Here we look at some of the many e-learning trends that are having an impact on L&D today, and that are likely to have an increasing effect on training in the future.

Demand for video content in elearning

Video Content for Learning: The Hunger Grows

We don’t actually see anything for what it truly is. Our eyes provide our brain with a virtual simulation of an object, based on a series of electrical impulses sent to the brain via the optical nerve. Our eyes reconstruct objects to an astonishing degree of accuracy, but it is still a reconstruction.

Because the eye is arguably our most complex sense organ, humans are intensely visual creatures – which helps to explain why video as a media type, reigns supreme.

A lot of contemporary literature in the learning technology sector evidences the huge surge in popularity of video based content. Research articles from the Fosway Group and Cisco provide insight into video consumption, and with multiple speakers focusing on video based learning at the 2018 Learning Technologies conference, this is a topic that should be of interest to a variety of L & D professionals. Let’s see how this plays into elearning solutions.

Demand for video content in elearning

L&D Demand for Video Based Learning

79% of L and D professionals that were interviewed in a study conducted by the Fosway Group reported that they expect their demand for video based learning to increase or stay the same throughout 2017 [1]. We can see this appetite for video content reflected in wider culture.

Platforms like YouTube dominate the digital media scene, with consumers ravenous for video content. To provide some sense of scale to how popular this medium is, global mobile data traffic grew by 63% in 2016, to approximately 7.2 Exabytes per month. 1 Exabyte equates to over 1 billion Gigabytes. And out of this colossal volume of traffic, mobile video traffic accounted for over 60% [2].

Being visually dominant creatures, it is no surprise that video content is so effective at engaging the viewer. Harnessing this power in learning solutions is paramount for any content creator. Even on a practical level, video is a strong communication tool for messaging a nationally or globally disparate workforces and is a welcome alternative to flying everyone in for a company development retreat. However, video content requires a significant investment, and given the fact that scalability can sometimes be a limiting factor, it is even more important to understand how video content is consumed by learners, so that it is captured and rendered in the right way.

Therefore it is important to detect which devices learners are viewing content from, desktop / mobile etc. This can provide content custodians with useful data about their learners’ viewing habits and preferences. We also recognise the value of being able to assess the effectiveness of one video over another and evaluate their impact in terms of learner engagement. Pathway offers our clients deep video analytics to gain this level of insight.

Video Content is the Future

No matter which way you cut it, video based learning content is here to stay, how it is harnessed however, depends on the context of the client’s needs. This is where WillowDNA’s expert consultancy comes into play. Not only do we develop video content from scripted dramas through to beautifully crafted interviews, but we also provide guidance around recommended video length and how to actually incorporate video into a client’s blended learning solution.

On top of this we can also edit and adapt existing video footage that clients may already possess from previous initiatives. This approach can help to save costs of it is feasible to repurpose existing material, making video content even more attractive for L&D projects.

Contact us today to see how WillowDNA can incorporate video content into your learning solution.






Micro-Learning: Develop, Manage & Deploy Bite Sized Training

There are many widely discussed training technology trends that fail to really take hold or that get quickly superseded, but the concept of micro-learning is one hot topic that is here to stay – because it works. Here we look at how to develop, manage and deploy bite sized training to engage and train your learners to maximum effect.


Learning messagesMost of us have probably heard by now the phrase ‘micro-learning’ floating around in industry literature. But what does it actually mean? And what kind of concrete example would take shape if we put micro-learning into practice?


Mixed media training contentAt WillowDNA we have always developed our training solutions as a mix of bite-sized assets and activities so although the term ‘micro learning’ has been buzzing around technological training for the last 18 months, we have been rendering training interventions in this way for the last 10 years! WillowDNA’s expertise lies in crafting the blend of mixed media learning designs for any client, from medium sized corporates to global institutions; bite-sized content delivery is a universal winning strategy for e-learning solutions.

Micro-learning downloads


A Micro-Learning Platform

Firstly, our cloud-based learning platform, Pathway LMS, has been developed specifically for the management of blended programmes. Pathway is made up of modular Learning Paths, which can hold any number of mixed media assets. Our clients can provide a seamless blended learning experience by creating learning paths which are made up of learning objects. These objects can range from videos, discussion boards and SCORM modules through to uploadable evidence-based assignments and podcasts.


