Archive for July, 2009

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.

There’s obviously a message here for the big corporate machine: the customer now has the power to expose poor customer service and shoddy business practice. There is also a message here for us L&D professionals. Our customers, the learners, are being exposed to a multitude of technologies at a frightening pace. They get a customer service message from Mr Carroll’s YouTube video, they get information and help on their BlackBerry or iPhone, they network using LinkedIn and they participate in online seminars from home and in the office. We have to embrace the changes and make sure that these technologies are embedded in our learning strategies. We need to break away from the traditional one hour course and leverage the power and the resources that are available to us and all around us.

A recent example is a client of ours who wanted help with a product that their sales people were reluctant to sell. The common view was that the product was too difficult to sell and it was too disruptive for the clients. Our customers asked us to build a one hour course that taught the benefits of the product. After some analysis, we realised that the sales people already understood the benefits but were not motivated to take a risk and try to sell a product that was perceived to be ‘difficult’. We knew we could build a course no impact. So we suggested a competition. We asked all the sales teams around the globe to video their best and worst experiences of selling the product in question. The teams were told that there would be a prize for the winning team and that the best videos would be shown at the global sales conference. We were inundated with videos – some shaky productions created on mobile phones and others that looked like a professional video crew was involved. The videos were made available on a YouTube style website, on various intranet sites and via mobile phones. The result was a learning intervention that was genuine and added real value to the learners. Not a course but a resource that the sales teams could relate to.

As L&D professionals we need to think differently, beyond the course. Otherwise we may find our business partners on YouTube singing ‘L&D, some help you are!’

We all want our e-learning to be a positive experience for the learner and deliver results for the business. Here are Saffron’s top ten tips for delivering engaging, effective, excellent instructional design every time.

1. Set testable, behavioural learning outcomes

Before you start designing the course, make sure you understand what you want the learners to be able to do by the end of the course. Do you really want them just to understand something, or do you want them to take action?

2. Put yourself in the learners’ shoes

At the start of the project, ask yourself what the learners already know about the subject and what questions they are likely to have. Then make sure you answer those questions in the training.

3. Emulate the best in classroom training

Great classroom training is often down to two key things – shared experiences and human interaction. Apply these lessons to your e-learning: use case studies or testimonials from real life, and build up a dialogue with your learner.

4. Remember: content is king

All good training is interactive – most people will switch off if they’re just reading, or listening, not actually doing anything. But make sure the interactions are driven by the content, not the other way around.

5. Use technology to enhance (not define) your solution

Likewise, there are near endless possibilities offered by technology these days and they really can turn something good into something great, but don’t let them define your solution – the strategy, not the technology, should drive the design.

6. Include scenarios to demonstrate relevance

The best way to change behaviours is to use scenarios that put the learners in a realistic situation. Ask them to make a decision, identify a problem or suggest a solution – this way, you’re equipping them to do the right thing in real life.

7. Test and tell, don’t tell and test

The model of telling someone something and testing them on it shortly afterwards tests memory, not understanding. It’s more effective to ask learners to think for themselves and draw on their own experiences to reach the right answer.

8. Make it easy for learners

No matter how engaging the content or innovative the design, if the course can’t be navigated easily or if it’s not accessible, you’ll give your learners a negative experience.

9. Speak the learners’ language

You’re designing a training course, not an instructional manual. Strike a conversational tone and speak in plain English – you’re much more likely to engage your learners than if you take a formal tone or use lots of legal or business jargon.

10. Get a second opinion

It’s hard to be objective when you’re the one who’s written the content. Before declaring your storyboards finished, ask a colleague or friend to take a look. Their first impression will give you a good idea of how learners will react later.


Top ten tips for excellent instructional design

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.

The Learning Technology Accreditation is designed for companies that provide communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching, and assessment. The programme covers more than e-learning, extending to generic content, tools, infrastructure and development.

We’ve long been supporters of the Institute, which has played a key role in raising standards in the industry, and we’re proud to be part of this new accreditation programme.

To find out more about this news, please visit this page.

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.

In broad terms the Cloud refers to the Internet in general. The name apparently derives from the squiggly cumulus type design used to represent the Internet on network diagrams or system plans. The concept of a cloud has more importance than that though. It also represents the idea that the user can’t, or doesn’t need to see the inner workings of what’s on the web. The technical details are obscured in the fog. All they need to know is that it’s “in the Cloud”.

So what does this mean in practice? A good example of an application that exists in the Cloud is web mail. Where do you keep your emails? In the past you’d probably have an application installed on your PC where you’d write and store your emails. Now, it’s more likely that this will be done completely online. Not only are your emails kept online, (meaning that they can be accessed from anywhere) but the application has also disappeared. You don’t have to install anything on your PC, so you don’t need to worry about disk space or system specification – you just need to be able to access the Internet, or rather the Cloud. And, as a user, you don’t need to worry about where everything’s kept or how it works – you can just get on with using it. Suppliers of these kinds of online applications tend to refer to them as Software as a Service (SaaS), referring to the fact that the software is no longer an object you own, but rather a service that comes bundled with support, hosting, and unlimited access.

From a business point of view, the Cloud also makes a lot of sense. If the applications your employees use are now completely online, you can drasticaly reduce server space, PC specifications and IT support, among other things. You can also scale quickly and easily; if you need to make an application available to more users, you don’t need to install more software – you just buy more licenses to the service. If an employee leaves, then you can cancel their license and the cost is gone. For example, the client relationship application Sales Force has been an industry leader in this SaaS approach with great success and millions of users world wide. The ubiquity of the information held within the system, the fact that no software or hosting is needed by the user and the fact that other applications (such as iPhone apps) can easily link into the service have all lead to the success of Sales Force. In particular, SaaS is especially liked by small to medium size businesses that may not have the infrastructure to support a locally hosted alternative.

So how does this effect e-learning? In many ways e-learning is well suited to this approach. LMSs are, in a way, an example of SaaS, or the similar PaaS (Platform as Service). They hold training materials and learning records in an online location and allow users to access them from anywhere, without the need for further software. However, often these are hosted internally by companies, or are tailored and hosted specifically for a single organisation. This limits the ubiquity that makes SaaS applications successful with all users, especially smaller companies. LMSs also generally lack the connectivity that good SaaS applications support. In the ideal learning cloud, LMSs would allow data to be exchanged with a number of disparate learning sources, such as videos, presentations, documents etc. found all over the web, not just traditional courses hosted on the LMS itself. This would allow companies to start formalising informal training and capitalise on learners’ appetite for obtaining information from various sources across the web.

Cloud computing and SaaS are already shaping the way we work and are set to change it further in the future. e-Learning is bound to be affected by this too. These are my thoughts on the subject, but what are yours? Comment below if you have ideas on what these changes may be.

How can we help

Click here to download a handy PDF about who we are and what we do.

Working for

Click here to find out more about jobs at Saffron.

t: 020 7651 4960

Or click here to use our online form.