Archive for January, 2014

Saffron Interactive (Stand 24) has contributed a thought-leadership piece on the business impact of gamification to Training Zone’s report. In the article, Saffron predicts that game-based reward systems will merge seamlessly with good user experience design in online learning.

‘For the next generation of learners, gaming will be a feature of the physical and digital landscape: a lens which shapes their perception of reality’ says Toby Harris, creative lead at Saffron, in the report. ‘This generation will internalise the specific reward-systems of games and seek them elsewhere.’

Saffron’s article analyses the latest industry thinking and practice, and offers up some specific ways in which gaming features can be applied to online learning. The report also features chapters on key trends including mobile learning, gamification, HTML5, content curation and social learning.

It’s available for free download here (registration required).

It’s probably time to abandon those New Year’s Resolutions….Researchers believe that Ragnarok, the Viking apocalypse, is finally happening on 22nd February – just one short month away.  Suitably inspired, we decided to find out what the L&D community felt (or hoped) would be the biggest L&D ‘extinction event’ of 2014.

The response has been great so far (take a look at part one…), and we’ll be publishing a full article in Inside Learning Technologies and Skills magazine for the Learning Technologies Show.

But we’re just getting started! We’ll also be recording vox-pops from those who visit us at Stand 24, Tweeting the results live and releasing a YouTube compilation after the show. The best contributor wins a drinking horn!

Below, we publish some more contributions:

The bards say that, during Ragnarok, ‘all the boundaries that exist shall crumble’ a phrase which the experts think refers to the internet. Probably. Jon Kennard, who is Editor at Training Zone, thinks that it’s firewalls which will finally perish in, well, walls of fire. He’s also not so sure we’ll hang on to that umbrella term, ‘e-learning’:

“Would it be too optimistic to think that there will be an industry-wide move to bring down firewalls and lift internet restrictions on employees in 2014? That’s what I hope happens in companies up and down the land who try to stifle the internet activity of their workforce. Embrace and collaborate with your employees for optimum results (data sensitivity caveats allowing, of course).

Elsewhere, maybe ‘elearning’ will become extinct. I don’t mean the practice, I mean the term. The concept is so important, so integrated, but as a word so undescriptive. It’s no longer the next big thing (it hasn’t been for years), and perhaps it’s now undeserving of its own term. It’s an umbrella term for many elements that are an essential part of the L&D mix.”

Follow Jon @trainingzone or visit


And Don Taylor, Chairman of the Learning & Skills Group, thinks it’s the end of the road for L&D fads and fashions:

“2014 will see the death of our outlandish obsession with the new and shiny, to be replaced with deep thought and reflection on the true nature of learning – how individuals learn best, and how we link that to the needs of our organisations. We will no longer be obsessed with whether we should use HTML5 or Flash, whether the LMS is dead or even with the right or wrong method of instructional design. Instead we will consider how we can best support people learning (and take a scientifically-based approached to this) and how we can ensure that learning supports the business in its broadest term. Obsession with detail will be replaced a keen view of outcomes. Or I could be dreaming, of course.”

Follow @DonaldHTaylor or visit the community at


We also dressed up a trio of Saffron’s Instructional Designers in priestly robes, gave them plenty of mead, and asked them to pronounce doom upon various things in learning design:

Jasper Roe: “The next button! I’m not sure what its successor will be, but I predict that clicking next will soon be the way of the past. Perhaps eye-scrolling? Or swiping? Or sliding?”

Tamar Elderton-Welch: “I would happily give a Valhalla style send-off to the confusing and annoying use of different font styles within the same course. To me it’s the textual equivalent of the sort of nasty graffiti you see on public transport: at best it’s distracting and at its worst it makes you want to scream at the monitor.  On top of that, I think we can name at least one font that we would happily see consigned to the dustbin (I’m looking at you, Comic Sans).”

Antonella Veccia: “I wish to see an approach to design which is less trend concerned and more learning focussed. When I say trends I refer to both technology and activities that are claimed to be engaging and facilitate learning, and let’s face it every year we are bombarded with some new “must have” … I can think of mobile leaning, games, gamification, 3D … to name a few. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against embracing the new, but it seems to me that sometimes the adoption of the new trends has got more to do with producing a modern looking package rather than a solution which is really fit for purpose.”

You can catch more of the team’s thoughts on the Spicy Learning Blog at


If reading this post has awoken the Bezerker within, and you’d like to join the battle, then visit Stand 24 to make a short video of your apocalyptic prediction for 2014.

The best contribution will, of course, win a drinking horn!

Saffron Interactive (Stand 24) will examine the generational challenge to the conventional LMS and introduce its successor, the Learning Experience Network (LEN), during two seminars at the upcoming Learning Technologies 2014 exhibition. The free seminars will focus on the critical question of emotional engagement with learning technologies.

