Early last week I suddenly began to feel feverish and aching and suspected I might have been struck down by the dreaded disease of the moment, swine flu. After leaving work early and trying to sleep it off at home I decided that it was pointless waiting for the symptoms to get worse, instead I should call the wonderful government hotline and get an official diagnosis. With my housemates lurking at a safe distance in the next room and my head pounding like a policeman at the door, I dialled the number. After a short wait a young man with a thick Scottish accent answered in a dead-pan voice not dissimilar to that of the man who reads out the shipping reports. I soon realised why – he had the longest list of questions for me and was clearly sick of asking them.
All too often, a systems training course becomes a glorified user manual because it tries to train learners on everything that there is to know about the system! Read on for Saffron’s top five tips for creating great systems training that focuses on what learners need to know.
At Saffron, we are always excited by new technologies which can be used as tools to enhance learning and usability. One of the many interesting projects I am currently involved in is the development of a RIA (rich internet application) product, using Microsoft’s Silverlight platform.
Taking a step closer to British citizenship is an important event in my life. The process of applying for indefinite leave to remain involves taking the Life in the UK test which, if I pass, will supposedly show that I have the necessary grasp of the English language and understanding of UK life that one requires for citizenship.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been shortlisted for the 2009 E-Learning Award for Excellence in the Production of Learning Content – Private Sector. We’re particularly proud of this achievement as only seven entries have been shortlisted out of 24 entries.
I have always been fascinated by the way in which children learn. We know that the majority of children’s learning is done without them even knowing, almost by accident, and this learning is simply part of growing up and watching others around you. You don’t need to sit a child down and teach them the English language or how to walk or talk, for example. Nevertheless, I think that we underestimate the strength of this implicit learning.
Whether they’re for an assessment or part of the training course itself, writing questions can be a tricky business. Read on for Saffron’s top ten tips for creating effective questions that test learners in the right way, on the right thing.
We recognise that often organisations need content that is, on the whole, generic, but with some bespoke elements tailored to the business. The problem with current rapid development tools is that the software development process is sped up, but not the instructional design process.
Many of you may have seen David Carroll’s humorous tirade against United Airlines. Carroll, a Canadian musician, had his guitar damaged by United and although this was upsetting the customer service he received in the following nine months drove him to distraction – United just refused to accept any liability. So he wrote a song, made a video and put it on YouTube. Following over three million hits on YouTube and Mr Carroll’s appearance on all the major news networks, United scrambled to compensate the musician – but it was too late, the damage had been done.
A little while ago I was on the phone and the person on the other end of the line suddenly interrupted conversation to say ‘there’s a man dressed as a blackberry walking around the office.’ At least, that’s what I thought he said. What he actually said was ‘there’s a man dressed as a BlackBerry walking around the office.’ I must be one of the few people in London who still thinks of fruit before phones.
Saffron is proud to announce that we are the first e-learning company to be awarded Learning Technology Accreditation status from the Institute of IT Training.
Another week, another piece of strangely named web terminology to get to grips with. Recently there’s been a lot of talk about “the Cloud”. You may not be familiar with the phrase, but the chances are that you’re already using it.
I’m currently writing a course for a retail client about climate change and this has really made me think about the ‘What’s in it for me?’ question. We always talk about engaging the learner and getting their buy-in, but what do we actually mean? For this course in particular I realised the importance of this because we’ve heard it all before about environmental issues. ‘Because of climate change the polar bears won’t have a home, so remember to turn off your computer every night.’ But do people really care about these things? Well, I’m sure there are some people who genuinely care about the plight of the polar bear but in reality most of us are more concerned with what we’re having for dinner.
We’ve decided it’s time Saffron started tweeting! We’ll be keeping up to date with what the rest of the L&D microblogosphere is thinking and talking about, as well as posting regular updates of what’s on our mind. Click here to follow us!
I recently had the pleasure of working with some of our clients in the USA – a trip which I remember well for two journeys that I experienced. On the way to Heathrow, a young man in his twenties picked me up and no sooner had I got in, he started to tell me how the world was soon going to come to an end. How the government had stolen every opportunity and how he had been robbed of his future. He complained that ‘they’ were all corrupt and the working man was footing the bill. When I asked him what he was doing to make the situation better, he said “I’m just a taxi driver, what can I do?” Needless to say the ‘Welcome to Heathrow’ sign couldn’t come quick enough.
