Author Archives: Laura Layton-James

About Laura Layton-James

Why Purple Learning? The colour purple is associated with balance, enlightenment, creativity and wisdom. It is said purple has calming and mystical properties. This may well be the reason why I have chosen purple or it may be because it is simply my favourite colour! Hi, I'm Laura and I'm a Consultant for eLearning, Training and Blended Learning for a training company based in the Heart of England I have a passion for helping people learn to learn. For creating engaging learning experiences and empowering others to continue their learning journey. I also help people transfer their face to face skills into an online environment, whether running live online events or creating engaging, task driven e-learning and using new technologies to creatively enhance any learning programme. My obsession is for the creation of rich and fully engaging learning experiences by combining traditional, formal learning options with those of the informal. Afterall, 80% of what we learn comes from informal learning. I live in the beautiful county of Shropshire with my husband and two West Highland Terriers. It is a lovely part of the country just on the Welsh border and although I have moved away several times in the past I always found myself back there. My hobbies are archery, painting and reading - none of which I have had much time for lately. Painting - I favour the media of watercolour and graphite and love landscapes,portrait work and life study (although there in not much opportunity to practise that one unless I join a naturist club!). I don't get much time to do any art but, by way of encouragement, most of my family bought me new paints, brushes etc, for Christmas so I had better get cracking. Archery - field archery that is, not the olympic kind. This is where a bunch of strange people (and I include myself in that description) waving different kinds of bows, wander round woods in all weathers on a Sunday shooting at targets placed in odd places! As for reading - I'll read almost anything depending on my mood but particularly like thrillers.

The gamification effect – have you had a lost weekend?

I never thougamingght I was a ‘gamer’.  Super Mario, Tomb Raider, Angry Birds, Candy Crush were lost on me. Have you been tempted to take the week off work to ‘level up’ with Sonic the Hedgehog? No, that wasn’t me either.  Perhaps, Halo, Call of Duty or Prince of Persia were more you. What’s the pull of these games and why has gamification become big news in learning?

What eventually enticed me into the gamining world? I recently wrote a blog post for The Training Foundation calledThe Lost Weekend Part 1 which tells all.  Find it on their TAP (Training Accreditation Programme) website by clicking here.

And here is Part 2

Less is more – it really is!

dining tableIn Seth Godin’s recent blog post ‘the secret of the five top‘, he explores the reasoning behind why banquet tables are set at numbers of 10.  Apparently, this number is for maximum efficiency for serving staff and for table setting.  “Bigger” he says, ” you couldn’t reach and smaller there’s no room.”  Seth points out that although this is efficient for the banquet organiser, it really isn’t conducive for social interaction.  Parties and banquets are all about social interaction yet large tables of ten places barriers in the way of social interaction.

Having attended several wedding and conference banquets in recent years, I understand the issues perfectly.  These large tables have the opposite effect.  You end up talking only to the three or four people near you whereas you feel alienated from those directly opposite (that is if you can actually see them over the ornate table centre display).

The same is true of the classroom.  Let’s imagine that you have determined that classroom is the best option for at least one element of the learning solution.  It may seem more efficient to cram 8, 12, 24 or more people in the same room.  After all, you can tell 24+ the same stuff as easily as you can tell 6 …. can’t you?  Well, yes, I guess if your classroom is a glorified lecture theatre where your learners are passively awaiting the gush of information.

The thing is, we know that’s not effective.  Social interaction in the form if discussions, group activities, small group case studies, tutor facilitation, individual consolidation exercises, assessments and indivial feedback is.  Why then, is all this put at risk by organisations insisting that just because there are enough chairs and the room is big enough, they’ll fill it to the rafters.

Remember this…. When we favour quantity over quality there will be consequences.  Can you afford the consequences?

Video – The star of performance support?

In my previous blog post I paid homage to video, the come-back kid. In this post I’m going to explore a few pros and cons our beloved video has.

With the popularity of YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare and the like, it has never teen easier to sell the benefits about using video for learning and performance support. Wherever we go; on our PCs, on our laptops, on our mobile devices – video is there.

Why? Well, we are visual creatures primarily and, as the saying goes, pictures paint a thousand words. In which case, how many words would moving pictures paint, let alone ‘talkies’ (and they said it wouldn’t catch on).

Videos are a great way to engage audiences with its storytelling properties. In a formal setting we could:

  • Watch a film showing good/poor behaviour. Analyse it and add reflective notes to a forum
  • Use videos as branching scenarios where you choose the next bit in the story from selecting from given responses to each clip until the final scene which will expose the final result

Then we have the video as performance support. Videos seem to have transformed this arena. So much so that should you search for a ‘how to’ guide on practically anything, it is highly likely there will be a clip for that.

The problem with video … oh yes, there are problems with video… is that in the world where we are encouraging more learner-control, these don’t quite give them that. Yes, they can be classed as ‘on-demand’ but they are far from self-paced. You can fast-forward, stop and rewind, but you still can only listen and watch at the pace at which they were recorded.

This can cause problems. For example, the other day, my other half needed some instructions to help him install some software and searched the vendor’s website for some help. The only thing he found was a video. Now, my spouse is an experienced techy guy and only required a quick checklist or simple steps to run through as he installed the software. I’ve also experienced the same and it’s very frustrating.

It’s great to get an overview to get yourself ready before you carry out the steps. A video will set the scene and, as the visual creatures we are, we feel more prepared for the activity. Allison Rossett, in her book Job Aids & Performance Support calls this type of performance support a ‘planner’. It does what it says on the tin – it helps you plan for when you need to do it.

What he needed was a ‘sidekick’. Something quick to help him carry out the steps at that moment.

So a word of friendly advice… if you are developing a collection of on-demand videos for performance support, be sure to consider your audience, their needs and in what situation they will need that support. If you only provide ‘planners’ then you might be setting yourself up for a fall if you don’t also provide ‘sidekicks’ to help at that exact moment of need. These could be checklists, quick procedure steps or step by step diagrams. Think aeroplane safety cards – what use will a video be when you can’t remember what you saw in the video/demo at take-off?