by Sarah Sweeney, Marketing Assistant at Aurion Learning.
Many HR and L&D professionals face the problem of ensuring that their training and learning programmes maintain learner engagement and motivation. Gamification has been regularly recognised as an opportunity to help solve this problem.
In this post, we consider whether gamification can enhance the learning experience. Before we consider if it is game on for gamification in learning, it is necessary to look at what gamification essentially is.
What is Gamification?
Games and game like components have been invading the learning realm for quite some time now. Although its definition differs, for the most part, gamification in learning is the use of game mechanics to ‘gamify’ content to engage and entice users by encouraging and rewarding use.
Although Nick Pelling first coined the term “gamification” in 2002, it has actually been around for some time – 40 years in fact, with many organisations already using features in their work from video games.
Indeed, it can be said that loyalty programs, target-based bonuses and employee-of-the-month schemes are all examples of how gamification as an incentive to growth has been around for a long time too.
Examples of gamification in learning include:
- Training: technology giants, Microsoft use gamification to train users of Microsoft Office on how to use the new ribbon interface effectively.
- Education: New York based school – Quest to Learn, advocates game-based learning to make education more engaging and relevant to children.
- Employee productivity: Management tool Arcaris uses gamification to improve productivity in call centres.
Now that we know what gamification is and where it is being used in learning, it is necessary to see whether it actually works.
Does Gamification in learning work?
The gamification of e-learning unquestionably presents unique possibilities for learning technologists as they explore additional ways to educate and importantly engage learners.
It is widely recognised that adding interactive activities in e-learning are no longer optional extras, but essential to effective learning. However, it is important that the addition of game like elements into the e-learning programme are only applied in the context of the programme that allow the learner the opportunity to apply their retained knowledge to live situations, rather than distract and dazzle learners with wizardry from the overall learning goal.
Frequently, my social media feeds are inundated with social games, although irritating at times, there is no escaping the surge in popularity of online gaming and social media. The site, DevHub, reported an eightfold increase in the number of users completing their sites after adding gamification elements to the process. If there was any indication that the gamification was a fad, according to research from M2 it’s here not only stay, but increase in its use.
“The global market for gamification apps and services will grow to $2.8 billion by 2016.”
The enthusiasm for gamification has however met with some criticism. Game designers Radoff and Robertson have criticised gamification for excluding aspects like storytelling, an important element of learning. Whilst university researcher Deterding, has argued that current approaches to gamification create an artificial sense of achievement.
What does the successful application of gamification in e-learning look like?
- Gamification isn’t about games, but the learners.
- It isn’t about knowledge but behaviour.
- It extracts the motivational techniques out of games and uses them for life-applicable learning.
- It allows quick feedback of progress and communications of goals that need to be accomplished.
Gamification is made appealing for e-learning because of our human tendencies. On the whole, we generally enjoy actively participating engaging and competing with others. Gamification allows learners to connect and learn together with playful applications and incentives, particularly when there are engaging game design elements used.
Today’s learners are however no longer placated with trivial reward systems but rather sophisticated experiences that hold real value. Organisations embracing the gamification in learning can stand to see learners more engaged and retain more information, but only if it is applied aptly to the e-learning programme, achieving the overall core learning objectives.
Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.
By Glynn Jung
Whichever product or service you seek, an organised, comprehensive selection process is required – perusing websites of e-learning companies just doesn’t work. The selection process for a suitable e-learning vendor should be guided by whether they are supplying:
- off the shelf e-learning titles or
- design and development services.
It helps if you develop a checklist, (indeed most purchasing departments demand this) so that you are consistent in comparisons. We recommend listing all the attributes of a perfect-fit vendor and deciding which features are must-haves, whether these are immediate needs or future growth and finally how important each feature is (“points”).
We also recommend that organisations adopt the “MoSCoW” method for determining their needs. This is based on agreeing:
- ‘should have’
- ‘could have’ and
- ‘would be nice to have’ – most organisations concentrate exclusively on “must have”.
Below is a sample checklist that you might consider as a starting point for your own selection of a technology vendor.
In any e-learning vendor selection process there are generally a number of important criteria, such as pricing, technology, quality, service and so on. With regard to technology, ensure your vendors know what they will be dealing with in your organisation.
|Attribute||Must Have||Now or Future||Points|
|Does the vendor serve organisations similar to yours?|
|What do current customers similar to yourselves say|
|Is the vendor’s customer base sizeable enough to ensure continued operation?|
|Are customer references available?|
|Does the vendor support customer implementations with training and support?|
|Can the vendor assure you of a successful implementation?|
|Does the vendor have a proven plan for implementation of its system?|
|How long has the vendor been operating in the e-learning market?|
|Is pricing in line with similar offerings?|
|Does the vendor rely primarily on revenue from its commercial system or is customization a large part of its income?|
|Does the vendor offer a base price that scales with volume?|
|Does the price include everything you will require to get started?|
|Can you see a relationship between cost and quality?|
|Does the vendor guarantee successful operation?|
|Is there a stated quality policy?|
|Are “bugs” resolved quickly or do they wait for a future release?|
|How easy is the system to use: How much training is required?|
|Does the system require minimal resources for administration?|
|How reliable is the system: How often and for how long does it go down?|
|Do the technical qualifications reflect our technology|
|Is the system’s technology up to date? State-of-the-art?|
|Does the vendor rely on outside support for its basic services?
Is the system capable of delivering current types of media?
|Does the vendor provide multiple solutions for your needs?|
|Can the system support with various authoring tools?|
|Does the system support the browsers we need supporting?|
|Does the system support mobile devices?|
|Does the system support our compliance requirements?|
|Are maintenance fees readily available?|
|Does the vendor require the purchase of periodic updates?|
|Does the vendor provide 24/7customer support?|
|Does the system support multiple languages?|
|Does the system support the accessibility we require?|
|Can the software be placed in Escrow?|
Bespoke e-learning development
If the need is for bespoke course development or off-the-shelf titles many of the same technical considerations still apply. You need to ensure that any course content can be accessed and viewed using devices which your staff will be using. You further need samples of their work to compare but before you do this we recommend you identify:
- who will be using the courses,
- where they’ll be using them and
- what you consider to be fit-for-purpose regarding design of content.
For example if your IT people operate a “no download, no plugins” policy that the course material requires no extra software, will operate properly on your LMS (if you use one) or as a web-playable course and on any special devices your learners may use.
Location of learning is significant – if it’s in a retail store, warehouse or factory audio is rendered virtually useless.
Your list may be modified as you start talking to potential vendors: the critical thing is to keep your absolute priorities and needs in front of you at all times and not be swayed by sophisticated marketing or sales.
Project planning and management.
Ensure the vendor provides a clear project approach which is logical and understandable – they’re the experts so they should be able to keep to plan, warn of any pitfalls and deliver on time, within budget and to agreed benchmarks.
The final thing I want to talk about is working relationships. Working with willing, supportive, responsive and flexible vendors can quickly develop into a true partnership: if you really solely on numerical weighting systems you run the risk of attempting to work with people who don’t fit your organisation’s or people’s style and culture.
Demand three personal referees similar to yourselves in their client base. Talk to these referees; don’t use a pro forma reference form: find out what they’re like to work with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Also find out who will actually be working on your project: assess them as people when you come to interview your shortlisted companies – have a get-out clause ready in case the sales time disappears after they’ve closed the business and there’s no-one to talk to in the vendor organisation who understand your needs.
What checklist do you use when selecting a vendor? Please let us know your comments or share with others who you think may benefit from this checklist.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, Glynn Jung
Glynn Jung is Non-Executive Director at Aurion Leanring. He has over 25 years’ experience delivering innovative and cost-effective learning and process improvement strategies for a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations.
by Ciara Cunningham, Marketing Manager Aurion Learning
Aurion Learning and Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) are delighted to announce that their online learning system – CU Learn has been named as a finalist for an IITD National Training Award.
ILCU in partnership with Aurion Learning configured and implemented a new learning management system – CU Learn in 2012, to manage and deliver online training, accredited programmes, record classroom training attendance and provide leanring and development information in one central area for the 485 affiliated credit unions, 4,500 staff and 9,500 volunteers across Ireland.
CU Learn has also supported ILCU to fulfill its obligations with regard to new regulatory requirements by placing a renewed emphasis on the training and education of its members.
The Irish Institute of Training & Development (IITD) National Awards celebrates excellence in learning and development and CU Learn has been revealed as a finalist for the Networks and Group award which recognises the unique co-operation that is now taking place between organisations who are working together in networks and groups around the country to develop training solutions to meet the demands of their industry.
Speaking about the announcement, Suzanne Ryan, Head of CU Learning & Development at ILCU, commented:
“CULearn.ie has been central in supporting our focus to facilitate the efficient administration of training and education amongst our affiliated credit unions, particularly at a time when there is a renewed emphasis on developmental support, tailored training and Continued Personal Development, in the credit union movement.
The system has already added value to ILCU and has proven good learner outcome. CU Learn is available for free to all credit unions and we encourage those not already registered to logon to www.culearn.ie and start reaping the benefits.”
Dr. Maureen Murphy, Managing Director at Aurion Learning said:
“CU Learn has been an exemplary partnership and we are very proud that it has been shortlisted for the prestigious IITD National Training Awards. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the learning and development team in ILCU as they continue to transform their learning and development services to Credit Unions throughout the country.”
