Archive for January, 2013


This week Saffron Interactive explains the methodology behind a forty minute e-learning course on mental resilience which delivered a £7.8 million return on investment for Transport for London.

In two seminars, Toby Harris will introduce the concept of ‘me-Learning’ and what it means for long term behavioural change.

“This remarkable course was shortlisted for an e-Learning Award and also resulted in a nomination for Instructional Designer of the Year,” says Noorie Sazen, Saffron CEO. “The figure of £7.8 million ROI alone is enough to encourage anyone to attend. But beyond that, I believe ideas underpinning ‘Me-Learning’ will become fundamental for learning professionals in the coming years.”

One year after completing this non-mandatory course, 76% of staff members are still using the techniques it teaches, and Transport for London is on track to achieve an ROI of over £23 million in the next year.

Attendees will discover how ‘me-Learning’ uses diagnostics, immersive learning and a focus on what happens outside the course to drive long term behavioural change.

Saffron Interactive’s seminar takes place twice:

  • 29 January: Theatre 1 at 11:45am (Learning Technologies)
  • 30 January: Theatre 7 at 1:45pm (learning and Skills)

The Learning Technologies Exhibition is free and takes place on 29 and 30 January: Online registration.


This short post is an edited excerpt from the updated Spicy Learning Guide, an essential compendium of 101 tips to improve your learning strategy. We’ll be releasing the new Spicy Learning Guide at Learning Technologies 2013, so visit us at Stand 33 to collect your free copy!

Since 2008 one of the biggest growth areas in learning has been the adoption of internal social networks. Businesses everywhere are waking up the fact that social media tools and applications need to be embraced rather than blocked. So here are Saffron’s top five tips for using social media to immediately make an impact on your learning strategy.

1. Build a solid, measurable plan

Ask yourself what the learning and development goals and objectives are for engaging in social media. Whilst leaders may agree in principle to social media adoption, you need them to actively champion new tools. This plan is your ammunition.

2. Find out what your learners ‘like’

Social media is plural, not a singular. There are a variety of tools, applications and platforms available which you can either use or draw on for inspiration. Run a survey (with an incentive) to find out which tools your learners are already using. That’s your starting point.

3. Start blogging

Social media and social learning are the topic of dozens of blogs so find the best and read them. Once you understand how it works, start a blog for your organisation and encourage people to post on it. Get learners creating and sharing their own content and they’ll embrace social media!

4. Curate content to support your learning

Social platforms like YouTube, Udemy and Slideshare have one very straightforward application to learning: they make available a sea of resources and learning materials to support your programme which is absolutely free! Search out the best resources and encourage learners to do the same.

5. Explore the backchannel

A social ‘backchannel’ makes it possible for learners to contribute and enhance learning whilst a live session is in progress. One approach is to use a hashtag on Twitter (such as #SaffronLL12). More private backchannels include interactive post-it boards and mind-maps. Allowing learners to tap away on smartphones during a session seems risky, but you’ll be surprised at how well it works!

Visit Saffron Interactive at Stand 33 to try out our new learning platforms, or request a demo.


At next week’s Learning Technologies Exhibition Saffron Interactive (Stand 33) will be demonstrating Saffron Share, a corporate social network, personal portfolio and community knowledge base for collaboration and ‘just-in-time’ learning. The product is based on the open source Elgg social networking engine.

‘There are two key advantages to basing this new product on open source technology,’ says Toby Harris, LMS product manager at Saffron. ‘The first is that our clients can choose every aspect of the design and functionality: every instance of Saffron Share is a bespoke build.’

‘The second is cost-effectiveness. Just like our bespoke e-learning courses, the source code becomes the property of our clients and we won’t charge any fees per user. Essentially, it’s a Moodle approach to the corporate social network with clear benefits for global organisations with tens of thousands of learners.’

