Archive for August, 2008

Fingers on the pulse

August 31, 2008

finger on the pulseI love knowing what’s going on – little bits of information keep me interested. 

Bite sized chunks work best for me and it’s not just a case of in one ear and out the other either, some stuff actually sticks. 

So whenever I stumble upon a website I like the look of I always sign up to their newsletter straight away. 

My favourite news service at the moment has to the be LGA’s daily News Headlines.  Whoever puts their clippings together has a certain sense of humour (and a healthy obsession with bins).  I like the coverage of all things in the public sector world, from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it reminds me just how big the public sector world is – and how it touches everyone, nearly every day.  There are other email alerts too – a weekly round up and sector specific emails.

The other good news service I read is which covers public sector IT news from central and local government as well as bits from the EU too.  More weighty than the LGA’s service but equally interesting.

And then there’s the IDeA’s weekly Knowledge bulletin, complete with cartoon.  A good mix of worthy, disposable and must-read stuff.

What are you favourite ways of keeping your finger on the pulse of local government?



Aprendizaje, or e-learning in any language

August 22, 2008

spanish e-learningAs some of you may know I am learning Spanish at the moment and Coffee Break Spanish , also known as ‘language learning with your latte’ is one of my favourite resources on the web.

My favourite feature on the site has to be the weekly 15 minute podcast which I download and put onto my MP3 player so I can then listen to it wherever and whenever I like.  I sometimes get some funny looks on my way home on the Tube when I practice out loud though.

The web site has a community forum and teacher, Mark, publishes a regular blog which is intereting.

More advanced learners should check out Notes in Spanish which, though less structured in approach, does contain conversational podcasts and videos.  You can download worksheets and join the forum as well as reading Ben’s Blog.

What strikes me about these sites is that nowhere, but nowhere, is the word ‘e-learning’ used (but more on the importance of definitions in a future blog).  Instead there’s quality content, which is fit for purpose and does exactly what it says on the tin.  I think we can learn a lot about delivering learning from these sites.


Bite sized learning, anyone?

August 20, 2008

There are many advantages to working at Learning Pool.  For me, meeting lots of different people from all parts of the country is really interesting.  

On a recent visit to Yorkshire for a Breakfast Meeting Sam and I stayed in Leeds for the night which gave us the opportunity to sample the delights of the city centre and indulge in one of my other passions – Indian food.  We found ourselves  a really good place and settled down.

This restaurant served the largest naan breads I’ve ever seen.  When we asked why they were so big we were told that they were the family size naan.  Feeling hungry after a long day travelling we thought we were man enough for one of these beauties and so tried to order one with our meal.  Our waiter had other ideas though, “They’re too big for two people,” he said.  So we had to settle for a normal size one (pictured), which was more than enough for the two of us.

So what does naan bread and Learning Pool have in common?

Well, in a word, sharing.  Learning Pool allows you to create, deploy and monitor e-learning, plus you can share your creation with other members.  Why reinvent the wheel when there may be something already created and shared back in to the catalogue?

Using our Authoring Tool you can easily make changes to a course already created and then deploy it, no fuss. Or perhaps you have created images for you course?  These can now also be shared via our brand new online image library.

It really is good to share, as Sam and I now know.  Our curries were delicious and, if you want to know the best places to eat in Leeds, give me a call!


My first day at Learning Pool

August 15, 2008

my first day at work

I was  looking  forward to coming into Learning Pool but I had to leave my kitten Freddie at home so I think  Learning Pool should have a bring your pet to work day!!!

Due to Derry’s busy traffic Mary didn’t get her usual parking spot…right outside the door!!!!  My best work outfit got soaked on the walk to the office.  I was ready to get started as soon as I came in out of the rain.

After saying hello to all the Learning Pool staff I had a go at the new Authoring Tool and my first project is now underway. It was thirsty work so I needed to have a drink of juice. I saw Mary in the kitchen having her first cup of the day.

