Catching up with our eLearning Awards chair

With the eLearning Awards Gala evening ahead of us, what better time than now to post a short Q&A session that I – your Insights Editor – had earlier this year with the Chair of the Judges Tony Frascina (who is also now joining our board of Directors).

The eLearning Network – through Tony – coordinates the call out for submissions and all of the judging activity that lead up to tonight’s eLearning Awards evening. To find out more about the other stuff that we do at the eLearning Network and how you can become a member – if you’re not already – check out the link at the bottom of this post.

Here’s the Q&A:

Hi Tony, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, I’m Tony Frascina, an independent learning consultant and designer, and for the last four years, Chair of the Judges of the eLearning Awards.

What made you want to join the eLearning Network originally?

My links to the eLN go back to when it was still called TACT (The Association of Computer-based Training) and Jonathan Kettleborough was the chair. Like most people, I joined partly to be better informed about what was going on around the industry, but mostly just for the benefit of networking with like-minded people.

How has managing the eLearning Awards gone this year?

The eLN’s role in the Awards is always changing and growing. This year has involved working with a new organisation at the helm, dealing with a record number of entries, and judging every single category, not just the technical ones. Coordinating the awards involves keeping the momentum up and the experience fresh and exciting for everyone involved, whether they’re entrants or judges. And of course making sure these Awards maintain their richly deserved status as the most prestigious gongs in the industry.

What do you see as being the key challenges facing the eLearning and wider L&D industry right now?

I don’t think most the challenges have really changed in all my years in the industry, even though the technology has. It’s always been about understanding the importance of substance over style, about making learning active and user-centred, not passive and presentational. And that without good analysis and design, nothing we do would hold any value. Oh, and that tools don’t design anything, people’s brains do.

What books would you recommend as core reading to anyone wanting to get into eLearning and / or established L&D professionals?

I’d recommend ‘The Psychology of Everyday Things’ by Donald Norman. It’s about the principle of user-centred design. If our industry genuinely put the user at the heart of everything it did, the landscape would be changed beyond recognition.

What’s the best piece of eLearning you’ve ever seen?

I won’t single any one out, though some high profile recent Award winners have been superb.

What I would say instead though is that most learning designers work in a twilight world of not enough prior analysis, of arbitrary constraints, of woeful source materials and horribly small budgets – and yet strive to produce learning that may never win an award, but represents a triumph of will over adversity.

If you could give only one piece of advice to an eLearning designer what would it be?

Make sure you have a window you can stare out of, as that’s when you’ll do your finest work.


Thanks Tony!


Coming next month: Meet the new board Directors.

Follow this link to find out more about the benefits of membership of the eLearning Network.

A message from the Chair of judges

Congratulations to everyone who has been shortlisted for this year’s eLearning Awards.

You can find out more about the projects and organisations that have made it to the next stage here:

Thirty five independent eLearning Network judges spent a large part of August working through over 400 submissions from around the world – spread through 19 different categories – awarding scores against specific criteria for each category.

Most of the shortlisted nominees are now busy preparing to fight it out at final presentations, starting later this month at the Kia Oval, ahead of the top prizes being awarded in November at the E-Learning Awards Gala Evening at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

You can see who the judges are here:

It’s hard work for everyone involved – for the nominees in making their case as well as they can, and for the judges with the important decisions they’ll need to continue to make. But it’s what makes these awards the Gold standard, recognising the very best eLearning has to offer.

I’d like to take the opportunity, on behalf of the eLN – and as Chair of the Judges – to publicly thank all of the entrants and the judges for their huge efforts over the summer.

Alongside our friends at Learning Technologies and their sponsors, the eLN is proud to be at the very heart of the awards and I think we can all be proud of our contribution to moving our industry forward through this exercise in recognising excellence.

Tony Frascina

Chair of the eLearning Awards Judges

Award-winning best practice in elearning

BT Tower
Photo credit: Kate Graham

The first of our new look workshops was a prestigious affair, despite being absolutely free! With the new eLearning Network model, members now join for just £29 per annum and can attend our workshops throughout the year at no extra charge. The first one was held at none other than the BT Tower . The topic was a perennially popular one for the eLN, exploring the secrets and best practice of what makes award-winning eLearning.

We are incredibly proud to be the judging partner of the annual Elearning Awards. Our judges hold the privileged position of seeing the very best eLearning projects from around the world and we are always keen to share these stories to encourage best practice across the industry. This year’s event included some cracking insights and innovative uses of technology to deliver great learning experiences.

