Learningpool Live 2015 (#LPlive)

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.

2013 stress toy (decapitated) and 2015

Yellow’s smile was presumably a nervous one

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:

  1. We focus too much on what is on our desks – we have to take a step back to see the big changes.
  2. We all too easily forget natural biases and other impacts – for example:
    1. The recency effect means we tend to make decisions based on the latest information provided to us.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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):

  1. 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’.
  2. 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’.
  3. The difference now is that technology has amplified what is possible.
  4. wired:glued:attuned, I liked this description of people using devices and especially liked Perry’s point that this is not a ‘millennials’ thing.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.

Upcoming changes to Adapt including xApi, workflows, versoning, gaming, new components and better accessibility

5 future improvements to Adapt

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.

    Virtual reality offers to grab learners' attention via emotion and learning by doing. All in realistic contexts for transfer to the real world.

    Virtual reality ticking the boxes for effective learning

  • 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).

    9 things algorithms do that teachers can not

    Sorry teachers, but you know number 3 is a problem!

  • 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!).

There are further resources available on Learningpool sites: including their blog and slideshare.

Towards Maturity preview event: October 21st 2015

This week, ahead of the formal launch coming up in early November, I was at the “VIP Preview” of this year’s industry benchmark report.

Whilst a copy of the report was provided, much of the presentation was under a twitter embargo so I wont blog too much about the content.

Overall, as one would expect, a lot of the messages are a continuation from previous years.  Indeed the idea that it is “the time to change” is not necessarily new, as I commented in 2013, it is getting increasingly difficult to continue along old paradigms.

The scale of the report continues to impress, this year c.600 L&D professionals from 55 countries fed into the data set that has led to a 20 page report.

During the event’s presentations there were a lot of points made that were good to hear, including:

  1. findings that learners are self directed but need support
  2. the self directed nature of learners is not generation specific, this is not a ‘millennials’ thing
  3. need a vision of the future for learning, lots of people have one but not getting there fast enough
  4. the vision needs to focus on improving performance, L&D need to ensure business see this – it is not about course formats
  5. silos within HR need to end, or at least have better working across them (to foster workforce engagement)
  6. the ‘top deck’ of higher performers are increasingly enhancing performance through access to communities, content, technology and clear communications – all where and when they are needed
  7. fundamentally, there needs to be an end to the logic of ‘business’/’learner’/’L&D’ silos [indeed the point was made that we are all ‘colleagues’ – something I’ve argued for a while].

None of the above points will really come as a surprise to people who have followed the thinking of previous reports and the move toward ongoing “maturity”.  One nice new feature, however, is a section written in a way that can be given to business leaders to challenge them to better understand what learning should be and what they should expect from their internal learning professionals.

Overall, a great evening and another interesting report.


Webinar live blogging: A 3D virtual business simulation for experiential learning in first year accounting

As mentioned many a time on this blog, I do not post all the notes I make from webinars, reading and the like on here.  This is partly as they totally consumed my old blog and made more reflective posts difficult to find.

Anyway, I was up early today to attend a “Transforming Assessment” webinar from ascilite in Australia and thought I would post some thoughts here in real-time, [in brackets is me rather than session content].

