Archive for November, 2008

Making an impact in the South West of England

November 24, 2008

superhero-on-couchOur very own nugget of Welsh gold, Ben Jones, went on tour last week.  Whilst his trip did not necessarily create the same hype and expectation as the new Guns N’Roses album he did, nevertheless, manage to make quite an impact on his 3 day tour of duty.  And hopefully lived up to expectations a bit more than the offerings of Axl and friends in the process.

Ben spent time with a number of Learning Pool customers to help them install and get started with their DLE’s.  Swansea, Carmarthenshire, South Somerset, North Devon and Devon were all on the itinerary and everybody was pleased to see our blonde Customer Service hero in the flesh. 

Data management and information security seem to be the hot topics of conversation at the moment and the South West customers Ben visited were no exception.

But it seems the biggest impact Ben made was on the journey from seeing Carin in South Somerset to visiting Ann and Claire in North Devon.  This cross country journey saw the end of a poor grouse that got in the way of Ben on a mission in his hired black Vauxhall Vectra.  After a quick stop to assess the damage Ben hopped back in his car and headed on his way, anxious not to keep Ann and Claire waiting.  And thankfully he didn’t collar any pheasants or rabbits on the way so game pie was not on the menu.

So what were the highs and lows of the road trip (apart from seeing our lovely customers)? 

The highs, according to Ben, were the Bacon, red onion and brie toastie with salad and a lovely dressing from Belfast Airport on Monday, the Surf and Turf at the White Hart Hotel in Exeter on Wednesday  and the Cottage pie with homemade chips (a la Delia Smith) on his return home on Thursday.  The lows?  A decidedly ropey burger from a somewhere near Canton on Tuesday.

No prizes for guessing what keeps our super hero going….



How to be an informed SCORM buyer

November 20, 2008

man-shouting-at-laptopWe’ve been driven batty these past few weeks by the problems that some of our customers have been experiencing because of SCORM.  Or, to be more precise, what they’ve been told is SCORM by other less reputable e-learning companies.

So we thought we’d write up what to look for when buying a SCORM course so that you know that what you’ve bought will do what it says on the tin.  Here goes.

What is SCORM?
Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) is a collection of standards and specifications for web based e-learning.  It defines communications between client side content and a host system called the run-time environment (commonly a function of a learning management system).  SCORM also defines how content may be packaged into a transferable ZIP file.
SCORM is a specification of the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative, which comes out of the Office of the United States Secretary of Defense.
What version of SCORM should I use?
Version SCORM 1.2 is widely used and is the standard supported by most Learning Management Systems today.  It is the version implemented in our software and it’s what we need for loading courses onto Learning Pool DLE’s.
What should I look for when buying a SCORM course?
Ask your courseware supplier to give you the following general guarantees:

1. All pages and images are present
2. The course has been fully tested on a UNIX-based LMS to confirm that all images, page, javascript, flash file references are spelt correctly and are case perfect
3. All links to resource documents, pdf files and external documents/websites are tested
4. Your supplier should also ensure that the SCORM XSD files are correct and that the manifest file correctly references the values sections in the course as they expect
5. The SCORM tracking should adhere to standards and should be demonstrable on at least one SCORM LMS
6. Sample reports should be supplied to you so that you’re satisfied that the reporting provides the required learner activity information
What technical guarantees should I look for?
Your course could be supplied in one of the following three formats.  Note which type of course you’re purchasing and consult the checklist provided.

1. Course without a quiz

1.1  Correctly records status with cmi.core.lesson_status=”not attempted”, “incomplete,” “completed”
1.2  Correctly records duration information using cmi.core.session_time

2. Course with a separate quiz

2.1  Correctly records status with cmi.core.lesson_status = “not attempted”, “incomplete”, “completed”
2.2  Correctly records duration information using cmi.core.session_time
2.3  Assessment Questions/Answers/Responses and pass rate supplied separately.

3. Course with an inbuilt quiz

3.1  Correctly records status with cmi.core.lesson_status = “not attempted”, “incomplete”, “completed”, “failed”, “passed” and a guarantee that the logic of these status is correct
3.2  Correctly records duration information using cmi.core.session_time
3.3  Assessment has correct implementation of cmi.core.score.min, cmi.core.score.max, cmi.core.score.raw
3.4  If a quiz has a pass rate then a correct implementation of the masterscore functionality is present
If you have any questions about SCORM don’t hesitate to ask us.  You can contact us at or call 0845 174 1101.


Web 2.0 for life, not just an election campaign

November 19, 2008

President Elect, Barack Obama, continues to use Web 2.0 technology as he launches the first of his weekly podcasts this week.

The use of blogs, podcasts, Twitter and other features designed to keep the electorate engaged is very interesting for the objective by stander to observe as Obama creates his administration and gets ready for office.

Of course our own Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has also embraced Web 2.0 technology via his regular “Ask the PM” sessions on YouTube where he will “respond to the most popular questions asked by the YouTube community.”  This week, unsurprisingly, the topic is the economy.

