The Learning Technologies 2016 Conference took place in London on February 3 and 4. This year’s central question: new technologies, learning transformation; who’s in charge? When Donald Taylor referred to this during the opening, Nigel Paine remarked that he found it encouraging that this question was asked. I agree. An organisation’s context and its actors (with a varying level of autonomy) decide the answer to this question. From the perspective of five different actors, I look back at the conference.
The HR employee
In his presentation about the Learning Landscape, David Wilson (CEO, Fosway Group) makes a distinction between four game changers in learning, among which the ‘Structure of Learning’. A large majority in the audience (N=60) indicates they actively use Blended Learning in more than 70 percent of training activities. Performance support tools are barely used, user generated content even less and XAPI not at all. Research (from 2016) indicates that 90 percent of organisations expects to use the LMS as much or more in comparison to 1 percent of organisations that intends to stop using LMS. Wilson concludes with an interesting question: who owns Learning Analytics in your organisation? In my opinion, three more questions need to be asked: which questions do you ask the data, how are your interpretation skills and who is (or should be) ‘you’ in the previous two questions?
The L&D expert
I have been a huge fan of Jane Hart (Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies (C4LPT) for years. I count her Social Learning Handbook among my favourites and to meet Hart in person was a special moment for me. Hart possibly speaks even better than she writes (imagine). In her presentation ‘10 ways to use an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) for Social Learning’, she talked about the role of L&D. By doing so, she kept the best for last: the ESN’s expansion to a learning network. Hart is clear about the adoption of an ESN: you cannot say to people ‘You have to use this’, they will on their accord when they see its value (it has to be intrinsic). #100%agree. Julian Stodd pointed out the importance of trust that organisations need to put in their employees to unlock the full potential of learning networks. Stodd’s reflection on the conference is here. To facilitate L&D to support workplace change, Hart has published a new book last year: Modern Workplace Learning.
The Blended Learning designer
I am very interested in Blended Learning. The session by Martina Donnelly (Senior manager, PwC) and Sue Hawke (Senior Learning Manager, Linklatter) was entertaining, but I would have liked to have seen more data of the research results (in general too). That does not mean that (however obvious), Donnelly and Hawke did not share a number of important insights with us, such as: prepare well, learn together, work with clear learning goals, make a feedback framework, take care of the right skills in the expert team, think about which courses you want to blend, work closely with the IT department, find out what is already there and what is still missing, involve the (faculty) board, concretise your risk management with regard to the use of LMS, collect quotes for stakeholders, prepare a clear change and communication plan (especially the latter is often looked at too lightly) and last but not least: keep it simple.
Or actually: Amy, because that is really her name. She just does not really exist. Amy is artificial intelligence. She makes your appointments ‘automatically’ and, in Ben Hammersley’s words, downgrades secretaries to meat puppets. Taxi and lorry drivers had also better retrain. You do not have to be a futurologist like Ben to see that we in the present are witnesses of this ‘future’. The Dutch newspaper Volkskrant of February 6 published an article by Jonathan Witteman named ‘But you can still quit the job in the middle’. In this article, he mentions that companies such as Enexis and Aegon reserve 1 percent of their wage bills as ‘development budget’ for employees (in addition to the regular training budgets). Donald Clark describes the future of e-Learning in two letters: AI. He illustrates this with examples like Cogbooks.com and Wildfirelearning.co.uk. In the video below, he explains the principle of this:
Andy Wooler (Academy Technology Manager, Hitachi), looks at XAPI as a game changer. Datapoints icm AI will lead to effective adaptive learning and will mean the end of scorm based learning. I find Ben Hammersley’s remark about Amazon fascinating. This company researched our search and buying behaviour by using data points and triggers. It appeared that it will be cheaper at a certain moment in the process to collect an item for you (in the future in a drone), well before you actually press the ‘buy’ button… However, Richard Waters’ Financial Times article ‘Mind the widening gap in groups’ quest for the best AI brains’, dated February 5, implies that we face some short term challenges in order to fully profit from AI. Only a handful of the best university’s best students have the talent that large companies look for. Clark gave us two more book tips: Rise of the Robots (Martin Ford) and The future of professions (Richard Susskind). By the way: you can find Clark’s report of this conference here.
Was this conference actually worth the time, money and effort? As always, some people question this. ‘Maybe not for you’, is mostly my opinion when I hear them say that. You learn most by speaking with the people around you and it was fun to get to know many new people from abroad and from within the group of twenty Dutch persons. And well done if you are still reading this part of my report! I find that I learn a lot just looking back at my conference visit. Good to know it benefits you too. Marshall Goldschmidt pointed out a high correlation (.63!) between happiness at work and at home. Why do we not become the persons we want to be? Marshall wrote an interesting book about this: Triggers. Triggers are what shape our behavior’, Marshall says. So who’s in charge…?