Archive for May, 2010


Being one of the newest members of the team here at Saffron Interactive, I’ve had to get to grips with the concept of e-learning. In the last few months I’ve come to understand what the company is about and the passion behind it. But it wasn’t until the other day that I understood just how much e-learning has to offer and how it is part of our everyday lives.

For me, this realisation came when I tried to delete our Saffron group page on Facebook (it isn’t as straight forward as you’d think!). Being a social network, there was no customer services desk I could speak with and no number I could call – so it was straight to workflow learning and I returned to my trusty advisor, YouTube.

If you’ve never been on YouTube before, you’d be amazed at the amount of things that you can find on there. It holds the answers to a huge range of things; things you didn’t even realise could have a ‘how to’. Once I’d found YouTube on Google, within seconds I had a piece of media talking me through the stages, step by step, of ‘how to delete a groups page on Facebook’ until finally I had done it. Now that’s ‘just in time’ learning!

I don’t know how many of you are like me, but I know I can’t stand it when I can’t find the answer to something (especially when I’m under pressure). It’s encouraging to know that, when the going gets tough, there’s a whole host of knowledge resting at your fingertips, just one click away.

We at Saffron believe in what I like to call a social learning point of view, an informal way of learning. It’s the type of learning that gives you a sense of achievement and allows you to know that you made it happen. Anything that makes you feel this way is bound to stick and to me there’s no better way of learning than that.


If you had to pick your favourite e-learning interaction, which would it be, and why? For me it’s easy: the myth and reality screen takes the top spot. “But why?” I hear you cry. Here are my top three reasons (although I do have many more!):

Simplicity

Myth and reality screens are the simplest form of drag and drop interactions and that’s one of the reasons why I like them. I’ve seen complicated interactions where the learner has to drag hundreds of boxes to a multitude of different places, but I’m not always convinced how effective this really is. The screen is jam-packed, there’s too much to read and, if I’m being honest, I just find myself randomly dragging the boxes to anywhere on the screen to see if they stick. The whole process is tedious and becomes a race against time to see how long it’ll take to make the Next button appear. But with myth and reality screens it’s different. There are only two destinations to drag to so it’s not so overwhelming trying to make a decision. You also only get one statement at a time which allows you to really consider each piece of information carefully and absorb the learning. And you get the satisfaction of receiving feedback regularly throughout the process which helps to maintain motivation.

Versatility

The myth and reality screen can be your saving grace in a wide variety of situations. Have you ever found yourself asking the learner a multiple choice quiz question for which all of the answers are correct? Avoid falling into the ‘All of the above apply’ trap and use your imagination to create some myths and adapt these into a myth or reality screen. Do you often struggle to find a way to include a long list of facts and figures in a course? With a bit of careful tweaking the long list can be transformed into a myth busting exercise where the learner plays the starring role. Ever found yourself overusing scenarios, that is, having sequences of text and image or conversation screens followed by a ”What would you do next?“ quiz question? Go to your friend, the good old myth and reality interaction, and use it to help the learner practise identifying the correct courses of action.

Engagement

Have you ever watched Mythbusters? People love it when a commonly thought truth is exposed as a myth and this can happen in an e-learning course. Adding an element of ”Oh, I didn’t know that!” helps to keep your learners awake and interested. And it’s easy to ‘jazz up’ a myth and reality screen with graphics or an element of gaming to further help keep the learner engaged. For example, why not have the learner literally screw up and throw the myths into a rubbish bin? Or use a points system on that screen to see how many myths they can bust. We’re in a world of instant gratification and it’s quick and easy to achieve this with a simple myth and reality screen.

Here are a few of my favourite uses for the myth or reality screen:

  • To introduce the key themes of a course
  • To dispel misconceptions
  • To identify problems or issues
  • To practise what you should and shouldn’t do
  • To recap on learning points
  • And probably more!

I could go on explaining more of the reasons why I love this type of screen but I’ll save that for another blog. Instead, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree that myth and reality screens are the best interactions (sorry, you can’t drag and drop your answer here!), or do you have a different favourite interaction, and why?


A few weeks ago, some of us at Saffron went to the Victoria and Albert museum to see Decode: Digital Design Sensations, a digital design exhibition. We had a brilliant afternoon and saw some inspiring pieces created on the themes of decode, network and interactivity.