So perhaps the UK electorate will follow it’s US cousins come the UK 2010 election campaign by voting for the party that uses the now commonplace technology to engage them the most?  Time will tell.


Interesting things to do with balloons

November 17, 2008

balloon-tied-to-chair1I read this very interesting article today that gives ten top tips on how to get the most out of e-learning

There are some obvious ones here and some easy ones (and some holy grail ones).

Dr Jo Cheeseman says you should:

  1. focus on performance
  2. put measurements in place
  3. give learners control
  4. communicate it
  5. blend it
  6. make it easy to access
  7. make it visually engaging
  8. make it interactive
  9. consider a learning portal
  10. evaluate it

This reminds me a little of our very own A-Z guide on how to market your e-learning which gives 26 top tips on how to engage your e-learners.  There are some real gems, not least:

  • A is for adopters – Get the Chief Executive to be your most ardent e-learner and promote this fact.  If the CE does it, it must be good!
  • B is for balloons – Giver learners a balloon to tie to their chair when they are e-learning so that colleagues know not to disturb them.
  • C is for champions – Identify champions and make them in charge of communicating the e-learning message within their department.
  • D is for distractions – Encourage your learners to minimise distractions when they are e-learning; put the phone to voicemail, turn off the email, put headphones on to block out other noise.
  • E is for Everyone – block a time when everyone does e-learning.

What are your top tips?  Want to share?


And the winner is…

November 14, 2008


This week has been one of highs and lows on the pat on the back front.

We were thrilled to be recognised as the best new start up business in Northern Ireland by winning the regional heat of the prestigious Seedcorn competition for best emerging international company.   

 But then we were saddened to hear that GMPA walked away empty handed from the Association of Police Authority’s inaugural Excellence Awards at the ceremony in Gateshead on Wednesday.   The e-learning induction that GMPA has created for its new members (using the LP AT5) is excellent and received a lot of interest and praise from other police authorities in the run up to the glitzy awards ceremony.  But, alas, it wasn’t to be. 

Why do we do it?  Why put ourselves up to be knocked down?  I suppose we enter awards because we want others to know what we do and what we’ve achieved but also, and this is the scary bit, we want to benchmark ourselves against our peers to see how good we are.  That’s quite brave, when you think about it. 

It’s human nature to want to do well at something, especially something that you passionately care about.  We want people to know how we’ve changed our world and, hopefully, fingers crossed, they’ll agree.  So that makes it doubly disappointing when others just don’t get why you’re the best and therefore deserving of the winner’s honour. 

It seems there are awards for everything these days and, of course, some competitions are more worthy than others.  Step up to the mark, The Council Worker of the Year Award and The Best Council to Work for Award.  Which Chief Executive wouldn’t want to be part of that? 

But you win some, you lose some.  As your teacher always used to say at school “It’s the taking part that counts.”  Yep.  Right.  OK.  

We know that team Learning Pool (and this includes our subscribers) is fab, with or without awards, so well done one and all.  It’s good to put ourselves up there to be critiqued – many wouldn’t want to. 


Feel the connection

November 12, 2008

reportersOne of my pet hates (and I have a great many) is reporters standing outside of buildings. 


Let me clarify.  You are watching the news and the newsreader announces that we can now go live to a reporter at the scene. This is quite often a person with a microphone standing outside a closed, darkened building.


You may have caught the recent news story of the Beckham’s belongings being sold on E-Bay and, if you did, you no doubt saw reporters standing outside ‘Beckingham Palace’ late in the evening.  Not only was it dark but the celebrity couple were in a different country.  What was the point?


The best I ever came across was a couple of years ago when Leeds United were having financial difficulties and I was listening to the late evening news on my car radio.  They had a reporter outside the ground who was only able to tell us that it was snowing.  Why do they do this?   What value does it add?   Remember this was on the radio – I couldn’t even see where the reporter was standing!


What exactly do the broadcasters think is going to happen?  When they have a chap outside number 10 late at night do they think that the PM might just bob his head out of the door and offer up a exclusive?  Let’s face it – it’s never going to happen.


Surely this carry-on defies all logic?   It goes against the green agenda, wastes the licence fee and is the complete opposite of e-learning (I bet you didn’t expect me to twist back to that subject). 


With e-learning the people can stay put and the essential information comes to them where they are and when they want it.  Efficient, thrifty and relevant.  That’s more like it.



The Human Touch

November 11, 2008

hug-boughtHave you met Lisa who works for National Rail Enquiries yet?  She’s very clever.  She’s lifelike, works quite well and is supposed to take the place of a real person, even if she does have a permanently puzzled expression (although, maybe I would if I worked for National Rail Enquiries).


The more we use the web the more, it seems to me anyway, we try and get it to replicate the way we do things normally – we try and make things human.


Dr Peter Scott from the Open University, when talking about their experimental video conferencing system ‘Flash Meetings’, came up with an interesting idea.  He said something along the lines of, we all know meetings take up a lot of time, don’t achieve as much as we would like, can be boring etc. etc., yet what do we do?  We use technology to try and replicate, as closely as we can, a format which many people would say is inefficient.  


