A few weeks back I was lucky enough to attend the annual Learningpool conference. This was my second, my first being back in 2013 when it was run regionally.
Effectively a day split in four, with more general speakers in the morning followed by Learningpool specific user presentations in two streams, then three ‘strategy’ streams in the afternoon and finally closing keynotes. Around the day I took the opportunity to play around with their Totara LMS, Adapt Builder tool and took a look at some of their off-the-shelf eLearning modules.
My main interest was in looking at what is happening with Adapt as I really do think it ticks a lot of boxes of what learning technology should be doing: easy to use so it can be rolled out widely as an authoring tools, multi-device, etc. However, their new business resources were also interesting, not least as a lot of the content is similar to courses I have built myself in the past.
I have put some, high level, notes from the presentations below.
Padlet was used to capture some of what people were hoping for from the day (padlet.com/learningpool/live). This seems an increasingly common approach at conferences and other events although I am yet to see it really add much – anyone seen good examples?
David Meade (@davidmeadlive) – Mind Skills to Inspire Performance
Possibly the best start to a professional event I have ever been to (even though it started badly by showing the basketball bear – surely most people have seen that by now?). This mix of psychology, university lecturing, mind reading, magic and comedy immediately engaged the attendees. From a professional/corporate learning perspective there were a host of interesting points made, including:
- We focus too much on what is on our desks – we have to take a step back to see the big changes.
- We all too easily forget natural biases and other impacts – for example:
- The recency effect means we tend to make decisions based on the latest information provided to us.
- If pitching five ideas and you want a particular one to be picked, in what order should you present them? The evidence suggests option three is when you should present your preference. This relates to attention span and other science, elements of which will be familiar to those of us with an instructional design background but useful when put together like this.
- When do you put across the bad news in a presentation? Actually best to have it up front, establish honesty and then go from there.
- Should you ask for big requests first or start with the small? If requesting from a senior person then go large first. If asking for work from a junior then go with small, building up to big.
Perry Timms – Social Learning
Focus on social learning in our organizational designs and development, this was a nice session which touched upon a lot of points I would agree with in my practice (indeed Perry admitted at the start that many people in the audience would deliver similar messages on this topic):
- We are wired to learn and collaborate, indeed I would say this is the natural state and often the organization is better at supporting this when it ‘steps out of the way’.
- As learning professionals we should be about empowering ways to learn, this is very much part of my ethos and I would agree that learning happens all the time (i.e. the 70/20) it is not that L&D is now creating that by recognizing there is life outside of the ’10’.
- The difference now is that technology has amplified what is possible.
- wired:glued:attuned, I liked this description of people using devices and especially liked Perry’s point that this is not a ‘millennials’ thing.
- The takeaways were also sound: you need to think about yourself first: How social are you? How social is your content? How social are your learners already?
- We need to realize work can only be done with ongoing learning and that companies can make work less mediocre through innovation and the development of communities.
Nikki Watkins – Swimming the Channel in Armbands
An interesting session, and certainly different to a lot of what you get at this kind of event. This was effectively a personal story of tackling a challenge (swimming the channel) through determination and personal learning plans.
In terms of theory there was a mention for Sue Knight’s Beliefs of Excellence, these were possibly new to me but are a good articulation of what many of us would no doubt believe in.
Overall, I took the message away that we need to take on the challenges we face with a 100% effort and a plan. I personally really like the job title she gave herself (Chief Evolution Officer) when setting up her own consulting company as a way of articulating her belief that we can achieve a lot if we get out of our own way.
Jury’s Inn – Empowering Knowledge Sharing
I liked this session as it showed how well a digital/online shift can be done when not creating lots of artificial silos. Effectively they have used a portal to support a more collaborative culture where L&D no longer “holds all the answers”. L&D are now focused on the curation of resources and the moderation of discussion.
They have broken content down, for example into short manuals, how-to-guides and have captured tacit knowledge via user generated content (including 30 second video clips captured via mobiles). Have also created prepopulated learning plans so it is clear how people might progress their careers and what is expected of more senior people.
To succeed they identified you need sponsors, appropriate face-to-face at key points, multi-device support, supporting structures and incentives.
