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Education disrupted

7 Jun

education and technology

An interesting article from the ‘not failing’ New York Times about how the tech billionaires are making fore-roads into schools with innovation grants and other funding and the questions around who is profiting the most. In an era that promises to automate many jobs and where industries are either disappearing or being reinvented it makes for interesting reading.

For those of you that still read …

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9 Jan

vet feeI’ve been involved in vocational education and training now for over 20 years initially entering the sector by pure chance. I started with TAFE and found that my real experience in business and in a number of industries was key. In other words I wasn’t just a teacher.

Over time I worked in the not for profit sector managing the NEIS program for small business entrepreneurs, worked as a trainer/assessor for international colleges, became an instructional designer because of the lack of or poor quality of training materials, became experienced in the online environment and then worked for VET FEE providers.

With VET FEE – I started with face to face and suddenly found myself in classrooms with diverse people (many of whom didn’t want to be there.)

I’m a skilled and entertaining trainer so I was able to gain the respect of the students and turn the focus around. In one particular group I had a mix of an 18 year old right up to a 60 + . We had fun and they learned.

In the online sphere I worked as a course coordinator/program advisor/training manager while also developing learning materials designed to tell realistic stories around workplaces making the experience valid and interesting.

Online can be a lonely place so I worked with a team of mentors who managed students/learners to assist with progression and motivation. I quickly found out that just because your online, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be treated personally. I worked directly with learners and found that they were tremendously happy to have some help that transcended a downloadable pdf with too much information (or not enough) and a few distended assessment tasks.

Working with and managing mentors and trainers/assessors has also been interesting. I found that for the most part they are hard working, dedicated and creative if they are given the opportunity and the leadership.

So it’s still people to people: online or off.

Yes. There have been changes and it seems that the money tree has lost its leaves. There are more hurdles to jump for providers and brokers and this will see a downsizing of the industry as it’s no longer viable to employ vast numbers of employees to service the learners.

It will also be harder for RTO’s to sign up students and there are so many other hurdles (LLN etc) it’s looking like a steeplechase.

But one thing hasn’t changed. People still need to be trained. They still need qualifications on their CV’s.


My advice to RTO’s who are scratching their heads … have a small but dedicated team who know what they are doing. Make the content interesting and current by discontinuing/limiting off the shelf content and providing other content.

One good trainer and a small team of mentors who understand the content can train and progress your learners … and they’ll be happy.

Australia in a state of change…so what’s new.

Industries grow and shrink but my family had a business that started in 1933 (midst of the great depression), and operated for 70 years.

How did we do that?

By keeping our eye on the ball, changing when trends changed, offering personalised service and our own unique products + promoting our brand personality.

Skilled operators will keep operating and make money.

Contact me and redefine your business model.





Merry Christmas 2013

24 Dec

Merry Christmas 2013

Merry Christmas 2013 to all my clients, contacts, friends and family.

And not necessarily in that order.

Have a happy and safe Christmas.

Simon Rodie

Tech heads and other odd fish

13 Dec


I’m the King of Content.

Well I self styled that one, but after working on advertising campaigns (above and below the line,) blogs, websites (static and interactive,) brochures, newsletters, flyers, trade stands and collateral, email marketing, social networking, training programs and lots in between … I think I am the King!

But I’m not a coder … yikes!

I’m a content planner and builder, creative director and project manager.

I’m also a talent scout.

I source artists & illustrators, graphics people, TV/Radio producers …

I also source web people. The people that code. They know HTML and CSS deeply, whereas I just know about it.

I need these people. And I need to get the work done.

Sometimes, but not always, these web people can be difficult. Why? could be a generational thing. Could be a time management thing. Could be a simple communications thing. Could be all of the above.

Here’s a scenario:

The project is lagging and lacking. The vision has not come together. I can’t get the person on the phone. I can’t get them via sms. I wonder should I go out on my balcony and call their name like Steve Martin did in The Lonely Guy.

Yes … they don’t always follow my timetable.

But when you get a good one it’s amazing.

Manage these people with tenderness and care.

Coach and mentor them.

Be understanding, bit not too understanding if you get my drift.

Got kids? You’ll know what I mean

Hello SILO … you’d better be flexible!

3 Dec

ImageI work on many projects with many different organisations. Corporations, authorities, not for profits and small to medium businesses and I often find that I’m cast adrift between mountains of giant silos.

Silos form when the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

I’m not casting aspersions (or aspidistras) at all the hard working people I interact with. I’m just making an observation. Silos form when people are rushing to meet change.

Change happens rapidly these days. Policies change, then procedures or ways of doing things. Regulations and laws change when governments change or government policy changes. Change happens when businesses are growing exponentially and new people are brought on board.

Silos also form when there’s a lack of communication across organisations, strategic business units (SBU’s) and teams.

Silos can also form when people don’t share.

Silos affect content developers too. We can be working away using some accepted template, or creating content in a suggested way and then … it’s not quite right.

Can this be a problem? Yes and no.

Clever consultants can pick a silo a milo off (sorry, it rhymed.)

Clever consultants communicate widely.

Clever consultants are flexible and don’t go into spasms of disappointment  and take things personally regarding their work.

My mum told me that a truly sane person has an ingrained ability to change their minds!

I tell my kid all the time, life is full of paradoxes … be flexible and open minded.

And smile a lot          : )

Icons of Style and Style Guides

12 Nov

ImageCary Grant was a movie star when movie stars were stars if you get my drift. He’s probably not relevant to the Gen X. Y’s and Z’s (are they here yet?) but he had style, and talent did old Archie Leach … that was his real name. Cary Grant was a branded product for the Hollywood studio system and no-one did better business than those factories.

