About Chris Littlewood
Chris's first experience of Microsoft applications was as a PhD student, conducting particle physics experiments in Geneva. Since then he's worked in strategy and rail industry financial planning. From corporates to the public sector, he's found the same simple skills to be key to the presentation of research and analysis. Chris is in charge of the on-going improvement of our courses.

Anatomy of a good recommendation

Posted on May 22, 2017 by Chris Littlewood

We’re working on how to personalise training to optimise productivity. In one strand of that project we are trying to understand the characteristics that make a recommendation useful. The recommendation might be for a book, a course, a video, an article, an experience, a mentor, a conversation, a tool, a tip… anything that’s made a difference to the way we work and the results we see.

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Topics: Business, Productivity, Technology, Personalization

User Journeys in eLearning

Posted on Feb 24, 2015 by Chris Littlewood

How many roads does a man walk down? The short answer is 4.715 x 10^284, if he’s a student of our Excel course. A more useful answer is: eLearning user journeys can be non-linear. This is usually a good thing – students can access training in a pattern that suits them, personalising not just the pace of training but also its emphasis and direction in a way that would be unaffordable with conventional, face-to-face training. But the degrees of freedom available to a student make it difficult to control or even understand the user experience.

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Topics: Online Learning, Algorithms

Filtered Learning Effectiveness

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 by Chris Littlewood

Our training courses are based on what we call ‘filtered learning’. This is the idea that our students will learn best if their training consists only of material they need to learn – skills that will be valuable in their work, and which they currently lack.  Our online platform asks each user simple questions that enable us to select content for them, giving them just what they need to learn.


We think there are some obvious reasons that this is an effective approach to training:  time isn’t wasted on material that isn’t valuable, and our students are more engaged in the content because of its relevance.  To put it another way, the most significant cost of training is often the time for which employees are diverted away from their work; focusing only on what staff need to learn, and delivering the training efficiently online, means this time and cost is minimised. We also hoped that this focused training would be more effective than following an unselected course – that it would make a bigger (as well as faster) difference to the learner.

We have been working hard on making the Filtered approach really robust – we’ll be launching our new Filter algorithm this November.  But before we embarked on this project we wanted to be sure that our hunch was right – that Filtering content really did make the training more effective for students.  So earlier this year we conducted an analysis of 3000 of our real-word users who had signed up for our Excel course on our old (pre-Filtered) platform.  The study measured student performance in tests before and after training, and found those users training using filtered material improved their test performance by 26% more than users training using unfiltered material.  With our sample size, we are more than 95% confident that learning filtered material has a greater learning impact than following an unfiltered course.

Our new platform allows us to monitor the relationship between our users’ learning patterns and the improvement they show.  So we intend to carry on measuring the effect of filtering content, in particular to understand how it affects adoption of and engagement with training, as well as ultimate impact. 

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Topics: Learning & Development, Online Learning, Analysis, Algorithms

Learning Trends of 2013: a few highlights...

Posted on Jan 06, 2014 by Chris Littlewood

We’ve all been away from the office over the Christmas holiday, and I have been using the break to reflect on the last year…

2013 has seen the rapid growth of the ‘MOOC’ phenomenon.  MOOCs (massive open online courses) are online courses aimed at mass participation. Many are free, and some of the best use content from traditional educators – universities and colleges.

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Topics: Learning & Development

Filtered online training

Posted on Nov 27, 2013 by Chris Littlewood

Introducing the Filter

This post is a quick introduction to the Filter – the gizmo at the heart of our site that is the means by which we select course content appropriate for you (or for each of your staff).

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Topics: Microsoft Excel, Learning & Development