Below are just a few of the features offered by Saffron Share:

  • Social networking including chat, user profiles, blogging and image uploads
  • A news feed to allow users to ask the advice of colleagues, comment and ‘like’ posts
  • Groups for collaborative working and content sharing within project teams
  • Events management to facilitate live training and social events
  • Navigation of content through searching, categories and tag clouds
  • The ability to easily build both personal portfolios and shared knowledge bases
  • Easy content curation via social bookmarking and web-browser extensions

Saffron Interactive has developed custom open source platforms for public and private sector organisations for several years. Next week attendees will also be able to try out Saffron Grow, a new LMS offering based on Moodle 2.2.5 which has a radical new design philosophy and is mobile optimised.

‘Integrating Saffron Share with Saffron Grow is what really excites me,’ says Toby. ‘The idea that formal learning activities, just-in-time learning, resources and and personal portfolios could all be hosted and tracked via one social and mobile platform has game-changing implications for our FTSE 250 client base.’

You can visit Saffron at Stand 33 and get in touch today to arrange time during the show to demo these new products. The Learning Technologies Exhibition is free and takes place on 29 and 30 January. Register for your free place here.  


This short post is an edited excerpt from the updated Spicy Learning Guide, an essential compendium of 101 tips to improve your learning strategy. We’ll be releasing the new Spicy Learning Guide at Learning Technologies 2013, so visit us at Stand 33 to collect your free copy!

A learning management system isn’t just a place to host e-learning courses. It’s an essential part of the way learners experience your content. So here are our top five ideas to improve your learning management system.

1. Make it a go-to destination

Create genuine ‘what’s in it for me’ reasons for learners to login besides the standard ‘welcome message’ on your LMS. Include an internal blog and links to useful web-services like the holiday booking system and the company wiki.

2. Allow users to upload content

Many learners ‘store’ and share files related to learning (like presentations) via the email system. This isn’t ideal. How about allowing them to upload private files to share with others to the LMS itself? It’s another reason to return.

3. Make it a game

There are many ways to ‘gamify’ your LMS and reward learners for participation. One measure is to introduce a personal dashboard which tells learners how active they are and how that compares it to the average.

4. Build in social feeds

Help your learners move from courses to resources by including live feeds of online content-hubs like Twitter, Youtube and Google Reader. It’s very easy to include a widget or plugin which allows learners to search in Wikipedia from within the LMS.

5. Make it mobile

Mobile learning has arrived. e-Learning courses (not just resources) which work across all devices will be widespread very soon. This means your LMS needs to be mobile optimised. The newest versions of most common platforms are – make sure you aren’t left behind!

Visit Saffron Interactive at Stand 33 to try out our new learning platforms, or request a demo.


For over a decade, SCORM standards and specifications have been at the heart of web-based e-learning. These standards have served their purpose and were well suited to the technology of the day, but they fail to capture the bigger picture.

SCORM only really measures outcomes in formal learning. It records whether learners pass or fail a course, how long it’s taken them to complete it and their score – if required. But that’s it. As we all know, learning is a fluid process that happens all the time, and there are many more metrics and much more data to capture regarding a learner’s experience which can inform and provide context to his or her learning environment.

The dawn of logic and intelligent standards

We know learning can happen anywhere at any time, so we need a standard for the reporting and tracking of e-learning that understands this fact.

Take the statement “Sam has played a guitar.” It’s a simple enough statement, but there’s a logic underpinning it.

TinCan adapts the same logic to generate statements as and when an activity or action is performed by the learner. It creates statements in the form of ‘noun, verb, object’ – like a language – and stores them in a Learning Record Store (LRS) that can exist independently of an LMS.

Example of a simple TinCan statement:

{
“actor”: “Sam”,
“verb”: “played”,
“object”: “guitar”
}

This kind of intelligent approach differs from the approach used by earlier learning management systems, which can record data but can’t store or frame logic and therefore are unable to express any kind of complex activity or action in a coherent way.

No logic? No chance

Imagine our friend Sam is working in an organisation and keeps a diary of a day’s key activities. Throughout the day he:

  1. Logs into an internal portal to go through his assigned task for the day
  2. Raises a query and shares ideas related to the task in the company’s internal sharing site
  3. Completes the task and move on to the next
  4. Begins an new e-learning course related to tomorrow’s task
  5. Leaves for the day half way through
  6. Completes the e-learning course at home from his mobile phone

Imagine if Sam had to remember similar activities over a number of days without diarising them. Could he do it? Probably not.

