Archive for March, 2014

Is 2014 the year gamification can be taken of the ‘to do’ list and put into practice? While it has been a buzzword in the elearning industry for years now, it seems like this year the time has come for gamification to start delivering real benefits for online learning.

Gamification – the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications – promises much: an engaging, dynamic, memorable and rewarding learning experience. But it can be very difficult to know where to start. Most of us know and enjoy games, but how do those experiences relate to the elearning course that you’re working on right now? I’m a developer at Saffron with a background in games and app design, and so to help, I’ve compiled a list of my top five gamified elements that can help to improve ‘traditional’ elearning.

1. Dynamic storytelling

A common way to relay a subject to a learner is to put it into some kind of real world scenario the learner can relate to, then let them participate and observe the situation as it unfolds. To make a more engaging learning experience, multiple paths can be added to the scenario, with the user’s decisions carving out his or her own path through the content.

For example, in a course aimed at helping people to spot bribery in the workplace, a user may be presented with the option to take a client out to lunch at a fancy restaurant or to provide them with a takeaway sandwich. Both choices may be appropriate depending on the circumstances. The learning experience can now unfold into two very different scenarios, each with another range of options to choose from. The caveat to this technique will always be that content will have to be created that not all learners will see – is this a waste of time or worth it for each learner getting a personalised experience? You (and your budget holder) decide!

2. Exploration

Exploring is a key part of human nature; we were all born to explore the world we live in, and the joy of exploration is that we are all free to go about this in our own way and at our own pace. It’s an integral part of many video games. A great way to implement exploration in an elearning course is a set of 2D scenes the learner can navigate between, where each scene has a number of interactive elements the user can interact with to find out extra information.

These may be a photographic representation of a real world environment or they could be a cartoon/stylised version. It allows learners to familiarise themselves with a place or action and get as close to the real experience as possible. It’s also an easier way to personalise than branching scenarios. By allowing their own curiosity to guide them to areas they are interested in, learners end up finding the pieces of information most relevant to them.

Whilst an all-singing, all-dancing 3D environment for someone to walk around in on an omni directional treadmill wearing a virtual reality headset might sound appealing (now that it is technically possible) unfortunately the nature of most elearning projects – with a varied audience and modest budget – makes this a physical impossibility – for now…

3. Points systems and leaderboards

A points system simply gives us a method for measuring someone’s performance in a task or course. A way to bring the traditional points system to life is to include a social leader board: this can inspire healthy competition between individuals and get them to focus on becoming better at the process. Humans will always enjoy proof that they are the most knowledgeable or skilful in a particular area.

Of course, we are also usually sore losers, so in order to realise the maximum benefit from a leaderboard, it’s important that it is ‘reset’ after a given period of time, so that people struggling at the bottom of the board don’t get too disgruntled (and demotivated)!

4. Satisfying rewards

Reward systems are at the heart of gamification. Rewards trigger a rush of dopamine, and their effect is clear to see in early-adopters of gamification techniques, such as high-pressure sales environments. People are given a target and then rewarded for reaching or exceeding it, usually in some sort of financial way. Of course, if the reward is notional or not worth having, people don’t always try their hardest to reach it.

In the world of elearning we have the problem of providing a reward ‘worth having’ that cannot be financial or hold any monetary value. Whilst not everyone is financially driven, it is undeniably a key factor for most, so what other methods of rewarding are available? Games can tell us a lot about this, as they do not usually feature financial rewards but yet manage to provide instantaneous gratification on many levels. Here are a few methods:

  • One approach it to get people emotionally invested in the task they are undertaking, to a point where they desire to do better becomes so strong, simply completing the task correctly gives the reward they desire. This may be the sense of achievement after a difficult or stressful task is completed.
  • Leading on from point 3. Points systems and leader boards, the reward of being number one or even just one place higher than a friend or colleague can be a great motivator.
  • Achievements and badges. Let’s face it: we’re all secret hoarders. If there is a predefined set of locked achievements for a course, everyone’s obsessive hoarder inside them won’t be satisfied until they’re all unlocked.
  • Ranks. This method is very commonly used in video games and forums; the user starts as an “apprentice” and ends up a “grand master”, and each rank in between has a set of tasks that must be completed in order to progress. This gives the learner a virtual persona they can see improving over time, providing instant gratification for their actions.

5. Replayability

Repetition is something we would all like to avoid when picking up a new skill. While some seem uncannily able to see something done once and then have the capability to repeat the same process flawlessly, the vast majority of us need some kind of repetition in order to embed information into our brains at a more instinctual level. And as we all know, as necessary as repetition is for learning, the obvious problem is that it can be very dull. If something is repeated to the learner too many times, they feel patronised, spoon fed and, most of all, bored. None of these negative reactions provide any particular assurance that the learner has actually retained any knowledge, let alone changed his or her behaviour.

Adding gamified elements can help to liven up a repetitive subject. It could be some sort of memory game where the learner has to remember and relay a certain order of tasks, with the game restarting each time the wrong order is selected. Or maybe a frustratingly gratifying minigame in which the learner has to quickly respond to instructions. Games have taught us that, actually, frustration does not have to be a bad thing and is enjoyable to a certain degree. Take the recent hit mobile app Flappy Bird, arguably the most frustrating experience available – yet it has over 100 million downloads!

Have you implemented any of these methods in a recent course? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

In the past year at Saffron we’ve formed key partnerships to extend our graduate scheme to encompass university placements and apprenticeships. It’s part of our commitment to people development and the community, which is recognised by Investors in People. This is a post by Chandni Shantilal, who is completing three months at Saffron as part of an apprenticeship programme, about her experience.

