100 Months – What Have We Learned? A View From Steve Rayson

100 months in learning technology, and one uber-learning: things change. Fast... Flash has come and (somewhat) gone. Mobile and multi-device learning was mainly a pipedream, now it’s mainstream. And social learning? There was no Facebook or Twitter when our journey started. And don’t get us started on the LMS – well, actually do…

We caught up with the ever rapidly-moving Steve Rayson, MD of City & Guilds Kineo to talk about change, pace, and not getting run over.

1. When Kineo was started in 2005, what was the vision?

“We had always been excited by the power of technology to transform learning and we wanted to work with clients to find better ways of improving performance through learning and technology. We also felt the industry had become a little stale and needed shaking up, hence the name Kineo, which is a Greek word meaning to stir things up. In terms of the company itself we wanted to be the partner of choice for companies. For us that meant being open and sharing our insights and ideas, delivering outstanding customer service and recruiting the best staff in the business. We aim to be at the heart of people’s business.

Back then, CG Kineo was working almost exclusively on elearning for clients like BP and M&S. But then things changed, and CG Kineo built the first Moodle, we believe, for a corporate in the UK in 2006 for M&S. Innovation and creativity is vital in a business to ensure growth, so this was a natural step for us."

2. What’s your advice to encourage continued innovation in a business?

“Look outside your organisation and outside your industry. Many of the best innovations come from applying technology or developments in one area to an unrelated area. Create a sense of urgency in your organisation about the need for change. I like to say that even if you are on the right road, you will get run down if you don’t move fast enough.

So you have to change, adapt and revolutionise the technology you’re using or risk getting left behind. Moodle did just that by making open source LMS viable in corporates, and continued to be regularly updated with new releases, ensuring it kept up with demand and technical advances. But there came a time when there was scope to do more, to make a distribution that was more attuned to the enterprise. So we joined forces with Catalyst IT and Flexible Learning to create and deliver a new distribution of Moodle for the Enterprise, Totara LMS.

The other major open source project for us has been Adapt. Last year we started to develop a framework for responsive, multi-device elearning in a single version. We could have kept it to ourselves but we felt a better option, aligned to our values, was to open source it, and invite others to use and contribute to it. We’re collaborating with other elearning and LMS providers and we’re perfectly fine with that. It will lead to a better result than a proprietary tool – and it’s far better for customers”.

3. Kineo has been very active in open source projects, including Moodle, Totara and now Adapt - why is that?

“We are great believers in open source technology. We read a great book called ‘Love is the Killer App’ and this drives our thinking. We share our knowledge and insights openly through our website, our communities and webinars. We also believe that no one is as smart as everyone. Open source solutions are frequently the best solutions because many people get involved and share.

Totara is a custom distribution of Moodle, designed specifically for corporates. We knew that we could create a better solution if we worked in partnership with other companies. There are now over 60 Totara partners and counting, and we’re all reaching more customers than any one company could do. It means Totara customers have choice – partners compete on service and quality, not technology. And we think that’s better for everyone.”

4. What have been the biggest changes in the learning technology industry to date?

“There have been many. The decline in technologies such as Flash, the rise of SaaS based solutions and the growth in multi-devices from smartphones to tablets. I think the key challenge though is not the technology but to design learning solutions that leverage technology effectively and don’t lose sight of the learning experience.

An example of this is how Totara has become a multi-device LMS, reflecting the changing device landscape inside the enterprise.

CG Kineo led the the development of Totara LMS Mobile, which offers a solution to those who need to access their learning and hence their LMS on the move. Version 1.0 was released in January at Learning Technologies 2014. See how it’s progressing through the roadmap."

5. Kineo joined forces with City & Guilds in 2012. How does the union between City & Guilds and Kineo work, and how does it benefit both businesses?

“City & Guilds has a clear strategy that involves being more digital, doing more employer focused work and operating more globally. Kineo was therefore a natural fit. It is an exciting union as it allows us to offer a much wider range of learning services to our clients that embraces consultancy, learning platforms, elearning, assessment, accreditation and qualifications. I am also excited about the work we are doing with the Institute of Leadership & Management which is our sister company in the City & Guilds Group.”

6. What predictions do you have about the next 10 years in learning technology?

“I have learnt that predictions are a mug’s game but if pushed I would say:

  • More sophisticated blends of learning
  • Learning that is adaptive and personalised
  • More performance support and delivering learning at the point of need
  • More social learning

In terms of technology I think we will see significant changes, as technologies such as voice recognition, predictive searches, social signals, story writing algorithms etc., all grow and develop.”

7. What have you learned since Kineo started?

“I think the key lessons for me have been:

  • Customer service is at the heart of everything
  • You have to keep moving or you'll get run down
  • Everybody can become obsolete, you have to keep learning
  • Give away everything you know – don’t worry about others catching up, you’ll be onto the next thing by then
  • Stay up later than the competition
  • Be flexible, stuff happens
  • Recruit the very best staff you can - with the right people, everything’s possible
  • As a manager you are managing a brand as much as a business”

There’s plenty of innovations to come, so if you’d like to see Totara in action, join us as we talk latest updates and roadmap at our Totara User Group.

Discover how you could make your elearning multi-device with the open source Adapt.

If you’d like to find out more about any of our services, get in touch.


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