Learning Solutions 2014 Recap

The cruel joke this spring has played on us here in New England is that I came home from sunny Orlando warmth to more dreary cold and gloom. On March 31, the sky actually had the audacity to send sleet down on us. Well, today is April 1st and the sun is finally shining --- hopefully it's no April Fool's joke. It's enough to melt my frozen soul and spend a few moments reflecting on the great conference that was this year's Learning Solutions 2014.

Learning Solutions is the eLearning Guild's biggest annual face-to-face event. Co-located this year with Ecosystem, the conference drew a wide range of attendees from newbie instructional designers looking to step up their game, to seasoned professionals seeking to dive into cutting edge technologies or focus on strategic approaches to learning and development within the organizations.

I spent the good part of the week in Orlando, arriving Sunday afternoon with time to prepare for my full day workshop on Monday: The Accidental Instructional Designer. This is the third year in a row I've done this workshop and it always pulls a group of passionate professionals looking for ideas and insights into how to move from an accidental career to one of intention and purpose.

Wednesday, the full conference began with a great keynote by Soren Kaplan. Kaplan pushed the crowd to think outside our typical boundaries to find ways to create breakthrough innovation: from focusing on problems not solutions to looking beyond our own industries and areas of expertise for inspiration and motivation.

The expo floor had energy unlike most conference expos I've seen in recent years. Over 70 vendors touting a wide variety of tools and services: custom elearning, learning management systems, translations services, mobile solutions, and authoring tools. The Totara LMS team had a busy booth with reports of great conversations and organizations really interested in open source tools.

I did my usual wandering of the halls, dropping in on sessions, and running a few of my own. Here were some of my big takeaways:

We want smaller learning experiences, more often

Will Thalheimer, talked about subscription learning, Ray Jiminez talked about bite sized learning, Marty Rosenheck with Cognitive Advisors shared ways to better track experiential learning. People are tired of the behemoth three hour elearning program and want different, more human options.

This resonates strongly with what we've been talking about at Kineo with regards to creating learning campaigns and moving beyond single events. On Thursday, I co-presented with Gary Droghini from Coats, sharing a case study of how they've created, in partnership with The Oxford Group and Kineo, a two year blended leadership curriculum to up-skill front line and middle managers in core leadership competencies. It's more learning, more often, embedded into people's work with threaded support for managers throughout the process. Our slides from the session are online if you want to learn more.

We're getting more creative

People are tired of taking boring old elearning programs and elearning designers want to do better than that. My session on Writing Better eLearning Scripts had an engaged crowd instructional designers looking for ways to break out of boring blah-blah-blah. The Serious eLearning Manifesto intro sessions drew an audience wanting to find more and figure out how to put these ideas into practice. While these ideas may not be new or even earth-shattering, the LS crowd was committed to pushing the envelope.

From sessions on designing better infographics to sketch noting, this conference had lots of ideas and practical tips for getting more creative and pushing things beyond the land of boring.

We've gone mobile

For years we've been talking about mobile. For years we've been saying that this is the year mobile will tip. But something funny seems to have happened. Mobile has simply gone mainstream. It's not a question of if you're going to do it. People are doing it.

I ran a Learning Technologies stage where I gave an overview of the new open source responsive elearning framework called Adapt. It was exciting to hear from people who were eager to jump in and start playing with it---they've got a need for this type of solution and now there's a tool that can scratch that itch. Check out some of the recent Adapt Community site where you can view demos and find out more.

Same time next year?

The best part of attending Learning Solutions for me (besides stealing a few moments here and there to soak in the sun), is re-connecting with industry friends and making new connections. This was my fifth Learning Solutions conference and it certainly won't be my last!

Check out more of my conference blog posts and notes:

And, as always, be sure to peruse David Kelly's curated listing of backchannel resources from the conference.

Check out Kineo's latest resource - Blended Learning Guide.


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