Although there is a long way to go, TinCan could act as Sam’s diary to record a logical sequence of events, or statements, over a period of time. And with TinCan, Sam could also generate reports based on the statements stored in his LRS, such as:

  1. Total number of issues solved by him for a year
  2. How much he’s involved in helping others in the organisation
  3. How much he’s involved in sharing his ideas with them
  4. The courses he’s completed for the year
  5. Virtually anything else!

Storing experiences

Using TinCan, you’re able to store almost any experience of a learner, opening doors for analysing, researching and reporting accurately based on hard data. Its beauty is that TinCan is neither bound to a particular industry nor a particular domain; it can be used wherever we’d like to record the experiences of a learner like Sam, whether he’s on an internal social networking site, attending conferences or so on. Imagine the value of the information within the mine of data to be analysed!

TinCan is set to revolutionise the way we use learning technologies. If you’d like to find out more about TinCan and how it can help you, come and find us on Stand 33 at the Learning Technologies Show on 29 and 30 January.


Paul MacCartney speaking for Saffron Interactive at Learning Technologies Conference 2013

What is crowdsourcing and what does it mean for your organisation? Paul MacCartney, former president of global talent development company MindLeaders, will answer this question when he speaks on behalf of Saffron Interactive at the Learning Technologies Conference on 29 January 2013.

‘Crowdsourcing has transformed the way consumers and companies approach information,’ says Paul. ‘As more and more of us leverage the power of the crowd to make better decisions about what we do and buy, organisations need to think about integrating crowdsourcing into learning and talent strategy.’

Paul MacCartney is a world renowned e-learning and talent management thought leader with more than twenty five years’ experience in the industry. He’ll be offering conference delegates compelling case studies on the ‘power of the crowd’, advice about low-cost social media tools and hints and tips to leverage the crowd for organisational improvement.

The seminar sponsor, Saffron Interactive, is a social learning specialist and develops bespoke e-learning courses on talent and performance management for clients including Deutsche Bank and BT.

‘Paul is certainly going to be ruffling a few feathers with this presentation,’ says Saffron CEO Noorie Sazen. ‘We are only just beginning to understand the real significance of crowdsourcing for driving organisational development; this presentation marks a big step forward for the European talent community.’

Paul’s presentation takes place at 3.30pm on 29 January at the Learning Technologies Conference in Kensington Olympia. To find out more, you can read his guest post on Saffron’s Spicy Learning Blog or contact Saffron Interactive directly.


This is a guest post by Paul MacCartney

150 years ago last week, London built the world’s first underground rail network to deal with the crowds flocking to work in the City. Managing the Tube well continues to be a key economic enabler – and a challenge – as London’s population grows. It is no surprise that booming mega-cities across the world are investing in metro systems. Dealing with the crowd as a ‘problem’ is essential for growth.

Scenes of crowds are still associated with high drama and, oftentimes, catastrophe. Generally, we associate masses with mindlessness and group-think. Just a short time ago, business and government leaders either feared ‘the mob’, or tried to control it in some way.

But a quiet revolution in technology and human behaviour has gathered pace in the past ten years. In the age of web 2.0, engaging with the crowd has become a game-changing solution to a multitude of problems, instead of being a problem itself.

The end of ‘the mob’

Online, the outputs of mass behaviour can be measured, tracked and harvested in ways that were impossible before. Jimmy Wales saw the power of the crowd when he created Wikipedia, now the largest human knowledge base ever assembled.

On a less idealistic note, online reviews have revolutionised the way we find and buy products and services. Amazon reviews and ratings – a form of ‘just-in-time’ learning – allow consumers to make informed decisions and retailers to understand market behaviour like never before.