Then I wrote out my interview questions and got all my staff pictures together for my project.

After lunch, I interviewed everybody from Learning Pool after I got the giggles!!

I have had a really good day at Learning Pool and I can’t wait to come back.

Olivia, aged 10

August Sunshine

August 8, 2008


When writing blogs I usually sit down and try to think of an interesting and personal topic to talk about…But instead I thought I would try and buck the trend and sat down and attempted to think of the most boring topic, just to mix things up!

Only one topic sprung to mind, the dreaded conversation everyone hates and rolls their eyes when they hear it… have you guessed it yet? Yes, the weather!  What a topic, guaranteed to get any girl in the world to run a mile or put your granny to sleep on the sofa with a cup of tea in her hand.

I once had a dream… the dream that when someone said it was the summer, it actually was the summer. Instead we get flood-like conditions and, if we are lucky, maybe (just maybe) it will hit or possibly go past twenty degrees.  I’m guessing that’s the reason why Ireland (and most of the UK) is so green, because no matter what the season, month or day you’re promised at least a little rain, sleet or even snow.

For this reason and maybe because I’m just a little lazy, I love e-learning. There is no need to leave the office or maybe the comfort of your bed if you are armed with a laptop.  All that is needed is a few clicks and the information is in front of you.  No stress, time or effort  required for a company to hire venues, trainers, catering and other expenses. If that wasn’t enough, cutting out traveling by car, train or plane cuts down on your carbon footprint, making you and your company do something a little greener and save a lot of cash.

 So why not be lazy like me check out Learning Pool‘s site or e-mail Breda and get a free month’s guest pass.


‘Spielberg’ Doherty

August 4, 2008


Lights (Well, scorching London Sunlight)

Camera (Newly purchased and surviving its first fall….oops!)


With a brand spanking new Authoring Tool on its way, continued improvements to our increasingly popular DLE, and a makeover to the Leaning Pool website about to be unveiled, we thought now was the perfect time to make a splash (bad pun I know) with the first Learning Pool Customer Vodcasts!

A Vodcast, to impress your younger friends is the delivery of on-demand video content, the term an off-shoot of the more familiar audio Podcasts. Vodcasts are most commonly associated with the video sharing site Youtube, whose launch in 2005 brought, unfortunately in some cases, more than 30 seconds of fame to budding celebrities and their not so tasteful ‘homemade’ videos.

At Learning Pool however, we are not so fame hungry, our focus with the introduction of Vodcasts to highlight the experiences of you, our customers! What you like about Learning Pool, what you don’t like -very few things I’m sure but we wouldn’t like to present a biased view…. and generally, the interesting ways you have incorporated e-learning into the training schedules of your authority. So, with our willing subjects and future e-learning celebrities in place, Breda ‘Spielberg’ Doherty behind the camera and Janet ‘Walters’ Harkin conducting the interviews, we recently compiled our first Vodcasts.

Not as easy to film as we had initially thought; despite Ben’s assurances that you simply ‘point and shoot’, due to an ill-fitting tripod stand and the London humidity stifling to those of us from the ‘wee smoke’ of Derry.  Not to mention the unwelcome sound effects resulting from the construction work being completed nearby what we thought was our rather scenic filming location and the clattering of passing tea trolleys-the one and only time I have not welcomed the sight of a cuppa!

Despite these what we shall call, ‘Learning Curves’, our first attempts at Vodcasts turned out extremely well, allowing us to fulfill our main goal of recording the feedback and practices of our much valued Learning Pool customers. They also allowed those of us who don’t get out of the office that frequently to catch-up with some of the subscribers we usually only interact with via the telephone or more commonly through frequent and sometimes unnecessary emails; which those of you who attended our recent Steering Group will recall is not good email etiquette!

So put your cinema tickets for Batman: The Dark Knight on hold as coming soon to a PC screen near you is Learning Pool: The Customer Views!


Don’t you just hate it when you get nickel and dimed?

