“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900–1944)
So you don’t believe me when I say that design is more about taking elements away than adding new ones? Try taking a look at the evolution of the Starbucks logo. The concept of ‘less is more’ may be a little clichéd, but you can see how powerful it is here: the simple, clean image is instantly recognisable and familiar; nothing is extraneous.
Having been raised in a household of oral storytelling, stories have been in my life blood since the day I could understand language and narrative. Being able to explore human behaviour and cultural differences through stories has always fascinated me. So when I listened to a webinar involving Pat Kenny, a national e-learning manager from the Health Service Executive, that discussed using storytelling in e-learning it, it made me think.
Have you ever wondered why the US produces so many radical innovators like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Google duo Larry Page and Sergey Brin and why Germany produces expert business builders like the Samwer brothers? Or why people in the UK and the US tend to go to university or college to study general subjects like English, Economics, Engineering or the coveted MBA whereas people in Germany tend to study industry specific subjects like Technology, Education and Nursing at Germany’s professional universities? Have you considered how employment law might influence your employees’ incentives to develop skills that are relevant to your business? And what effect might this have on the type of products and services that these countries deliver as well as their capacity to innovate?
Over the last few years there can be no argument that e-learning has come on an awful long way. What started off in many cases as animated PowerPoints has evolved to courses that include animations, branching scenarios, video and in some cases incorporates gaming mechanics and social drivers to increase user engagement.
What does innovation in e-learning really mean anymore? Is it merely a buzzword, just like all restaurant cuisine is ‘authentic and made from fresh produce’ all e-learning is ‘engaging, interactive and innovative’?
e-Learning designers face many of the same challenges as designers of classroom training – they’re aspiring to a learning experience which is relevant, motivates, incentivises and inspires learners to change or improve certain behaviours or attitudes.
This year, the Learning at Work Day theme is ‘Learning for Growth’. The constant availability of mobile learning already makes it ideal for self-development, but are you making the most of this medium?
When we take a look at compliance training, we often try to “justify” the learning to the reluctant user by listing the all of the empirical stuff that provides the context for the business case. “Data protection is important for us at Compuglobal Hypermeganet because in <insert recent year> there were <insert massive figure> breaches of data for our industry resulting in <insert inordinately large amount of money> in fines.” And yeah, it serves a purpose, to a point. Examples like this are an attempt at what we like to describe as a “war story” – using the worst case scenario to illustrate what a breach in compliance means.
As the approver-in-chief of our blog is an Arsenal fan, I’m unsure that this entry will ever make it on to our website, but here it goes anyway.
In the last few weeks at Saffron Interactive there has been a lot of talk about gamification. For those that attended the recent Learning Technologies Exhibition you may have have seen one of our seminars debating the pro’s and cons of looking to videogames to provide an example for increasing engagement in L&D. We have also developed a new mobile assessment game based on the Bribery Act. This lead to a lot of interest and also a lot of questions on what makes something an example of gamification and what practical steps can we take to bring this increasingly popular theory into the training mix?
I’ll start with a shameless plug: Learning Technologies 2012, conference and exhibition, takes place on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th of this month at Olympia – and I’d love you to come and visit us on stand 33. We’ve brought together our ideas on serious games, learning on-the-move and assessment into a single engaging mobile app. If you haven’t yet registered for the exhibition, you can do so for free here: http://www.learningtechnologies.co.uk/register-now/.
Looking back on last year, it seems that 2011 saw the English usage debate heat up, with plain English advocators angling their bayonets against the mountain of corporate jargon that permeates the modern workplace. And as an e-learning supplier, this is a matter close to Saffron’s heart.
It’s the office Christmas party and everyone’s taking their seats at the table. Who would you rather sit next to, the rather dull colleague in the lovely dress or the one with the great stories who you really get on with? An e-learning course’s ‘look’ is important… but its ‘personality’ is paramount.
Does a good-looking course qualify as good quality? What about an ordinary course that brings about great behavioural change? I’m sure the argument can be extended to both sides. But my argument is to take the middle-path (very Buddha-like indeed, except I see no chance of Nirvana!).
Some say you’ve got to take the good with the bad, and I guess that’s the theme of today’s blog. I’ve recently been working on a couple of courses in Articulate, a rapid authoring tool in which you can build professional online instruction and interactions such as multi-response, in Engage, Presenter and Quizmaker. From colour schemes on hotspots and drag and drop tabs, to personalised individual feedback on multi-choice quizzes, Articulate allows you to tailor every course to your needs, and for that, it’s brilliant. But every fairytale has its trials, and with its hidden file settings and disobedient applications, Articulate is no exception. ‘Simple’ interactions have sprouted several problematic gremlins in my courses – gremlins with a deft ability to escape a number of computers and baffle the developer. So with that in mind, here it is: a quick-fire review of Articulate – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!
Next time that you go to a business presentation, stop for a moment and take a look at how many people are typing away on smartphones or tablets whilst the speaker is talking. Is this evidence of a more active listener contribution and a higher level of efficiency, or of a short attention span? I’d suggest that this phenomenon isn’t because people are distracted by new technology, but instead that the audience participation in the group business presentation is changing. In my opinion, three of the main technologies responsible are:
- Smart Phones
What do we mean when we talk about assessment in the context of e-learning? Too often, I’d suggest, we mean the test at the end of an online course. Perhaps we’ll call it a ‘quiz’ in the hope of making it more palatable for the learner, but all that does, I suspect, is make the learner feel still more patronised. The purpose of such a test is to determine whether the learner has, or has not passed the course.
