The challenge facing instructional designers is always to think of new ways to make our learning courses interesting, engaging and effective. We look at how we can make the best course possible by focusing on the technologies, design, graphics, content and writing style, but what about thinking about a course’s personality?
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’m currently reading a book by writer and consultant John Simmons, Dark Angels: How Writing Releases Creativity At Work, which has got me gripped. As an instructional designer at Saffron, my job involves writing – and lots of it. Every course I write is on a different topic and therefore demands a different style and tone, focused towards a particular audience. My aim is to always write the content, regardless of what it is, in a light, positive and conversational way so as to engage the learners and motivate them to want to take the training. But it can be tricky to strike a balance between making sure the right message is conveyed and trying to banish the business speak and avoid switching the learner off.
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?
It doesn’t take a genius to make a presentation look great. All you need is a set of well designed master slides. Now read on for five top tips to help you get the most out of your master slides.
I hate telling someone I studied languages at university and then having them say ‘ooh, say something in French’. There’s nothing worse than being put on the spot and there’s no surer way to scare all the fancy French words from my head and leave my mind blank. It’s the same with creativity. Inspiration strikes at the most random moments and more often than not eludes you when you most need it – like when you’re racking your brains for a new take on performance management training or trying to come up with a catchy course title. It’s not always easy to be creative on demand, day in, day out.
The recent turmoil in the financial markets and the resulting chaos in all of our businesses have both intensified our desire to be ‘rapid’. We want things faster and cheaper. We want minimal fuss and we just want to get on with it. We’re practical people, we get things done and we want to prove this to the world. Music to the ears of anyone selling a rapid development tool but what about instructional designers (IDs)? Where do they fit in? Pah, I hear you say. Who needs an ID? Our subject matter experts know all there is to know. If we give them a tool that allows them to put their knowledge online, surely this will be better and more authentic than having a third party develop the material? It will certainly be a lot cheaper and faster!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.