Archive for January, 2010

Two of Saffron’s instructional designers, Stephanie Dedhar and Jennifer Wrigley, gave a seminar called ‘social learning: all talk and no action?’ at Learning Technologies 2010.

During the seminar Stephanie and Jennifer looked at how social learning can be incorporated into the workplace through blended solutions, including:

  • Exploring how social learning has evolved through the ages and what it means in today’s world
  • Examining the learning requirements of some case study clients and creating suitable social learning solutions
  • Debating the common objections and challenges of implementing social learning in the workplace and how to overcome them

The slide pack can be downloaded here.

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!

As you may have heard, we’ve had a bit of snow. On one of the days that I was snowed in, I had the opportunity to sit and think about our industry – particularly, why is it that at the first sign of trouble, organisations cut their training budgets? Surely any form of logic would tell you that it should be the other way round. In times of trouble, we should be investing more in our people because we want them to achieve more.

I think the answer lies with us, the L&D professionals. For too long we have viewed training like chicken soup – its good for the soul and how can you argue that it won’t make you better? Unfortunately, this no longer washes with the CEO who has a million competing priorities. Often he or she is faced with making a decision between a business plan that has a clear return and a training budget where the benefits are hard to quantify. Unsurprisingly, it’s the training budget that gets squeezed.

We have to do better in this area if our organisations are to get the support that they deserve from L&D. We have to look at every programme as if we were paying for it ourselves. In this situation, would we spend the money if we could not quantify the return? We often hear that it is not always possible to determine the return from a training programme. In which case I would say don’t do the training – save the money. What about compliance training, I hear you say, we have to do this. I agree, but it’s a myth that you can’t measure the return from compliance training. The number of completions is an obvious measure but you can also measure the before and after effects in terms of, for example, the number of breaches or the calls to the help desk. By thinking about the return and measuring tangible results, we not only create financial benefits for the organisation but we help to make the training more palatable for the learners.

One project that comes to mind is some competition law training that we delivered. Initially the course was scoped to be a long programme that laid out the law. When we looked harder at the business benefits of the programme, we could not justify the costs. The subject matter expert, when confronted with this, admitted that actually learners did not need to know about competition law, only how to recognise the risks. They would then call a help line. This thinking resulted in a shorter, more effective course that actually had the desired impact. The change of heart came from looking at the training as a business proposition rather than an obvious foregone conclusion.

In my view L&D is not a support organisation, it’s a business unit and like all business units it needs to demonstrate tangible benefits – if we can’t do this, we may find that very quickly we are out in the cold.

We’re excited to announce the launch of our innovative Assure product at Learning Technologies 2010.

Many organisations need to train their people in key compliance topics like data protection and competition law every year or two, but finding the time to do this can be difficult. Saffron has developed an innovative solution to allow users to find out quickly and easily whether or not they need to take the training.

Saffron Assure is a range of compliance assessments that can be accessed any time, any where. Each assessment is a standalone application that users can download directly to their BlackBerry devices. The solution is fully trackable, interactive and convenient, and it maximises operational time by offering a bite sized diagnostic assessment.

Hanif Sazen, CEO of Saffron Interactive, says ‘2010 is undoubtedly going to be the year of the mobile device. Our BlackBerry assessment tool helps organisations to utilise downtime to complete time consuming but essential compliance tasks. The Assure product can be used anywhere – on the train, at the airport or underground. Assessments can be completed offline and the data is sent back to an LMS as soon as a network connection is available.’

Saffron Assure will be launched at Learning Technologies 2010 (27-28 January, Olympia 2 London). Click here to find out more about Learning Technologies or click here to learn more about Assure.

Videos can be a great addition to e-learning packages – but only if they’re used in the right way. Here are Saffron’s top ten tips for making sure videos are adding value to your e-learning rather than just adding megabytes to your course.

1. Keep videos short and to the point

Unless you’re making the video interactive, keep it short and focused so your learner doesn’t switch off. This is especially true for monologues given by company executives: keep the learner engaged by keeping it short and sweet.