Saffron has been confirmed as one of the sponsors of the Institute of IT Training’s annual conference and exhibition. This annual conference and exhibition, to be held this year on 23 and 24 September 2009 at Chelsea Football Club in London, is aimed at all training professionals and those who need to keep in touch with the latest in improving workplace performance.
A couple of days ago I read with interest Clive Shepherd’s latest blog post in which he refers to his recent experience on the other side of the fence, as a student rather than designer of compliance e-learning. He draws the conclusion that it’s hard – if not impossible – to create something that achieves both competence and compliance. This is a topic we’ve broached before on the Spicy Learning Blog and I admit my thoughts on this are perhaps half-formed (or, more accurately, ever evolving), but I’m not entirely sure I agree with Clive…
I was standing next to a young lady on the tube this morning who was studiously working through a series of questions from a training handbook. She didn’t appear to be experiencing any difficulty with answering the questions; however, I did notice that the first question on the page had remained unanswered. To my surprise she tried to gain my attention by pointing animatedly with her pen. Upon closer observation I saw that she was pointing to the first question on the page and specifically at one word in particular.
My colleague (and fellow contributor to the Spicy Learning Blog) Lucy and I presented at last month’s eLearning Network event on creating effective and engaging learning content. This is a dauntingly vast topic and our biggest challenge was probably stripping down everything we wanted to say to some key messages that might actually prove useful to other delegates (or, at the very least, provide some food for thought). In the end, those key messages were.
Saffron Assure is aimed first and foremost at making regulatory compliance training more efficient, letting your people download and access assessments directly on their BlackBerrys.
If Adobe AIR is something new to you and you’re not familiar with what it has to offer, here are my top five reasons why AIR is great!
As part of the development team at Saffron we see lots of new technologies and frameworks emerging on a weekly basis and it can sometimes be hard to pick out which of these new offerings will be the one that you want to experiment with next, but since the launch of the Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) we’ve been itching for the right project to come along that will allow us to get our toes wet and create an application for the desktop. For us, that project was our Assessment Workbench tool that had recently been made available to download on our website.
On 8 May, two of our people spoke at the eLearning Network event about creating effective and engaging learning content. We talked about how important it is to give people an excellent first impression of e-learning, and how to go about getting it right first time. We then looked at what good learning content really looks like – how do you create something that’s engaging, relevant and effective? And finally – because we at Saffron don’t believe in settling for ‘good’ – we considered what you can do to turn something good into something great. Our presentation slides can be downloaded here.
There are many examples that I could put forward relating to my title ‘learning on the go’ – such as the time I was ruthlessly knocked off my bike by a BMW. I won’t bore you with the details as most people who know me will have switched off by now, thinking that I’m going to try and drum up sympathy votes. Suffice to say that what I have learnt from my accident is that if you are going to get run over then it’s best done at the start of the week in the morning (as opposed to Friday evening), but more importantly I’ve learnt that you should always wear a helmet and never second guess what other people are thinking.
e-Learning design is about serious stuff like transforming information into a format that really teaches people and helps them to retain it. Building effective interfaces and graphical representations for this purpose involves a good dose of dealing with content and data. But this doesn’t mean your design has to be dull and serious. The end learner wants to be engaged and so do you.
I have been thinking more and more lately about the general economic conditions we are working in, and what businesses need to be doing to survive and thrive in today’s changing and challenging environment. We hear a lot about the importance of being agile but what does this really mean and why is it so critically important?
When you’re creating an e-learning course, where do you start? You might begin by creating the overall theme or concept. The ‘look and feel’ and design mock ups are probably developed fairly early on. You write your storyboard content and this leads on to decisions about functionality and technology. Soon after this you might select your voiceover artists or video actors.