Scott argues that maybe we should be looking to technology to create new ways of working, not to replicate what we already do when it is inefficient.


I agree with him in one sense, I know I’ve sat through plenty of dull meetings in my time, but the human interaction bit is important too.


As a far flung workforce at Learning Pool we have an opportunity to experiment with technology for our meetings. I’m not sure how, but sense that it’s important – does anybody else have any ideas?


Her name is Lisa, you can ask her her age, but she’ll tell you not to ask a lady her age.  I wonder if she can tell me why I’m sitting in the wrong part of the train?



Easy, like Sunday morning

November 10, 2008

buddhaI turn the computer on.


Norton tells me I should update.


Google wants me to take a tour of the new features as it’s updated the browser and it all looks different.  I roll the mouse over a link and a pop up jumps out so I can’t see the text.  I disable it but it doesn’t go away.


Sunday morning and I’m shouting at an inanimate object.  And no, I don’t usually.


Decisions are being made for me and I feel powerless rather than empowered.  I want to feel in control, but I feel like I’m being controlled, told what to do.  Welcomed to the machine.


So what to do?  My usual reaction is “I‘m not going to be beaten by a machine,“ but I know it has more patience than I.


Answer, use ancient wisdom to fight the ‘new’ problem.  


The only thing I can do is to treat these annoying frustrations as opportunities for me to learn to become more patient.  Without them there is no opportunity to practise.


From now on, when all the trains in Waterloo are delayed, or I get the blue screen of death, or someone’s shouting intimate details down their mobile, I will be thankful for yet another opportunity. No more shouting or fist banging. Serene calmness will ensue.


So is it only me who has a lot of patience to learn? Is it (only) me?


And please don’t even get me started on Office 2007…




Get on my cloud

November 7, 2008

word-cloudThe last few blog’s I’ve written all seem to have a railway theme choo-chooing through them, which is worrying.  I promise this is the last time I’ll mention them, in this article anyway.

I have a love/hate relationship with PowerPoint.  On the one hand it’s an amazing piece of software for creating (or should I say supporting) a presentation.  But, on the otherhand …. we’ve all sat through too much death by PowerPoint!

I’m always looking for ways to make my own Powerpoint slides more interesting and try to do that by having decent imagery or graphics.  Just repeating what’s written on the slides isn’t for me.

Recently I was producing some slides on Instructional Design and wanted to do something different which would catch peoples imagination.  By chance I found Wordle,  which is a great site that allows you to produce word clouds, like the one in this blog. 

It’s easy enought to get started.  Just click on create, paste in the text you want in your cloud and hey presto!  Words that appear more than once in your text are more prominent in the cloud.  You can then play around with the colours, capitalisation, fonts and layout to your heart’s content. 

To capture your cloud you can print it out or do a screen capture, or you can add it to the online gallery for others to admire.

Why not give it a try and experiment with the different layouts and colours too?  It’s good fun!


The first Web2.0 President

November 5, 2008

obama-progressI stayed awake all night waiting on an election result on the other side of the world and I was struck by one thing.
It wasn’t that the new President is the youngest since JFK or that he is the first black president.  Nor also that his grandfather is from County Offaly (the Irish have, of course, claimed him – it had to happen!). Nor that acceptance speech that completely blew me away.

The thing that struck me more than anything was that Obama would have had no chance of getting anywhere close to the Big House without the internet.

Barack Obama refused federal funding for his campaign and so was left to ‘rough it’ with the world of small donations.  This unchartered territory would have been pretty fruitless without the internet but with it, he raised $150 million in September and roughly the same again in October.  Quite a bit more than Senator McCain who fought his whole campaign for less than $100 million.

But if all the internet did was raise money for Obama he still wouldn’t have made it and here’s the real trick.

The internet gave Obama a community, a family of people who all want to be part of the party.  Obama and his team used this community to rally support, get people working together behind a common purpose and to get what was, let’s face it, the unlikely candidate into the most powerful position on the planet.

Even more than that, the new President Elect has now created a community tied to that common purpose. You could argue about what the purpose is but let’s say is about changing the world.

That’s a community of hundreds of thousands of people who all want to change things and their community doesn’t just end because they’ve achieved their first objectives.  In many respects, they are probably just getting started.

President Obama now has a communication channel to a captive audience of people to help him deliver against what he said he’d do.  And it’s two way.  That audience gets to feedback to him on what else needs doing and how to go about doing it – in some respects that’s scary, but in others, it could just help him pull it off!

I love this proof of the power of the internet and Web 2.0. Tim Berners Lee, Robert Cailliau, Al Gore and anyone else who claims to have invented the web – you must be very proud

So the lesson learned is that communities that start from the grass roots are always the best ones and always stand the test of time.  Reminds me of an e-learning community I heard of once.

Now I wonder what we could get Mary elected to?  Suggestions on a donation email please!