CU Learn is powered by the NetDimensions’ Talent Suite. Aurion Learning is a certified reseller for NetDimension’s award-winning learning & talent management products in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
The winners of the IITD awards will be revealed on Friday, 22nd March, 2013 at Killashee House Hotel, Naas.
by Glynn Jung
In this second instalment of learning analytics, Glynn discusses the classic approach to return on investment (ROI) for learning.
If you take the accountants’ approach to ROI for learning analysis there are five important points to note;
- The assumptions made before conducting the analysis are important and you must document them.
- It takes more than one ROI model to establish value, and not all ROI models will be valid for a given case.
- Collaboration with customers and senior management in identifying Learning benefits is critical; ROI determination is not a one-sided exercise.
- It is too easy to fall prey to the temptation to just “play with the numbers” until an acceptable result appears.
- Calculators can only “do numbers” – they can’t compute the value of the intangibles.
There are a number of classic approaches to show the financial impact that a given investment (your e-learning project) will have on a business.
The issue here is “How long will it take to get all the investment back?” Payback analysis results are expressed in months or years. This is calculated as the net investment amount divided by the average annual cash flow from the investment. The payback analysis is easy to use and easy to understand. However, it does not take into account the time value of money (which is addressed by another model, Net Present Value, or NPV). Payback also does not consider the financial performance of the investment after break-even Payback is best used to establish relative priority between potential projects.
Accounting Rate of Return (ARR)
This is another “simple” method for calculating the return on a major project. It gives a quick estimate of a project’s payback, supports comparisons between projects and it also considers returns for the entire life of the project.
Net Present Value (NPV)
Net Present Value is best used for long-term projects. It considers the time value of money- it expresses future cash flows in terms of their value today. While this is the strength of NPV, it also means that this method is not appropriate for projects that do not have clearly defined cash flows, or when the benefits of the project are not financial. NPV can be tricky!
Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
IRR is not as easy for non-accountants to understand or to calculate as NPV. I don’t even understand the terminology let alone the techniques.
Full business impact: the Balanced Scorecard
Many human performance interventions have complex effects on business results. In recent years, the best known method of impact assessment has probably been the balanced scorecard.
The balanced scorecard looks at the effect of a project in four areas:
- learning and
- internal processes.
It is holistic and long-term, and it is forward-looking. Financial results are still an important area considered, but they are not the only element.
If your organisation uses balanced scorecards it may be useful to relate the benefits of your Learning project to each of the four areas of the scorecard. Show how the program objectives relate to the objectives and important questions in each area. The emphasis is on process, not on metrics.
Measurement and accountability have long been the order of the day in most organisations. Those infamous three little words; return on investment (ROI) analysis has been a standard tool in a manager’s kit and deployed when needed. There are however a few challenges however with ROI:
- there’s a number of techniques or methods to learn and use;
- these techniques and methods sit more easily with accountants than learning and development specialists and
- determining ROI can be a long and ponderous process when often operating units within the organisation need us to address their needs very quickly.
So is there a rapid approach for an impatient world? Well yes, there are in fact two such approaches that I’ve been using: Critical Mistakes Analysis (CMA) and Fast-track Proficiencies.
But firstly “traditional ROI”: ROI is not a tool that you can use to prove the value of ALL Learning – it’s just a tactical tool, not a strategic weapon. We see it often used to justify a move from traditional training to self-directed eLearning but this is only really valid in regulatory training e.g. iterative Aviation Cabin Crew training for certification purposes. This is training which has to be done and proven to have been done. In this context we can reasonably claim to offer a return on investment via shortened time to competence and reduced or eliminated indirect costs such as shift rota cover, travel or machine / simulator time, expert support and tuition time.
Apart from those situations, I suggest that many organisations struggle to develop precise and meaningful ROI based on classic accountants’ techniques because:
- they rarely calculate the cost and value of people’s time and efforts;
- they rarely have precise targets for focusing the training – i.e. what it is that needs to change or improve and what are the benchmarks for this and
- there is little evidence of a direct relationship between training / learning and improved competence in the workplace.
We’ve struggled with this for decades. Way back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I worked with IBM on their methodologies, (SATD and SATE) for demonstrating the value of training to the organisation. Like Kirkpatrick’s Level Four – improved organisational performance – it proved increasingly frustrating to prove the link or outcome.
Even when you have done your due diligence and used the appropriate method to calculate the expected return, getting decision-makers to accept your analysis requires presentation, negotiation, collaboration, compromise, and persuasion. Think of it as a consensus-based process. It’s certainly rarely a quick fix for a problem. Additionally some people, like me, struggle to work like an accountant.
So are there any ways of ensuring that targeted learning or training can really deliver benefits, and do so rapidly? Well, there are two approaches that I’ve been using for a number of years which can be proved to deliver a return on investment (training time, expert time, learner time et al). These two approaches are:
- “Critical Mistakes Analysis” and
- “Fast-track proficiencies”.
Critical Mistakes Analysis
CMA is a proprietary methodology offered by Cognitive Arts, a subsidiary of NIIT. CMA derived from a US Government initiative to determine if it could ever be possible to guarantee a return on investment for training. By analysing the data gathered from major Six Sigma (no, don’t switch off) projects they found that a small number of very common mistakes caused most of the damage in an organisation. This was in every sector imaginable – manufacturing, logistics, health care, education, research, pharmaceuticals etc.
They were even able to put a cost against these common mistakes and so define the value of fixing them. The multi-year research project upheld the 80/20 rule and also spawned a commercial organisation with proprietary methodology. The thing is – all organisations have loads of data, of anecdotal evidence to point to where we should focus our attention for fixing mistakes; even the IT Help Desk records – we don’t really need Six Sigma to find out what to fix. What typically is delivered as an intervention, by the way, is a 4 to 7 minute online tutorial and assessment for each fix, supported by simple online reference materials.
A CMA type approach will help reduce or eliminate the most damaging problems. Fast-Track Proficiencies on the other hand will help you deliver the key proficiencies essential to each different role. The approach came out of work done by Steve Rosenbaum and Jim Williams which resulted in a new, simple-to-implement set of techniques to help get employees up to speed in record time. It is all documented in their book: “Learning Paths: Increase profits by reducing the time it takes to get employees up-to-speed” (Pfeiffer and ASTD Press 2004), which includes a CD with templates and procedures for identifying key proficiencies. I was able to implement the techniques with a client immediately after reading the book. It even includes a rapid approach called 30/30 Learning Paths for tackling just a handful of proficiencies in a role, (not least to prove to yourselves that it really works). Again, what is typically delivered is a blend of short tutorials and online workplace support information. For more information visit http://www.learningpathsinternational.com, check out the contents of the book via the “look inside” facility on Amazon or just buy the book.
Glynn will continue to discuss the classic approach to ROI in our next blog edition. Follow us on twitter @aurionlearning for our latest blog articles and updates.
Many e-learning programmes today are built for compliance training, which more often than not means that learners are faced with boring and tedious ‘page-turner’ programmes.
E-learning guru and author Michael Allen has spent years fighting this trend for monotonous
e-learning. In his book, Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting, Allen proposes alternative ways of designing e-learning to ensure it’s interesting and engaging for learners. Although published 5 years ago Allen’s book, which is aimed at experienced instructional designers, is still included on many university reading lists and is worthy of review.
So what is Allen’s main proposal in the book?
Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting is divided into three parts:
Part 1 – ‘Scenarios’ presents a selection of e-learning scenarios and asks the reader what they would do in these situations. This questions the readers’ current approach to designing e-learning programmes and opens their mind to the possibility of designing programmes differently.
Part 2 – ‘The Art and Science of Instructional Design’ provides a critique of how instructional design is practiced today. It introduces readers to the ‘Success Based Design’ practiced by the author, which he believes encompasses the best elements of current instructional design theories.
Part 3 – ‘Designing Successful e-Learning’ explains how readers can apply a Success Based Design to their own e-learning programmes. Allen suggests that instructional designers provide learners with meaningful, memorable and motivational experiences, which he says you can do by:
- setting the programme in the context of the learner’s real-life environment;
- by providing the learner with a challenge they are likely to encounter in this environment;
- by providing the learner with activities that help them to solve the challenge; and
- by providing them with intrinsic feedback – based on their performance of the activity.
The e-learning programme is meant to provide learners with a safe environment in which they can try out different options and solutions, and make informed decisions based on their mistakes and successful attempts. The success of the programme is then measured by how well they do in the real environment.
Allen’s approach contrasts with traditional e-learning which provides learners with pages of content, followed by an assessment to see if learners can remember the content. Instead of just focusing on the content, Allen places emphasis on whether or not learners can apply their knowledge in a real-life task.
Is the Success Based Design a better approach than the traditional approach?
In my opinion, the Success Based Design is clearly a better approach to take. It facilitates production of
a more interesting and engaging programme and encourages learners to gain a deeper understanding of the learning content, and how to apply that learning in real-life contexts.
For example, a Success Based e-learning programme that helps nurses diagnose specific sinus problems with their patients would present the learner (the nurse) with typical scenarios. In each scenario, the learner asks the patient (or programme) questions about their symptoms and they observe the patient for physical symptoms. From this information, they can then submit their diagnosis and the programme will give them feedback. The scenario is reflective of a real-life task and challenge the nurse is likely to face at work.
