Omniplex eLearning Community Demofest February 2016

I spent a few enlightening hours recently at the, Omniplex organized, eLearning Community event.

The event was arranged with various demonstrations in the room, with attendees given fifteen minute at each, rotating around the demos that interested them.  Most of the stalls looked at Articulate solutions, including a couple directly from Omniplex staff on their work.  Highlights included:

  1. Pizza Hut’s Batman themed course.  The course showed how high quality visuals can really make a difference to the learning storytelling.  The comic style similar to some of the training I have seen delivered by other organizations, including the US Army.  Each Pizza Hut store had an internal competition for high scores on the learning – reminding me of McDonald’s gamified till training.
  2. Changing templates to break the back/next monotony.  This was a relatively simple hack but it was a nice idea by Omniplex – have the navigation buttons at the top and bottom of the screen to create the artificial feel of a modern style scrolling webpage.  Elsewhere, there was a database training module that avoided the navigation buttons by chunking content to avoid the need for them, with much material delivered via embedded Captivate videos.
  3. Course completion for visiting a specific slide.  I’m pretty sure I’ve done some tinkering with this in the past but it was a useful example of using Articulate for something other than “you should read all the slides” or a “complete the quiz” format.  The basic gist being that you can do a lot by changing the labels on buttons and hiding Articulate functionality off-slide, away from what the user sees.
  4. Another example of using Articulate for a different use case, away from the usual course, was where it had been used to setup a competency self assessment framework.  I liked this as I’ve often reverted to Articulate as an authoring tool for non-SCORM items, it is a shame that people tend to always think about it just for back/next eLearning.

Perhaps the most interesting stall, however, was a non-Articulate orientated one.  The CoachMaster Academy showed their software which can be used to support the coaching process.  I really liked this idea – giving prompts and structure to a conversation, rather than relying on memory of best practice coaching approaches.  I tend to agree with the sentiment from a previous CIPD Show that coaching can be made too unwieldy, the software shown here could really help at the point of need for coaching conversations to make an impact.

Still not changing quickly enough? My thoughts on Learning Technologies 2016

This year I attended parts of both day 1 and 2 of the Learning Technologies Exhibition.  My takeaway feeling was that there really seems to be a failure of the learning industry to pick up the pace of change being seen elsewhere.

Too many of the exhibition sessions I attended just covered the basics of the topic.  Whilst I appreciate that a 30 minute session, with poor acoustics, is never going to be a wonderful learning environment, however, would you expect to go to a science industry exhibition and have people remind you about the logic that sits behind the Theory of Evolution?  Now I’ll admit to having never gone to a biology conference but, I’ll presume, the answer is no.  So why do we still see sessions with basic tips on deploying compliance training, how to deal with VUCA environments and what 70/20/10 really means?  I appreciate there are new comers* or HR folks attending who only have a passing interest in L&D but perhaps we could see, at least, clearer demarcation of sessions between “beginners”, “practitioners” and “demos”?  Donald Taylor, the architect of the conference and exhibition, has talked about Learning Leadership.  I would be tempted to say the exhibition, and perhaps even the conference, now need to evolve to encourage this.

* one of the most interesting conversations I had was with a business studies university student who was in London for the day to better understand practical application of learning and performance improvement in the workplace.  This made me realise that the problems I had with the show were perhaps that, after ten-ish years of attending the show and having attended the conference last year, I am now in the stage where I should aim for networking, catch-ups and a few sessions rather than filling most of my time with the free exhibition sessions.


‘Professional development teachers receive has a tremendous impact in the classroom’ (Nicky Morgan…*facepalm* and my BETT 2016)

I missed BETT last year due to work commitments so it was good to go this year and see the usual mix of product evolution and emerging ideas.

Enthusiasm I had from the event was though, at least partly, brought back down to earth by the email I received from the BETT organizers not long after getting home or, at least, by the subject line:

‘Professional development teachers receive has a tremendous impact
in the classroom’ (Nicky Morgan today)

The Day 1 highlights video that was included in the email is here:

Now, that specific quote from Nicky Morgan is not actually in the above video, it is in her 14 minute talk embedded below (text version here):

Whilst you might think the sentiment in the quote seems fair; for me, the quote is a real face palm moment.  Why?  Well, because it summarizes so many of the problems with education today.