Stars like George Clooney owe a lot to Cary Grant an icon of style!

Now I’m not writing about movie stars here. I’m writing about the importance of Style Guides to content developers, whether they are building, writing, or video-ing content. Whether they are designing training programs or sending out email marketing campaigns > it’s nice to have guides in place for look and feel purposes, branding, version control, recurring text like copyright, fonts, colours and more.

Style guides should be global and accessible.

Style guides formats should be usable to those that need to use them.

Style guides should be simple, uncluttered and not a graphic designers view of how they should present and be used.

Most importantly, Style Guides should be communicated and adopted by all in the business or organisation.

I’m creative and I like to break the mould sometimes and add personality but I appreciate when Style Guides and Templates are used when it makes the project clearer and easier to format.

Develop Style Guides and Templates then manage projects. 

Cecil B DeMille and Learning Management Systems

9 Oct

moodleWhose heard of Cecil B DeMille? The great director of the silent film era. His epics such as the Ten Commandments and Cleopatra still rank as amazing spectacles. But many great silent directors fell foul to new technology. Back then it was sound. Now it’s the internet.

Online learning has taken off. Educational institutions and corporations have embraced learning management systems for a number of reasons. It’s always there, therefore learners can ‘learn’ in their own time. It’s cost effective, especially where training is linear such as workplace health and safety, it’s environmentally friendlier > less printing, and if utilised properly it can build a community of learners.

The problem with some LMS’ are that they are so often one dimensional. There are pdf’s to download and instructions. Learner’s log on and log off and log is a good choice of words here. ‘I slept like a log.’

When I deliver training, I am conscious of the people in the room. Are they engaged and interested? Are they enjoying themselves? Are they learning?

LMS’ should also engage learners and if they don’t, they aren’t doing their job.

The interface is the first place they arrive at. It should be planned and built to engage and motivate.

John Caples’ AIDA is about good advertising…

Attention … get their attention

Interest … and their interest

Desire … stimulate their desire

Action … forge action

It’s not about downloading online documents. Self directed learners want more of an experience.

Like a good website, static elements are not enough anymore. Consider multi=media, chatrooms, links and moderate. Keep the conversation going.

Don’t be afraid of new technology, but direct it like CB.

Frank Sinatra and content development. I did it my way

29 Sep

APPROVEDI love Frank Sinatra. His phrasing was amazing (sorry about that one!)

One of my favourites is his rendition of ‘My Way.’ Originally a french song and re-written by legend Paul Anka, it’s a testament to uniqueness, bravery. resilience and self belief. Ol’ Blue Eyes put in all the blows, hits and lingering disappointments. This song is about living and by the soaring end, this listener is in no doubt that Frank lived a life.

I’m a my way kind of person. Strong minded and creative. I often run on instinct fuelled by experience > what’s going to work and what’s not.

But here’s the thing: when you’re planning websites; developing content (products, knowledgebases, social platforms etc.,) always communicate with your stakeholders (internal and external) regularly, get approval and formal sign off. 

This is not always easy. You have to pitch it right and differently depending on your audience. The cost/benefit analysis.

Many great ad campaigns have been ruined by ‘the client.’ They just want the logo bigger. They often don’t share your enthusiasm for standing out in a crowded marketplace. But they are the client nevertheless, nervous or not.

Set up a ‘milestone’ approval system so that everyone’s on the same page. I do love cliches.

And stay brave!!

Content design … Don’t put legs on snakes

26 Sep

ImageI learn some amazing things and meet some wise people as I go along. One such person is Albert. A graphic designer I sometimes work with. Originally from Hong Kong. he’s Chinese Australian or the other way around, depending on your point of view. Albert’s been honing his craft for many years, classically training as a graphic designer way before Adobe or Quark were on hand. In other words he’s an old hand.

One day I was sitting next to him, art directing a piece of marketing collateral. Pictures, text, logo etc. He was laying the page out and it looked good. Me being an advertising > marketing > sales kind of guy suggested he make the offer bigger. It didn’t have the prominence that I thought it should. Maybe I was after the butcher shop window look. This weeks special … portuguese sausages.

With glee in his eyes, Albert said ‘That’s right. We put legs on snake!’

An old Chinese proverb, it took me a second to understand what he meant.

Snakes are perfect. Sometimes they are superior.

Why put legs on them.

Designing content, bear this piece of wisdom in mind.

Don’t put legs on snakes.

Leonardo da Vinci and content planning

24 Sep


I have developed content for a number of businesses as well as creating and delivering training programs (aka Instructional Design.)

Content can be for non-static websites; marketing programs or social media.

One thing became clear to me in the process. That is the importance of planning.

Having a series of plans that start with the Big Picture (see above,) is a good way to not only focus on what you are building, but also becoming ready to create and stay on track with projects.

Creativity is pure. We know that. Artists are born that way or are they? Real art is intuitive, it’s just there in moments of genius or is it?

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (both successful businessmen) produced ‘rough’ studies before creating their masterpieces.

My friend, famed Australian artist Rodney Pople, executes a number of sketches and daubs before he knows he’s on the track.

Writers plan and signpost using a variety of methods. Chapter headings is one way to write a novel.

Having a ‘helicopter view’ of what you are trying to achieve and then implementing it is a good way to plan and build.

It can be visual or text based. I find that visual is better.

Just get it all down and make your map.