August 1, 2008


For anyone not familiar with this American expression, it’s when something appears to be a bargain yet it’s only after you’ve committed to buying it and read all the small print that you realise that all those little extras you’d assumed were included in that great headline price are going to cost you.  And cost you dear.

This happened to me recently when I bought a new floor.  I needed to buy a floor and I was desperate.  After much deliberation, I made my decision.  The price per square metre looked affordable and within my budget however once labour, delivery, trim, other extras and sales tax were added onto my bill, the true price compared to the headline grabbing price was as different as night and day.

Why, dear readers, am I telling you this?  Lately we’ve heard of other e-learning companies using these sorts of loss leader tactics to ensnare public sector customers – only then to hit them hard with the most ludicrous charges for the smallest things – £1 per LMS report per person in the authority was one that I heard last week and another was the levying of a minimum charge of half a day consultancy (over £400!) to make a change to a course that would have taken someone in a technical team 10 minutes max.

Our philosophy at Learning Pool is to offer our treasured customers excellent customer service and high quality e-learning products at a low, but more importantly, transparent price.  This is so important to us that we publish our pricing structures widely and they are available for all to see on our marketing literature and our websites (even though this tells our competitors too).  We would hate to make our collective living as a company by “stealth charging” our customers for the smallest things we do and basically ripping people off.   That’s not what we’re about.

We also know and appreciate that we don’t hold a monopoly on e-learning and it’s healthy for our customers to buy from other suppliers.  Indeed we’ve even tried to facilitate this by making some 3rd party offers available from companies that our customers have used and (more importantly) recommended.

So if you see a deal that is too good to be true, or a new “alliance”  or “partnership” or “coalition” for the public sector being offered, just scratch the surface a little and check what lies beneath as it may not always be what it seems.  And remember, the good thing about being part of a community like Learning Pool is that we’re all here to help each other.  So if you want to know about another e-learning company lift the phone and ask one of us, you might be surprised at what we know!


Happy Birthday to us!

August 1, 2008


Hip, hip, hurray! We’re 2 years old on 1st August 2008 and it feels fantastic.  My, how we’ve grown in the last 2 years since Paul and Mary bought Learning Pool from IDeA.  A roller coaster ride, if ever there was one! 


In the last two years we have:

  • Re-branded and re-launched Learning Pool
  • Kept the IDeA’s original customers and added 50 more
  • Moved offices once
  • Launched 4 new services
  • Recruited 22 new team members
  • Doubled our number of customers
  • Been shortlisted for a national e-learning award
  • Been on TV
  • Had 10 customers hug us
  • Had a few wild staff nights out
  • Launched our (hotly contested) Customer of the Year award
  • Met Elvis
  • Introduced over 400 customers to each other
  • Had a Learning Pool baby (2 more on the way!)
  • Lost 4 customers and got them back
  • Had 8 Steering Group meetings
  • Met or spoken to all the LEA’s in England (hello!)
  • Worked with some fab suppliers (and a couple of not so fab ones)
  • Met about 300 councillors
  • Delivered instructional design authoring training to 168 people
  • Written lots of lovely blogs
  • Created over 40 e-learning courses
  • Revamped and re-launched our Authoring Tool
  • Eaten too many cakes at our team meetings
  • Visited over 300 councils (and counting)
  • Clocked up too many air miles
  • Spent about 600 days on our mobile phones (wow… should have bought shares in Vodafone!)

 What’s Mary’s highlight from the last 2 years?

“Launching the fabulous Learning Pool DLE and seeing it being used so widely – it brings me joy every time one of our customers finds something new they can do with it that we hadn’t thought of and I still have nightmares about the county council that had spent £1m on an LMS.”

And Paul’s?

“Being in a room full of prospective customers and having one person stand up and say that Learning Pool’s customer service was the best she had ever experienced… anywhere!  Well done Ben, thanks Christine and welcome on board Essex councils!”