The main limitation with Allen’s approach is that learners do not have to read all of the content. They can choose which scenarios they want to do and they can skip those scenarios that they think they know well. Traditional e-learning programmes, on the other hand, tend to be compliance-based which means that learners are forced to read all of the pages of content.
Nevertheless, the Success Based Approach focuses more on improving the understanding of learners and focuses less on compliance. Focusing on learners’ needs should always be a priority.
How well does the author deliver the content?
Allen describes the Success Based Approach very thoroughly in his book and provides useful diagrams and tables to explain his methods. He can be somewhat repetitive at times, for example, he repeats much of the same information about context, challenge, activity and feedback across several different chapters on designing instruction.
He also falls short of providing a step-by-step guide on designing e-learning programmes using this approach, and in providing practical examples of how it would look in an e-learning programme. For example, he does not show how the layout of the navigation and menus would look like. This would help give a clearer understanding of how he proposes to move away from the traditional layout and design.
Are there any limitations with his approach?
The Success Based Design is an excellent approach. However, I feel that because e-learning is a component of the overall training strategy of an organisation, many organisations would need to
re-evaluate their current training strategies before implementing a Success Based e-Learning programme. For example, many organisations today are still providing learners with endless amounts of PowerPoint slides in a training room, instead of providing them with interactive, scenario-based activities which are much more meaningful. If organisations update their overall training strategy, then a Success Based e-Learning programme would suit the organisation’s training culture and norms.
How well does the book rate in relation to other books on Instructional Design?
Designing Successful e-Learning is still a popular book on the market. Allen uses a friendly and informal tone to deliver some very useful advice on how to design successful e-learning. He breaks away from some of the traditional books which are heavily laden in theory and jargon, and speaks to the reader on a level they can understand. I would therefore recommend this book to any Instructional Designer who wants to improve their current approach to designing e-learning.
Are there further resources available from the author?
Michael Allen has a useful website where you can access information about his other books and other e-learning resources:
Designing Successful e-Learning: Forget What You Know About Instructional Design and Do Something Interesting – Michael Allen’s Online Learning Library
Publication Date: 12 Jun 2007 | ISBN-10: 0787982997 | ISBN-13: 978-0787982997
by Gavin Woods, Client Account & Sales Manager
The right learning management system (LMS) can be a powerful tool that empowers your learners and your learning team, and brings real tangible benefits to your organisation. But it’s essential you buy the right solution for your organisation.
In this presentation, Gavin Woods outlines 7 key questions you must ask before purchasing a learning management system (LMS).
In the last of our guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about performance appraisals and PDPs.
First of all a statement on Succession Planning; this statement might not be true, but it is my firm belief after many years of working with businesses all around Europe. It is this…
Succession Planning is the single most important and critical piece of functionality in the Talent Management suite – however it is:
1) the last one that you should implement, and
2) possibly the hardest piece of functionality to get right.
Sorry if this is in bold – I would probably put it in flashing lights as well if I could…
Consider this – how many times have you seen companies lose their way and quickly lose market share, profits and shareholder value when the wrong person is appointed into a critical position? How many times have you read about the time it has taken to appoint someone else into a critical position, and seen the impact that this delay has had on all the above, and on the other side of the coin, how many times has success of a business been linked directly to the critical talent that is the driving force or forces behind the company.
Often this is the CEO or Managing Director of the group, but just as often it is the Chief Financial Officer or the technical boffins in the company that are the financial and the creative brains and therefore just as critical to the performance of the company.
Succession Planning is therefore about one major thing – making the right decisions about who inside the company is able to step into the critical positions at the right time. The right time might be an emergency – what happens is the CEO falls ill? What happens if a critical technical person decides to resign to pursue something different? There are many circumstances that will lead to businesses losing people that are fundamentally critical to the business, and in a large company there could be hundreds of critical positions.
Another what happens if the business doesn’t have a replacement, capable of stepping into a critical position? The business will have to go outside to the market to recruit the right person, and this will have several large negative impacts:
Immediate Financial Cost
Critical roles will almost certainly have a large salary and benefits package attached to them, and therefore head-hunter and associated costs will be high. Most head-hunters charge companies based on the value of the employee, and often they will charge the equivalent of between 6 months and 1 full year of the person’s salary that they are recruiting – so if headhunting a new critical person, the immediate impact is likely to be a 6 figure sum disappearing off the bottom line revenue of the company. Large businesses with more than 25,000 people use head-hunters many times in a year, but used correctly, Succession Planning could reduce this significantly by better identifying and preparing worthy successors from inside the business. It has a potentially massive immediate impact on the profitability of the company.
Time to recruit
Recruiting the right person is likely to take months, and while this happens the business will have issues of various kinds, with the most obvious one being drift – without the business or technical lead in place the business will not perform as it should, and this could have a high cost over the months that the business is lacking it’s leader(s).
Time to train
People who are recruited from outside – even though they might be very skilled – still need time to get up to speed with the way the company operates. This will have a negative impact and the business will struggle while the new head takes time to start to add value.
Dissatisfaction in the existing workforce
If the company does not promote from within whenever it can, then it can cause deep unrest and dissatisfaction and can often lead to other critical members of the workforce leaving the business.
So to summarise on these points – there is a real and valuable business case for the management of succession planning – and therefore it is often seen as the most strategic and valuable part of the Talent Management suite by senior people in the business.
Succession Planning is also about doing planning for the 1 year, 2 year, and more replacement of critical talent. Planning worthy successors from inside the business takes time – so if the business starts to look at potential successors for critical senior positions what types of information do they want to have available and therefore analyse?
- Competencies – if a potential successor is there, how many gaps does he or she have in their competencies when you evaluate their scores on these against the competency requirements for the critical job position?
- Performance appraisal ratings – What have the recent performance appraisal rating been, and therefore is the potential successor a hi-po (High Performer)?
- Career expectations – does the person want to make the next move and take on this extra responsibility? Some people for outside reasons may have the skills but may not want the extra burden.
This is why Succession Planning and Succession Management has to be one of the last components of Talent Management to be implemented – it is useless without the metrics gained from time spent using the other components. Without this there will be insufficient data to do the analysis and then groom the identified successors.
How does a business use Succession Planning to prepare the right individuals?
The first and most critical step in Succession Planning is to identify competency gaps and appropriate training that will allow potential successors to close gaps in their competencies relative to their job position.
This will allow the business to get the internal workforce ready to take on those critical positions quicker. Communicate opportunities to the people concerned, and make sure that they are comfortable to move up if and when needed.
Succession Planning is a vital part of Talent Management and should be a very easy sell to senior people such as the HR Director and the CEO.
Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks about performance appraisals and PDPs.
So onto Performance Appraisals – I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of managers don’t really enjoy performance appraisals. In my humble experience managers in some larger organisations will complete a performance appraisal because HR tell them that they have to, but they will put as little effort into the thing as possible and in reality their views in the appraisal will be far too subjective. If they like the person, then the appraisee will get a good rating, and if they don’t it’s highly unlikely that that person will do well, irrespective of their ability to do the job.
So this then is the conundrum of HR – most HR managers understand this, and so want to achieve two things:
- Remove subjectivity and replace it with objectivity.
- Make the process as easy as possible for all concerned.
Every company I have worked for in the software world has used a different form for performance appraisals, and since I have worked for a number of companies for more than 5 years, I have seen performance appraisal forms change inside a company a few times as well. This is the challenge for the software business that wants to supply this functionality to clients – they will have one way of doing it, and often they will want you to replicate this in software – which is difficult to do without customisation.
Constituents of a Performance Appraisal
I’m not going to tell you in this blog what a performance appraisal is – I’d actually be quite worried if you don’t know this….however let’s for a minute consider the type of things that different companies might (or might not) want inside a performance appraisal.
- A review of the past period – often 6 months or more often 12 months – including a competency review – has the appraisee got better in the competencies related to his or her job during the period?
- A review of objectives and progress – most HR groups want their employees to be set objectives at the start of the period and then the performance appraisal is the formal assessment of progress against those objectives. Objectives can be personal in nature, or can be linked to department, business unit, or company objectives.
- A review of the next period – setting and agreeing some objectives for the next period. These again can be supplemented during the period if needed.
- An overall rating – some organisations want an overall rating for the appraisee.
- A skills review – what skills does the appraisee have that do not directly tie to their current role?
Some organisations might have more than this, but some will have less. Some will separate the objective setting for the following year, and want to put this into a separate area and time. Evaluating a person’s performance in a given year may sound easy, but with management changes happening quite often in large organisations, and changes of role, these can make performance appraisals a complex area to try and handle in the real world, and to try and automate this in software can be even harder.
Benefits of Automating Performance Appraisal Management
For Talent Management what is the implication of a good process here – what are the benefits of automating this area?
- Automatic storage of a person’s potential improvement over time.
Paper records in HR are an administration overhead and time consuming to manage.
- Automated management of the workflow process.
Who does the appraisal or part of the appraisal need to go to and when?
- Conformance with regulatory requirements.
Managing performance appraisals in this way means that the business can much easier conform with any government regulations in the area.
- An ability to look wider across the business and report on the critical talent much easier.