‘2014 is the year to ask searching questions about the ability of learning platforms to win emotional investment from end-users and deliver actionable information to management’ says Noorie Sazen, CEO at Saffron. ‘To retain their relevance, learning environments need to evolve from content repositories into launch pads for behaviour-change campaigns.’

Toby Harris, who is creative lead at Saffron, will showcase a working LEN in the form of Saffron Share, finalist at the 2014 Learning Awards. Developed using open source technology, Saffron Share is based on ‘a straight-talking pedagogy that sees a learning experience honestly: as much a group of people as it is collection of content,’ he says.

Saffron Share integrates with social network analysis tools to enable managers to target learning inventions based on the real relationships within their organisation.

The seminar will explain:

  • Why the conventional LMS is failing generation Y and will fail generation Z
  • Why leveraging learner production (user-generated content) is the key to emotional investment
  • What happens in the space where ‘formal’ learning activities and ‘social-activators’ collide
  • How to take learning off the shelf and put it into action
  • How social network analysis enables us to identify leaders and launch viral behaviour-change campaigns

The seminar will take place on at the following times:

  • Wednesday 29th January: 12:15 – 12:45 in Theatre 9 at Learning and Skills
  • Thursday 30th January: 13:15 – 13:45 in Theatre 1 at Learning Technologies

Online registration for Learning Technologies

Saffron Interactive (Stand 24) is recommending that everyone visit this year’s Learning Technologies Exhibition, as it may be their last chance to do so. According to researchers in York, the Viking apocalypse (also known as Ragnarok, or the Twilight of the Gods) is set to take place one month from today.

Ragnarok involves a global abandonment of morality, extreme flooding and the poisoning of the atmosphere. Fictional events, such as a war between gods and giants, are also forecast.

Inspired by this sense of impending doom, Saffron is asking attendees at the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition what they think the biggest extinction event to hit the L&D world will be in 2014.

Contributors including Don Taylor, Sam Taylor and Jon Kennard will record short, ‘vox-pop’ videos to heap curses upon pet-hates and prophesy feasting at an L&D Valhalla.

The predictions will be Tweeted live with the hashtag #L&DExtinction and uploaded onto YouTube after the exhibition.

‘We may not seriously believe that the end of the world is coming, but 2014 is nevertheless going to be year of upheaval for learning and talent professionals. For example, the end of support for Windows XP alone promises to be very disruptive,’ says Karim Ladak, chief operating officer at Saffron (who is nevertheless stockpiling brennivín).

‘As well as being a bit of fun, we also hope that this collaboration will result in a handy online resource for anyone who wants to know in advance what big changes are on the way in 2014. After all, you rarely see something game-changing arrive without it being game-over for something else!’

Three contributions are already available to read on the Spicy Learning Blog, and anyone can record their own by visiting Saffron at Stand 24.

The best contribution will win its owner a life-size Viking drinking horn.

‘We thought it best to equip the winner with something useful to take into the afterlife,’ adds Karim.

Attendees can contact Saffron to supply a contribution or to book a time to visit the Stand.

Online registration for Learning Technologies

If you were a Viking, right now you’d be sharpening your best sword in preparation for the end of the world! Experts at the Jorvik Viking Centre in York believe that Ragnarok (which translates in modern English as the ‘Doom of the Gods’ and inspired Wagner’s climactic opera, Gotterdammerung) is finally happening on 22nd February – just one short month away.

So, inspired by the general sense of impending doom, we wanted to forget about ‘trends’ and instead, find out what the L&D community felt (or hoped) would be the biggest L&D ‘extinction event’ of 2014.

We’ve received plenty of responses so far, and we’ll be publishing a full article in Inside Learning Technologies and Skills magazine for the Learning Technologies Show on 29th – 30th January.

But we’re just getting started! We’ll also be recording vox-pops from those who visit us at Stand 24 next week, Tweeting the results live and releasing a YouTube compilation after the show. The best contributor wins a drinking horn!

Below, we publish three of our favourite contributions so far:


Sam Taylor, of the eLearning Network (and once an ancient historian), would love to see the tides of Ragnarok sweep away some of the broad statements we make about learners and learning styles:

“What I’d really like to see wiped out by the apocalypse is the need for us to make sweeping generalisations about learners in the form of “generations” and also in learning styles.  In the former, I think it’s wrong that we make assumptions that because you are under the age of 25 you behave with technology in a certain way. We simply can’t make these assumptions without knowing our audience more. Many of the initial mobile learning pilots have found the “older” generations are more likely to use mobile devices than the younger in their work – and that probably reflects the audience and their learning need.

For learning styles, an entire industry has been created playing to something which has no real scientific evidence.  Let’s stop labelling people as certain types: we all learn differently, and we will all learn differently at different times and needs. As learning professionals, we are better off creating brain-friendly learning, based on solid design and learning principles, that meets the learning (and learners) need.”

