Some reflections on week one of the #LTDX21 event (with a bit on the latest The Learning Hack podcast)

Learning Technologies, of course, is normally a big, physical, conference and exhibition and I had hoped to attend this year (amazingly I don’t think I have been since 2016 – where did that time go?). However, with travel and event restrictions there has been the inevitable move to a “digital experience” this year. The free sessions I have attended for this year’s LTDX21 have really reminded me about three things from Learning Tech as an event:

(1) The “free” sessions, normally on the exhibition floor of the physical event, vary enormously and it is a lot better to attend the “paid for” conference event if you can.

(2) The major benefit of the event, for me, is bumping into people you normally see once a year (or less) for a quick catch-up.

(3) There is value in just browsing the exhibition for trends, new entrants, etc. – I am yet to attend a virtual event which does this kind of thing well in getting the balance between viewing “exhibitor information” and having sales people harangue you via LinkedIn and email.

With regards to the first point above and specifically the sessions, the ones I have attended in the first three days have varied between the incredibly introductory and the very thought provoking. Kudos to Omniplex for the thought provoking session – one that really picked at the shared learning industry conscious over our role in organisations (and impact on wider society) with calls for improving practice. A good example of bringing emotion in – by highlighting real world examples (from big stories like Grenfell through to smaller scale examples).

One problem with the less interesting sessions was that product demos, which would normally be restricted to exhibition booths, and presentations (with a product focus) that normally appear in the “theatres” seem to have blurred together in this format. The answer here is probably to look beyond the titles and descriptions to try and second guess the nature of presentation – this isn’t really an issue if you commit a day or two to an event and can walk away from less interesting sessions. It is more annoying when you are blocking out calendar time for virtual events.

From the sessions I have attended, I could see some of the ongoing challenges for online learning – for example, discussions in session chat showed a drive towards wanting to display learning in Microsoft Teams (in part due to Viva?) but at the same time we had presentations around old concepts rebranded as new. I would really advocate everyone in the industry listen to the below podcast. A lot of people are still very blinkered to the companies they have experience in and I really don’t think people realise what is actually “new”. As Dr Chen points out, for example, doing more than SCORM is not new. There also seems to be a growing trend of huge content libraries and aggregators (perhaps because of LinkedIn Learning’s success) which I personally feel has a role but is just part of the puzzle. Anyway, listen to the pod if you haven’t the latest Learning Hack podcast was timely given all of this:

Regarding point 3. Attending only a few sessions you also miss the general feel. Today, I am going to try and follow the event’s hashtag more closely to try and pick up some of the more general trends. Thanks, as always, to all the tweeters out there on #LTDX21.

Viva la viva

I’m a bit slow on this but been catching up today with last week’s Microsoft Viva announcements. It seems I partly missed this as the posts, that I saw at least, had instead picked up more on Microsoft making a bold prediction that Black Mirror-esque creepiness is going to be mainstream employee experience in the future:

Anyway, away from that slightly odd video, here is a good introduction video to Viva:

Donald Taylor picked up on Josh Bersin’s good summary here:

Personally, my initial thought was – “oh, great, ANOTHER platform”. With a bit more digging, Viva is clearly a lot more interesting than I thought. MS are looking to put a layer over Teams, SharePoint, etc and surface (pardon the pun) to the user a more personalised work experience. Rather than building Teams out to do this, as I had previously presumed, we have a different model here. Huge potential for us to finally “put learning in the flow of work” and facilitate knowledge/information sharing in new ways. However, like with Teams, it will take organisational approaches to drive people to work in ways that make the data, information sharing, etc actually helpful.

No doubt there will be a considerable consultancy market here – especially considering the knots people seem to be able to get themselves into even with the existing stack of tools like the classic issue: “do I save this file in email, Teams, shared drive, Onedrive….?”.

It is particularly interesting that by charging extra for this, Microsoft are acknowledging this has considerable value add (or at least they think it does). This isn’t just another tweak to M365 based on new AI, an aquisition or other tech. This is something where they have pulled together different things into a clear new, priced, product.

For learning/HR pros this could be a major market shakeup – see the Bersin post for more on that. The partnerships with LMS/LXP companies, for example, threatens to create an API monopoly, i.e. there is a risk that traditional L&D vendors will only be able to sell to companies if they are in the Viva network. One suspects the monopoly and merger authorities on both sides of the Atlantic will be keeping an eye on this – as should all HR/L&D pros.

So my Open Badges are gone then?

I am presumably very late on to this problem but I was just checking links on my LinkedIn profile and realised both of my public badge account links were broken.

My Credly link was relatively easily fixed, by going in to my account I could get a new link to show my profile with 1 badge (from the LPI).

My older Mozilla Backpack that had a variety of random badges attached, however, seems to have gone. The help page is, well, not very helpful:

I didn’t get an email notification from Mozilla. What should I do?

