Learning Technologies

Learning Technologies 2018 in Review: Microlearning, Video & Social Focus

After working with a much more diverse range of clients during 2017 and having felt my outlook as an Instructional Designer change, I was very intrigued to see what the atmosphere would be like at Europe’s leading L&D exhibition for 2018.

One thing was for certain – I did not expect the level of turnout that greeted me as I entered the Olympia centre. Everywhere I looked I could see bustling crowds of people listening to a wide range of speakers from different nations and business backgrounds; sharing their most important messages for the industry going forwards into the new year. But just what exactly were these messages? Maybe more importantly were any of them worth paying attention to?

Well the short answer is yes, but it may not be the ones you think. As I walked around trying to find the most controversial or up and coming trend, keeping one eye out for unexpected or unusual topics, I couldn’t help but notice how popular the tried and true discussion points were still, despite their relatively aged positions in the industry.


Learning Technologies


Microlearning still retained a solid and noticeable position, with multiple speakers dedicating their stage time to the deeper application of its potential. For me, and the rest of the team at WillowDNA, this proved just as exciting as any of the more fringe discussions like the role of AI chat bots in elearning and so on. It showed just how innovative and pioneering WillowDNA was over a decade ago when it first emerged on the organisational learning scene.

If microlearning is still being discussed and explored in 2018, then it is definitely a mode of learning that is here to stay. This is good news for our business as microlearning was a founding tenant of our cloud based LMS Pathway.

But it wasn’t just microlearning that retained its relevance in the 2018 conference. Seminars related to social learning technology generated a fair amount of interest, with the fostering of a user driven learning culture seemingly tapping into the ascendancy of social media within the wider world.

Ease of access and consumption convenience are facets that bleed over between social and microlearning, which could explain microlearning’s impressive buoyancy in contemporary debate. While social learning as an industry term is not a new phenomenon, by the sounds of it, the true potential and scope within elearning has yet to reach its peak. While being fairly circumstantial from business to business, social learning still has a place at the forefront of L&D debate.

Video based content also boasted a healthy contingent of speakers, who focused on angles from knowledge retention and inciting culture change to instant gratification through bite-size knowledge clips. Video as a content medium is incredibly potent, but similarly to social learning assets, it must be rendered and deployed carefully and conscientiously. We will cover the details of its effectiveness in the near future, looking into research conducted by the Fosway Group, but being emphasised within several talks indicates video based learning is still growing into its role within L&D.

These well-known L&D topics are apparently still at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds despite newer terms such as Alternate Reality and AI starting to establish beach heads in wider discourse.

I am by no means writing off these fledgling additions to the L&D arsenal, but with WillowDNA’s decade-long championing of microlearning being a case in point, things take time to emerge as dominant learning solutions. Whether that’s because the sceptics amongst us demand rigour and endurance from hot trends before accepting them or some parts of the industry arrive later to the party, the same will apply to these emerging sub-fields.

I suspect it will be some time before we see them being discussed as confidently and vigorously as the big three, Micro, Social and Video – which for me, the 2018 Learning Technologies exhibition seemed to confirm.

Rory Birch – Instructional Designer, WillowDNA 


Contact us to find out how at WillowDNA we capture social, video and microlearning within the heart of our learning solutions.


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

Getting to know you – a video on delivering what people really need

Our head of learning solutions, Lisa Minogue-White recorded a quick video on why we need to work harder to get to know our learners and what will really make a difference.

In this 2 minute piece, she explores;

  • how to make best use of technology to help create and share resources
  • why we should create a choice architecture rather than invest in big budget programmes and,
  • how we can really make a difference through focusing our time on helping people in the application of learning
Pathway360 Content Curation, Course Creation and Social Learning Tool

Pathway360: LMS, Content Curation, Course Creation & Social Learning – Integrated

The team at WillowDNA are delighted to announce the launch of Pathway360 – the complete online learning platform for organisations of all shapes and sizes.  We’ve been working hard to create a new product that offers an integrated approach to content curation, course creation and social learning, which would be scalable for organisations of all shapes and sizes.

Pathway360 Content Curation, Course Creation and Social Learning Tool

Starting with just 100 users, Pathway360 brings the power of online learning of everyone and goes beyond the typical course catalogue approach. It’s also been a fantastic opportunity to work with our colleagues at SkillPill to bring their comprehensive micro-learning catalogue to Pathway and the award winning team at gomo, whose responsive rapid development tool is a firm favourite here at WillowDNA.


If you want to find out more, download our Pathway360 Brochure (PDF) and read about it here on our site.