Creating Learning Paths

Learning paths checklistLearning Paths can provide a chronological course of content, or focused packets of information that learners can quickly access. This ‘just in time’ approach is the underpinning philosophy behind micro-learning. Bite-sized training is consumable for learners, they can easily manage to fit training into their day and put aside 10 – 20 minutes per day to learn. The blend can be defined by the audience, for example exercises and tasks that can be performed in the field or assets that can be easily accessed while they are out and about, such as podcasts for people that spend much of their time in the car or downloadable job aids for those that have episodic access to devices.


Scalable e-Learning Content

Easy learning administrationThe scalability of bite-sized learning also benefits the custodians of content, from HR teams to tutors and subject matter experts. The ability to quickly respond to change and enforce that change within e-learning content is an imperative when managing any kind of learning. Pathway allows administrators to quickly and easily update or supplement content by adding and removing learning objects instead of ‘unpicking’ lengthy SCORM files or re-recording videos. Pathway allows administrators to simply insert a new Case Study or develop a new PDF/Infographic to ensure their training material keeps up to date with internal or business changes.


Bite-Size for Success – The Takeaway

Bite size learning takeawaysAs a final takeaway message, being a learner centric organisation, we know our success will always be measured by the learner experience. We have conducted extensive research across our various learner audiences and continually receive an overwhelming response that they prefer a mixed media approach and are unable to simply ‘choose’ a favourite medium. End users consistently feedback that the mixed media, bite-sized approach keeps them engaged and offers them a rich learning experience.

Feel free to contact us for an informal chat about your needs and to find out how WillowDNA could help you develop a micro-learning solution for your training requirements.
+44(0)117 370 7735

eLearning Advice from Cambridge University

What’s next for e-learning?  Short and sharp is the view from Cambridge

Commentators at Cambridge University published an article earlier this year exploring the future of e-learning and role of short snappy content, supported by the guidance of an expert tutor.  This would shape the future delivery model for students.  Back in 2013 we published a White Paper exploring exactly this concept of created and curated content that powers our learning path design concept.  

It’s a model that our clients have used across the globe to deliver more impactful learning experiences and ensure collaboration and application are sustained.

eLearning Advice from Cambridge University

More and more, our team are working with clients to create short, high impact content, from animations and quick how to videos through to game style challenges and scenarios.

Debbie Lawley, MD at WillowDNA says ‘It’s great to see the recognition that content can inspire and start a learning journey but is recognised as part of the process.  Our role as learning content and technology suppliers is to help organisations set the scene for great performance through engaging the audience and inspiring change’.

A great example of this was our work with Mediabrands on a new tools launch back in 2016

As well creating formal performance content, a key element of the programme for their new tools launch was high impact comms content, designed to feed curiosity about the new tools and start conversations throughout the business:

To accompany the formal content and encourage independent research and application of the knowledge covered in the e-learning modules, e daily google quiz, developed using Articulate Storyline was released every day for a fortnight, encouraging learners back to the LMS to take part in daily challenges and win prizes.

Online quiz

YouTube Challenge

YouTube Tools

As a compliment to this, each global office were encouraged to upload video case studies of how they were using the campaign planning cycle in new work pitches and discussing the revenue generated.  Top case studies as rated by their peers won prizes for their local office and provided useful content for the business as a whole.

Create engaging elearning with honesty

“Why can’t we just take an existing product, and put a clock in it or something?”

Create engaging elearning with honesty
One of my favourite Simpsons episodes has a moment where Homer offers the quote above as his response, when confronted with a complex blueprint for a revolutionary new product that he just can’t get his head around.

What’s this got to do with e-learning? Well, to me it comes to mind when you look at how some training providers propose games as a radical new solution to engage learners – and then come up with a bolt-on game-playing experience that combines racing cars, multiple choice questions and a third-rate set of character designs to teach learners about the Data Protection Act.

Now, this isn’t knocking games as a learning device. Properly targeted and carefully crafted, they can produce effective learning experiences ranging from simulations and skills-practice through to powerful prompts to reflection.

But I think that their popularity sometimes reflects a failure to engage with a much more fundamental, underlying issue in online learning – one of narrative credibility.

All too often, online training can suffer from the same kind of ‘narrative delusion’ that insular politicians do. ‘If we only explain what we’re proposing clearly enough, surely everyone sensible will then agree with us’ – whilst failing to genuinely acknowledge different perspectives; dissent; the fact that very serious challenges may exist and that many endeavours, initiatives and processes are – at least initially – unpopular (especially when change is involved).