All-in-all, they appear to have avoided a lot of the problems that are created when intranets, knowledge, information and learning start to find themselves in artifical silos.
Keele University – Get Awesome with Adapt
Having once been responsible for learning technology experimentation and adoption in Higher Education it was good to see a university presenting, especially as it was primarily on Adapt- my main interest in the day.
They have opted to go with LearningPool as their staff environment, away from the student facing Blackboard approach. I did not get chance to ask why the two approaches were adopted but its an interesting one as to why they have gone for two different sets of system.
Anyway, they were full of praise for their Learningpool solution as it has allowed for staff mandatory training to be handled with ease, online access has meant home nation staff working at partners in China and Malaysia are still connected with the campus, etc. Although it was highlighted that the time issue (i.e. do people actually have the capacity to spend time on it) is a concern for them and their colleagues.
In terms of Adapt itself, they have started to produce content, including through collaboration with the marketing department who are engaged and producing corporate branded templates.
In terms of getting staff engaged, they offered demos as well as a ‘tea party’ on campus where people could eat, drink and tech.
Devon County Council – Charting a Successful Adapt Journey
Long-term Learningpool users, they seem to have cracked their particular challenge over what L&D should be doing – “focus not on what you might know but on what you need to do”. This is within the (correct in my opinion) approach of focusing on organization specific elements – the rest can be left to Google and YouTube.
Adapt has fitted in as the way to allow people to do their own content, with high quality designs, to support their business goals.
Strada – Adapt Adoption
When the presenter joined, all the feedback she got was that eLearning was boring. Adoption of Adapt has aimed to change this.
Some examples were shown, before sharing some top tips: make use of different sources for images and material (for example take content from the corporate twitter account) and when adding media assets to Adapt ensure you tag them for easier reuse.
Introduction to Adapt: Changing the Face of eLearning
A broad brush introduction that did not add too much to what I had previously seen and read.
The more interesting elements were around some of the future plans, namely additional functionality components and xapi (see picture). Apparently there was a lot of interest in their recent DevLearn presentation on some of these points.
There was a useful demo to show some of the newer components – which again made me realise I really need to have a more detailed look at the authoring myself, beyond what I have done previously.
Support for Performance with Intelligent Tech
A session primarily focused on the Encore app. I really like the concept of Encore, time-spaced learning via mobile, in a similar way to how a lot of universities and FE colleges experimented with tools like Edutext in the past.
The forgetting curve, referenced in the presentation, is obviously the key challenge being tackled here. However, I think the key thing here is the coming together of specific bite-size learning with the previous idea of following up to reinforce learning.
New features were detailed, including ‘smart scheduling’ which is effectively a form of adaptive release based on past performance.
Donald Clark – Increase Performance Through Mind-Blowing Tech
This presentation will have been largely familiar to those who have seen Donald talk before. However, I always feel it is quite useful to have him remind us of a few things, such as:
- If you work in learning your job is about the brain, do not forget this.
- The elearningmanifesto and Learningpool are examples of groups breaking out from the old eLearning paradigm.
- Some major tech changes coming up, especially Oculus Rift – VR though is about the medium not the gadget: make learning real.
- Algorithms are going to be increasingly important [although I would challenge him on how good Netflix’s recommendation engine actually is], AI offers sustainable change (i.e. innovation).
- Consumer tech offers a way forward, for example gamification shows value in breaking content down.
- MBTI is a ponzi scheme, should aim to educate everyone uniquely – Cogbooks example of tech starting to offer this.
- Competency models can be a less artificial construct for learning structure than courses.
- Duolingo and other popular tools are doing adaptive learning already.
- Spaced practice is obviously needed and is an easy win via mobile phones.
- VR not really new learning approach – just price point changing: no longer restricted to flight simulators and high cost developers/simulations.
- Aim to enfranchise people – universities and other structures hide learning.
- Create experiences – for example, sexual harassment training can be really boring but via VR could be really believable. You could make people actually experience what disabilities are like as part of diversity awareness, etc.
- Overall: everyone in L&D needs to embrace tech, play with it – resistance is futile.
The day finished with another amazing trick/display from David Meade (wont even attempt to describe it here!).