A little reflection ahead of Craig Weiss’ annual LMS report

We’re just a few days away from eLearning guru, Craig Weiss, revealing his much-anticipated Top 50 LMS Report for 2017, and yep, there are a few nerves kicking in.

In 2016 our LMS topped Craig’s rankings for the world’s top system for the financial sector for the second year running and was fourth overall across all sectors, so we’re super excited to find out if our hard work over the past 12 months can make it an FS table topping hat-trick and see our LMS move up in the overall rankings again.

With this on our minds, it made us ponder just how eventful 2016 had been for Unicorn, and what standards we set ourselves to live up to this year. Not only were we so happy about Craig’s ranking but there were plenty of awards to celebrate too.

Unicorn at the Learning Technologies Awards Dinner

Our games arm Amuzo had their industry-leading genius recognised with gold in the Creative Digital Impact category at the Dorset Business Awards while their Playmobil Police Chase game won the 2016 TOMMI Award for Best Kids’ App!

The TOMMI is the children’s software award of Germany. Every year since 2002 the TOMMI Prize has been awarded at the Frankfurt Book Fair to the most innovative and outstanding software title developed specifically for children, showing Amuzo are appreciated far beyond these shores too. Pretty cool huh?

Amuzo win a the Dorset Business Awards

Then there was the awesome success of our partners, FSTP, who were named winners of the Most Effective Training Firm at the Compliance Register Awards.

FSTP scoop an award

FSTP work closely with us on developing all of our Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) content, and their knowledge and experience proved invaluable in the build up and throughout 2016 as many of our clients grappled with the new Senior Managers’ Regime and Certification amongst other complex mandatory topics.

We were also delighted to scoop a bronze at the eLearning Awards with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank for the platform implementation that has introduced MyLearning, and changed the way the whole organisation approaches L&D.

Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank take a Bronze at the Learning Technologies Awards

With our partners at Credit Suisse, who joined us for the evening, also taking home a silver in the Learning Technologies Team of the Year category it topped a pretty successful 2016 for us Unicorns.

The bar has been set pretty high for 2017 now, but hopefully Craig’s report will help us kick off the year as we mean to go on. Get crossing everything!

Unicorn to launch new ‘Learning Ecosphere’ white paper at Learning Technologies

Unicorn is to launch the Learning Ecosphere at next month’s Learning Technologies show, which introduces a brand new way of reimagining the dichotomy of traditional vs new eLearning.

The explosion in digital and social technologies holds great promise for L&D professionals, and the learning community is rightly excited by the potential of collaborative learning, point-of-need performance support, serious games and even augmented reality.

But amid the hype, how do enterprises identify what is relevant, affordable and good value, in the context of the practical day to day demands on time, budgets and resources?

This is the focus of a new White Paper being launched by Unicorn Training at the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition next month.lt-unicorn-1small

The Unicorn ‘Learning Ecosphere’ reimagines learning in the context of balancing enterprise-focused ‘you must learn’ and learner-focused ‘I want to learn’ demands.

The White Paper argues that a firm’s learning strategy does not have to sit on one side or the other, rather seeing the possibilities for utilising different technologies to create a better blend and balance in an overall learning approach.

The free ‘Learning Ecosphere’ White Paper can be picked up from stand P14 on both days of the Learning Technologies exhibition at Olympia on 1-2 February.

Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC), custom content, LMS and apps/games are all key elements within the Learning Ecosphere, and Unicorn will be showcasing its solutions in each of these and explaining how, far from being in competition, the ‘new’ and ‘old worlds of learning technologies, are, in fact, complementary.

There will even be the chance to win a giant Unicorn (yes you did read that right!) by having a go at Unicorn’s new app-based game, Quizcom. This gamified application allows firms to manage their own question banks to create quizzes and push them to individuals or groups of learners. Who doesn’t need a giant Unicorn in their life?

Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said:

“The mobile revolution has opened up exciting new opportunities for L&D to radically improve the effectiveness of their investment in learning. But mobile learning is inherently different from, and does not replace, the more traditional enterprise led training. We still need to ensure staff are safe and competent to do their jobs.