Do you have more than one email address that the zipped file could have been sent to?

Have you checked your spam folder for the email?

Unfortunately, we’re sorry to say, there is no way to resend the Mozilla email containing your badges. If not, you may wish to contact the original issuer(s) of the badge(s) that were in your backpack, to see if they can provide you with a copy of the badge or re-award it to you.

Badgr support

I knew Badgr was taking over from Mozilla (actually quite a while ago, in 2019, looking at their website) but had not realised that my badges would be basically gone. The link I had saved no longer displaying anything useful. Now I know, as I used bit.ly, only three people have actually followed the link from LinkedIn but even still, it will have looked a bit bad that I had broken links on my LinkedIn profile without realising. More care needed in keeping an eye on my profile I guess!

I have been an advocate for Open Badges but this really seems a shoddy situation and one that reminds us yet again about the risks of relying on online services (as opposed to having offline records such as CVs, certificates, etc for such achievements).

Heading into 2021’s world of online working/learning (plus UEFA’s “Academy Online” as an example online resource)

As we hit the grim milestone of the first anniversary of the first confirmed Covid fatality the news remains full of stories about global lockdowns. These stories are currently very focused on online learning, not least in my media channels as the latest UK measures have seen schools close (again).

During this year’s restrictions, I have helped launch the first learning management system used by a global organisation (more on that here if you’re interested). What this experience has made me think about a lot is the overall ecosystem of different systems organisations will have – especially organisations that have been around a long time – that, to some extent, cover “learning” purposes.

Depending on the historic position of an organisation there are likely to be public websites, private intranets, community sites (either their own or groups on social media), staff profiles on social media, learning platforms, content management systems and many more (including email). The complexity of this landscape is, in part, why organisations have struggled with the push to online learning and working prior to 2020/21.

UEFA’s site as an example

This recently came up in one of my social media accounts. UEFA have made their online academy available to anyone. The site (https://academyonline.uefa.com/) now gives you the option of a login (from an FA or other football related account) or direct (public) access. Firstly, credit to UEFA that this is a nice approach for an organisation that has been criticised in the past with regards to transparency.

Looking at the site today, my public access gives me a searchable/filterable list of 181* “resources”. As said many times on this site before, and in part due to my libraries and information background, I have a tendency to prefer resources over some attempt at “courses”, so this is good. However, this site is a classic example of an “online academy” which is effectively just a video and PDF library.

*the real number of unique items being considerably smaller as a number of entries are duplicated for each language they are available in.

Oddly one resource on the platform is a video for UEFA PLAY. PLAY (https://play.uefa.com/login) is described as much more of a learning platform than the content management of the Academy site, for example, in including knowledge sharing forums. Yet if you access that URL you are redirected to the academy site.

So the academy as a website/platform is an interesting example – in so much as it is separate from the overall Academy learning offering that includes training courses, blended learning programmes, etc. but also shares the same branding. For those of us who have worked in education and L&D – the question therefore is: what do our learning platforms offer over an above Google footprint (in terms of positioning of learning within the public facing web of our organisations and the ecosystem of technologies we all have access to)?

The often ignored realities of talent management (#7): It is the little things that count (in the office)

Having returned to an office environment for the first time in a while I have realised that a number of things I used to be quite dismissive of actually matter quite a lot, this might be my “reality” rather than a wider set of rules but here goes:

  1. Fresh air – it makes a huge difference if you can get it, i.e. if your windows actually open rather than being in a glass box.
  2. Open plan vs smaller offices – I have often been critical of open plan in the past but starting in a new environment of (nearly) one-to-one offices (many people having their own and others sharing in small groups) has made me think again. It is very tricky to know how best to interact in a small office environment if you are used to open plan. What is too much noise? Is it okay just to interrupt people to say hi? These are “organisational culture” type issues I have been generally dismissive of in the past but my experience has made it clear – you need to be clear to new joiners what the expectations are. I would say my best past experiences are of small office (approx. 6-8) layouts where an immediate team can be based together, discuss as appropriate, avoid bothering others too much and be a clear “unit” for those coming from elsewhere.
  3. Screen glare is really bad – sun onto screens does not work. I used to involuntary cry when leaving the office at one of my old jobs and I am now wondering if it was artificial light glare on the screens.
  4. Intranets, Office 365 profiles and social tools – okay so I am an advocate for these anyway but if your organisation has them then you should HAVE to use them, to be transparent and help with working out loud yes but simply so newbies know who people are.

There are other things I have noticed too from shifting from a work from home routine:

  • Shoes hurt.
  • I talk to myself. A LOT.
  • Daily faff of commute, desk setup, etc. really is a waste of time and money.
  • Face-to-face meetings are useful but Zoom is fine. Face-to-face social activities are far more useful.
  • I am very very unfit and really need to do something about it! 🙂