A few months ago, intrigued as to what all the fuss was about, I signed up to Twitter to find out why on earth it appeared to be taking over our lives and taking up countless newspaper columns. Since then, its popularity certainly hasn’t died down and recently, even more celebrities have been tweeting, whether it’s Barack Obama drumming up support for his election campaign, Oprah sending her first Tweet live on air or Demi Moore expressing her love for Britain’s Got Talent’s singing sensation Susan Boyle. There definitely seems to be a link between Twitter and recognition, reputation or status – it was a clever move of Obama’s to exploit it for publicity purposes and no doubt Demi’s declaration of appreciation for the surprise star increased YouTube’s hits on the video of that particular episode and therefore the singer’s popularity. And it works both ways: the traffic to Twitter increased by 43% thanks to thousands of viewers watching Oprah become hooked right before their very eyes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is little doubt that the ‘chatter’ surrounding m-learning is increasing in volume. Learning and development people are intrigued (and a little frightened) by the thought, business managers love the idea of training taking place during ‘dead’ time and learners see the undoubted value of training that can be accessed whenever they need it. Some of the chatter is hype but businesses ignore the potential value of m-learning at their peril.
In conjunction with the people behind Red Nose Day, Saffron Interactive developed a fun and challenging online game to raise money for Comic Relief. Our Brain Game proved to be a great success with countless people playing everyday, testing their reactions and observation skills, and vying for the top score!
Here at Saffron we’ve been interested in the concept of Mobile Learning, or m-learning, for some time. Ever since mobile devices began to offer more than just Tetris and telephone calls there has been a growing eagerness amongst us, and the rest of the industry, to utilise this new medium as much as possible for the purposes of learning.
Whilst attending the Learning Technologies Show in January, one particular statement grabbed my attention. According to Dr. Itiel, former senior lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Southampton, on average, 70-80% of information that people “learn”, they will forget after 24 hours. So, for all of us who create learning courses, we really do have a tough job on our hands to ensure that participants remember the learning points for longer than a day!
It’s true, the very best learning includes a large dose of ‘involve me’, of user interaction—but it’s so easy to overdose. A classic example is systems training. In its early years, it involved a virtual coach describing the system’s features and navigation while you were required to stare at the screen and follow an animated cursor around as it magically clicked, double-clicked, right-clicked and hovered over various things on the screen, supposedly simulating ‘real life’. If that was real life…
Everything in life is about learning. From the moment our eyes open in the morning to the moment we close them at night our brains are taking in information. There’s some craziness that happens while we are asleep (especially after a late night cheesy snack) but I’m not really sure what I learned the other night by dreaming about being chased by a big dog with Les Dawson’s face whilst crawling through treacle with no trousers on. At least I hope that was a dream.
We at Saffron have put on our Red Noses and have blended the challenge of learning with the thrill of competition. We’ve designed and developed an online game to test your reactions and observation skills.
The Chinese are full of words of wisdom and I’ve come across a proverb (in a promotional freebie booklet from Pret, as it happens) that seems particularly relevant to what we do here at Saffron.
Twitter this, twitter that; it’s all we ever hear about at the moment. It seems the whole world is ‘tweeting’, from Stephen Fry to Barack Obama. So, never one to miss out on an opportunity to enhance my social life, I thought I’d see what all the fuss is about.
As someone who composes music in their spare time I often come up against a wall of creative choice when starting a new composition. I could write a piece of music for any instrument, at any speed or any style, based in a major or minor key or even in multiple keys, and I find myself overwhelmed by the endless possibilities. This often results in me getting 24 bars into a new composition for full symphony orchestra plus rock band and wondering whether I could add in an opera singer, two Indian sitars and a tabla. It’s then that I realise I have got side-tracked by the abundant possibilities and my composition has lost all direction, focus and meaning.
Let’s talk telephone training. I’d bet money that right now you’re already sceptical, perhaps stifling a yawn, and imagining a robo-voice monotonously explaining the finer points of some policy, procedure or legislation.
What do you understand by “proof of learning”? For many organisations it seems to mean one or both of the following.
Far be it from me to question one of the greatest writers our country has produced, but I’m not entirely sure I agree with Shakespeare’s declaration (via Juliet) that “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
“It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one’s hat keeps blowing off.” -Woody Allen
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.”
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities.