What you want, what you need…

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.

Today I’ve been learning all about different e-learning packages, such as custom-built flash, or projects built with a rapid authoring tool such as Articulate. We use different tools according to what the customer needs – such as their timeframe, duration of the course, and budget, and what the customer wants, such as the content and tone of the project, assessments and animation. It’s with this in mind, that I have written this blog; to discuss the differences between what we want, and what we need when it comes to e-learning projects, and moreover, in business to business relations on a whole.

Finding a balance

When a balance between learning content and gaming, or animation is found, e-learning projects can really take off; the results are both successful for the business, in terms of training and development, and for the learner, who can enjoy the learning experience.

You can compare it at its most basic level, to school: where a teacher incorporates visual simulation and interaction in the classroom, using team building exercises and games such as role play, kids learn an awful lot more, and have a whale of a time in the process. But there are always the few who favour the classic textbook approach: black and white pages, reams of notes, individual isolated study. That’s not what we at Saffron believe that learning is about. As our bespoke e-learning projects show, learning is about engaging, interacting, and learning through doing.

Striking an equilibrium between learning and engaging isn’t easy. And it can be tough for companies to tread that fine line between including the content they require their employees to know, and making sure that this content doesn’t swamp the reader, doesn’t switch them off from learning or destroy the fun that characterises e-learning packages. Sometimes, projects have to expand, to allow for more content without compromising on the interactive experience. Where this isn’t possible, sometimes it is the content which the client must scale down – it’s a very fine line! I guess it comes back to needs and desires, what businesses need their employees to learn in order to improve, or understand, and what they wish they could incorporate into the ultimate e-learning package – with bells on…

In some cases, it is possible to have both – where production timescales, budget and project length are flexible. In other cases, it simply isn’t. It’s about client and provider communicating; it’s about striking that balance.

Looking Back

For a few summers, I worked at the Goodwood Revival event. It’s always held in September, and features some of the most beautiful, and sought after classic cars in the world. Some of the most famous racing car drivers of the past 50 years turn up to battle it out at the three day event, where the winner is awarded with a top notch watch from a world renowned, luxury brand.

Last summer I worked as a supervisor in the private boxes of the said major sponsor. There was no equilibrium to be found here, where ‘no’ was not a word in the dictionary. We delivered different meals at separate times to other guests, but removed it after it was pronounced ‘cold’; we chilled champagne to the very last moment, but couldn’t pour it ‘fast enough’ for the guests.

I cried many a tear, some days. But one day, when the food was returned, we decided to ‘probe’ it, and it was the right temperature. We didn’t remove the food that lunchtime. Nor did we replace the champagne that had been laid out five minutes earlier, but kindly explained that if they wanted to see us pour it, they would have to wait, or trust us to pre-pour 5 minutes before reception arrival. The complaints ceased. The balance was eventually achieved.

All in all, it’s about being realistic: setting clear objectives and achievable goals. It’s about working together to find a balance that works in terms of product – between content and enjoyment, a balance between cost, time and quality and most importantly, a successful relationship between client and provider.

Right. I’d better sign off and start my new assignment – I’m building a new project from scratch in Articulate. And that’s another, very last thing about my job here: With responsibility from day one; I have the opportunity to run with a project, and see it through from start to finish as both a project lead, and a creative designer. Now that really is the perfect balance!