Here are some of the key takeaways from each session.

Judging awards

Award winning elearning
Photo credit: Kate Graham

To set the scene, Tony Frascina talked us through the ins and outs of the judging process and helped the audience understand what goes into writing an award-winning submission. It is a robust process with three judges in each category and a nominated chair. All entries first go through shortlisting before a final presentation stage. Each category is judged on individual criteria and the major takeaway from Tony’s session is to make sure you follow the criteria exactly. When writing a submission ensure you really answer what the judges are looking for. Tell your story, back-up your claims with evidence and showcase your work so the judges can see what the fuss is about. Oh, and stick to the word count!

Video in learning

Next up was our host for the day Martyn Stevenson-Read, explaining what happened behind the scenes on his project using video for social learning. It was inspiring to hear that even a large organisation like BT has created a model that uses short, low cost videos as part of their approach. A useful takeaway is how Martyn and his team have segmented the different types of video they use:

  • Interviews
  • Presentations
  • Screencasts
  • Drama
  • Explainers
  • Documentaries
  • Demonstrations

Simply appending their content to certain video styles opens up different opportunities and learning resources to suit every budget. Drama videos might be more high-end whilst screencasts can be done with hardly any spend at all. This model is something that could be applied in any organisation.

Mobile learning in action (even at sea!)

The Royal Yachting Association and Mind Click then took us through a truly innovative approach to mobile learning content that won them a Gold award in 2014. RYA wanted its learners to attain their Short Range Marine Radio certification with either eLearning and classroom training, depending on their preference. In the classroom, learners get hands on with the radio itself so they can use the kit and practice the communications and terminology. But how to bring that into an eLearning course? The course was installed locally onto learner devices, within which they could access a radio simulation that let them record practice calls and mimic the classroom experience even if they were completing the training on board their boat at sea. The point for reflection here is that the sky (or sea) really is the limit where technology in learning is concerned! Read more in the case study here.

Instructional designer of the year

Give Back UK elearning
Photo credit: Nice Media

Sam Yates from Unicorn Training shared her journey with us as someone who never set out to be an ID. But since discovering it as a career path, she now relishes the role and even creates content on a pro bono basis for Give Back UK. She shared several practical pieces of advice including an immortal quote from Albert Einstein, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.’ It has also become quite trendy these days to talk about storytelling in eLearning, but her approach truly does put the learner at the heart of the story and takes them on a journey through their learning experience. Reality can be complex – stories give it form. As Sam summed up: ‘People respond to people, not things. Find the story!’ You can see a demo of the content Sam created for Give Back UK here.

Compliance eLearning with a twist

Channel 4 and Acteon Communications eLearning
Photo credit: Sarah Hetherington

Another inspiring project was brought to us by Channel 4 and Acteon. Channel 4 has a strong brand and ethos when it comes to taking risks and pushing boundaries with its broadcast content. It is also a creative organisation. None of these traits necessarily lend themselves to delivering effective compliance training! But Acteon helped them translate their culture to a new eLearning programme designed to reinforce compliance around their codes of conduct. ‘Learning To Take Risks’ has created real engagement amongst Channel 4 learners and delivered measurable behaviour change within the organisation. There is a video case study here and the almost joyous lesson we can all take from this is a quote from Channel 4 that in finding their authentic voice, ‘we can be bold, brave and courageous – whilst maintaining our accountability and our reputation’. Who says compliance eLearning has to be boring?!

Excellence in content production

Steve Finch from CSDM rounded off the presentations with an overview of their project with Honda that scooped the Gold award for ‘Excellence in the production of learning content – Private sector’. During the project, CDSM worked incredibly closely with Honda and the involvement enabled them to employ an iterative feedback process. Each module was amended according to Honda’s feedback within a two week time period and this ‘nail it and scale it’ style approach kept the project timescales on track and ensured the client was delighted with the content when it was delivered. Read more here.

All in all, it was a great day, packed with interesting content, practical tips and networking with old faces and new. We always use the hashtag #elnevents on Twitter during our events so you can follow the back channel if you can’t make it in person. But don’t miss out! Join us at our next event New Directions In Elearning on 10th July – free for members and just £29 to join today!

Useful links

Many of our attendees share some useful, related resources to the topics discussed on the day. We thought we’d share this for your perusal and additional reading if you’re interested in finding out more.