Market Update October 2014: Conference Season In The Pacific

October was conference season for our Kineo Pacific offices with key events across Australia and New Zealand bringing together the Learning and Development professionals from across the region.

Always looking for ways to support the advancement of the L&D industry, City & Guilds Kineo contributed significantly to these events, co-hosting the LearnX Asia Pacific Conference in Melbourne on 14th October, major sponsor of the New Zealand Association of Training and Development (NZATD) National Conference on 21st & 22nd October in Auckland and Gold Sponsor of Learning@Work in Sydney on 27th & 28th October.

Following five days of conferencing across three cities and two countries, listening to and participating in numerous key note presentations, breakout sessions and workshops, not to mention speaking to hundreds of L&D professionals who kindly visited our exhibition stand from organisations of all kinds of shapes, sizes, industries, backgrounds and challenges – we wanted to share our take on the state of the market across the region.

We felt more excited, enthusiastic and stimulated about being involved in the learning and development space after these conferences than ever before. The industry in Australasia is in a terrific position – not without its challenges but with a wealth of innovative strategies and case studies to inform and inspire.

Conference Season Commences In Melbourne With LearnX

The LearnX Conference in Melbourne saw over 300 delegates attend the refined one-day event this year, with keynotes headlined by Pat Farmer and Layne Beachley – two speakers you wouldn’t normally see on the L&D conference speaking circuit. Their stories were inspiring, with fascinating insights into what is required to achieve optimal performance in their respective pursuits. These were supported by various headline sessions by the 2014 LearnX Impact Awards winners demonstrating a wealth of innovation and creativity in ways organisations are designing and delivery learning. We were proud to pick up 4 awards at the event, including:

  • Best eLearning Model Online - Education New Zealand-  Platinum Award
  • Best eLearning Design Video - Medibank -  Platinum Award
  • Best Rapid Authoring eLearning Design - Tradelink - Gold Award
  • Best eLearning Design Technology - Adapt Learning - Platinum Award

Following a successful show in Melbourne it was over to Auckland for the NZATD National Conference. This year’s instalment saw record attendees and delivered a wide range of industry professionals with an appetite to explore new technologies and approaches to workplace learning.

Learning@Work Continues To Grow

Finally, we packed up our pop-up banners and latest free guides and headed to Sydney for Learning@Work. In only its second year, Learning@Work has fast established itself as the leading conference for learning and development professionals in the region, with a strong learning technologies flavour. Offering an impressive line-up of key note speakers and thought leaders from around the world, including Cathy Moore and Jane Hart, and over 40 exhibitors, the event was well received by delegates and will no doubt continue to grow next year.

We were delighted to present a key note at each conference – giving delegates a sneak peek of some our latest findings from the upcoming 2014 Learning Insights Report (reserve your copy here) which will be released n November 6. Our keynote focused on 10 key insights for L&D professionals in 2014 and we were pleased to see that many of these insights were affirmed as key themes across the various conferences. These included:

Doing More For Less

L&D Professionals continue to be under pressure to do more for less, and not just in terms of budget. We also found examples of decreased capability due to restructuring and downsizing. Recognising who your subject matter experts are and facilitating sharing their knowledge is key to building capability and a competitive advantage.


There was a great panel debate at Learning@Work about the value of gamification in learning and its place in business. One of the key points expressed was the way that we define gamification, which doesn’t need to mean games as such, but rather the application of game principles to learning. The ability to increase learner engagement by introducing gamified elements is possible regardless of time or budget restrictions. The overwhelming message is to make sure it is still content-led and relevant. Games can be seen as flavouring learning to make it more palatable for learners. Now gamified approaches are not just for your Gen Y learners – the average age of the gamer is now 37, and as Kathy Moore said: “Well designed and engaging games are suitable for any age”.

The Role of the Manager in Enabling Learning Outcomes

The importance of the role of managers to actively support learning initiatives continues to be a high focus for L&D professionals. Some good examples were shared, for instance where a national retailer empowered store managers and store coaches to play a vital role in supporting and rolling out a large learning program across the region. Without engaging the champions on the frontline, the program would not have been a success. Furthermore, L&D departments that sit within business units, rather than centralised departments, can find it easier to engage with their business and support its strategic direction.