“The Learning Ecosphere is designed to help businesses to recognise what new pieces of the learning jigsaw might be missing in their business and how it is possible to make the many different elements on both sides work harmoniously together.

“What is needed is balance, and anyone visiting the Unicorn stand at Learning Technologies will go away with a much clearer understanding of how that balance could potentially be achieved within their business.”

More information about Unicorn Training is available at www.unicorntraining.com and registration for free entry to the Learning Technologies and Learning and Skills 2017 exhibitions and seminars is available at www.learningtechnologies.co.uk

Have you read our new T-C News feature? So what is your compliance strategy?

T-C News cover imageRegulation is only going one way, equaling an ever growing need to evidence competency.

With 52,000 more  firms due to come under the Senior Managers Regime by 2018, in the new T-C News magazine Simon Mercer, Unicorn ComplianceServe Product Manager, asks ‘What’s your training strategy for compliance?’

“Do not put it under the jurisdiction of Compliance or HR”, Simon argues. “It has to be championed by a Senior Manager and driven from the top down.”

Find out why by downloading the January 2017 edition of T-C News for free from the website at www.t-cnews.co.uk

 

Join us at Learning Technologies and discover the Learning Ecosphere

The biggest event in the L&D calendar is just around the corner, and we’re delighted to say we’ll be back for another year at Learning Technologies! This year’s show will run across the 1st and 2nd February at Kensington Olympia, and is set to welcome more than 7000 visitors from across a huge range of industry sectors.

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As well as being joined by our partners from Amuzo for an extra focus on innovation in the games and app space, this year’s show will focus on the launch of our revolutionary new concept – the Learning Ecosphere.

The explosion in digital and social technologies holds great promise for L&D professionals, and our community is rightly excited by the potential of collaborative learning, point-of-need performance support, serious games and even augmented reality.

But amid the hype, the task of identifying the truly worthwhile from the hot air, and determining how these opportunities fit with the learning strategy for your business has arguably never been more perplexing.

How do you identify what is relevant, affordable and good value, in the context of the practical day to day demands on your time, budgets and resources?

The Unicorn ‘Learning Ecosphere’ reimagines learning in the context of Enterprise-focused ‘Push / I must learn’ and learner-focused ‘Pull / I want to learn’. It offers interpretations of how a firm’s learning strategy does not have to sit on one side or the other, rather seeing the possibilities for utilising different technologies to create a better blend and balance in an overall learning approach.

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 The free ‘Learning Ecosphere’ white paper can be picked up from stand P14 on both days of the Learning Technologies exhibition.

There will even be the chance to win a giant Unicorn (yes you did read that right!) by having a go at Unicorn’s new app-based game, Quizcom. This gamified application allows firms to manage their own question banks to create quizzes and push them to individuals or groups of learners. Who doesn’t need a giant Unicorn in their life?

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Register for free entry to the Learning Technologies and Learning and Skills 2017 exhibitions and seminars at www.learningtechnologies.co.uk

Christmas Opening Hours

We can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again but here we are! Christmas is just around the corner, which means it’s nearly time to wave goodbye to 2016. So that you’re fully informed about our opening hours over the festive period, here’s when you can get hold of us…

Monday 19th December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Tuesday 20th December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Wednesday 21st December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Thursday 22nd December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Friday 23rd December – open from 09:00 until 13:00 GMT
Monday 26th December – closed
Tuesday 27th December – closed
Wednesday 28th December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Thursday 29th December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Friday 30th December – open from 09:00 until 17:30 GMT
Monday 2nd January – closed

If you have any queries concerning site access, usability or technical issues please contact us on +44 (0) 800 055 6586 and we will be happy to assist. Alternatively you can email your query to helpdesk@unicorntraining.comPlease note that any emails received during the period we are closed will be addressed on our return.

Naturally, we’d like to thank all of our clients, partners and friends for a fantastic year – and we look forward to everything that 2017 has in store!