Having this data across the business often means that it is much easier for the business to select talent pools – groups of people who can be accelerated and become the future leaders.
- An increase in objectivity.
Software should allow other people to be involved in the appraisal process for more critical or senior people. This gives the business the ability to have a 360 degree view at appraisal time. Think about these things when you go to companies and talk to them about this.
The PDP and its Relationship with the Performance Appraisal
So now you understand what a performance appraisal is, what is a PDP? A PDP is a Personal Development Plan. At the start of a period (this may be for instance when the performance appraisal for the last year has just been completed), the business will want each user to know what he or she needs to accomplish in the next period. This goals setting can include goals that the individual wants to achieve (personal goals), department goals, business unit goals etc. Goals should be capable of being pushed down through the organisation hierarchy to the individual.
So why would an individual want or need a personal goal? Perhaps they want a promotion or want to move roles into a more senior position. It might be that some of the competencies required to be in this position are ones that the person needs to have training in order to improve his or her rating. Personal goals always need agreement from management but are often a critical element of the PDP. The PDP is a living breathing and evolving document during the period, and the goals from the PDP then drop into the Performance Appraisal at the end of the period, and the user is formally rated against those goals at that time.
Does this Have an Effect on Compensation?
A pretty obvious question, but one you need to be aware of in software terms. Compensation is often directly or indirectly tied to ratings and scores from performance appraisals. Objectives set for the period often have bonus pay linked to them, and so if you remember the Gartner diagram from my second blog in this series (Talent Management 2: Competencies, Ratings, Scales & Pitfalls) compensation management is a part of Talent Management, and you will sometimes get request from businesses to link the performance appraisal process through into a compensation product.
There is a lot more to Performance Management but that will do for now. A lot to think about – but think of it from the viewpoint of the person who is wanting to buy – what the HR director wants will be different to the CEO, and different to the business unit manager. We’ll discuss that a little more next week.
Continuing his series of guest blog posts on talent management, Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions talks terms and 9 box reporting. Confused? Read on.
Terms and 9 Box Reporting
This week I’ve decided to write up a bit on Talent Management terminology as a lighter bite for the week. I’ve gone into some functional depth in the last few weeks and so thought it would be good to maybe lighten things for a week.
Hippos and Hippies
I’ll start to drill into Performance Management in the next few weeks, but before I do I’d like to look at the terms so that when I then talk about them everyone is not confused…
Hippos (actually Hi-Po’s) are High Potentials. High Potentials are people in the business who have been recognised as being possible leaders of the business in the future. I actually found a pretty funny website here http://www.highpotentialssociety.org/Society/society.html for people who want to classify themselves as high potentials – but the reality is that in business it is important to be able to identify those people who have the potential in the future to really drive the business forward. To understand who is a high potential, and to understand more just google the term – you’ll find loads of data about this term.
Hippies (actually Hi-Pe’s) are High Performers. High Performers are people in the business who in their current role are performing very well, and are good at what they do. They will normally be very competent in their job role, and will be getting high scores in their performance appraisals.
9 Box Reporting
It makes sense that a person who is a high performer could also be a high potential – but a high performer might not be a high potential for a number of reasons. Maybe the person is happy where they are and does not want the extra responsibility that comes with a more senior position. Maybe the person is in a deeply technical role where there is no value to the business in moving them further up the organisation.
HR Directors have therefore found a diagrammatic way of dropping people into boxes in a graphical report commonly called a 9 box report. It is a matrix where one axis rates people based on their high potential score and the other axis rates them on their high performance score. I like this diagrammatic view.
As you can see, if you put people into the various spaces in the grid, then you know a bit more what you should do with them. Software systems give the business the ability to rate people as Hippos, Hippies, or both – however I would always remember that the system is just a tool – companies still have to rely on the abilities of their managers to rate individuals – a bad rating because of lack of knowledge can still drop an individual in the wrong box…and this can be detrimental to the business and to the individual.
Businesses try their hardest to retain people in most quadrants, and will try to have their churn (rate at which people leave and join) be of people in the bottom left quadrant.
By the way – two interesting things:
1. There is also a 16 box – where the scales are 4 by 4. However the more boxes the harder the management becomes.
2. I once met a senior HR manager at a UK event who presented on this subject. She spent a lot of her time producing a set of 9 box reports for her 100,000 person organisation. She was very proud of the myriad of excel spreadsheets she maintained…a lot of hard work that modern Talent Management systems should now support.
I would love to define this this week but I’ve come to the end of this week’s chapter – so let’s talk through Talent Pools next week, and then we’ll move into Performance Management after that.
A big welcome to Steve Curtis, EMEA Channel Director at NetDimensions who is our guest blogger for the next six posts.
In this series of blogs, Steve will give us an over-view of Talent Management, taking in competencies and ratings; competency assessments; terms and box reporting; performance appraisals and PDPs; and succession planning. In this first blog post, Steve provides a top level overview of talent management.
What is Talent Management?
The reality is that Talent Management has been around ever since people hired people. As companies got larger and larger it became more and more difficult to sort out the good from the bad, the workaholic from the lazy, etc. Human Resource Management groups were born, and as software evolved then groups like PeopleSoft came to the fore to sell solutions to these groups. I worked for PeopleSoft for 8.5 years and even though nobody ever used the term Talent Management, there were still a group of applications that did the functions that Talent Management systems of today try to do.
The second real truth. Not one vendor of software has a fully functional Talent Management solution. Not one. Many vendors claim to have Talent Management solutions, and some cover a number of the vertical pillars of Talent Management but nobody does it all. It is actually very difficult to provide all of the vertical components; even Oracle is not able to do this yet…so if you get into a debate with a client always bear this in mind. So back to what it is… I will shortly share a diagram that I liked about it, but basically, Talent Management covers recruitment, workforce planning, performance management, succession planning, learning, and goes all the way through to compensation management. It is a full circle approach to the management of the people within your business, where performance affects compensation, compensation affects performance, learning affects performance, performance and potential affects succession planning, etc etc. I’ll cover much more detail on each part and what to think about when selling and talking about it at a future stage…but back to the high levels…
Who do we sell Talent Management to?
We then come to the conundrum of selling Talent Management….most companies that you sell into do not have an integrated Talent Management strategy. I found over the years and am still finding it today that a business’s internal structure will tell you a lot about what you can sell them. Most companies still have someone responsible for L&D, and you will often find three things about this person:
- They don’t talk very often to the HR Director.
- They know nothing about performance and Talent, and if they do, they have very little influence over any decisions related to this.
- Their budget and their empire is very much focused on Learning.
Talking to HR Directors you find that most of them have very little real interest in Learning. HR Directors are focused on three things:
- How do I support the CEO’s aim to maximise shareholder value – otherwise known as operating profit?
- How do I make my business an *attractive place for people to want to work? E.g. How do I attract the best Talent?
- How do I minimise the churn rates in my business?
They are often looking two or three years in the future, but at the same time you often find in talking to them that fire-fighting takes much more of their day to day activity than they would like. IT systems are often seen more of a challenge, and with Learning only being one component of a full solution, in actuality they are more likely to take the view that a single corporate view of people from a single system would add a lot more value than multiple silos for learning, development, performance, compensation etc. However since the business has a group who just looks after the L&D requirements you are actually likely to find that the HR Director has a HR business that is not ready to take on an integrated system – so most businesses will still come to market with a specific part of Talent Management and with an RFP where the “strategic direction” they want from the software vendor is for an “Integrated Talent Management Strategy”. In reality most businesses current structure will make this a difficult thing to implement…
Ok – so I hope this helps – top level on Talent Management, and top level on who NetDimensions sells Talent Management solutions to. I intend to drill down in the coming chapters into the different functional areas, and next week’s blog will link us from learning into competencies and the management of these things – the positives and the negatives, how most vendors talk about competencies, and the average HR Director’s view.
Bye for now, Steve.
By Maresa Molloy, Instructional Designer
We love when clients come to us full of enthusiasm for a new e-learning programme but comments like: “Our staff need to know our policies – let’s put them online into an e-learning programme,” or “We need to make sure they’ve read all the material – an e-learning programme is perfect!” can set the alarm bells ringing.
Educating staff on new information, and identifying whether or not they’ve read and understood the material, are perfectly good reasons for developing an e-learning programme. Bombarding your staff with everything you know about the information and making sure they can recite it word perfect is not.
Imagine trying to educate your staff on Health & Safety and providing them with pages and pages of policies and procedures on Health & Safety and then expecting them to list these verbatim. This is clearly not a good idea – they’ll never remember all of the material and they’ll get bored fairly quickly.
Now imagine providing your staff with a course which teaches them the key information on these policies and procedures and showing them how to apply these in their work. This is clearly more effective.
But how do you split the wheat from the chaff?
At Aurion Learning, we believe that the key to designing a successful, performance based e-learning programme is to identify current performance gaps. To do this, we use what we call our ‘DIF analysis’:
- What tasks do your learners find Difficult?
- What tasks do they find Important to their jobs?
- What tasks do they do Frequently?