  • [I have attended a few of this series and thought this one might be interesting in understanding what my organization’s grad hires might be expecting going forward].
  • [Business sims are, of course, tricky but they have the scope to really achieve practical learning].
  • [Quick screen shot at start – looks like using Second Life].
  • 800-1000 students per semester.
  • Title: “Accounting for Decision-Making”.  Not intended as a technical, debit/credit, course.  Instead focus on supporting business decision-making.
  • Includes face-to-face lectures and seminars and some traditional assessments.  However, reviewed course off back of some negative student survey feedback around engagement (business students not enjoying the accounting element and therefore not picking up the correct outcomes).
  • Therefore, try to get more active learning with students more actively participating.
  • Reviewed in 2015, including simulation and web based assessment – complete overhaul of lectures, seminars, etc. too, all with active learning focus.
  • Not off the shelf – worked with piersim.com/about : International Education Services who had used a 3D world for a number of years.  Collaborated with them to develop the world for their use.
  • Developed the Virtual Business Enterprise (VBE).  20 student operated businesses with a supporting central bank.  Students control a number of things, including product pricing.
  • App is available at all times, can plan work around the trading session.
  • http://pier-enterprise.com/
  • [ran through some of the functionality] VBE dashboard allows students to communicate, to view financial reports, manage their profile, select their ‘job’ in company.
  • To access the VBE requires download of the VBE Viewer.
  • What happens in a session: uses avatars, preplanned and agreed tasks as well as in-world decisions (buy inventory or not, pricing of products, advertising decisions).
  • Software based on OpenSim.
  • Once a week for six weeks: 50 min trading session within the world.
  • One student per group use avatar, others communicating and performing tasks on dashboard.
  • Use financial statement from each session to consider what to do for next.
  • VBE is a shopping mall [showed some screenshots].
  • Game elements – if do not trade then the character’s health drops.  Had a staff member in session to rejuvenate any character that died[!].
  • Want them to take risks and make decisions (based on the accounting information) in a safe environment.
  • Can go to bank and take loans if they think appropriate: balance repayments/interest rates/etc.
  • In world law court for dealing with disputes [sounded like quite a lot of logic behind it] – if you cut quality of products you can be sued via court.  The in-house staff member (‘controller’) decides as judge.
  • Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYDaYgt7i-M&feature=youtu.be – slower than real: is more frantic in the 50 minute trading sessions.
  • Assessment was linked to: business plan assignment combining lecture, tutorial and virtual world learning.
  • Business plan was to support a loan application on next 12 months worth of planning.
  • Induction session [https://www.facebook.com/uqbusiness/videos/988464357871851/] run for people on the VBE prior to first trade session.
  • Student feedback: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-y6WhIhrLc&feature=youtu.be : overall has gone well, with positive feedback, but not all students liked it – including due to technical problems.

Overall a good presentation and an interesting approach for trying to deliver the learning outcomes.

The (Work)Force Awakens

There has been a lot of interest recently in the importance of engagement in the workplace.  My view would be that this is not as generation influenced as some commentators would believe and has to be looked at as part of the bigger picture.

Emergent trends such as the rise of holocracy, and apparent disappointment with it, can be seen as part of a growth in thinking, again, about the nature of work.  Even if it is easy to see holocracy, itself, as the latest management fadThe Workforce Awakens

The rise of the ‘manager class’, seen in many fields (including Chinese Higher Education), seems to be slowing through association with unnecessary bureaucracy.  Therefore, we are left with valid questions about what the alternatives may be.

Some politicians would have you believe that workers are no longer exploited, the argument from many quarters would no doubt be that without some kind of partnership model for all staff there remains inequality and a lack of engagement.

If we consider organizational knowledge management, in the format it has emerged around SharePoint solutions at least, as reinforcing silos in organizations through endless permission setting.  The ‘circles’ of holocracy and alternative structures offer an appealing alternative.  Indeed If we consider the future to be that of ‘learner workers’, not ‘knowledge workers’, then we can perhaps go so far as to say the individual finally moves to the position of prominence beyond any kind of team structure.

There would be additional options here, data can now be gathered and presented in so many ways that an appeal by the workforce for more engaging workplaces and better representation will likely come at a cost of closer (and often automatic) scrutiny.

This is all in an environment where the ‘war for talent’ might be hotting up with demand outstripping labor supply in some markets.  In the UK at least this will likely result in further brain drain from public sector austerity and then more finger pointing when public expenses come in over budget, projects delayed and seemingly using never ending streams of temporary staff (from high-end consultants to the large volume of agency nurses plugging NHS staffing gaps).

There are plenty of suggestions for ways to engage the workforce, such as opening the books, to make people better understand their influence on the bottom line.  The challenge is that many options come back, again, to the ownership model and if that supposed end to exploitation sees a future of joint ownership rather than one of zero hour contracts, freelancing and uncertainty.

This all obviously has huge implications for any local learning and how fit for purpose models such as PLC will be going forward.  L&D can play their part, but the post-recession awakening in high demand jobs is only likely to lead to your people following the dark side (of more money at your competitors) if you can not fundamentally consider them as equals.