Archive for April, 2010

How often do you learn something new? And I mean completely new – something you’ve never heard of before or perhaps something you’ve never tried. What’s the process that you go through to learn this new knowledge or skill?

I’ve recently learnt something new, something I’d never dared try before – rollerblading. Now I know that the typical e-learning course isn’t daunting, potentially painful nor, to be frank, initially terrifying but I’ve been surprised at how many parallels can be drawn from my experience of learning this new skill and the way information can be taught and conveyed in e-learning.

In an online course, the learner might be introduced to a topic and taken through it step by step. Gradually, as they progress through the training, their knowledge increases until by the end they have achieved a desired level of competence which might be assessed in an end of course test. Now, priding myself on having an element of balance, I had hoped that I’d master the basics fairly quickly. However, I soon learnt that balance isn’t enough on wheels; I struggled to keep track of what my feet were doing and even where they were going! So how did my ever patient instructor teach a nervous and uncoordinated person to learn something totally alien to them? I noticed that his approach was very similar to that used in an effective e-learning course.

Animation and video can be an interesting way to convey information, replacing static text and image screens and increasing the learner’s engagement. Likewise, instead of telling me how to perform a parallel turn, my instructor would show me. That might sound pretty obvious but, most importantly, he then challenged me to do it myself – alone. Practice makes perfect, apparently! Furthermore, rather than telling me why I wobbled or, embarrassingly, fell flat on my backside, he would ask me why I thought I was finding something difficult or what I thought I was doing wrong. This test then tell approach was definitely crucial to my learning as it made me think for myself whilst forcing me to correct my mistakes as they happened, which is always the best way to learn (and remember) information.

I know that I wouldn’t have absorbed half of the information given to me if my instructor had merely told me the facts. It’s the hows and the whys that have increased my knowledge the most, improved my ability to balance and move on eight wheels and, of course, motivated me to persevere! Clearly, explaining the reasons for complying with something like a process or regulation and outlining the benefits of a certain behaviour or approach will be far more encouraging and inspiring – and luckily those taking Saffron’s e-learning courses will be able to practise and make mistakes in a far more safe environment than when rollerblading!

Saffron Interactive is proud to announce the release of its free e-learning quiz tool.

The e-learning quiz tool called the Assessment Workbench, allows users to create SCORM compliant assessments quickly and easily using a variety of question types and a series of different instructional models. Questions can be generated from a pool, be timed and include images as well as text.

The e-learning quiz tool is designed to help learning and development professionals who want to test knowledge after a particular intervention or who want to look for gaps in a learner’s understanding. Each quiz can be deployed standalone or as part of a blended learning programme.

The e-learning quiz tool can be downloaded for free by visiting the Assessment Workbench page here.

Clarity and legibility are essential in e-learning. Here are Saffron’s top tips on how to use some of the basic principles of typography not only to achieve legibility but also to bring interest and energy to your e-learning projects.

1. Create contrast

Always ensure that there’s a good contrast between the text and the background; never sacrifice legibility for aesthetic reasons. Contrast is also necessary to emphasise key points and focus the learner’s attention. This article describes the key principle of typographic contrast that every designer should know.

2. Build a hierarchy

Use typography to indicate the importance of the elements on the page. Have a strong and clear focal point and ensure that all other elements are arranged accordingly. Items that are logically connected should be grouped together, whereas elements that are not directly related should be arranged as separate entities.

3. Use a grid

Avoid random layouts by using a grid. This helps you to visually connect items with each other and achieve a more logical and structured layout. Mark Boulton describes how to use grid systems for web layouts in this article and although e-learning screens may require a simpler grid, similar principles can still be applied.

4. Allow space to breathe

Do not overcrowd the area with unnecessary elements. The blank area (‘white space’) is necessary to draw the learner’s attention to the key content and make the text easier to read. Create white space by increasing the leading (line height) and by maintaining clear margins around text and graphics.

5. Be consistent

Make sure your use of typography is consistent across all screens and if you are using a grid then make sure you use the same one throughout. Each screen of your course should provide a look that flows together as a clearly defined single project, and not as an autonomous entity with an individual layout.

Check back soon for a downloadable version of these tips, and don’t forget to visit regularly for top tips on all things learning and technology related!

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