Once you know these tasks, you can design a course which targets what they really need to learn, and furthermore, you can spend more time and resources focusing on making this content more interactive and enjoyable.
|Assume that your goal is to increase their knowledge.||Identify what they need to do differently.|
|Provide all of the information you have on the subject.||Provide only the information that can help them do something differently.|
|Ensure that they know all of the information.||Ensure that they can use the information.|
(Source material Cathy Moore)
Aurion Learning’s Managing Director, Dr. Maureen Murphy, was a speaker at recent the TEDxBelfast event which took place in Belfast’s iconic Titanic Building on June 6th, 2012
Joined by a range of speakers from Belfast, Vancouver, Kenya and Dublin the rather fitting theme of the night was ‘Titanic Ideas’.
Maureen’s TEDxTalk was entitled ‘The Curse of Knowledge‘ and focused on the search for better models of learning. Maureen said that 70% of traditional work-based training is a waste of money and suggested better ways of making learning stick, including better use of story-based and social approaches, and noting being afraid to raise emotions.
You can view the full talk here: TEDxBelfast – Maureen Murphy – The Curse of Knowledge
TEDx was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.” The program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.
At TEDx events, a screening of TEDTalks videos — or a combination of live presenters and TEDTalks videos — sparks deep conversation and connections. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.
by Glynn Jung
Now here’s an admission: when I joined IBM’s Research Labs back in the autumn of 1969 we were designing the next generation of computers on valve computers the size of a Town Hall. Some of the machines I worked on had 10 printers, each the size of a Ford Ka. At an astonishing pace we exploited each latest machine to design the next technology, ever smaller ever faster and typically designed to do things that people didn’t know they wanted to do.
Smaller, lighter, faster … at the heart of this was chip technology, firstly silicon chips, then by 2005 carbon nanotube technology (silicon proving too expensive and generating dangerous levels of heat.
We regularly see startling results of chip technology on News programmes, not just computers, cameras, iPhones and iPads, car computers, airplane systems etc., etc….. implants to help people operate prosthetic limbs, to help the blind see (currently blurry) images, to operate in hospitals with micro-surgery and non-invasive techniques.
So it’s pretty startling to find that in 10 years’ time the use of chips may start to decline, along with the technology currently used in touch-screen devices – INDIUM.
Here’s the story … Indium stocks will run out within 10 years and there’s manufacturing limits for chip technology. Imagine if you can, a material, 2 molecules thick, which can conduct thermal energy, contain the same logic and electronic functions as chips, is very strong, lets light through it (so can be used in windows, spectacles – whatever. Picture if you can this material being so versatile it can be embedded into both the finest and the most rugged of clothing.
This stuff (that’s the technical word) exists and it is called GRAPHENE.
In a special research facility, with the catchy name of “Centre for Graphene Science”, the combined knowledge of the Universities of Exeter and Bath have stirred up the scientific community with the release of their technology “GraphExeter”. Maybe they could use some help with branding?
Here’s what people have been saying:
Now, despite all the hyperbole about interactive books, mobile learning, ePub, Augmented Reality, Virtual worlds the way people learn hasn’t changed a great deal over the past 50 years.
Some of the techniques used in digital classrooms – High Definition IWBs with student polling, with visualisers and 3D modelling (e.g. Virtalis and AutoDesk) – are gradually being looked at by corporate trainers (adopted is too strong a statement) but there are infrastructure issues, portability and cost concerns. If we can imagine a fully interactive version of an IWB that you could roll up or fold, which could be made from multi-layer Graphene (essentially reconstructed graphite …. the stuff in pencils) it could change the scene of learning. Having just seen how Google hope to use Augmented Reality in their “Project Glass”, I wonder about the ability to provide Graphene- coated glasses (or clip-on lenses) for training or enhanced safety in dangerous environments… using Augmented Reality and QR codes.
What about diagnostic manuals and study guides made of paper with Graphene sheets, so you could have interactive tutorials, links to resources like the ones you’ll find in the Khan Academy, tutor hotlines etc…..
So I’ll leave you with one final news item:
by Glynn Jung
It ain’t what you do……it’s the way that you do it. So goes the old song and in my mind this includes getting your message across so that it sticks in people’s minds. Broadcasters, coaches, teachers and trainers, business leaders, politicians, line managers … everyone can benefit from simple improvements to the way they communicate so that what they say is “sticky”.
The recent visit to London of Dan Heath prompted me to pick up a remarkable book by Dan and his brother Chip: yes, the names give it away they are American – it doesn’t make them bad people. Oh and no, this isn’t about NLP or Emotional Intelligence… it’s the result of years research and interviews into why we remember some things so easily and forget others so quickly. The book is ‘Made to Stick’ and it’s been on my desk for four years now.
Here’s the main thrust of this brilliant and entertaining book.
By ‘sticky’ they mean: understandable, memorable and effective in changing thought or behaviour.
The keys to stickiness are: SIMPLE – UNEXPECTED – CONCEPT – CREDIBLE – EMOTIONAL – STORIES.
And the villain is …the curse of knowledge. The more you know about something the less likely it is that you can get the core message across in a way that sticks. This has big implications in the use of experts for training.
Experts can take a long time to get to the key, compelling bit of information. Journalists call this “Burying the message”.
- Simple. To be simple, determine the single most important thing. Link it to what’s already in the recipients’ memory.
- Unexpected. Like a bus conductor or railway guard making an intercom announcement grab our attention so we’re actively involved rather than hearing passively. Then hold our attention…maybe create a mystery ,use the theory of curiosity.
- Concrete. Avoid abstractions. The Velcro theory of memory is that the more “hooks” in your idea, the better . Find common ground at a shared level of understanding (really tough that one) and set common goals in tangible terms.
- Credible. Not just authoritative sources but convincing details. Use INTERNAL CREDIBILITY – make statistics accessible, put them in a human context and use testable credentials “Try before you buy” rather than wear people down with force of argument.
- Emotional. Make People Care. Use the power of association and appeal to best self-interest. But don’t assume that others care at the same level as you.
- Stories. Get people to take action with stories. Inspirational stories give people the energy to act – learn how to spot inspirational stories and how to use them.
So what does this mean for the world of learning?
Well let’s just look at a couple of the Heath Brothers’ research findings… starting with the ‘Gap Theory’. George Loewenstein, a behavioural economist, says that curiosity arises when we feel a gap in our knowledge. Loewenstein argues that gaps cause pain. When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch we need to scratch. To take away the pain, we need to fill the knowledge gap. We sit patiently through bad movies, even though they may be painful to watch, because it’s too painful not to know how they end.
One important implication of the ‘Gap Theory’ is that we need to open gaps before we close them. Our tendency is to tell students the facts. First, though, they must realize they need them.
One trick for convincing students they need our message, according to Loewenstein, is to first highlight some specific knowledge they are missing. You can pose a question or puzzle that confronts them with a gap in their knowledge: One recent book had a curiosity gap as its title: “Why do men have nipples?” A science teacher in Colorado asked his students: “Have you ever noticed that, in the winter, your car tyres look a little flat? So where did the air go?” The book Freakonomics makes brilliant use of curiosity gaps: “Why do so many drug dealers live with their moms?”
I’ll leave it there for the moment but at the very least it’s worthwhile visiting the Heath Brothers website www.heathbrothers.com/ … maybe sign up to their free resources.
by Glynn Jung, Non-Executive Director
It amazes me to think how Microsoft has almost invisibly developed a role for itself in the cost-sensitive and occasionally technophobic world of learning, including collaborating with open source communities.
It first really clicked with me last year when I started counting the number of times that Sharepoint was included in Invitations to Tender (ITTs) and Statements of Requirements, often with open source attachments such as Liferay and SLK. And this was before SP2010 had become established with all its improvements over SP2007 and its Groove technology.
Just as sneakily the open source CMS application Umbraco (as used by Aurion Learning for portals and hubs) has become number 4 in the UK’s list of most popular .NET tools. Sharepoint is number 1.
The proprietary world is still prevalent of course with products such as SharePointLMS from ElearningForce serving the corporate market but there’s been a growing enthusiasm amongst open source suppliers and within Microsoft to make it easier for buyers to move on from the old thinking that “it’s either Microsoft or it’s open”.
So we see X-Box technology opening up to the e-learning community to experiment with developing training simulations based around body sensor technology and Sharepoint moving from being arguably the most derided Microsoft product to its most heartily championed … and all with the support of the open source and boutique development communities.
For the generic e-learning suppliers who’ve long believed MS Office End User e-learning to be their commercial bedrock Microsoft’s release of Office 365 must be a bit of a mixed blessing. CLOUD hosting means that once again VANILLA software is real world, justifying their catalogues of End User titles.
Unfortunately Microsoft’s offering destroys the financial case for buying libraries of materials based on total cost of ownership per end-user (including software licenses and IT overheads such as server farms and technical support teams).
For those who don’t know, Microsoft’s CLOUD offer for organisations with less than 25 staff costs around £4.00 per user per month. This includes webmail, IMS, Voice & Video Conferencing, WORD, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note and a Sharepoint 2010 Intranet. Meanwhile Microsoft’s enterprise offer includes Private CLOUD App-V, WORD, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook with Business Contact Manager, Publisher, Access, One Note, LYNC, InfoPath & SP workspace. It also includes Active Directory Integration. Price? – approximately £16.00 per user. It also includes access to a load of training & study materials.
With Windows 8 to be released in the near future we see the realisation of at least version 1 of Microsoft’s vision of a common MS platform across the “three screens”, i.e. PC/Laptop etc., smartphone/smartpad and digital TV, all integrated by LYNC.