Merry Christmas from Unicorn

A Week of Awards Success for Unicorn Training Group

What a week it’s been! We know we’re well and truly into the festive season now that it’s acceptable to have Christmas trees up and Mariah is blasting out on every radio station. But aside from all the usual connotations, the arrival of December also wraps up what’s been an excellent and eventful awards season in the learning world.

Wednesday evening saw the return of the annual Gala Dinner and presentation ceremony for the Learning Technologies Awards – with the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster welcoming over 800 of the industry’s elite for a night of revelry. Having already enjoyed an incredible win for Amuzo at the Dorset Business Awards last week – taking gold in the Creative Digital Impact category – we had our fingers crossed for the night ahead.

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Gold in the Creative Digital Impact category for Amuzo (part of the Unicorn Training Group) in the 2016 Dorset Business Awards

Having been welcomed to the evening by Donald Taylor, it was esteemed comediennes Katherine Ryan and Deborah Frances-White who got the night well and truly underway.

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Don Taylor opens the night with his welcome address

In fact, if you want to see what happened when they took something of a shine to our Business Development Manager Alex, look no further than this YouTube video.

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[L-R] Peter Phillips, Deborah Frances-White, Alex Prodromou, Stuart Sawyer, Katherine Ryan, Abi Pears, Shona Yeung.

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Deborah Frances-White gives Unicorn a cheer!

With some seriously stiff competition across both the categories we were shortlisted for, there were no golds for us this year. However, we were delighted to scoop a bronze with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank for the platform implementation that has introduced MyLearning, and changed the way the whole organisation approaches learning and development.

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Beccy Gilpin and Stuart Snowden with the bronze award – Best Enterprise Learning Platform Implementation with Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank and Unicorn Training

We were also incredibly proud of our partners over at Credit Suisse who joined us for the evening as they took home a silver in the Learning Technologies Team of the Year category.

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Credit Suisse take silver

Success for Unicorn Partners at the Compliance Register Awards

As if one night of celebrations wasn’t enough, last night the team joined our partners at FSTP for the Compliance Register Awards. Testament to their hard work and incredible support for all the businesses they work with, FSTP were named winners of the Most Effective Training Firm category.

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FSTP with their gold award

All in all it’s been quite a week for the group – as well as our partners and friends! We would like to extend our thanks to both the awards panels, and our wonderful team and clients who make our success possible. Here’s to 2017 and everything we’ve got in the pipeline!

Highs and Lows: Everything you need to know about today’s Autumn Statement

If you’re anything like us, you may well have been glued to the BBC all morning. It seems ludicrous to think that it’s a whole twelve months since we were last sat here awaiting George Osborne’s spending pledges to infrastructure and changes to personal tax thresholds – in fact, we couldn’t have imagined a more turbulent year if we’d tried. In the wake of the summer’s Brexit vote, as well as Trump’s meteoric rise to office in the US election, many feel that 2016 has been something of a rollercoaster ride, and one that looks set to continue into the foreseeable future.

One thing is for certain – at a critical time in the UK’s political and economic life, we are in need of political leadership with a vision to meet the coming challenges.

Whatever the public feeling about his predecessor, Hammond was keen to highlight the differences between himself and Mr Osborne as he addressed parliament and the watching nation this afternoon. With an overarching message that the government’s aim is to ensure that, “the UK economy is “match-fit” for the transition that will follow the Brexit vote,” Hammond maintained the need to continue with a, “commitment to fiscal discipline”, while recognising the need for investment to drive productivity”.

Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster

Three fiscal rules for budget responsibility charter

First, the public finances should be returned to balance as early as possible in the next parliament, and in the interim cyclically adjusted borrowing should be below 2% by the end of this parliament.

Second, public sector net debt as a share of GDP must be falling by the end of this parliament, and third, that welfare spending must be within a cap set by the government and monitored by the OBR.