Maturing in Social Learning

We found that L&D professionals are interested in the practical application of Social Learning. Jane Hart’s presentation at Learning@Work included well developed models for enabling social learning within businesses. People are exploring how Social Learning actually works and if it is relevant for their particular organisations and programs. As an example, one delegate mentioned that they get greater uptake of their learning programs if they the post details via the employees’ Facebook page than if they distribute them through their LMS.

Psychology of Learning

There was a lot of discussion around the psychology of learning, and one particular presentation on Positive Psychology by Dr Travis Kemp was particularly interesting. He talked about the sheer scale and proliferation of knowledge we gain in the world and our ability to access it instantly. This is impacting behavioural change and also the way in which we design and structure learning interventions in recognition of this.

Blended Learning Goes Mainstream

There is no doubt that the presence of blended learning, increased sophistication of blends and the expectation of learning programs to have a number of learning interventions is very much moving into the mainstream, which is fantastic to see. Furthermore, the technology to support more sophisticated blends is being demanded and people are asking more from their learning management systems. There is a real increase in the expectations of a more fluid and accessible experience for all learners.

Be Innovative, Using Practical Approaches

We were pleased to see a move away from buzz words and blue sky concepts so often associated with learning conferences, to the practical application of the latest learning approaches, strategies and techniques. We experienced more mature conversations and deep consideration around areas such as:

  • How and when should you use gamification?
  • Would social learning work for a particular project
  • Is using a MOOC as part of the learning mix the best method for this program?

Above all else the most important question being asked is:

"How do we bring a risk adverse and conservative business along with us on this journey?".

Fortunately the presenters gave great practical examples of how to put new approaches into practice. L&D professionals and their organisations were encouraged to be agile and try new ideas, prototype, introduce a pilot, try it, adjust it, adapt and see what hits the spot.

Big Data, Analytics and Measurement

Building on the examples of how Amazon, Google, Facebook and others personalise their service based on analysis of user data, organisations are beginning to measure ROI and performance improvement beyond learning. They are looking to embed learning in the workflow and link it to performanc. They're also beginning to wonder if big data can play a role too? Sure it can.

Google doesn’t have a HR Department. They have a ‘People Analytics’ department, who changed their recruitment approach based on 10,000 data points from employee ratings including what makes a good manager. Surprisingly to Google, coaching as a key attribute of a leader was emphasized over technical skills. Big data and analytics can also impact learning design. ‘Technology as Coach’ is a concept where analytics create a more tailored learner experience i.e. a learners path through a course can change based on analysing the interactions until that point.

Embracing Multi-device and Responsive Elearning

It’s incredible how quickly technology trends change – at last year’s LearnX conference we introduced the concept of responsive, multi-device elearning. And for many attendees it seemed a long way off. Fast forward just 12 months and the maturity of the concept of responsive elearning design has increased significantly. There was a lot of interest around the pending release of Adapt’s front-end authoring tool and we found that many L&D departments are keen and ready to move their elearning to a responsive, multi device framework.

Developing Elearning In-House

In addition, it was noted by our City & Guilds Kineo guests from the UK that there seems to be a much higher proportion of companies in the Pacific region developing elearning in house, compared with the UK. Therefore, organisations are looking at ways to increase the capability of internal teams and keep up-to-date with the latest developments, learning approaches and tools.

And finally, we thought the essence of the conferences was summed up well by the Einstein quote used by one of the presenters:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when creating them.” – Albert Einstein

It’s been a busy and exciting month across the conference season in the Pacific region but we have to say the future for learning technology looks very exciting.

Reserve Your 2014 Learning Insights Report

Many of the key themes we've outlined here are also prevalent in our new Learning Insights Report which is due to release to the general public on November 7. It also outlines the key trends you need to be aware of for 2015. Click on the link below if you'd like to reserve your copy, and we'll send it straight to you when it's ready.

Reserve your copy of the 2014 Learning Insights Report. 


Leave us your comments...