The field of elearning is maturing beyond imparting information with static text and a few images, with growing emphasis on creating an immersive learning experience using techniques such as realistic scenarios and simulation training solutions. Here, we interview interactive scenario and simulation-based training expert, Andy Cottier of Day One Technologies – one of the leading providers of bespoke elearning solutions in the UK.
You’re an elearning consultant and the co-owner of Day One Technologies – how would you describe the company?
We’re a tech-focused provider of elearning and we work to make it much more interesting than just PowerPoint slides.
We try to make elearning fun and engaging using tech and software, while keeping a focus on achieving learning and business outcomes. We don’t adopt tech for the sake of it though – there are a lot of fads out there and many companies seem to jump on what’s new to look as modern as possible.
We create systems that are going to be future-proof, and we having some big clients – in the banking and finance industry for example – still using some training systems that we developed a decade ago because they’re still relevant and effective, and they’re still fun to use.
And what is your role there – what does a typical day or week look like – if there is such a thing?
I focus on the technical side of learning solutions development, creating and revising systems and workflows. I oversee all of Day One’s current and future software and tech needs, including those of our clients. I monitor the work of our developers with the main priority of ensuring high quality and good process.
How did you end up working in elearning?
I originally studied pure mathematics and went on to train as an actuary with Godwins plc (now AON). In my next role in management accounts for an international shipping company, I started to see the impact and potential of software on the business – as well as the skills gaps – so I saw a big opportunity there and returned to university to study as MSc in Computing. After gaining some experience as a contractor, I joined Day One as an elearning software developer in 2002.
Why did you get into elearning – what do you enjoy about it?
Having seen the huge potential of technology on business, I wanted to create products that make things work better. I enjoy working to constantly improve quality and solve customer problems. For example, if a customer has loads of training content, how do we help them fetch the right content for their needs and filter out errors? I love the lightbulb moments where we find a great new solution that just clicks.
Examples include our e-roleplay solution where we paired up learners for call centre training and a new system for live search of content from a database. Gems like that have delivered real step-changes in training performance for our clients.
What does bad elearning look like – what mistakes are often made?
Static content, such as PowerPoint slides, for large amounts of learning just isn’t good enough. Box ticking exercises and pushing knowledge, rather than helping learners to develop a genuine understanding of the subject matter, is a shame given what can be achieved today.
What is good elearning – what key components make it great and how would advise someone embarking on an elearning project for their organisation?
You need people who are invested in achieving something great, and something relevant to each individual.
If a role requires X, make sure X is the focus of their training. Context is key to effective training, so make sure it has maximum practicality for the role. eLearning scenarios and simulation training can be hugely effective here.
Work to give people confidence – empower them and map out how training will lead into their work.
At Day One, what has been to the success that has kept you in business for 2 decades while many others have disappeared?
We’ve been happy to stay the size we are. We’ve never been focused on growth, but rather on doing great work. There seems to be a lot of overstretching in the tech sector in particular – which can mean boom and bust. We create solutions with longevity and ongoing relevance. For example, for HBOS in 2009 during the run up to their merger with Lloyds, training needed to become unified. Things ran on desktop at Lloyds but it needed to go web-based.
We were able to make their training stay relevant but get refreshed where needed – 85% of their existing systems stayed the same as the backbone, so we were able to keep costs low as training content development didn’t need to start from scratch.
How do your knowledge and skills complement those of your co-owner, Elaine Teal?
I’m focused on the technology and software engineering. Elaine is highly knowledgeable when it comes to learning process and psychology. She works a lot on project management from start to finish – from needs analysis through to delivery and support.
Why have these big names like Lloyds, ghd and Co-op chosen Day One – what is different about you and what have they bought into?
I think our availability and ongoing support are a big factor. Elaine and I are heavily involved and in regular dialogue with clients – there isn’t the hand-off of projects to various sub-teams, so the client knows that he or she doesn’t need to later deal with layers of account managers and account directors.
We give free advice and we’re quite informal – we’re open and there’s no bureaucracy. We keep flexible and as projects develop, we understand that things change and are able to adapt to mission creep or a change in priorities.
What single project or achievement at Day One are you most proud of?
Probably that project that I mentioned helping to deliver training for HBOS and Lloyds Bank during their merger in 2009. Thousands of staff across both organisations needed to go through literally millions of exercises between them to become trained in new systems in a very short space of time, without disruption to their customer service.
We were able to guarantee 1,000 simultaneous learners on the system at any time and it all went extremely smoothly.
The project was hailed as a huge success – by both the internal teams at HBOS and Lloyds, and external industry commentators.
What is the future of elearning 5 years from now?
We’ll diverge from PowerPoint more and more. There’ll be a bigger push for mobile learning, making phones better for training delivery, despite the tiny screen. Delivery of training will become more sophisticated with a big focus on variety and convenience.
With the creation of ever more realistic simulation training, learning will become more immersive.
There are exciting developments on the way and I think we’re still in the very early stages of elearning!
Want to talk with Andy about your L&D needs and how interactive scenarios or simulation based training could make a difference?
Learn more over on the Day One elearning website and contact Andy and the team.