Willow win 2016 Learning Technologies Supplier of the Year – Silver

What a night!  Debbie and I represented WillowDNA at the Learning Technologies Awards and on behalf of our incredibly talented team, accepted the award for Learning Technologies Supplier of the year – Silver.  

We could not be prouder of our incredibly talented team, they go above and beyond for our clients every day.  I think the write up from the judges says it all:

‘When WillowDNA was formed in 2005, the vision was to bring together knowledge and collaboration expertise with technical enablement. Determined to break away from tedious e-learning that constituted most people’s experience of online learning, WillowDNA wanted to create a new kind of learning company. From the creativity WillowDNA injects into its content to the innovation evident in its home-grown learning platform, Pathway Cloud LMS, it delivers all its set out to achieve. The company has shown impressive growth and undertakes deep analysis to understand and meet the needs of its clients. Impact is secured through its focus on ‘building businesses’ and partnership with providers of learning.’

So once we’ve popped the cork on the champagne back in the office and eaten a lot of cake, we’ll be getting our heads down working on projects that include:

  • Technology enablement for Pitman Training using Pathway Cloud LMS
  • Graduate induction into the media industry for IPG Mediabrands USA and UK
  • Compliance training for major credit agency
  • Pharmaceutical product training for medical professionals on behalf of Fleishmann Hillard
  • US rollout of the IPA Foundation Certificate and live exam provision
  • Content and online diagnostics for brand new training company

As well as providing Pathway Cloud LMS, content revision and service management to our many customers, all of whom we thank dearly for helping us win this award.  So if you are busy making your plans for 2017, we’d love to talk to you and help you deliver world class learning.

Learning Designer Dairies – Using Tiltbrush VR

20161017_145307 I love the concept of being able to paint and create in a 3D space, but as someone who has got motion sickness from other Virtual Reality experiences I was a little bit apprehensive about trying it out.

Using the HTC Vive

I need not have been worried, the HTC Vive headset was comfortable, stable, and clear. It was easy to manoeuvre around the space, with virtual walls marking the boundary so I wouldn’t embarrass myself tripping over a desk or chair.

Using Tiltbrush

The actual tool was really intuitive and easy to get the hang of straight away. With lots of interesting effects such as light waves, bubbles, and fairy lights to draw with. The effect was great and I enjoyed playing around with all the different strokes in the space. After a bit of playing I started thinking about actually creating something more than just squiggles. I wanted to start with some basic shapes – a sphere maybe – this was not so easy, with the paint appearing like a ribbon in the 3d space with no depth to it I ended up with lots of bits or lines of paint that didn’t really meetup. It took some time to control how the paint was going to appear from all angles – I think this would be something you would get used to though with more practice. After a bit of frustration with trying to create a sphere, I was shown examples of art work more experienced users had created. Looking through, I saw that using a white line to create a rough frame work and then building up the paint in kind of feathery layers was the way to go, great for creating feathery or furry creatures. I had another go, this time attempting a face, trying to treat the 3D paint more like actual paint, building up layers of colours etc. and starting with drawing a basic frame work to build on – I had a lot more success but still found some elements tricky – such as trying to get the eyeballs round with an iris on that sat on, or in the ball. From the front it looked ok, and from the side the face was ok, but you could see the iris’ floating in the air as a squiggle of paint rather than being on the ball. Again looking at other peoples’ attempts I think this just needs more experience, and more confidence to work larger.

What I’d like to see in Tiltbrush

For me, an extra feature that would be really helpful would be the ability to use shapes – such as spheres, cubes, oblongs and cylinders to build up a frame work first and then paint on or around them – this would have really helped with my eyeball debacle! I would love to have more time to play with this at home, but at a cost into the thousands for the headset, software and machine to run it on, that will have to sit on the back burner for a while.  But as the cost falls and availability grows for great VR tech, perhaps it won’t be too long…

Apprenticeships and why technology enabled learning matters

We recently published a paper on the impact of the apprenticeship levy. It is possible that Brexit will delay the launch of the levy but organisations with a wage bill of more than £3m are certain to be asked to contribute to the investment in apprenticeship schemes in the near future. The aim is to create more than three million new ‘high quality’ apprenticeships. So what will be the hallmarks of a high quality programme? How will it engage and support young people in obtaining the requisite work experience and access to great quality training that they’ll need to thrive? The levy works two ways; to fund the schemes and to incentivise companies to make use of their investment by appointing Apprentices themselves as part of their recruitment strategy. Companies as diverse as PwC and Penguin[1] have announced their intention to scrap their graduate-only recruitment schemes.  Conversely, the apprenticeship schemes themselves are increasingly including this as a route to highly-regarded degrees without the debt burden.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “The Department for Education needs to chart and follow a course from having a lot of apprenticeships to having the right apprenticeships in order to help improve the UK’s productivity and achieve value for money, in return for the costs of the programme.”