Everybody needs to start off somewhere in life, and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity at Saffron Interactive. I have been training for the role of an administrator at Saffron Interactive and I can say I’ve enjoyed myself every second of the way. I had been placed at Saffron for three months.  As I have no experience working within an admin team, I have learnt so much: from little things like how to greet clients professionally, to working with the Learning Technologies show 2014.

Learning Technologies was due to take place on the 29th/30th of January and I worked with the sales and marketing team during the first month. I was working on managing the collateral we had from the previous year but also assigned to contact several printers to obtain quotations for new print jobs. This was where I feel I had to use skills such as negotiation to find a competitive price but also to get the job done accurately and to more than our satisfaction.

I also worked with our team in Pune, India, when I and a graphic designer produced signage for the office in order to keep it up to Saffron’s standards. For this, I also had to give a short presentation about the signs during our monthly team meeting and, as I’m a very shy person, this was terrifying for me (!) but the team at Saffron were understanding and patient, which gave me the confidence to continue.

I also organised a few events and client meetings. This was where I found myself out of my comfort zone: interacting with clients and using my communication skills to make the clients feel welcome. I also had to use my organisational skills to make sure the office was presentable and the meeting room was ready.

Overall, I feel this was an experience that has taught me several skills that I can carry forward and use in the future. This role has taught me how vital it is to pay attention to detail no matter what task you are working on.  This role has shown me how important it is to use communication skills to interact with others. This has also taught me how to look, communicate and behave professionally.

At the heart of any great organisation is its people. It’s by far the greatest asset any business can have and those businesses that choose to ignore their people’s development can only be doomed.

That’s the kind of hyperbolic statement business managers tend to make in an effort to rally the troops by proving that they’re caring and sharing and really do value the contribution of the employee.

Messrs Shepherd and Taylor appeared to debate the oft-used, albeit over-used, statements back in 2007. But I did rather like Don’s conclusion:

‘We value our people. Our value comes from them’

Values are hard to measure, but there are external organisations that can help businesses to do this. Since 2004, Saffron’s accrediation by Investors in People has sought to evaluate, cross reference, and check that Hanif before, and now Noorie, really do value their people.

During our accreditation renewal process this year I likened the review to one of the team as my report card. Was I still upholding the principles on which Saffron was founded? Was I delivering the vision of the CEO? Is the Saffron Academy still alive and kicking?

Through a series of interviews with randomly selected members of the team, myself, Annar our CTO, and Noorie our CEO; our assessor felt that yes, Saffron had continued to earn its core Investors in People standard and is in fact performing to the Bronze standard.

The review looked at three areas of the business to check that we plan, that we do, and importantly that we review. As we know, it’s only through review that we learn and as a learning company if we didn’t do as we say you should, there’d be somewhat of a problem.

This wheel shows the stages of planning and implementing a people development strategy.

Of course, there is room for improvement – what report card would suggest otherwise? But what was interesting for me was that our assessor saw these potential improvements as opportunities we’d already highlighted internally.

I’ve always said that given our award-winning history, the awards that stand out for me are those related to people; whether they’re Young Professional of the Year 2005 or Instructional Designer of the Year 2010 and 2013, these awards are recognition of the people development framework that Saffron has successfully embedded within our organisation. Investors in People through its accreditation process validates that this framework is indeed being applied.

Historically these frameworks were geared towards graduates, but today this includes placements for masters and bachelors students from partner universities in Europe; and those from traineeship and apprenticeship programmes. Our programmes are open to all and we welcome applications from candidates from all walks of life as long as you can demonstrate the passion, enthusiasm, drive and determination to deliver outstanding learning solutions for our clients.

Happy tenth Investors in People anniversary Saffron!

To coincide with Ragnarok, the predicted Viking apocalypse, on 22 February 2014 (along with Viking events up and down the country) Saffron Interactive asked leading members of the learning and development community to tell us what they thought (or hoped) would be wiped out in 2014.

At Learning Technologies 2014, contributors including Don Taylor, John Curran, Sam Taylor and Jon Kennard answered our call and recorded short, ‘vox-pop’ videos to heap curses upon pet-hates and prophesy feasting at an L&D Valhalla… Want to contribute your own? Get in touch at



Saffron Interactive, one of Europe’s most celebrated digital learning and communication brands, has been re-awarded the Investors in People Standard for the tenth consecutive year, demonstrating a commitment to realising the potential of its people.

Informally known as the ‘Saffron Academy’, Saffron Interactive has developed a reputation for its excellent graduate programme, resulting in three awards for Young Professional of the Year and Learning Professional of the Year.

Investors in People is the UK’s leading accreditation for business improvement through people management, and provides a wealth of resources for businesses to innovate, improve and grow, with a focus on good people making great business.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: “Achieving the Investors in People standard is something that any organisation should be truly proud of. Working with Investors in People inspires and enables leaders, managers and employees at all levels to build their skills, improve their performance and achieve their potential. We’d like to congratulate Saffron Interactive on their achievement.”

Commenting on the award, Karim Ladak, who is chief operating officer at Saffron, said: “Our people are our most important asset. They are what our clients love most about Saffron. Achieving this accreditation for the tenth year is a badge of honour for a company which is committed to creating an environment in which everyone can grow and flourish as learning professionals.”

For more information about Investors in People please visit

For more information about joining Saffron’s team, please look at current vacancies.

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