Media organisations have also been transformed by ‘crowdsourcing’. Instead of telling us the news, they now ask us to tell them. They do this because the competition from social media is so fierce. When a quick hashtag search on Twitter reveals up-to-the-minute information on any topic imaginable, not embracing a crowdsourced media strategy is not an option.

Will you be crowdsourcing your next CEO?

Put simply, crowdsourcing is a trend that has become a pervasive part of our daily lives and isn’t going away any time soon. Some may think that this shift in the balance of power makes life more difficult for businesses. But as anyone involved in learning appreciates, increasing the quantity and flow of information can only be good news for business performance.

So how can we leverage the power of the crowd to improve our talent practices? We are already used to sharing value judgements prolifically, openly and (more or less) honestly in our personal lives. It’s now time to use that technology and behaviour to get better at about succession-planning, recruitment and performance appraisals.

At the Learning Technologies Show later this month I’ll be talking about the power of the crowd and explaining how you can add a crowdsourcing element to your talent strategies with low cost tools. So, will you be crowdsourcing your next CEO?

My session takes place on 29 January at 3.30pm (Track 3). Find out:

  • What crowdsourcing is and why it’s so prevalent
  • How crowdsourcing has impacted online learning
  • What’s the likely impact of crowdsourcing on the future of performance and talent management
  • How you can add a crowdsourcing element to your talent strategies (even on a shoestring)
  • Key tactics to leverage the power of the crowd in your talent practices

Thanks to tough campaigning by many key interest groups, successive Acts of Parliament and changing public attitudes, real progress has been made in the advancement of diversity, equality and inclusion in the UK. The effects have been felt particularly in the workplace, as employers have woken up to the fact that a diverse workforce offers real performance benefits and opportunities.

The news is not all good, though. Despite these improvements, ethnic minorities continue to be under-represented in the workplace. Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show that rates of unemployment are stubbornly high among ethnic groups, with women faring worse then men. As an example, in 2011 the average unemployment rate was 6.8% for women and 8.3% for men. In the same year, the figures for all ethnic groups were 14.3% and 13.2% respectively. So in an age of greater tolerance and acceptance, why is this the case?

Unconscious bias has been identified as a significant challenge in the workplace. Put simply, unconscious biases can be defined as ‘our implicit people preferences, formed by our socialisation, our experiences, and by our exposure to others’ views about other groups of people’.

Take this example, for instance:

Joshua Bell, a world-renowned classical musician, took to a Metro station in L’Enfant Plaza, Washington, in rush hour to play some of the finest classic pieces written on one of the world’s most expensive violins.

Disguised as a street performer, he was acknowledged by only a tiny handful of people, with the majority walking straight past the performance of a lifetime. Bell made a total of $32.17 in the performance which lasted 43 minutes and was heard by over a thousand people. Three days before, he had filled the house at Boston’s Symphony Hall, where seats sold for $100 each.

Was this outcome the result of unconscious biases the public tend to hold against street performers? Or perhaps the passersby simply didn’t like his music. Either way, I wonder how many times a similar situation has occurred in interview situations, and how many talented people have been rejected from jobs due to preconceptions and unconscious biases of their interviewers.

Returning to the problems faced by ethnic minorities, there is real anecdotal evidence that unconscious bias could be a factor in problems they encounter in finding employment. A BBC report in December last year highlighted the cases of ethnic minority women advised to ‘whiten’ their job applications by using more English-sounding names.

So how can e-learning help companies (including recruitment agencies) overcome these challenges so that they can avoid overlooking talented individuals? There is a real need for plausible, scenario-based content which helps employees understand both deliberate and unconscious bias. It’s also critical that the training helps to deliver real behavioural change. For example, when an employer is conducting an interview with a candidate of ethnic origin, they must disregard the preconceptions they may hold and assess the candidate based purely upon the skills and experience that he or she can offer.

We still have a long way to go before we reach that ideal, but at least in recognising the problem of unconscious bias we can start to take steps to address the solution.

Do you think unconscious bias might be affecting your business performance? Talk to Saffron Interactive on Stand 33 at the Learning Technologies Show.




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