As the announcements continue to come thick and fast from Westminster’s live stream, here’s a quick rundown of the highlights…

Innovation and infrastructure

  • £1.1bn extra investment in English local transport networks
  • £220m to reduce traffic pinch points
  • More than £1bn for digital infrastructure and 100% business rates relief on new fibre infrastructure
  • £2bn per year by 2020 for research and development funding

Housing

  • A £2.3bn pledge over the next 5 years to help provide 100,000 new homes in high-demand areas
  • £1.4bn to deliver 40,000 extra affordable homes


The state of the economy

  • Promises of “fiscal headroom” to support the economy through Brexit
  • Office for Budget Responsibility growth forecast upgraded to 2.1% in 2016, then downgraded to 1.4% in 2017
  • OBR forecasts growth of 1.7% in 2018, 2.1% in 2019 and 2020 and 2% in 2021
  • Government no longer seeking a budget surplus in 2019-20 – Mr Hammond says he is committed to returning public finances to balance “as soon as practicable”

Other highlights

  • A ban on upfront fees charged by letting agents in England
  • National Living Wage to rise to £7.50 from April next year
  • Reduction in the rate at which benefits are withdrawn from people when they start work
  • Tax on insurance to rise to 12%
  • Personal allowance threshold protected at £12,500
  • Fuel duty frozen

For a full rundown of this afternoon’s Autumn Statement – including closing announcements that will see future statements delivered in the Spring, with the full budget being moved to Autumn – head over to BBC breaking news for a complete live feed.

Tips to Overcome the Top 6 eLearning Barriers Preventing Learners’ Engagement

Rolling out eLearning within your organisation can bring about many challenges. Listed below are the top 6 obstacles you could face and our quick tips as to what you can do to overcome them.

#1 Limited Tech Experience:

For non-tech savvy individuals, there is sometimes a fear that comes with having to complete online learning. This is often rooted in the preconception that in order to complete digital tasks, a certain level of technical knowledge is required.

What you can do: create online demos and webinars that offer help and guidance when it comes to accessing and utilising the Learning Management System in question.

Young woman trying to use a laptop computer. Representing lack of technical knowledge

#2 Past Experience:

We have all been there, dreading eLearning due to bad (or worse, boring) past experiences.

What you can do: Get your learners excited about your eLearning programme. Stress the advantages of the course in advance and explain how it will benefit them in their daily lives. Be clear about what they should expect when they undertake the course.

#3 Lack of Motivation:

Linking in with boring past experiences, a lack of motivation can be one of the biggest push backs when implementing eLearning.

What you can do: Get your learners actively involved and engaged in the learning process via gamification. At the most basic level, examples of this might be the inclusion of badges, certificates, points and leadership boards to give the learners motivation to achieve the desired outcomes.

#4 Challenging eLearning Materials:

Easy learning means learners become bored. Difficult learning means learners become frustrated and may just give up! So how do you find the balance?

What you can do: Research your audience and carry out pre-assessments (diagnostics) to find the ideal level of challenge.

Not challenging learners can lead to boredom and lack of engagement

#5 Lack of Community Involvement:

elearning can be perceived as a lonely task…sitting behind your desk clicking through the content…

What you can do: Build an online community group where learners can create forums, open up discussions on topics and share knowledge and tips.

#6 Learner Boredom:

There is no magical solution to take away the boredom factor altogether. However, you can take necessary steps to make eLearning more inspiring and engaging:

What you can do: identify the learners’ expectations, needs and goals. Include real life challenges, scenarios and problem-solving cases. Develop personal learning paths that allow online learners to choose their own learning activities (self-directed learning).

Obstacles organisations face often go beyond the 6 points listed above. As an organisation invested in the continued development of your employees – both professionally and personally – it is important to help them overcome the misconceptions and barriers of eLearning.

Unconscious Bias – A Brand New Course

Whatever industry you work in, unconscious bias is a topic that has the power to affect us all. Every day, we make decisions about the way we conduct our business lives – from who we hire, to who we promote to leadership positions.

