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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.