It’s that time again. Many of us organise our January around Learning Technologies, the star in the elearning show firmament. I’m looking forward to seeing clients and industry colleagues at the show. But I’m also mindful that many people are coming for the first time, trying to make sense of what’s new in this ever-changing space. You’re very welcome to the greatest show on earth (or maybe I need to get out more).
To help you make the most of your time at Learning Technologies – whether you’re there first time around or a veteran Olympian - here are 10 questions we think you should be trying to find the answer to, and some clues on where to find the answers.
Use it as your alternative show guide, a 2014 to-do list, or a way to suss if that vendor who’s being ever so charming can really help you out (feel free to test City & Guilds Kineo at Stand 142 – bring it on).
Of course, you should add your own burning questions too - but here’s a starter for ten:
- How can I liberate learning from the LMS?
For all the talk about access to learning everywhere, for too many organisations there’s just one way to get to ‘formal’ learning: via the Learning Management System. And it hasn’t always been the most welcoming or accessible front door.
We’ve seen something of a ‘learner spring’ in the past few years, with people avoiding or going around the LMS and using intranets, or social platforms like Google+ or Facebook. Look out for sessions that talk about social learning, and 70/20/10 – there are several at the conference, including Euan Semple’s session which looks particularly interesting. Are you thinking beyond the LMS in 2014?
- I’m sick of simple quizzes – how can we do assessment better?
One of the emerging trends is an increasing weariness of the 10 multiple-choice question masquerading as a deep assessment of a learners abilities. You create a lovely learning experience, then you close it out with a quiz that a nine year old would find insulting. As learning technology becomes more immersive and moves away from the fixed course to resources, what are better ways of assessing? Think scenario driven, continuous assessment, open badges….but do think beyond the MCQ.
- How can I bring some love to compliance elearning?
Oh, good one. Compliance is a dirty word in a lot of L&D teams, with most of it being your standard, dispiriting click-through experience. How can we show our learners more love – or empathy at least? You can consider more campaign driven approaches that focus on key messages and reach them through different channels. You can assess differently. You can do better, and we all need to. Angela Cooke from PwC is running a conference session at Learning Technologies showing how compliance and diversity training has become more video driven in PwC and has received great feedback. Come and see it on stand 142.
- How can I revamp my three year-old induction programme?
Or two year…you know that however old it is, it’s probably too old. One of the ways that several organisations are changing induction is opening it up – it can get out to learners before day one and act as a recruitment and engagement tool. Key to this is making it device independent. Network Rail and TUI Travel are showing examples of how they’ve done this using Adapt, the new open source framework for developing multi-device elearning – which will launch at the show.
- How can I get more out of my ever-reducing L&D budget?
It’s the annual pain point jamboree. And it’s only been going one way since the financial crisis. Every year, the learning professional is squeezed to cover more ground with less resource and budget. Look again at Virtual Classrooms –and free versions of those like Google Hangouts. Don’t design multiple versions of the same learning for different devices – that’s a quick way to blow your budget. And of course, look at open source. The Adapt Open Source project (three vendors collaborating) for developing multi-device elearning will feature at several vendor stands this year - a new model moving away from proprietary source code. At the conference, easyJet will talk about Totara LMS and their experiences with open source.
- Should we try BYOD? What will it mean for learning?
BYOD is becoming standard jargon in the already overcrowded Learning Technologies acronym lexicon. With Bring Your Own Device, learners will usually get their mail and intranet access on mobile devices. So naturally, they expect to get access to learning too. Are you ready for that? You need to plan what type of learning experience is right for your audience via multi-device, and how to design or convert content that will truly run on multiple devices without the cost running out of control. Are you thinking single course, access on multiple devices? Good thinking. And of course don’t forget to ask - will the LMS run on multiple devices? We’ve got some helpful checklists to help you plan for multi-device learning. And come and see Totara Mobile, optimised for offline and mobile use too.
- What do I need to know about open badges?
It’s one of this year’s hot topics, with several sessions at the show about it. Open Badges is a new standard for displaying evidence of competency. Anyone can issue them, set the rules for earning them, then the learner can display them in a range of ways. Think boy scouts analogy – except you wear them on your social profile or in your LMS, not on your sleeve (Have a look at how it’s been implemented in Totara if you’re near stand 142). You need to ask yourself if they’re right for your organisation, if they can help you make learning more social and pervasive – and if your organisation might gain a great reputation as an issuer of badges. Watch out for the conference session on Open Badges on Wednesday January 29th at 3:30PM.
- How can I make my organisation 70:20:10 / more informal / more social?
Increasing the element of social and informal learning (the 90) is on everyone’s minds it seems. And rightly so – in many ways 70:20:10 is just recognising that learning isn’t in your control anyway – it’s pervasive and will find a way to happen whether it’s centrally managed or not. Look at tools that facilitate informal learning: Facebook and Twitter are increasingly part of the channels for communication and knowledge sharing, don’t pay to create a third way if you don’t have to. Google+ has a range of in-built tools, including free video conferencing with Google Hangout. Donald Clark’s conference session on MOOCs will shed light on bringing them into your organisation. Ask during your visit how you can get help to harness these tools, and strike the balance between curating new ways and preventing chaos.
- What’s the future for apprenticeships and learning technology?
Apprenticeships have long been a great way to develop skills and build loyalty in organisations. Apprenticeships are changing though, and there’s great potential to modernise apprenticeship delivery with learning technology, especially with the government recently announcing plans to put more control in the hands of the employer. McDonald’s are talking about their apprenticeship experiences in the conference, and Compass Group will show the new managed qualification service combining content, platform and managed services in a seminar on Thursday 30th at 11:45AM.
- What’s new?
More than just a nice way to say hello, it’s a great question to open up the conversation on the stands or in the conference. Rather than recycling what was around last year, what are the new tools, new stories, new implementations? Mobile has moved on – the word has nearly moved out, in favour of multi-device. Social and informal are growing. New tools including Adapt open source will debut at the show. New managed services to connect apprenticeships, curation and platforms are coming through. Ask people to show you their latest. You’ll quickly get a sense of where the innovations are this year.
- Bonus question…Can I have one of those?
Chocolate from the fountain? Stress balls? Some kind of jigsaw that explains joined-up services? A free pass to the conference (you’re pushing it now). Whatever it is, the answer will be yes. If you want two, pretend your manager is here too and she’ll also want one. Please don’t tell the other companies I tipped you off. The show is for you – make sure you get the answers (and the freebies) you want. Enjoy it!
As headline sponsors of Learning Technologies 2014, City & Guilds Kineo will be answering any questions from this list and exhibiting at stand 142. Visit our Learning Technologies 2014 page for full details.
This article first appeared in the Learning Technologies Magazine – December 2013 issue.