Whilst these decisions should be made fairly, sometimes unthinking prejudices and preconceptions have the power to affect our judgement in a negative way. Despite the best of intentions, our unconscious bias affects the way we weigh up choices and make selections, and has a huge impact on the way certain groups or individuals are treated.

Often, mitigating the impact of unconscious bias is a simple matter of raising awareness amongst your personnel. What’s more, we’ve just added Unconscious Bias to our brand new Workplace Skills library, so the resources you need are just a few clicks away!

Crafted in the signature style of our content partners, Learning Heroes, this title gives a characterful and holistic view of the topic of unconscious bias, as well as offering tips on what you can do to combat it. Find out more about Workplace Skills from Learning Heroes and request a demo of this or any other course here.

 

Developers’ Perspective – Re:Develop 2016

Never disappoint a child with a promise you can’t keep. What’s this got to do with eLearning? Well, for a start it was an important lesson that Unicorn’s developers took from their recent team trip to the annual re:develop conference in Bournemouth.

You see, when we deliver final client projects to you looking slick, working smoothly and – most importantly – delivering effective learning, it’s from giving our teams the chance to get out to key events like this that has fuelled their enthusiasm, sparked them with new ideas and kept them at the top of their game for your benefit.

So although our development team didn’t all head to re:develop to improve their parenting skills, it did provide an important analogy for business – never promise something you don’t know for sure you can deliver; it’s far better to under-promise and over-deliver.

That little scrap of wisdom came from a talk entitled, well, ‘Little Scraps of Wisdom’ from Matt Northam, Lead Front-End Developer at Redweb digital agency. Matt was just one of nine speakers doing the honours on the day and we got to see them all. Here, the development team share some of their top takeaways…

Agile in the Public Sector
Roo Reynolds, COO at Digi2al
Roo Reynolds speaking on stage at the redevelop conference

Dan Proudfoot: Roo Reynolds’ talk “Agile in the Public Sector” focused on Roo’s experience with Agile practices within a relatable working environment. He touched on the topic of Agile principles really well – and avoided the common mistake of making ‘Agile’ sound like a bad marketing pitch! Seeing the inner workings of the Government Digital Service (GDS) was even more exciting. The energy Roo had for explaining the work that was done to modernise the UK Government’s web presence was fantastic, and also followed on nicely from a talk last year which discussed accessibility concerns on the government websites.

Wayne Young: I found Roo’s point on shared team responsibilities interesting – the idea that developers can carry out QA, UX and Accessibility roles as part of their day to day development role. From previous experience I would lean away from this point of view, thinking developers have one set of skills and aptitudes and other specialists have others (I can’t imagine myself as a QA engineer!). The other point I found interesting was the one that touched on diminishing returns when doing usability testing – Roo mentioned on average, 1 user will find 30% of usability problems, while 5 users will find around 80% of them, which generally speaking makes 5 users a good maximum number of users to test with.

Software Craftsmanship vs Lean Product
Elizabeth Ayer, Product Manager at Redgate

Elizabeth Ayer talks about AGILE development in front of a large screen
Jack Sinclair: Elizabeth’s talk focused on the differences between two approaches to software development – software craftsmanship and the lean approach. Her points on different points of view when it comes to developing a solution was a relatable one – most developers can agree that they’ve found themselves debating the quality of their own or other people’s work even on a daily basis! But which one is correct for the business? The one that involves great code, or the one that delivers the solution quickest to the customer? It was good to see the perspective from a software craftsmanship point of view and a lean point of view, and definitely made our team aware of our own opinions on the topic that might affect our team decision making.