Increasingly, quality is seen as the most significant feature and there is considerable emphasis on standards and the Trailblazers. But having created the standard, enabling companies to work seamlessly with educating bodies and awarding organisations with the apprentice at the heart is key to this. Having apprenticeships working in diverse locations with tailored programmes is not easy. The original quality of each apprenticeship is fundamental and so is the ability to structure the learning with the working environment. Equally, apprentices need to know how they fit, how they are doing, to be able to collaborate with other apprentices potentially in different locations and to be able to tap into help as and when needed. Features to look out for in enabling technology: A common interface for the apprentice, the training organisation and the line manager.

  • Clear steps for the apprentice to follow as their journey to qualification unfolds
  • An ability to seed the learning paths with assignments that reflect their learning in the workplace.
  • Assignment capability that allow the apprentice to upload evidence in any format for review, feedback and assessment
  • Capability for the End Point Assessment (EPA) body to evaluate the outcome
  • Opportunities for apprentices to collaborate with others

The reality for many FE Colleges and others is that the internal software used on campus  is fit for that purpose but does not necessarily translate well when used across different companies. Those that adopt software that bridges that gap will stand out. [1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35343680

Learning Designer Diaries – The ‘how much and by when’ story

It’s never easy, having the conversation with the sales team, a potential client and asking the all important ‘how much and by when?’ question. Every designer’s aim is to delight their audience – it’s a marriage of art and science. Using creative treatments to engage people and deliver a tangible result takes curiosity, analysis, rigour and imagination. To make this happen means getting the right resources in place with the right time frame and a realistic budget to go with realistic expectations. When it’s a critical programme that if executed well could reap huge benefit, it’s worth thinking what you really want as an outcome, taking the time to plan it properly and invest in the idea. – It can be fun and informative. You don’t need sky high budgets, but agreeing on a realistic budget that is linked to the business results you want to see is an important dialogue. So next time you are looking to buy in for a project (having done the important job of really understanding the learning requirements and business drivers), this could be a useful visual to use as a discussion point to agree the budget you need. blog image-01 If it’s something that is going to be short lived and disposable, you adjust the time and budget to reflect it. If it’s a programme that is linked directly to transformative change and critical skills that your organisation needs to be successful then give it some thought – what is it worth? Think of it like this – for your next children’s birthday party, get out the disposable plates, but if you want to make the most of that really nice bottle of red you splashed out on, don’t pour it into a plastic tumbler.  

Lizzie Wakefield - Digital Designer

Lizzie Wakefield – Digital Designer

Introducing the Learning Designer Diaries

learning designer diaries icon v3I am delighted to introduce our new regular feature – the learning designer diaries.  Our talented learning and digital design team at WillowDNA will be sharing with you quick insights, case studies, reviews and research. From examples of our creative client work, through to top tips on learning design, the team have lots of share with you. Our first post will be from Lead instructional designer, Sue Rennoldson on how to combine internal communications and learning to engage the organisation.  Find out why a question on hip hop was the key to driving adoption of a major new tech solution. Your learning designer diaries team are:    

Learning Designer Diaries – Hip Hop, you don’t stop (learning!)

Breaker in Berlin by Lisa Minogue-White

Breakers in Berlin © Lisa Minogue-White

Which rapper has been searched for most often in the last ten years?

This lone question, delivered through a simple Storyline quiz, played its part in driving adoption of our client’s shiny new software and creating a buzz along the way.

How? Because the tool’s new users could only find out the answer from the tool itself. And correct answers were entered into a draw for some very tempting prizes. One question was released every day during launch week and the response was phenomenal. Standard SCORM reporting was all that was needed to operate the draw and prove its worth. With every correct answer, the chance of winning a prize increased.

Of course, alongside the fun and games was a suite of modules giving a step by step guide to the tool and case studies in its use. But that’s another story (and that story involves some beautiful animation, custom music to move the learning along and gorgeous graphics). 

And did you get the name of the rapper right? Well, it could only be Eminem.

Sue Rennoldson - Lead Instructional Designer

Sue Rennoldson – Lead Instructional Designer

Games, promotional content, communications, animation, video and music are just some of the ways we help our clients bring their learning needs to life – get in touch to find out more.