Now, clearly learning providers have to present content in a positive way that helps organisations achieve their training aims. But often, when e-learning claims that it treats learners as adults/presents content from a ‘What’s In It For Me?’ perspective and acknowledges real-world complexity – it doesn’t , not really – and learners smell a rat right from the start, which undermines engagement (and whatever the narrative is) on a fundamental level. 

Similarly, if the content isn’t demonstrably useful, easy to navigate and oriented towards supporting performance rather than covering an arbitrary curriculum – people will often start looking at their watches and clicking Next.

And at that stage, all of the gimmicks in the world won’t be much use.

One answer? Radical honesty. This could present itself in any number of ways – open acknowledgement of past organisational failures; the pressures of tough targets; challenges to motivation; competitors’ strengths; or personal stress. Same basic content – different paradigm.

And then, having started off from a solid position – by telling a powerful truth to learners that resonates with the real world they live in – narratives (whether through case studies, scenarios, or – indeed – games) are in a much better place to succeed.

Here, ‘honest’ learning content can use the weight of (implicit) negative expectation to its advantage, subverting expectations and generating surprise, engagement and buy-in. ‘Oh, another corporate e-learning course – yawn…hey, wait – what did they just say?!? I think I’d better pay attention to this!’

Alternatively, you could just go with the racing cars… 

Instructional Designer D Whiston

Many thanks to guest blogger, Daniel Whiston, Award Winning Instructional Designer & Scriptwriter 

Human curation – important now more than ever

p1060681Two weeks ago, TheGuardian new paper featured an article on ‘why human curation matters in an algorithm world’.  We may have just witnessed what could amount to one of the most important events is contemporary world history. Whatever your political affiliation, what’s interesting to consider is what factors, from a system and curation perspective, may have led to the result.

Facebook and Twitter have come in for some significant criticism in the days following the election.  It’s lack of editorial scrutiny, by virtue of the medium, have led to some to believe that ‘fake news’ played a key role. This is an area for significant debate and what you are probably asking right now is, as I normally write on learning and knowledge strategy, what does this have to do with any of that?   Well, not to dismiss the issue of false reporting, what has interested me is the power of the algorithm.

Facebook is built for engagement and so will provide you with content it thinks will interest you (with curation provided by its algorithm).  Through understanding your preferences, it will continue to serve content it thinks you like.  The effect of this when its letting me know what the latest gadgets are maybe a bit of a negative impact on my wallet. When this comes to something as important as choosing the next leader of world’s economic superpower, only reading content that continues to agree and affirm your point of view raises serious questions with significant consequences.

We see the same happening in an individual’s personal network on a platform such as Twitter or Snapchat – it’s likely that you will gather people around you that have similar views to yourself.  It’s human nature to want to connect with and belong to a tribe that hold the same values as us, but for both ourselves personally, the health of organisations and society, this can be troublesome. It can leave us doomed to repeat the same mistakes or continue on the same path without looking at what’s truly happening around us.

So bringing it back to organisations and learning, no one wants to be the next Blockbuster video. Without accepting changes in trends and behaviours around you, understanding customer criticism of your product/service or listening to discontent in your workforce, we give ourselves a significant blindside that can come home to roost in quite challenging ways.

This is where the role of human curation comes in – open-mindedness, curiosity, a willingness to bring the unsaid stuff out onto the table and being able to listen are critical.

It’s likely we will hear things we don’t like.  For example, when I worked some years ago for Orange Global (now France Telecom), we used to purposefully read customer complaint sites and forums. There was no attempt to try and keep things quiet, it was vital to recognise where things were not right.  It’s not always easy to hear it but whether we take notice or not, these views are being expressed and need to be acknowledged. Only through understanding all sides can we take actions to improve things and make things better. Just as in wider society, our immediate experience limits our view; often we are too close, too invested in our own beliefs to recognise that the same situation is being perceived very differently.

So ensure you have people in place that are able to be as objective as possible, are able to gather good evidence, are good researchers and display empathy. They need to follow up on the learning, knowledge and information being put out there to understanding how it’s been received, ‘take the temperature’ of the organisations and its external environment and ensure resources are refreshed to reflective that. Its easier to listen to the voices that conform and quietly get on with it, but the future of health of your organisation (and wider society) relies on us not sweeping opposing views under the carpet. Often we will be upset, even deeply disturbed or frightened by what we hear, but pretending these things do not exist gives no room for growth or understanding.

There is no doubt that AI and algorithms can greatly improve the efficiency and curation of information, but let us ensure streamlining doesn’t mean blindsiding.