There’s More to Code Reviews than You Might Think
Clair Shaw, Freelance Software Engineer/Tester

Freelancer Clair talks about code design on stage

James Allen: Clair’s talk gave advice to developer’s on what to look for when carrying out a code review. This talk was an enlightening one – and was good to compare against our own process of code reviews. It’s also a tough topic to take on (the process of having your own work reviewed by other people), and one that can often attract differing opinions. In particular, there was an interesting question raised after the talk on the benefits of ‘face to face’ code reviews vs online code reviews, and the speaker mentioned they weren’t a fan of face to face code reviews due to the demoralising effect of having your code criticised in front of you. Personally, I disagree, and this question does raise a very important point on the culture of code reviews. I’d argue if somebody is feeling irritated, insulted, or personally defensive over criticism of their code, it suggests there is a mindset problem in either the reviewer or reviewee which is causing that. The way critique is delivered should be with the aim of improving the work, and critique should be received as an opportunity to improve, rather than as a personal attack. We should have pride in our work but we should be able to objectively analyse where improvements can be made and accept them. Ultimately I think we should treat our code like ideas are treated in the scientific method; as disposable if necessary, and always open to criticism and improvement. 

Employee Evangelism: Make Your Team Badass
Melinda Seckington, Developer at FutureLearn

Melinda talks about getting you team involved and making them product evangelists

Christy Mariaselvam: Melinda’s talk focused on the theme of communication in and outside of a team, and her experience in improving this. This talk was one of the most interesting talks of the day with some of the best quotes in my opinion. I enjoyed the general of the theme which was all about sharing with the community, and improving communication within and outside of your own team. It got us thinking – how do we communicate inside of outside of our team? Could we be more transparent? I particularly enjoyed some of the ideas focusing on learning and sharing, such as having a dedicated library in the office, and also having dedicated time in the week to learn, to write blog posts, find inspirational talks to enjoy, and other methods of communication.

Vikki Price: I really enjoyed this talk. The energy Melinda had was contagious and she was able to engage the audience well. I took away the ideas about the team sharing their great work more, blogs and ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, talking about what they enjoy both inside and outside of work. The development team is always looking to improve at communicating what we do – and writing more blog posts is a great way to start. This also applies internally, and making sure we use our internal systems to share things that we have found interesting.

An introduction to Service Workers
Phil Nash, Developer Evangelist at Twilio

Phil Nash on stage in front of a large black screen with code on it

Dan Proudfoot: Phil Nash’s “An introduction to Service Workers” – If Ruth’s talk was the fun side of modern Javascript APIs, Phil’s talk was all about practical benefits of the modern web platform. Service Workers are inherently nerdy and probably something no one but devs need to ever hear about, but incredibly useful pieces of technology. The jist: Run a piece of JavaScript that lives outside the page that loads it. The JS can then be used for a variety of purposes – smart caching; web notification support or full offline support in your web app. The power that service workers bring make it one of the most revolutionary technologies to hit the web, but sadly browser support is quite thin on the ground, and no version of Internet Explorer supports it (yet). Give it a few years, though, and things will change. Also, live JavaScript on stage is a scary affair, but Phil pulled it off with aplomb. 

Little Scraps of Wisdom
Matt Northam, Lead Front-End Developer at Redweb

Matt Northam wraps up the conference at redevelop

Stuart Jones: Matt’s talk was full of advice and inspiration, giving ‘little scraps of wisdom’ to development teams. As a parent, I really related to Matt’s analogy of software development being similar to raising small children. Matt’s talk was really funny – drawing on obvious and more tenuous links. Some of the tips which stuck out in my mind was about positively sharing achievements – I loved the quote “If you are going to do great things and not tell anyone about it, you might as well do mediocre things”. This is so true in software – we must be better at sharing. Another great anecdote around not disappointing your children with promises you can’t keep – it is so true to your stakeholders too. Never promise something you don’t know for sure you can deliver, and always under promise and over deliver. The studies in children that showed trust being eroded in confident adults who’ve let down children previously versus lots more trust in unsure adults who’ve never let down the children demonstrated this as an ingrained behaviour from a young age. 

As Matt Northam summed up: “If you are going to do great things and not tell anyone about it, you might as well do mediocre things.”

We don’t do mediocre and re:develop is one thing that helps us try to stay great. If you’d like to find out more about the Re:Develop conference, you can do so by checking out their website here.

Photo credits throughout this article to We Are Base.
Original photos can be found here.