So in some ways while the technical press is shouting about Apple versus the world, about patent infringement and misappropriation of IP and about winners and losers in the technology market, Microsoft is quietly doing what we always hoped they would and deliver technology to make things easier.
By Glynn Jung, Non-Executive Director
The constant mergers and acquisitions activity that we commented on at start of the year continues.
Four moves in particular interest me as illustrating current trends:
• Bluedrop & Serebra – the convergence of education & corporate sectors;
• Twitter & Summify – personalising social media;
• Kenexa & Outstart – feeling the pressure and hoping the grass is greener;
• Assima & Kaplan Technologies – consolidation and expansion.
Bluedrop and Serebra – the convergence of Education and Corporate sectors
In a surprise reverse buyout Bluedrop Performance Learning acquired Serebra Learning in January. At first glance the core one-stop SaaS offerings from these Canadian companies (CoursePark from Bluedrop and Campus from Serebra) would appear to be mutually incompatible but on closer examination there are sufficient differences between the two companies to make merger attractive.
Serebra has become a major player in Higher Education and Further Education and its functionality, course content and customer base reflect this education provenance. Bluedrop has carved a similar niche for itself in Defence, Aerospace, Energy and Health but with added expertise in low-cost simulations. The combined expertise of these two companies, sort of niche versions of Lumesse, should put them in a position to exploit the growing cross-fertilisation of Industry and Education as well as the increasing commercialisation of the education sector globally.
Twitter and Summify – personalising social media
Summify is particularly interesting for two reasons. Firstly it’s proof of the increasing innovation coming from Romania technologists (though the company has been physically located in Canada).
Secondly it’s one of the first of a new breed of “content curation” companies collecting news stories that are being shared on your social networks and putting them into a daily summary. The short-lived Summify service has made a name for itself by aggregating the most important news items from your Twitter and Facebook accounts and displaying them in easily digestible portions.
Twitter was the original “follower and followed” service but it’s not made the same progress as Summify so the acquisition and integration of the two offerings are wholly understandable.
Kenexa and Outstart – feeling the pressure and hoping the grass is greener
Two industry giants, Kenexa in HCMS and Talent Management and Outstart in LCMS and Learning Systems, have confirmed they’ll be tying the knot very shortly, mirroring the takeover in February by Oracle of Taleo. The Kenexa statement read “With the addition of OutStart’s capabilities, Kenexa will be able to offer customers an award-winning suite of SaaS learning solutions plus learning expertise and a great team with more than a decade of experience in learning management.” Commentators suggest that the learning & accreditation markets are suffering serious disruption at the moment and OutStart’s particular emphasis on knowledge sharing within organisations is ripe for innovation, something the combined expertise could deliver. As ever – the question is whether the two tribes can co-exist in a single corporation and at what point will clients feel the impact of the takeover.
Finally: Assima and Kaplan Technologies
My personal view is that Kaplan’s entry into the technologies market was ill-advised and a costly mistake. Both STT and Atlantic Link were always an odd addition to Kaplan’s Education, Academic and Professional Academies businesses … you rarely, if ever, see such a mixture succeed any more than that created when publishing companies buy eLearning generic eLearning companies.
Assima on the other hand is an organisation steeped in technologies and the sale of product-based services: like STT it was spawned from the SAP and ERP industry, (where it was originally known as DACG), and it understands how to use technology in learning and performance support on a major scale. Assima previously shunned the “conventional” eLearning market due to its core focus on Software implementation and exploitation, particularly using sophisticated EPSS, Simulators and Context-sensitive learning. But it makes sense to broaden the offering to its established international corporate clients by moving into eLearning.
by Colette Boyd, Graphic Designer
A successful brand says many things to its audience and to tamper with that can be dangerous (remember the Consignia fiasco); get the rebrand wrong and it can at best alienate your existing audience and at worst fail to gain a new one.
Listen to your existing brand
So to start the whole rebranding process, we listened to what the success of the existing Aurion Learning brand was telling us and used this as a basis to build on.
The existing brand told us that our customers associated Aurion Learning with reliability, professionalism and creativity. We needed to retain this aspect of the brand to appeal to our existing market but also think about what we wanted the new company branding to say to new customers.
How do you want to appeal to new customers?
We looked at our current service offering and thought about how to reflect this visually. This posed a challenge because the Aurion Learning service offering is varied – we offer different things for different clients, depending on their learning and development needs. We deal with serious learning content and technology that need a careful hand and serious tone and at the same time we must have the creative ability to take e-learning material and breathe life into it.
Creating the brand
Visually we decided to build on the existing brand giving it a new twist by retaining the clean typography of the existing logo but transforming an element of it into a more visual or “logoized” version. The concept behind this is the idea transforming the “on” part of the Aurion Learning logo from simple typography to a button highlight the fact that Aurion Learning is always “on” always ready to support and deliver to its clients. We also integrated the idea of transformation into an accompanying strapline for the website and promotional materials- “transforming learning and development in your organisation”.
We are a confident organisation and wanted to reflect this in the branding, so the logo sits on white with no decoration or fuss because it doesn’t need it. The colour palettes are limited but bold. The primary palette consists of two colours, grey and orange. Grey reflects the professional ism, stability and calm side of the company and orange reflects the energy and vibrancy and warmth of its staff. We incorporated the curve of the button into the stationery and online materials. We also wanted to showcase our creative talents by introducing a series of characters that guide you around the website and reflect our service offering. There is a trainer, an instructional designer a designer/ developer and a marketing consultant.
We rolled this design ethos over the whole brand incorporating it into the website, blog, internal systems and corporate stationery. We think it is a success.
by Lee Reilly, Senior Web Designer
My first real foray into the realm of coding over a decade ago pertained to making a text box on my page a solid colour, positioning it to the right and making the text white. After much musing (by which I mean searching around the internet) I fumbled a solution and had inadvertently coded something! In this case it was a <div> container to hold my text, which was aligned right and coloured accordingly. The beginnings of my first HTML site, though perhaps not as grand as I might have liked.
Over the years my HTML and CSS skills have improved, as has my understanding of the underlying processes involved. With the upcoming publication of the highly anticipated HTML 5 specification I find myself feeling like I did over a decade ago; is the difference between HTML 4 and 5 so great that I must start creating little text boxes on a page again in order to understand this new version?
The answer, mercifully, is no. HTML 5, in its simplest form, is a revised version of HTML 4. Sure, it has the ability to be so much more, but it does not have to be. I could take the latest project I am working on, amend line 1 to <!DOCTYPE html> and I would have an HTML 5 project. I would obviously not do that as it would be cheating and not advisable for compatibility of content within that project.
The real power of HTML5
The real power of HTML 5 (and CSS 3) comes from the improvements within. HTML 5 is created to improve the interoperability of HTML based documents. This means it is designed to work across multiple platforms and software setups. Numerous elements have been added such as <article>, <header>, <footer> and <section> to make the lives of developers easier. If nothing else these new elements reduce the quantity of <div> elements required for layout. These and other elements have been created to help add meaning to the content within. An example of this would be creating a news article:
In HTML 4 I might create something like:
<h2>Why am I making this site in HTML4?!</h2>
In HTML 5 this could be created as:
<h2>HTML 5: That’s the ticket!</h2>
The benefits to creating this in HTML 5 are two-fold. First, there is less coding involved. Second, and more importantly, the elements used are created for the purposes illustrated; <article> is used for independent, self-contained content and <date> is used for defining dates and times. The freedom that HTML 5 allows in creating element names might at first make it appear to be less structured and potentially more prone to variation between developers. What this flexibility does, when combined with new elements and attributes, is allow for greater control of structure.
Can it make a difference?
Everything mentioned above give HTML 5 the potential to improve the way websites and web apps are built. The real power of HTML 5, however, comes from its integrated Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs. They have been designed to make developing web apps easier across multiple platforms. These include new APIs for audio and video, which will act to provide a uniform (and non-flash based) approach to getting rich media easily on to the web. Great in theory but these are still a long way off being perfect. In its current incarnation, HTML 5 has no full cross-browser support for video file formats. This means if you were to use the <video> element in a project today you would need to encode your video as both mp4 and ogg file formats to ensure all modern browsers would play them; a large overhead to say the least.
When evaluating how good HTML 5 is we must consider that it is still only a draft specification and elements and attributes are still subject to change. That said, it has the potential to deliver on numerous fronts and the thought of a fully interoperable web app or website across numerous platforms, complete with rich media and animation without the need for user-installed plugins makes its success all the more appealing. So much so that we have already begun project work using HTML 5. These E-learning projects have been designed to work cross-platform, from the traditional desktop E-learning to tablets and smartphones (so called M-learning or mobile learning). The benefit of using HTML 5 as the backbone is that the same pages are served up to each platform, the only difference being how they are styled. This technique of catering for different platforms using the same pages is called responsive design.
In future blog posts we will look at responsive design as well as the hugely anticipated <canvas> element in HTML 5 and its potential for usurping flash for cross-platform animation. We will also look at what new features CSS 3 brings to the party.
by Noleen Turner, Marketing Manager
Choosing the right tools
There are lots of webinar tools out there – each with their own benefits and drawbacks – but bear in mind – none is 100% reliable. Most offer a free trial before you buy, so find one that’s easy to use; works with a variety of operating systems and your in-house technology; and is scalable.