World of Learning 2016 – knowledge matters

20381357438_cfdf480183_o Next week, I’ll be participating in the World of Learning conference at the NEC, Birmingham and as part of the event, I’m joining Robin Hoyle, Michelle Parry-Slater and Sukh Pabial for the fringe seminar on Industry knowledge v Institutional knowledge. This is a topic very close to our hearts at WillowDNA – with our history rooted in practical knowledge management, the exploration of what the organisation knows andwhat it needs to know has informed our work for the past 11 years.  So this meant when I got the mail asking if I would take part in the panel, I typed by response quicker than the spell check could track (so no idea what my acceptance mail actually said!) So before the event, I thought I’d share with you an extract from the ‘warm up’ blog for the session (and I also recommend you read the blog that kicked it all off, an excellent piece from Robin Hoyle) “What role does a learning and development function play when there is a ubiquity of content available to anyone with a web enabled device?  Video, social networks, published research, blogs, free courses, MOOCs, hangouts, the list of content that doesn’t require the green light from procurement goes on.  Is it best if we leave learners to self curate and orchestrate learning?   After all they are at the front line of their function. I believe these arguments have been valid for decades – after all if learning and development were simply the keepers of the training catalogue, we could have done away with it years ago!  However, Robin raises a critical point – its not just about the accumulated body of knowledge about a particular function or discipline, both external or internal.  Its all about application to real work challenges and the definition of what that challenge is and how best to address it is often not given the time and resource it needs.  Sure, you could leave it to your people to find the resources they need, but if we don’t have a clear understanding of the business goals we are addressing, how some tools and techniques may work differently in our context or whether actually someone else in the organisation has already solved this challenge, we risk leaving the organisation to waste valuable time, money and resources whilst others leap ahead.  Engaged, fulfilled employees are those who are supported by resources that help make common tasks easier, complex problems easier to solve through the support of others and make available their talents for others to tap into … So what does it take to do this?” You can take a look at the full post on the learnevents website and if you are coming to World Of Learning, make sure you some along to the panel discussion at 13.20 in Seminar Theatre 2 on Thursday 20th October.  Look forward to seeing you there.

Learning Live preview – why lecture free is important

Last week I created a quick Adobe Spark view on why I love Learning Live, partly to thank the LPi for their support and the opportunity to take part, but also because as an event, I think it’s more important than ever.

As our relationships with the workplace, technology and our environment continue to shift and intertwine, it demands that we work together to shape the future of the profession to flex and adapt.  Learning professionals need to be polymaths because individuals and organisations are learning all the time, not at scheduled events or in defined e-learning.  Formal orchestrated learning has its place, just as communities and coaching do but when regarded as very separate, distinct entities, we limit our effectiveness and relevance.  We need to add value, insights, inspiration and performance impact in the flow of work It’s why the learning community with its variety of experience, approaches, favoured models, best tech, most effective engagement methods needs to work together to set out the new learning agenda.  That needs space – space to discuss, challenge, map out, draw, speak, plan, take action.  Learning Live is about working together, celebrating the diaspora of experience and giving these important conversations room to breathe, so this doesn’t stay in the realms of theory.  During my practical session tomorrow on using value chains to understand real business need, I my attendees leave with a tool they can use to create a complete view of performance.  But more than this, I hope it helps even in a small way to help shape the definition of the new learning professional. I’ll be blogging and sharing my experience from the event, so hope to see you back here for more on the future of performance.

Learning Designer Diaries – Taking the yawn out of compliance


Endlessly supportive though he is of what I do for a living, my husband does not share my enthusiasm for online learning. His spirits are dampened as the three-yearly mandatory fire safety module approaches once more. It’s dull so he moans about having to do it. Yet what could be more important to an organisation and its employees than the continued existence of both?

No doubt the learning objectives are covered, but I suspect a little understanding of human psychology would transform this module:

  • Grab their attention right from the start by showing the impact of getting it wrong.
  • Make it relevant by telling a personal story – what happens if I stop to put my coat on, or go back for my phone?
  • Let the shocking statistics speak for themselves – what’s the consequence of a one minute delay? Or two minutes?
  • Find out what they know already with a diagnostic challenge at the outset – personalise the rest and skip the unnecessary.
  • Create bite-sized activities, combining different media to vary the delivery.
  • Use an immersive simulation – explore different scenarios in safety; it doesn’t have to be budget-busting.
  • Turn it into a game – increasing in popularity, as we understand more about how they motivate and appeal to our competitive nature.

