Learning & Skills Group Conference April 30th

Really looking forward to the Learning & Skills Group follow up conference on 30th April in London. The conference is made up of a mixture of speaker sessions, cafe sessions, and practical workshops with opportunities to network, share and view demonstrations of the latest technologies & products.

Here’s the programme and the link to the Learning Technologies blog

Learning Technologies 2008. Reflections part 5. Creating Multi-purpose content with SME’s

The key messages I came away with after the session led by Jason Miller of Kaplan Financial;

Jason recognised the value of subject matter experts (SMEs) in creating learning but has found that they often are unsure about how to format it for learning and enable it to be re-purposed for use in different forms. His top 5 tips for working with SMEs to enable this to happen were;

  • Create a taxonomy first
  • Make adding metadata simple
  • Provide round trip editing when possible
  • Add structure as far upstream in the process as possible
  • Always keep next years vision in mind.

He offered practical advice on teaching authors how to write for a multi-purpose environment using the ‘secret sauce’ of content (XML & SCORM). This included;

  • Ensure that there is a clear process
  • Have a strict schema
  • Use word as an authoring tool
  • Stay in draft
  • Get authors to submit XML to Instructional designers for review
  • Encourage authors & Instructional designers (who are the linchpins in the process) to work together to maximise the learning experience
  • Get users to review the content

Learning Technologies 2008. Reflections part 4. Creating e-learning using what you have

Key Messages for me from this session were;

Involve more people in rapid e-learning design to allow Instructional designers the time to fully utilise their experience. Value and support ‘Subject Matter Experts’ to work with Instructional designers in order to maximise the learning experience.

I particularly enjoyed Clive Shepherds session and key things I took away were as follows;

Clive drew attention to the ways in which the lines between being a teacher and a learner are blurring. We can now all be authors using blogs, wikis and self-publish on-line books, as well as teachers via social networking and sharing our expertise. Clive stressed that 72% of training challenges are time critical which led to pressure for e-learning to be produced quickly. Rapid e-learning provides a solution to this need, but only a small number of L&D professionals are using these authoring tools. He suggested that if SMEs and others in the organisation had access to these tools then Instructional designers could focus on other areas in which their expertise could be fully utilised. These areas included; simulations, challenging scenarios, game play, 3D models and virtual worlds. Clive believes that the tools, time and skills should be made available to a larger population in order that they can design user rated e-learning materials.

Hope I’ve captured the key messages Clive.  

Learning Technologies 2008. Reflections part 3. Building the Infrastructure for Todays Learning

Key messages for me from these sessions were;

Ensure that you have a well integrated infrastructure to support learning, Allow users to search for what they need, Adopt an iterative & flexible approach to design ensuring that strong relationships are built with partners and stakeholders, Provide an environment that meets the needs of the business and encourages networking and connection.

My reflections from Barry’s session;

A pragmatic approach to supporting informal learning. Barry Sampson, B&Q B&Q have experienced massive growth over the last 8years mostly via acquisition. Corporate consolidation included the introduction of e-learning, an LMS, and a management academy supported by a community. 2 further communities were developed that were as Barry described “stuffed full of content that no-one used” Activity in the discussion forums became more active as the training department stepped away. Building on the lessons learnt and a forum built by a group of recently recruited graduates, B&Q used open source software to build an environment in which staff could connect & support each other in solving real business problems. B&Q have given the keys to staff in order that they could fill it up with relevant content. The constantly changing environment includes; blogs, forums, resources, polls, access to experts, recent posts and the facility to search. Barry believes that content should only be focussed on if it is core to the business, compliance related or knowledge based. B&Q’s connection focussed approach has shortened the culture curve for new staff joining the organisation, allowed staff to access what they need via the network.


Learning Technologies. Reflections part 2. Roll out of learning

Neil Crowson from IKEAspoke about roll of learning, in particular the deployment of e-learning modules at IKEA. His honesty and openness about all things that had gone wrong whilst doing this was so refreshing. He made the point that you can involve users in design and end up with a great product but this is wasted if implementation fails. His advice based on the painful lesson learnt follow;

  • Plan delivery as an integral part of the whole project. Consider marketing, branding, space & facilities needed, and how learners will access the e-learning.
  • Ensure you have the right people in the right places when the programme rolls out including; champions, HR, Users, Support staff
  • Be Flexible and be prepared for things to go wrong
  • Track & Communicate effectively using as many channels as possible
  • Provide support to stakeholders, sponsors and end users.
  • Integrate e-learning into the overall training plan
  • Adopt a consultative approach & let mangers lead, their support is essential in the implementation of a blended approach.

Learning Technologies 2008. Reflections part 1. Learning Design.

After reflection, I’d like to share the messages that I came away with after attending learning technologies last week.  Track 2 focussed on effective learning and covered the areas of design, roll out, infrastucture, rapid e-learning and deploying content that works for the business.

The first session ‘great design for great learning’  contained the clear messages of; prototype early and involve users in the design process to ensure that learning solutions meet individual and business needs Patrick Dunn spoke about ‘Re-learning; beyond traditional instructional design’ and stressed the need for more creativity & innovation in the design of learning. He suggested we should be asking “how should we design rather than what should we design”. The traditional engineering & sponsor based approach to design assumes that we can fully understand the problem and can clearly define objectives. Patrick suggested that this design approach was not based on the problems that really matter. We are working in a changing, messy, user focussed world where we have many options, constraints are often unknown and problems are unfamiliar & complex.Patrick outlined some suggestions on how we should be designing to meet the needs of today;

  • Start with a prototype; prototype driven cultures are better able to innovate
  • Involve learners & users; evidence suggests that if learners are involved early in design, it will take less time and money to complete the process.
  • Act first; Design is a conversation in which a spiral design process should be used. It’s important to focus on the big idea and the common vision rather than adopt a parts orientated approach to design.

  Kenny Henderson from Sky spoke about ‘learning design fit for purpose’  Kenny believes that content makes e-learning relevant to learners and the business as well as promoting the brand and ensuring a joined up business and learning strategy.

Sky have developed content that is informative & fun to complete using vehicles such as video, voice over, and the sky handset in their e-learning. Sky developed an early prototype and sought input from learners in the design process. A variety of approaches were used to ensure that the content was engaging. This included learner input & review which although did lead to scope creep, resulted in learning that was relevant to both learners and the business. Kenny stressed the need for strong project management and encouraged us to ‘believe in better’

Off to make some pancakes now and think about the roll out sessions

Learning Technologies 2008 First Thoughts

I have attended the learning technologies conference in London over the last couple of days & thought I’d post a few initial thoughts.

I was working at a rapporteur at the conference on  track 2 that concentrated on the theme of ‘effective learning’. Speakers included; Patrick Dunn & Clive Shepherd along with a number of representatives from organisations  (Sky, Argos, Ikea, Cable & Wireless, B&Q, Kaplan Financial, General Dynamics & the British Army) It was good to see how organisations had implemented various learning technology related initiatives and to hear the openness with which they were willing to share lessons learnt with others.

Areas covered were; design of learning, roll out, infrastructure, creating e-learning using what you have and deploying content that works for the business.

It was great to meet and speak with people who I’ve been blogging with over the last few months including Karyn Romeis, Donald Taylor, Jane Hart, Jay Cross & Clive Shepherd. Their enthusiasm was so refreshing.

After reflecting properly, I’ll post my perspective on each session, look forward to reading others thoughts too…………