Last week I went down to London for Learning Technologies 2016, the exhibition and conference that bills itself as “the largest, best attended and most relevant … in the learning and development calendar”. Big, busy and useful is a description that paints a very accurate picture of what was a veritable feast for intellectually hungry learning gluttons like myself.
In this blog post I give a few of my personal highlights of the trip.
With such a large number of exhibitors in an enormous venue, it’s very difficult to make yourself stand out without rugby tackling every passer-by which, I’ve been informed, is not a very good idea. Fortunately, nobody had to resort to sporting measures in order to attract visitors as one of the most successful approaches this year was to target the stomach. From smoothies and chocolates to full-blown coffee shops and popcorn, it took all of my self-control to not eat from every stall - after all, falling into a food coma and drooling into the carpet at an exhibition is seen as bad form.
Next year I’m half expecting all out gastronomic war to be declared by the various groups. My prediction is that we will be assailed by éclairs, artisanal breads and smelly cheeses in 2017. I would willingly be a casualty in that war.
Although not an attendee of the conference, I did make sure that I was able to get some time with one of the speakers: Cathy Moore, a thought-leader for instructional designers and the inventor of action-mapping. I enjoyed the Learning eXchange hosted by Towards Maturity and chaired superbly by Jo Cook from the Training Journal.
We were able to have a focussed discussion on issues relating to action-mapping (see here for more), branching scenarios and effective online training.
One of the trends that I believe will see wider usage in 2016 is interactive video. This is something that we are already working with at Bolt and I wanted to go and mine for good ideas whilst at the exhibition. One of the seminars in which I found a rich vein of inspiration was run by Tom Kuhlman of Articulate. It took the form of a tutorial with Tom demonstrating what you can do with interactive video and how to do it in Storyline 2. Admittedly, we don’t use Articulate products as we have developed our own, better software, but it was still incredibly helpful in the development of my own ideas around the topic.
On the second day of the conference I was joined by our commercial director, John Fecci, and got dragged along to one of the first sessions of the day. It was about making compliance training engaging. I was not expecting to get much - if anything - out of it. In fact, I was thinking “Someone should do a seminar on ‘How to Make Seminars About Compliance Training Fun’”.
Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised by Chris Horseman of Engage in Learning who presented a seminar filled to the brim with original and effective ideas. From simple tips like getting rid of jargon to more complex points about allowing the user to experiment and get things wrong, it gave me a lot of food for thought.
My final pick of the seminars has to be the one about personalisation in elearning from the team at BrightWave. Their panel of experts spoke in depth about applying elements of gamification (which I’ve written about here), storytelling, ‘pull vs push’ learning and more in their double session about a topic that is gaining more traction as millennials become more influential and numerous in the workplace.
Trends and Predictions
Overall I was quite pleased to see a general improvement in the quality of elearning that is on the market. It’s clear that the industry is evolving for the better and that more companies are recognising the need to innovate. Businesses that in the past have relied on click-and-next elearning demonstrated some genuinely engaging modules. As a lover of learning and someone who wants to see the industry grow methodologically as well as commercially, I was stoked.
Speaking of methodological growth, I thought now would be a good opportunity to recklessly throw some predictions into the digital ether. I’m not usually a big fan of predictions about what will be big in the future, but I’m going to indulge myself a little here because if I’m wrong nobody will remember, and if I’m right I’ll look very astute and clever! So it’s really a win-win situation for me.
I think that over the next year or two we’ll start to see more of this being used. Currently there are a few forerunners testing the waters, but not much widespread use. My prediction is that interest will grow and it will become another industry buzzword within a few years.
Gamification comes of age
A few pioneers have gone out and worked on this for a few years now, but it’s beginning to gain widespread acceptance in the industry as many overcome their initial reluctance and a greater understanding of how it can be implemented effectively spreads. My prediction is that gamification will experience more widespread use in 2016 and will become quite standard in 2017.
Playlists, gamification, mobile learning (which we’ve written about here) and more are all indicators of the trend of personalisation in elearning. My prediction is that the idea of putting the ‘I’ back into elearning will gain more influence this year.