2. Use videos for emphasis

Don’t overuse video. Always ask yourself ‘is this is the best way to illustrate the learning?’ Video can be more memorable than text so use it for emphasising and reinforcing key learning points.

3. Make videos interactive

If you’re considering including a longer video then make it interactive, for example by pausing it intermittently to ask the learner questions. This keeps them involved and focuses their attention on the learning points you want to emphasise.

4. Follow up with questions or a summary

If you don’t make the video interactive in any way then make sure you follow it up with a brief summary of the key points covered. This should help to prevent any key learning points slipping through the net.

5. Use videos to demonstrate how to, or how not to, do something

A video can be a great way of illustrating how not to do something and then getting the learners to spot the mistakes. Depending on time, you can then follow up by showing them the correct way of completing the task.

6. Use actors not real employees

Your video will only be as good as the people in it and employees may be nervous or forget their lines. Use professional actors but make sure you send scripts through in advance, giving clear instructions on character and costume.

7. Be creative

Think about how television programmes are filmed and consider whether you can mimic their style. For example, try using different camera angles to break up long speeches or reinforcing key points by having text appear on screen.

8. Include a transcript

Providing a transcript makes a video accessible to everyone, such as learners with hearing difficulties or those without headphones or sound cards. It also enables learners to refer back to the content without watching it again.

9. Be technically clever

Compress video files as much as possible to avoid learner frustration whilst waiting for them to load. Consider creating a low bandwidth version for slower internet connections, perhaps using photos rather than video, or lower quality video.

10. Make videos downloadable elsewhere

Get the most out of your video by including it as a downloadable resource, either in the course or from an intranet site. That way, the learner can refresh their memory of the key learning points without completing the whole course again.


Top ten tips for using video effectively in e-learning

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?

To further examine the safety example we can look at a situation where the learner is being trained in how to work safely on the roof of a building. The learner would view the location from a first-person perspective and would be able to move freely around the roof, study the environment and identify potential hazards. Using ambient sounds and effects would add more realism to the experience and allow the inclusion of aural hazards, such as sounds of machinery or nesting birds on the roof. The learner would be guided along by an artificially intelligent trainer, in the form of a 3D character, who would not only respond to questions but also react to the learner’s behaviour within the training environment. For example, the learner should not approach closer than two metres to the ungraded edge of the roof; if they did the trainer would call out with a warning then proceed to give an explanation of the correct regulation once they had the learner’s attention.

Recently there have been vast advancements in computer and video games but at the same time these advancements have, by their nature, made the games more complicated. This has created a new hurdle for game designers – how to provide guidance for a new player that is enjoyable and involving enough to keep them interested in playing the rest of the game.

Previously, when game tutorials were first introduced, they were often bolted on as separate modules to the actual game itself; they were basic and often tedious. A player was given the option to play through the tutorial or to skip it completely and start playing the game straight away. For seasoned game players skipping the tutorial was not a major issue but for more casual players this often resulted in them finding the game too daunting and not understanding how to progress, causing them to lose interest.

The solution developers came up with in more recent games was to integrate the tutorial directly into the game which also served as an interactive introduction. This new form of tutorial was designed to integrate in such a way as to make the new player unaware that they were even being taken through a tutorial. It was a gentle and more immersive start to the game which guided the user into understanding how to play the game without detaching them from the game itself. Using in-game interaction to guide the user through the basics made the learning process more effective as well as more enjoyable.

Learning new information is always easier when it is presented in an interactive and fun format; therefore modern e-learning courses tend to look more like computer games than training manuals. If the ultimate goal of an e-learning product is to leave the learner with a full understanding of the subject and for the information to be memorable, isn’t developing more realistic and immersive learning environments and experiences a natural evolution for the future of e-learning?

Please share your views on the subject. What else can e-learning designers learn from game designers and what dangers might occur from making an e-learning course more like a computer game?

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