Some of my favourite webinar tools are gotomeeting, gotowebinar, webex, Adobe Connect –and anymeeting(which is FREE!). Online Meeting Tools Review have a list of webinar tools with peer reviews.
Preparing for the webinar
- Get familiar with the technology. Make sure you know how to use the webinar tools inside out before the live event. This will eliminate nerves and the chance of any problems occurring.
- Choose the right topic and deliver what you promise: Make sure your webinar topic is interesting and of genuine value to your potential clients – and stick to it. If you promise your audience A (genuine value webinar) – and deliver B (sales pitch) – they have a right to be angry and disappointed.
- Have a co-presenter – invite an industry expert, customer or partner to co-present. This will generate more interest and could even double your attendance. It also takes the pressure off you when you’re trying to answer questions, conduct polls or fix technology hiccups.
- Write a script/outline and use this to structure the learning content. Don’t cram too much into the webinar – it’s better to have a small amount of really high quality content than a large amount of poor quality content.
- Practice: do a couple of dry runs, record it and play it back to hear how you sound. If possible, practice with co-presenters. Time yourself so you know if you are going to be able to cover all the content within the time slot. Don’t rush through – take your time and cover points fully.
- Start promoting the webinar at least five weeks in advance.
- Choose the time and date of your webinar carefully. Avoid Mondays and Fridays as these are peak conferencing days, meeting days and annual leave days and attendance can be lower. Consider where your audience is based – and what time it is most suitable for their region. Start at 15 minutes past the hour rather than on the hour. Give attendees time to move between meetings and join the webinar.
- Send two reminders only — 1 week and 1 day before the webinar.
- Leave at least 15 minutes at the end of the webinar for a Question & Answer session.
During the event
- Begin the session at least 15 minutes early to test the video and audio connections of all the presenters and panellists.
- Join your meeting early and check that all links and presentations are working. Share a ‘welcome’ slide to let attendees know that the webinar will be starting soon. Provide attendees with an overview of how to use key webinar features – such as chat, raise hand, questions and answers etc. Provide an overview of what the webinar will cover and how it will be structured. Introduce all speakers. Remember to mute all lines until the question and answer session begins.
- Use more than just PowerPoint to keep your audience engaged. Include multimedia such as animation, flash, photos, web-demos and video.
- Don’t just talk at your audience – invite them to join in the conversation. Conduct polls at regular intervals and host a question and answer session at the end.
- If things go wrong – stay calm. Take a minute and try to fix it, but if you can’t, apologise and move on.
- Leave lots of time for questions and answers.
- Record your webinar and make it available on your website or blog afterwards.
- Conduct a survey at the end of the webinar to get feedback from the attendees.
- Follow up with all registrants one week after the event – both attendees and non-attendees. Include relevant links such as a recording of the webinar, case studies, white papers, survey results, feedback etc. Invite people to your next event.
- Pass details of all registrants to your sales team for detailed follow up.
- Review all feedback and work on lessons learned to make sure your next webinar is even better.
And finally, don’t be afraid of the technology and good luck!
By Glynn Jung, Non-Executive Director
The big-scale version of training outsourcing – LBPO (Learning Business Process Outsourcing) – continues to grow as a financially attractive option for employers with large and distributed workforces. Chats with some employers suggest there may be a gap for new mid-range LBPO suppliers who not only manage the contracts and services from a number of suppliers to an organisation, but also offer platforms, systems and rapid content development services.Well, acquisition and consolidation in the e-Learning market have been hotting up through 2011, (as in fact has happened during previous recessions), as investors look to exploit opportunities in new tools, technologies and sectors for workforce skilling, as major suppliers look to extend market reach and as niche suppliers find development funds being switched off.
In terms of mergers, strategic investments & consolidations in 2011 we witnessed upheaval in all sectors and territories.
These included Lumesse acquiring Edvantage, SkillSoft acquiring Element K from former owners NIIT and BB acquiring both Elluminate & Wimba.
Taleo acquired learn.com and SuccessFactors acquired Plateau Systems, subsequently themselves being taken over in December by SAP.
Kaplan never seem far from their next purchase and LBPOs such as GP (formerly GenPhysics), KnowledgePool and Demos are no slouches in the consolidations markets; GP in fact acquired R.W.D. Technology’s consulting business earlier in 2011.
EPM and BPM giant OpenText picked up Operitel for its e-Learning management expertise that will be bolted into OpenText products in the future. Operitel’s LearnFlex includes social and mobile learning management fully integrated into SharePoint.
Trivantis also announced the official acquisition of its partner, Flypaper Studio. The deal couples Lectora authoring software with Flypaper, a full-featured Flash interactions builder and digital signage platform.
Investment Group acquisitions included UfI Ltd. and learndirect by LDC, GlobalKnowledge by MidOcean and with BB itself being acquired by Providence Equity.
Earlier hopes of SkillSoft’s intentions in terms of protecting and integrating the best of E-K’s products into their own portfolio now seem to have been a tad optimistic … anecdotally what I’m hearing is that all E-K products, including the third-party products, will be taken off the market as soon as practical and that SkillSoft are energetically pursuing a campaign of converting E-K clients to the SkillSoft services.
As the number of large generic catalogue suppliers continues to diminish I’ve increasingly received questions from my clients about their future supplier strategies and seeking my thoughts on how I see the market shaping up.
My first observation is that new portal suppliers will enter the mid-size catalogue sector, offering a limited number of value-for-money suppliers’ products.
I further suggest that clients will either return to contracting directly with preferred niche suppliers such as Happy, CrossKnowledge, ILX, Flow or Cegos, (those are just top-of-my-head examples), or will sign up with a new breed of smaller scale LBO partners. Certainly the issue of same look and feel for all materials seems to be largely irrelevant these days and increasingly people are weighing the pain of managing multiple suppliers against the value of getting exactly what they want. I’d like to hope that this will ultimately deliver smaller content libraries targeting real needs in an organisation rather than “just-in-case”.
Finally I suggest that there’s always room for new suppliers, both in existing generic sectors and to exploit the convergence of Higher Education,CommercialColleges,BusinessSchools, Business and Industry. Some of the most exciting innovations in blended learning are taking place in the public and education sectors where we see new commercial spin-offs or partnerships delivering much needed revenues.
In this I anticipate the emergence of generic content reflecting particular industry sectors or jobs, with scenarios, vocabularies and graphics relevant to these sectors and roles. Many of us had anticipated that this could be a spin-off from National Skills Academies but that didn’t really happen.
Umbraco – a CMS to bring designers and developers together – by Andrew McCaughan, Web Developer
Like a lot of young developers, my misspent youth involved learning to program and build websites. Once I heard of the concept of the Content Management System (CMS) I knew that I could bring these skills together and that I would make my fortune.
Alas, this was not meant to be. Of course I made the CMS. It was really good. You could add new pages, write blogs, add photos and you could even define the meta tags on each page. Many incarnations of my personal website were powered by that wonderful little CMS but the time to develop it into a product was something that I did not have, or more accurately, I just didn’t want to spend the time developing it. So, looking back at the subversion repository my last commit was 31st August 2007 at 3:40am. It hasn’t been touched since.
Some people, though, had the intention to develop their CMS further. In the world of .NET, there have been a number of successful CMS projects. The bigger names come to mind – DotNetNuke (DNN) and Kentico. These projects have been praised for their power but both projects have their drawbacks.
DotNetNuke has been praised for its power, its wealth of add-ons and the community that supports it are some of the smartest in the business but the experience for a web designer in DotNetNuke leaves a lot to be desired.
Kentico also has the power, the add-ons and the really talented people behind it. It even bridges the gap between designer and developer but it can cost anything between £1299 and £9700. They do have small business licence options if you call them and request a quote.
Since joining Aurion Learning, I have been challenged with finding the best CMS to deliver online learning and development.
For me, the best all round CMS built on .NET is Umbraco [http://www.umbraco.com]. Umbraco is the simplest, most powerful .NET CMS I have come across. It’s also open source which means no additional licence costs other than the Windows Server it will run on. One downside of course is the lack of support structure that you get from DNN and Kentico, however, the community that uses Umbraco is all you will ever need. The developers are active in the community and there are plenty of local user groups starting to pop up all around the world.
Designers have the freedom to define their templates the way they want to. They are not restricted by content areas defined by Umbraco, but can define the content area themselves. CSS and images can be easily uploaded and managed within the CMS admin. Our designers have remarked that Umbraco is as easy to use as WordPress but is more powerful. Even non-technical staff, can maintain and update content easily.
Umbraco is highly extensible. It comes with an API that allows you to develop your own features. Before you decide to do this however, check the add-ons section on the ‘Our Umbraco’ community site [http://our.umbraco.org/projects]. There’s everything from blog modules to form generation plug-ins.
The results of building a website in Umbraco can be seen across the web. Wired UK, Peugeot and Microsoft all rely on Umbraco for delivering content. Aurion Learning have used it for our own website and for our customers. This past year we have developed two learning portals for the NHS Education for Scotland using Umbraco; Palliative Care in Practice and Advanced Anticipatory Care and we have a few more in the pipeline for other customers. We are also using it for our new Intranet and so far, it’s looking good.