Instructional design day one!
So today is my first day at Saffron as an Instructional Designer. Having worked part-time as a supply teacher whilst studying, and coming to the end of an MA in Creative Writing, I wanted to try my hand at working in a business environment, whilst not leaving behind the things I enjoy; landing a position as an ID at Saffron has struck the perfect balance. Here I have the opportunity to continue doing the things I love, whilst gaining experience both in business, and e-learning.
This is a report back from my first day working at Saffron Interactive. Apologies for the short delay, but you’ll understand that I have been very busy for the last month! In an exciting start to my Saffron career I spent my first day attending the Learning and Skills Group (LSG) conference at Olympia – a great way to be introduced to the world of e-learning.
That’s English composer Cornelius Cardew’s title, not mine. It’s also the title of a Confucian text, as translated by Ezra Pound, the first chapter of which Cardew uses within his composition of the same name. It begins as follows:
What The Great Learning teaches is – to illustrate illustrious virtue; to renovate the people; and to rest in the highest excellence.
Inspiration can come from the strangest places. Personally, I think that Jeff Wayne’s musical masterpiece War of the Worlds is a perfect model for effective e-learning. Bear with me on this one…
By the end of this blog you will:
- Know what a learning objective is and why you need to write them.
- Understand why it’s so important to write learning objectives.
- Be able to write good learning objectives.
e-Learning, and the discussions around it, tends to polarise people. Nobody really sits on the fence – broadly speaking, they are for it (normally, those with a keen sense of the cost of training) or they are against it (those who believe in traditional pedagogy).
I have often seen courses where the learner has to read information in a popup on clicking a button. This click appears with its associated learner instruction and at times is just ornamentation on the screen. If this happens too frequently in a course, the learner starts responding in almost ‘Pavlov-esque’ fashion: a conditioned reflex (okay, so it was the dog and not Pavlov that responded, but you see my point!). The course is no longer entertaining and certainly not engaging. However by definition you could say it is interactive!
Someone came onto our stand at the Learning Technologies the other week and asked, ‘OK, so you people at Saffron know social learning. What about anti-social learning?’ That intriguingly sly question got me thinking about what our role is in facilitating learning in our customers’ organisations: what exactly is it that we be should aiming to design and implement?
Imagine that a group of people each have a box with something in it. Let’s call it a ‘beetle.’ No one can look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says they know what a beetle is only by looking at their beetle. It would be possible that everyone has something different in their box. Maybe the box is even empty.
Mantras such as ‘check, check and check again’ are often bandied around in the workplace, but what can we do to make sure our QA of everything we roll out is 100 per cent foolproof?
What is the Multiple Intelligences theory?
For the most part, it’s common sense! Penned by Howard Gardener in 1983, the theory describes what those of us who went to school already knew: Different people learn in different ways.
Western fonts and typefaces fall into one of two identifiable categories; either they have small features at the end of strokes to distinguish each character, or they don’t. Serif fonts (or “Roman” fonts) are the ones with the swishes, and sans serif typefaces are the ones that don’t. Put simply, Times New Roman is a serif font; Arial is sans serif.
Rapid development. One of those fairly nondescript-seeming phrases you might see anywhere on an agenda at pretty much any company in the City. For those of us who work in e-learning, though, it’s a bit of a buzzword (or should I say buzzphrase?). Semantics aside, these days it’s all about delivering the same quality at half the price and twice the speed.
First impressions count, so it’s important that an induction programme is effective. We work with our clients to find out how their current induction programme can be improved. Businesses often have trouble making sure a comprehensive induction to the company is completed in a new starter’s first few days, and once a new starter is no longer new it can be difficult to deliver an effective induction – they may have already made up their mind about the company!
How often do you learn something new? And I mean completely new – something you’ve never heard of before or perhaps something you’ve never tried. What’s the process that you go through to learn this new knowledge or skill?
Clarity and legibility are essential in e-learning. Here are Saffron’s top tips on how to use some of the basic principles of typography not only to achieve legibility but also to bring interest and energy to your e-learning projects.
We at Saffron don’t like to pigeon hole ourselves as simply training providers. Yes, we design and develop e-learning, but we do a whole lot more than that too. We’re all about performance improvement and people productivity, and there are more ways to achieve those things than training alone.
I was interested to see that Skype has recently announced a partnership with LG and Panasonic, which means we will soon be able to buy a TV which we can use to Skype and browse the internet (find out more here). Promoting this new technology Skype’s business development manager, Jin Kim claimed that, “TVs have lacked two things to date… eyes and ears” because “they haven’t had cameras and they haven’t had microphones.” This led me to wonder… does e-learning also lack eyes and ears?
We English like nothing more than a bit of bad weather. It gives us something to talk about. We discuss it in the lift, in the bus queue and on the train. Bad weather is probably the only time that it’s acceptable for the English to talk to strangers!
Imagine a fully immersive virtual environment created for a safety training product, for example. If this environment is presented to the learner using techniques similar to those used to create a game’s 3D environment, would they not find the experience closer to the real situation and would it not leave a more lasting impression?
Creating original graphics for an e-learning course can be a challenging task, particularly when anything that’s created has to comply with strict branding guidelines. An engaging graphic environment is essential for an interesting and successful learning experience. Read on for our top five tips for achieving this.
We are all eager for fresh and creative ideas to make our courses innovative, effective and engaging for the end user. But we can’t simply rely on random activities, chance or some creative ‘greater providence’ though. It is actually a solid and well structured approach that we need in order to generate and flourish brilliant ideas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…