere £337 million to raise perinatal mental health care standards to recommended levels.
Having completed my induction at Saffron as the IT Technician/Developer intern, I had a feeling of accomplishment. It can be overwhelming when multiple systems are thrown at you. However, the implementation model we’ve got in place makes new starters feel at ease. Shortly after completing my induction, I was thrust into developing an internal ERP system that the company will use on a day to day basis.
When I started as a new Instructional Designer at Saffron, I had to get my head around an abundance of new ‘systems’ in a short space of time. Of course, I didn’t think of them all as systems at the time, but when I stopped to think about what the word meant, I realised that countless new ones must be learnt and familiarised with whenever you enter a new environment. From working out how to get to work on time every day (still a struggle!), to mastering the various software applications that Saffron use; my cognitive faculties were busy getting to grips with systems all day.
This post is part of a sequence of articles which draw upon a book called the Six Disciplines of Breakthough Learning. This month, I’m exploring one of my favourite chapters: Deliver for application. The most prescient part of this chapter is all about reflection, a key to retention which all too often we do not retain! To understand why it’s so important, we first need to revisit some fundamentals.
Imagine, you’re in an airport and your flight has been delayed for a few hours. You walk around the terminal, go shopping, use the washrooms, get something to eat. You’ve managed to navigate a strange environment and find out all the details about your flight without having to talk to anyone. Who’s helped you out? How have you been able to do this?
Saffron Interactive has been named as ‘one to watch’ on this year’s Learning Portal Companies Watch List. Training Industry has recognised Saffron and its open source LMS, Saffron Grow, as an industry trailblazer amongst a growing list of clients that value innovation and user-impact.
Ruth: “Nick, When do you think you’ll have your proposed blog entry ready?”
Nick: “I’m hoping to be able to sketch you something soon.”
Ruth: “Is ‘something soon’ your target?”
Ruth: “It doesn’t sound all that SMART a target to me.”
Ruth is, of course absolutely spot on; my suggested ‘target’ was neither SMART nor was it smart. You’re probably familiar with the acronym SMART in the context of setting targets – it’s the idea that targets must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely in order to be successful. Using this checklist, you can see that my target was too vague, and therefore bound to fail.
Following on from our webinar last week (you can find the recording here), we wanted to show that improving knowledge management doesn’t always have to cost a great deal of time and money. Here are seven easy-to-implement changes and smart investments you can make to improve knowledge management systems.
Saffron Interactive, creators of innovative learning content and platforms, will be exhibiting at Learning Live 2014 in London this week, returning to the event as a premium sponsor and launching its vision for the future of knowledge management.
Increasingly here at Saffron, we’ve been asked to create courses so that they’re suitable for translation. In today’s globalised business world, working across linguistic borders has become extremely common. This means it’s essential that you remember that any content you’re writing may need to be translated throughout the design process.
Picture the scene – having submitted your work in time to meet a tight deadline, you take a moment to collect your thoughts whilst perusing the very work you’ve just submitted with an air of pride.
This month Saffron Interactive, leading innovator in the digital learning sector, has been re-accredited by the Learning and Performance Institute (formerly the Institute of IT Training) for the sixth year running. The rigorous accreditation process requires that vendors demonstrate consistently excellent performance and give evidence of strategic transformation and innovation.
Who doesn’t like cartoons? Illustrations are designed to break up large amounts of text, introducing fun and laughter into the process. More than any other type of television, I can still remember the cartoons that brought me so much joy as a child.
In April we published our top ten tips for building a learning website in a reasonable timeframe and on a reasonable budget. Well, since then it seems like everyone at Saffron has been hard at work on website building (and not just ‘reasonable’ ones either!), so the logical conclusion was… ten more tips. This time we share some of the secret sauce that goes into a flamin’ hot website so good your audience will want to eat it up!
Recently, England cricket Captain Alastair Cook, came under fire for his ineffectiveness, which was apparently affecting the performance of the other players. But he proved all of them wrong by leading from the front: scoring runs and making tactical field placements in the very next game.
As teachers and other learning professionals will often tell you, imparting information to students is one thing, but to get them to remember and then apply it is a whole different ball game. So how do we achieve this holy grail of learning? It all comes down to the way information is retrieved and processed.
Recently, Toby and I attended the launch of AVA’s Digital Prevention Platform. The AVA Project is an online initiative aiming to keep education and social care workers informed about maintaining good practice when reporting disclosures of Violence against Women and Girls (VAWG).
Saffron Interactive, leading innovators in the learning technology sector, are preparing to unveil their new vision for the future of the enterprise knowledge-base at the 2014 Learning Live show in Bishopsgate from 10-11th September.
Missed Saffron’s free seminar at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum last month? Don’t worry! A full recording, with all the slides, has now been posted.
In a free seminar at tomorrow’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum, Saffron (Stand 20) will ask why we put up with LMS products and content repositories which are ten years behind the sites learners actually use. In their place, the seminar will introduce a radical new model for online learning environments, the Learning Experience Network (LEN), which leverages behavioural principles such as framing, peer comparison and the endowment effect.
2014 is the season of systems training. As we emerge from a period of economic difficulty, companies are finding the confidence to invest in new infrastructure and make acquisitions. This makes systems training a flaming hot topic – and an opportunity for all kinds of training devils to resurface!
More and more often, a website is part of the blend for a successful change campaign. The most obvious example is a learning programme which engages with a wide, public, audience. This will require a place to host elearning which also performs a few other functions: links to resources, news updates and contact details. A website is the logical solution.
In February I reflected on the Learning Technologies Exhibition 2014 with a post called ‘Design the complete experience’. Thinking about the end-to-end learner experience was a major theme of the show, and my title was inspired by the continuing relevance of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning, which was first published in 2006 and republished in 2010. The idea behind this book is to provide a toolkit for learning professionals who want to design programmes that make a genuine business impact, summarised in the six ‘Ds’.
Is 2014 the year gamification can be taken of the ‘to do’ list and put into practice? While it has been a buzzword in the elearning industry for years now, it seems like this year the time has come for gamification to start delivering real benefits for online learning.
In the past year at Saffron we’ve formed key partnerships to extend our graduate scheme to encompass university placements and apprenticeships. It’s part of our commitment to people development and the community, which is recognised by Investors in People. This is a post by Chandni Shantilal, who is completing three months at Saffron as part of an apprenticeship programme, about her experience.
At the heart of any great organisation is its people. It’s by far the greatest asset any business can have and those businesses that choose to ignore their people’s development can only be doomed.
To coincide with Ragnarok, the predicted Viking apocalypse, on 22 February 2014 (along with Viking events up and down the country) Saffron Interactive asked leading members of the learning and development community to tell us what they thought (or hoped) would be wiped out in 2014.