Compliance e-learning really doesn’t have to be yawn-inducing, if we just stop to think about why it’s mandatory in the first place. Take the suite of modules on safety that we recently delivered to a major UK retailer. Realistic and thought-provoking scenarios based on custom-scripted videos, beautifully shot in store locations… but that’s a diary entry for another day.

Sue Rennoldson is Lead Instructional Designer at WillowDNA

Sue Rennoldson is Lead Instructional Designer at WillowDNA

Conversations on AI can take you anywhere, including Austin TX!

Conversations are everything – whether they are short and action focussed or long and exploratory, stories kick start the new.  It’s a conversation that has started a new adventure for me, a conversation with Myra Travin, Educational Futurist for Learning Now Radio on AI and the future of learning that could take me to SxSWEdu in 2017.  It is one of the most enjoyable episodes I have recorded so far, because it tackles a seemingly complex subject from a highly pragmatic perspective. Learning and development is a profession that has been accused in the past of just looking for the next shiny thing;  AI, data analysis and learning could just be resigned to another passing phase.  But if you are in that camp, then there’s another great conversation in this past week on Radio 4 in the excellent and very funny Simon Evans Goes To Market that may help change your mind.  In this episode, they demonstrate that Mathematics is the surest way to secure a good job and earnings prospects as the nature of work changes and data drives our world. Numbers  can no longer be ignored, even if you did struggle with long division at school or don’t know the airspeed of an unladen Swallow (I’ll accept answers for either African or European Swallows, Monty Python fans). For learning, the impact of data and artificial intelligence could be profound – one of the challenges that limit organisational success is not lack of information, but the ability to put it to work.  The ability to draw on and learn from information to make decisions and test hypotheses has been transformed through AI. The hours of trawling through case law in legal services companies, cross referencing medical data and treatment outcomes in medicine, the change is happening now.  Soon the availability of systems that can utilise AI engines will help us organise, process and draw well-researched conclusions to help inform decision making will permeate the way we learn and work. There are some concerns about this and questions raised on the future of roles in organisations, but that’s why it’s so important we get talking about it now and understand how we can build a great future in this new context.  This takes me back to that great conversation that started this all off.  Myra has a gift of making the topic accessible and motivating you to go off googling for the latest stuff on AI and trawling through back issues of Wired Magazine!  She also laid down the gauntlet to me to think about the role I can play with helping others understand how AI will shape the way we work, learn and innovate. But rather than keep with in the realms of conversation, we want to take action – so having Mark Sheppard on the panel, a man of learning action who’s actually getting on with this stuff is fantastic.  His experience within the xAPI community and developing the Learner Experience (LX) model with Myra will bring a real grounding to the topic.  So here’s three of us, an educational futurist, Human Capital and EdTech expert and a knowledge management and learning strategist, putting our heads together, looking at the emergent picture in organisations and taking these conversations and turning them into practical steps. That’s what we’ll be sharing with you at SxSWEdu 2017 if you help making it happen. Please vote for our session at the SxSW PanelPicker and in the meantime, keep watching for more on the topic in the coming months.  Thanks for voting!

Learning Designer Diaries – bespoke e-learning content techniques

Like many bespoke e-learning designers, I am a big fan of Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes challenges.  The openness and inventiveness of the community makes it such a popular resource and I regularly look out for themes that catch my eye. This week’s challenge is ‘Personalize Your E-Learning Courses with Gamification Techniques’ and it set off an idea (in the middle of the night!) that got me thinking.

Creating a personalised experience

Often when creating bespoke e-learning content, we are looking for ways to enable the learner to create their own journey: explore and discover, rather than show and tell.  Many programmes are designed to do this at a higher level, through effective blending of learning mediums and balance of formal and informal (often called scaffolded learning).  However there are many creative ways to deliver a more personalised experience in the content itself, such as branching scenarios, diagnostics, choosing avatars and enabling learners to customise environments.  I wanted to explore we could create a more personalised experience through gamification, putting the learner in control and providing motivation along the way.

I wanted to know if it was possible to hand over control to the user to explore and discover moving around a screen more like you would see in a game – I hadn’t set out to develop this but having woken in the night wondering if this was possible – I found it was!

Try it out here gamification_learninggamification_test

I haven’t worked on the design aspect here – just functionality, the first part of this is designed to hand over control to the user – they can move about an environment exploring and discovering as they choose.

The second part is the treasure hunt where I have used the idea of having to solve a simple code to find the treasure – but this could be dressed up in many different ways to test different objectives.

Lizzie Wakefield - Digital Designer Lizzie Wakefield – Digital Designer