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.

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.

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

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.

Context is King

It’s a phrase I use in almost every presentation I have given on online learning (so apologies if contectyou were in the audience!) but for me, context is the biggest gift learning professionals can give any programme.  In the drive to get more and more content online, we often forget that there are some simple things we can do that create highly effective programmes without high production costs.  This month, we’ll be exploring how to make the most of subject matter experts and I wanted to start by sharing some examples that I believe work very well indeed, starting with video. In a time poor, fast moving environment, sharing subject matter expertise rapidly in a medium that is quick to create and easy to swap out is vital.  This was the driver for many major knowledge management initiatives in large organisations back in the early 2000s when significant investment was made in intranets and microsites to store lessons learnt and project reviews.  Although it was a significant step in helping extend the reach of subject matter experts, it wasn’t especially engaging and trying to disseminate tacit knowledge into written content loses some of its impact and immediacy.  However video at that time was regarded as expensive and bandwidth draining, still limited predominantly to corporate videos with a crew and flattering lighting!  However in recent years, video has been more widely embraced, from performance support space where quick videos provide on demand instruction through to online lectures. But overall, to my mind, it’s still not reaching its potential.  When short, focussed videos are included as part of an overall learning scaffold, you instantly elevate the content and contextualise what may have been regarded as too theoretical.  Try turning the development of online material on it’s head: where should you invest?  In the development of bespoke e-learning content modules or could you reuse existing materials and blend with interviews and lessons learnt from subject matter experts?  I’ve seen incredible online academies developed with the judicious blend of newly commissioned content, reuse and repositioning of existing materials, instantly updated and refreshed with some great SME interviews. Essentially it’s about developing an overall scaffold for the subject and understanding where subject matter insight will have maximum impact.  Think about following a scene setting piece of e-learning that lays out core concepts with a view from the frontline video – this is a simple way to accelerate the transfer of knowledge into action and by breaking it down in this was rather than embed it into formal content, these videos can be quickly swapped in and out as required.  There’s a nice concise article from JISC on effective use of video that acts a simple litmus test for the video you may already use or plan to use.  However, from my experience, there are some simple lessons to make video more effective:

  • Plan – speak with the SME beforehand and explore what you’ll cover.
  • Authentic – However, although others will disagree, some of the most effective video I have seen is then not tightly scripted.  Knowing what you’ll cover and the key points you want to make facilitates the smooth running of the video take, but our most popular videos are those delivered authentically and conversationally.  There is a time and place to professional shot and scripted video, but to share tacit experience, a simply shot video delivered by someone who may occasionally hesitate or pause for thought is no bad thing.
  • Short – keep it brief!  As we’ve discussed previously, a recorded lecture does not equal an effective online course.  That’s not to say you can’t use a recorded workshop, but how can you break it down and blend with effective calls to learning action?

Next week, I’ll look at the role of SMEs as facilitators.

Panopto, the video creation platform get great new features in latest release

Really excited to get news from our friends at Panopto of the latest release. Back in early 2013, we announced that Pathway Cloud LMS had integrated Panopto to enable subject matter experts to create high quality video content themselves. This week, they have launched version 4.6, which has some enhancements we are really pleased to see. Panopto imageInside-video Search: The new ‘SmartSearch’ functionality means that as well as being able to search a Panopto recording for keywords used in a PowerPoint slide deck and in captions or notes, users can now also search for any word spoken within the video and any word captured on-screen. User Interface: Panopto have launched a new user interface for the player, where content takes centre stage. They have made use of negative space to ensure navigation is still easy and intuitive, but better screen optimisation ensures content is clear and easy to read on any device. Mobile: To accompany the already popular iOS app, Panopto have launched an Android app to offer Android users an enhanced viewing and search experience. Branding: Improved custom branding allows organisations to highlight their brand more prominently. For complex subjects, video is incredibly effective in helping put learning in context and it’s been great to put the ability to do this in the hands of those with something to share. To book a demo of Panopto and Pathway Cloud LMS, get in touch today.

When the clearest route is best – the virtues of linear e-learning

At Willow, our design team are faced with a whole range of learning design and pedagogical challenges – specialising in complex subjects makes this the case (and frankly makes it rather fun!).  Above all, it means keeping an open mind and immersing yourself in the learning and it’s audience, rather than the tools and techniques available.  Only when you figure out the learner journey and the experiences, conversations and activities that are likely to take place on that journey can you select the formal and social learning interactions that deliver the best solution. So I particularly enjoyed Tom Kuhlmann’s post this week, entitled ‘3 Reasons Why Linear e-Learning May Be The Best Solution‘.  When you are creating a learning scaffold to assist learners in creating their journey through a subject, some structure and signposting can be extremely valuable.  In this environment, e-learning that acts as a springboard to other intensive learning interactions (such as virtual classrooms, workshops, assignments, discussions, coursework etc) can play a very useful and effective role.  Of course there are times when the ability to create interactive scenarios are a great tool, but Tom’s advice on when to deploy which method is very sound. The subject of structured versus unstructured learning in a wider senses is also hotting up, with more coverage of Higher Education establishments (such as the joint edX venture between Harvard and MIT) exploring different models of distance learning.  When recently scanning some comments from students enrolled on MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses – check out Wikipedia’s entry to find out more), one of the criticisms of the approach was the lack of structure and direction.  Now of course, there are students who will welcome the freedom to explore, but the job of sifting, validating and selecting high quality learning resources and understanding the types of online activities that work for a particular learning goal is not an easy one.  An entirely unstructured journey may also make the benefits gained from a cohort experience (i.e. sharing the learning journey with others with whom you can share and converse) much more illusive.   It is giving rise to the greater recognition of the value of great instructional design, where the focus in on the understanding and mapping of the journey, understanding the role of others in your journey and the right types of online learning experiences to support this.


The alternative to Moodle – decide for yourselves at our October Seminar

Social learning, mobile learning, learning on demand, bite size learning – the buzz words are seemingly endless which can make the search on how to actually deliver good online learning appear seemingly endless too! But here at Willow, we believe in good instructional design delivered in a simple, well designed way. That’s why we developed our own learning support system to offer the best social learning experience without the complexity of open source systems and the bloat of an LMS. If you want to know more about how we do this, then we have an event for you. Meet the team on the 4th October in London, where we’ll be exploring the key issues in moving from traditional training to World Class online learning. We will also take the audience through our unique approach to online learning supported by “Pathway”, the alternative business solution to Moodle. The sessions will be co-hosted by Patrick Mills, Director of Professional Development for the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising who will share their experience of partnering with WillowDNA. These sessions are aimed at Training professionals who wish to move from a traditional training solution to one which incorporates online learning. If you are from a professional body or specialist training company delivering complex or subject specific training, this event is particularly relevant. Some come along, it’s free and you can sign up for the morning seminar or afternoon seminar

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A great blog for anyone involved in the development of rapid e-learning.  Pick up some great hints and tips…http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/