The fundamental issue I have is that professional development is not something that should be talked about as being received, it is something you should undertake by seeking out opportunities and sharing with colleagues, it is personal, yet collaborative.  If the Secretary of State for Education is reinforcing such a fundamentally incorrect concept about lifelong learning it really is a worry.  Whilst I recognize teachers are among the very busiest professionals we have in the UK, so it is difficult for them to reflect on their practice, engage in communities of practice, etc. it would still be better to encourage all teachers to engage with improving their skill sets.  Instead she links teacher CPD to DfE, university and private sector funding, all of this whilst standing in possibly the biggest single free personal development event of the year.  Oh well, opportunity missed I guess.

There are plenty more points in the presentation that I could complain about but I’ll resist with the exception of the below piece:

“we have made it clear…that knowledge is the key to excellent educational outcomes…probably the worse attitude that we can take is that access to search engines is somehow a substitute for knowledge, it isn’t”

Let’s ask the future what they think of that opinion:


Okay, okay, so we perhaps do not need to go as far as to believe we live in a world where we can just ask a computer when we need to recall something (I’ll not go so far as to suggest tools such as Cortana and Siri are there yet).  However, there is the implied suggestion that the curriculum and assessment become recall assessments as a result of a focus on ‘knowledge’, rather than skills.  Let us see what the business community (well Accenture) has to say on that kind of approach:

Indeed, even if we just look at the “knowledge is…key” opinion from a Blooms Taxonomy perspective (aka Learning and Teaching 101), then recalling knowledge is clearly a pretty low level skill.  I understand the point that the EBacc has been introduced to ensure core knowledge, with higher level skill development possible on top of that, but it jars to me to suggest that search engines should not be recognised as a hugely powerful resource.  My own instructional design aims to avoid ever redesigning/reinventing/redelivering content that exists on the open web without, at least, adding value through context.

So what about my day at BETT 2016?  Well, there was not much that really caught the eye and I did not attend too many talks as I wanted to get around the whole show.  However, some thoughts below:

  1. Adaptive tech, as mentioned by Nicky Morgan, continues to bubble away as a potential game changer.  In the Higher Education sessions I caught Desire2Learn talking about their LeaP product.  The possibilities here for automated semantic matching to create bespoke learning pathways are hugely interesting.  It was also interesting to see how D2L had one of the smallest stands in the exhibition space when Instructure had a huge one for Canvas, I guess it goes to show how the funding of tech companies changes over time (albeit that Canvas was being pushed to the event’s core schools market).
  2. I tweeted before the event that it seemed around half of all stalls were new this year.  That number astounds me but shows there is still a lot of buoyancy in the learning tech market – or at least a lot of investment speculation.  To be fair this is partly skewed by the very small stalls where people are effectively pitching ideas – there were some interesting stalls in those spaces including around analytics products.
  3. The best demo I saw was of – cloud based mapping technology, with a wide arrange of options and data mapping all within the browser.  Even better is that a lot of the tool’s functionality is public, with education users able to use it for just £100 a year (per school) as part of their CSR – their profit making sales coming from other users.
  4. Microsoft.  The main sponsors/partner for the event had quite a lot going on in their exhibition spaces (including the above Arcgis presentation).  Interesting to see them pushing the idea of combining apps (including OneNote), devices 1-2-1 (Surface), session recording (OfficeMix) and more for an integrated classroom experience.  With Google and others present it really does seem to have become the battle of the ecosystems, however with Office Apps on non Windows platforms I wonder how much value Microsoft can really suggest the bundling approach creates.  LP+365 was particularly interesting in looking to turn Office365 into an LMS, in contrast to the longer standing SharePoint solutions (such as this one).
  5. Discendum seem to have cracked some of the Open Badge deployment challenges, I liked the idea of learners being able to come up with their own badges and recommend colleagues/fellow students for those.