 

The most popular exhibit seemed to be Ross Phillips’s Videogrid, an interactive piece featuring a grid of videos made by visitors who record a short video of themselves behind a nearby screen. Videogrid is interactive and fun, and as a result people were engaged and enjoyed the experience. Perhaps most importantly the exhibit is memorable, showing that interactivity is key to engaging us – and our learners – and helping us to remember the experience.

Other interactive exhibits which drew a crowd included YOKE’s Dandelion, where the viewer can blow the seeds off a huge image of a dandelion using a light gun, and Mahmet Akten’s Body Paint, where the viewer throws splashes of paint onto a screen using their body.

 

Another somewhat different exhibit that proved popular was Fabrica’s Venetian Mirror. This piece features a ghostly mirror which the viewer must stand in front of for around a minute before their reflection begins to appear gradually.

I was a bit surprised that the mirror attracted so many people when they were surrounded by lots of visually exciting pieces of work. I put this down to the fact that the piece stands out because it doesn’t feature technological feats which deliver instant gratification for the viewer, or at least not in the same way as the other interactions. However I also think that people were drawn to the mirror because it allowed for a moment of reflection during a packed fast paced exhibition. Bringing this back to our approach to e-learning, this aspect of the exhibit might be compared to review questions that can be included intermittently throughout our courses.

 

So while innovative interactions and the use of new technologies are key to engaging learners and ensuring they will remember what they have learnt, it’s also important to encourage the learner to pause and reflect during courses. In this way the learner will remain engaged and enjoy the interactive elements of an e-learning course, but will also think independently about the key learning objectives, ensuring that these stand out and are remembered.


Once you’ve built an e-learning course you’ll want to get it onto your LMS so that people can access it. More than that, you’ll probably want to see how well your learners have done – how long did they spend, have they passed the quizzes and which questions did they get wrong? All this information and more can be sent back to the LMS using SCORM.

1. Choose your SCORM version

ADL, the maker of SCORM, has released two main versions over the years: SCORM 1.2, then SCORM 2004. Both these versions allow you to store data on your LMS but SCORM 2004 has a more advanced structure which makes it easier (in theory) to share course units between courses. So make sure you check which version your LMS supports.

2. Set up a SCORM JavaScript file

JavaScript is the code used to communicate between your e-learning and the LMS and examples of this code can be found online. There are lots of functions needed to access the SCORM object on the LMS and send data to and from the course. It’s a good idea to keep all of this code separate in its own file, rather than combining it with your content.

3. Choose the right values

SCORM has a large data model that lets you save all kinds of values on the LMS. Essentially, this amounts to lots of different slots where you can post your data and get it back later. It’s important to choose the right values for the right data: don’t push all the data into one value and try to split it up later. Check out the data model online to find out more.

4. Check your conformance

There are tools that allow you to test how conformant your course is, and let you debug any problems. Download the ADL Self Certification Test Suite and run your course through it before testing on an LMS. This will show you all the calls being made by your course to the LMS, tell you if these calls are correct and rate your conformance.

5. Think about re-entry

Making sure that all the data from a course is saved on the LMS correctly is the first step, but you should also think about how the course gets that information back. This will allow you to have features like bookmarking, progress indicators and student notes. Use the RELOAD test suite to test how your course performs between sessions.


Totalling three hours of e-learning, the new programmes (one on health, safety and wellbeing, and one on equality and diversity) will help increase awareness of key organisational and individual responsibilities for 4,000+ of Home’s colleagues and enable them to provide exceptional services to their customers and clients as a result.

The e-learning meets UK health and safety and equality laws as well as highlighting the day to day responsibilities of Home’s colleagues. Case studies, scenarios and real life dilemmas make a link between the training and the realities of their work, ask them to make important decisions and illustrate the moral and social implications of their choices and actions.

Kim George, who designed the programmes at Saffron, says: ‘Home has expressed their delight with the programmes and the pilot users’ feedback has been fantastic; many people have commented on the inspiring content and the positive use of reinforcement in the knowledge tests.’

Kristina Henry, the Head of Operational Learning at Home says: “Working with Saffron has been a pleasure from the very start due to their professional and disciplined approach to project management and their focus on results. That said, they have also been exceptionally flexible and accommodating and the quality of the products reflect this unique combination”.




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