Follow Sam @samt_el or visit


Pull out of your battle-axes, consultants! Helen Blunden, Performance Consultant at Activate Learning Solutions (and Horrible Histories fan), is sick and tired of prescriptive training. Instead, she has a vision of a new world where the warrior performance consultant spirit reigns supreme!

“I’d love to drink a toast from the skull of the next person who gives me an order for training and chuck their Level 1 Evaluations into the sea. In its place, I want to see the birth of the warrior performance consultant spirit who stands firm against useless, constant training requests and instead inspires a Valhalla where people learn from the work – and from each other. Literally.”

Follow Helen @activatelearn or visit


Some extinction events really are preordained. Karim Ladak, Chief Operating Officer at Saffron Interactive, isn’t sure that everyone is prepared for the biggest massacre of Microsoft software in a decade…

Because of a Support Lifecycle policy introduced in 2002 (and also because they desperately want to push people onto Windows 7 and 8), Microsoft are ending support for Windows XP and Office 2003, including Internet Explorer 8, after April 8, 2014. Any organisation still on the old versions will face a constant battle against security risks and loss of certifications, and will be unable to introduce new software to their systems. It won’t be a Valhalla, I can tell you that much!

This mass extinction has big implications for learning. Firstly, those organisations jumping directly from Office 2003 to 2010 or 2013 will face a systems training challenge like no other. So much of the Office suite has been transformed, or even created, in the past decade. Secondly, and on a more positive note, Internet Explorer 8 is the most recent browser not to support HTML5. That means that when it’s finally dead and buried, the issues with using HTML5 instead of Flash for e-learning will begin to disappear. So whilst plenty of IT managers may sink under the apocalyptic pressure, I hope to see a new generation of beautiful, mobile-responsive learning experiences emerge from the ashes!”

Follow Karim @saffronint or visit


If reading this has awoken your inner Viking raider, and you’d like to join the battle, then visit Stand 24 during the Learning Technologies show next week to make a short video of your apocalyptic prediction for 2014!

Or you can simply pre-record and email it us.

The best contribution will, of course, win a drinking horn!

Once upon a time, I thought that my interest in communication was only in words, grammar, and syntax. Thrilling though those subjects are, I’ve discovered that communication runs deeper than characters on a page, or even spoken language. It is something that we experience with every one of our senses.

Visual communication is a huge part of this, but it’s often dismissed as less important, or less fundamental than speech and writing in delivering a message. Truthfully colour, look, and ‘feel’, are some of the most important aspects of a good e-learning course. And alongside my interest in communication, I also have a healthy interest in being sceptical. So when I began researching colour, and I realised that there is a lot of misinformation out there, I decided to write this post and offer some advice based on evidence, and not just guesswork.

I’m sure that at some point you’ve heard rumours about which colours mean what and how they influence behaviour. And if you Google ‘what do colours mean’, there are many websites that are all too eager to tell you which colour signifies what. It’s tempting to just go with the flow here and follow the common knowledge, but we need to think smarter than that. So with my rallying cry I ask, ‘where are the citations?’

In my investigation, I’ve heard people say that a famous fast-food restaurant uses red because red invokes hunger, as it’s the colour of blood. I’ve heard the same said for boxing gloves. But it seems that these are often half-truths, or more often, just word of mouth. In the real world, colour isn’t so easily categorised.

The interpretation of a colour is related to culture, historical significance, and a whole host of other influencing factors. For instance, in Chinese culture, red is acknowledged to represent luck, while digital website sources in England say that red signifies ‘caution, blood, and war’. Contrast this with some parts of India, where red can signify matrimony (do you want your wedding decorations to suggest caution, blood and war?).

A great example of just how our perception of colour changes with our culture occurred in recent UK history. Up until the 1920s, pink was a boys’ colour. This all changed when blue began to signify male professions.

So whether colours have cross-cultural meaning is an unknown, and we can’t really be sure that red signifies blood, or invokes hunger, or luck. It might for some of us, it might not for others. So feel free next time someone tells you that blue is ‘calming’, to ask whether they’d feel the same if they had a profound, paralysing fear of the Smurfs, or if every time they saw the colour blue someone pelted them with rotten tomatoes.  Really, as with everything, the only knowledge that we have is that colour is what the cultural context makes of it.

With that in mind, considering your audience is the key to semiotic success. Who are you creating a learning programme for? What styles and cultural norms do they comply with, and what are their needs? Which colours do they believe are important, and do certain colours have significant meanings in their culture? Never underestimate the value of these questions. The right hue in one screen can be an invaluable tool for drawing a learner’s attention, and strong, garish colours will quite often ruin an otherwise fantastic design. But just remember that colour is subjective and culturally influenced, it’s not as simple as some would have you believe.

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