In short, I definitely recommend considering Umbraco for websites and particularly for delivering educational content. If you need some more convincing, take a look at this useful whitepaper: http://umbraco.com/media/197460/umbraco%20convince%20your%20boss.pdf
In future blog posts, we will look at Umbraco further and provide some useful tips in how to get the best out of this fantastic CMS, particularly for e-learning.
By Glynn Jung, Non-Executive Director
At a recent CEdMA Europe I was asked “what use is SCORM going to be in the future?”
Now, as this was in a discussion group composed entirely of the commercial Training Services divisions of the top IT hardware & software companies in Europe with a historically important revenue stream from Certification products, the question was pretty loaded.
I’d been reporting on trends amongst my clients who have recently been questioning the automatic assumption that all e-learning content must be (a) SCORM compliant, ensuring tracking and reporting and (b) delivered on an learning management system (LMS) of one sort or another.
We’ve been seeing a new philosophy developing, one which suggests that not all learning needs to be tracked: certainly personal development programmes falling out of performance reviews should be recorded and reported, as should continuing professional development (CPD) and certification or accreditation status. But with the certified/accredited status… effectively “license to operate” stuff, there’s a growing consensus that it’s the official assessment that matters and that SCORM hinders the design of engaging, effective learning programmes.
We know that those brilliant people at Rustici (www.scorm.com) are forging ahead with “Project Tin Can”, (essentially research of the ADL Consortium into next generation SCORM, including “Is there a need for a new SCORM?”) and that they regularly post new information on research and development, but they’ve recently launched their cloud version of IMS BLTI. BLTI provides a simple way for LMS users to incorporate remote tools into their system.
SCORM is underutilised in the education market. This is partly because the tracking that SCORM provides hasn’t always been valued in academic circles the way it is in corporate circles.
While it’s unlikely that Rustici will drop out of the world of SCORM, it’s clear also that IMS – including the MTI guidelines – and AICC are coming back into the picture as organisations choose to separate eLearning from mastery assessment and concentrate on assessment and learning as separate design activities.
In my own clients I am further seeing the use of pre-test or test-prep versions of the assessment, which includes feedback to the learner, whilst the master assessment simply posts either a Pass or Fail (or final marking) to SCORM.
Finally some of my clients involved in commercial certification and accreditation services are now discussing whether or not to make the e-learning content free-to-download or use online, whilst concentrating on enhancing the design and value of the assessments, which will then become as the principle revenue earning products.
Article by Barry Kelly, Product Development Manager
Well for starters, it’s not that type of scrum. The scrum Aurion Learning is seeking to form, implement and adopt is an agile framework for completing complex projects.
What is agile project management?
Agile project management refers to methodologies for developing complex software; characterised by flexible and adaptive working processes, rapid response to change, iterative and incremental development.
There are many agile methodologies in practice today, such as Crystal Clear, Extreme Programming (XP), Feature Driven Development (FDD), Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) each with their own merits. However I have selected scrum as in my experience, it’s the best agile development methodology (and if you don’t believe me ask the leading Fortune 500 companies who use it.)
What is Scrum?
Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber created the scrum process in 1993, and the name “scrum” comes from a 1986 study in which Takeuchi and Nonaka compared high-performing, cross-functional teams to the scrum formation used by rugby teams. Scrum is now used by 75% of agile teams worldwide.
Ok, so what really is scrum? Well Scrum Alliance explain it very well in 30 seconds:
- A product owner creates a prioritized wish list called a product backlog.
- During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wish list, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
- The team has a certain amount of time, a sprint, to complete its work – usually two to four weeks – but meets each day to assess its progress (daily scrum).
- Along the way, the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on its goal.
- At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable, as in ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
- The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
- As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again.
- The cycle repeats until enough items in the product backlog have been completed, the budget is depleted, or a deadline arrives.
- Which of these milestones marks the end of the work is entirely specific to the project.
- No matter which impetus stops work, Scrum ensures that the most valuable work has been completed when the project ends.
Scrum originally was formalised for software development projects, but works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are endless and the framework is deceptively simple.
My Scrum Hopes for 2012
In 2012, I hope to complete and deliver several large scale product development projects for Aurion Learning using scrum.
So what qualifications or skills do you need to rollout scrum in your organisation? Well first of all you need a Scrum Master. That’s me (second right). I gained my CSM certification in Dublin, Ireland on June 05, 2009 under the excellent tutelage of Jens Ostergaard.
It’s now time to walk the walk. It will take a while to adopt and run smoothly and will certainly require a change to the status quo, but I have great hopes for its success and hopefully we can achieve the Toyota effect: (well-run scrums) four times industry average productivity and twelve times better quality.
I will provide you all with an update at the end of the first quarter and let you know how our scrum experiment is progressing.
For Further Information on Scrum
If you would like to know more about scrum, check out the following video and website links which will give you all the information and certification details you require to get started.
In summer 2011, Aurion Learning hosted an e-learning masterclass in Dublin. Delegates came from the Irish Health Services Executive (national health service), health agencies, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies from across Ireland, and included human resources, IT and training professionals. They all had one thing in common – responsibility for delivering learning and development across their organisations. Several delegates were already experienced in delivering e-learning and blended learning projects, while others hadn’t yet started the journey of online learning.
During the event, we wanted to get a better understanding of the challenges learning and development professionals in the health sector are facing today and so we carried out some market research with our delegates.
Here are our findings:
What is the biggest learning & development challenge facing your organisation today?
- Lack of funding /resources/manpower
- Lack of time to develop training
- Securing management commitment
- Learners not being given enough time to actually participate in training
- Lack of structured training / continuing professional development
- Identify what we want to do and can do – moving from strategy to implementation
- Responding to learning needs with small training budgets
- Achieving relevance
- Adopting a coherent coordinated approach across a large organisation – multiple departments & contacting trainees.
- Speed of delivery
- Lack of confidence/competence in use of e-learning
Getting others on-board / Culture change
- Changing the organisational culture into a learning culture
- Securing buy-in from management & staff to blended and e-learning programmes
- Low staff motivation
- Resistance to change (moving from traditional face-to-face model to e-learning)
- Knowing which technology to choose to support learning (learning management systems, e-learning authoring tools, learning portals etc.)
- IT support
- Staff access to IT systems and technologies (restriction to many educational websites/firewalls)
- Administration support & maintenance of any systems developed.
It doesn’t matter how great your e-learning programme is, if you don’t market it to the right people, get buy-in and get people to actually complete it, it will be a complete waste of time and money (two commodities that are in short enough supply today!)
So assuming you’ve got educationally sound content and your online delivery is engaging, how do you market your e-learning programmes, particularly when it isn’t mandatory or compliance based?
In my mind there are five key points to remember: start early; get support from the top; secure buy-in from your managers; get buy-in from your learners; and don’t stop.
1. Start early
Don’t wait until you have a shiny new e-learning package ready to roll-out across the organisation. The marketing communications plan should start at the same time as project implementation. Inform people that the project is under way, highlight project milestones and tell them when it’s due to be delivered. Most importantly – explain why you are investing in e-learning in the first place and sell the benefits of this mode of learning. Use internal communications campaigns such as staff magazine, intranet, staff briefings, posters etc. to inform staff. Use external communications campaigns such as website, posters, leaflets etc. to inform external stakeholders, if necessary.
2. Get support from the top
Get support from whoever is in charge of your organisation, for example your Chief Executive or Managing Director. Make sure they know why you are doing the training in the first place – for example what changes or improvements to behaviour you are going to achieve as a result of the e-learning. Get them to lead by example by being the first to complete the e-learning programme, and show everyone that this is something the company is seriously committed to.
3. Secure buy-in from your managers
Inform and involve your managers and team leaders about the e-learning programme from the very beginning. Sell the benefits of the training and of e-learning as this will help you get early buy-in and support from the people who work closest to front line staff.
4. Get buy-in from your learners
No-one likes being the last to know what’s going on. If you start raising awareness from the very start of the project, you’re more likely to get support from your learners. Tell them what’s going on and why. Use internal communications such as staff briefings, posters, staff magazine etc. to inform staff that the project is underway, and let them know when it will be rolled out across the company. Give regular progress updates.
5. Don’t stop
Remember – the marketing communications campaign doesn’t come to a stop when you roll-out the e-learning. It’s important to have sustained communications to remind everyone of why and when they should complete the training – and to chase up late completers. Some organisations publish completion statistics on a departmental basis – to encourage late completers to finish the training. Provide real feedback on how the training has been received by individuals in the organisation. This will convince others of the benefits of the learning. Most importantly of all – make sure you inform everyone of success stories – improved competence, cost savings, change in behaviour, return in investment etc.
Hello and welcome the Aurion Learning Blog.
Aurion Learning is an award winning online learning solutions company, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We design, develop and deliver custom e-learning programmes, off-the-shelf e-learning catalogues, learning management systems, learning portals and continuing professional development (CPD) tools.
We’ve been around since 2000 but our staff have been designing and developing online learning solutions and software for many years.
In this blog we’ll be sharing some of our experiences (both good and bad) of designing, developing, project managing and marketing e-learning projects to help organisations bring about culture change, behaviour change, deliver compliance-based training, standardise training and improve performance.
We’ll bring you regular updates from our instructional designers, web designers, developers and project managers. We’ll also feature guest bloggers time to time.