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What I Learned at Learning Technologies 2018

What I Learned at Learning Technologies 2018

By Steve Wainwright

If there is any doubt that L&D is moving towards a digital world, a cursory glance around the Learning Technologies 2018 event last week will eradicate that viewpoint. Most of the vendors, the speakers, and the attendees were talking about one thing – technology and how to make learning truly digital is a key L&D challenge.

Day One’s keynote speaker, Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future, spoke in great detail about how advances in science and technology are changing the way we live, work and learn. He wonders how we as humans will navigate this change, this emerging new world where our very existence is under threat. He suggested that ultimately we may find ourselves having to prove our value; that for us not to be replaced by AI, we will have to understand that it isn’t just that the game is changing, but the very rules themselves.

And organisations will need to ask and answer this question on a much larger scale: How are they future-proofing? How much are they even aware of how much they need to future-proof? Talwar suggested a timeline for this which builds upon the premise that this is an ongoing journey, which companies need to consistently look to the future, to understand future drivers and create a mindset that encourages talent, agility and an innovative culture.

We know humans look for a more in-depth purpose, search for meaning and this might just prove to be the key differentiator between humans and technology. We may need to capitalise on it if we are to survive or at the very least compete with AI. Furthermore, to even out the competition with AI, we may see a rise in the use of supplements, or bio-engineering and cognitive enhancers. Which in turn means that L&D professionals may need to begin including such considerations in the design and implementation of their learning opportunities.

The exponential rise in technological advancements also means we have to ask whether our L&D departments fully understand the opportunities this brings not just to work, but learning too.  For example, have we considered how blockchain will impact L&D, particularly in the area of credentials and professional qualifications?

Talwar also asked us to consider how the Internet of Things will change the learning landscape. “Smart Machines” may soon be central to our existence and we will need to learn new skills, new ways to manage all this information. What happens when every app is a learning platform? How then will L&D evaluate this?

In short, L&D will play a pivotal role in an organisation’s successful journey into the future, which begs the question, does L&D have the resources to prepare for this?

The rest of the conference explored and repeated many of the insights and issues raised by Talwar. Towards Maturity’s Laura Overton acknowledged this as she presented their latest research report, The Transformation Curve, and their findings which demonstrate the challenges faced by L&D and suggest ways to overcome them.  Laura began by acknowledging just how omnipresent the subject of Digital Transformation is, reminding everyone in the room that as an industry L&D need to fully embrace and understand the implications of this for their future and the future of learning. Digital engagement is no longer optional; it is absolutely necessary for survival. She then went on to talk about Towards Maturity’s latest research which demonstrates, yet again, that the blue-chip organisations – those companies who perform best in benchmarking tests – are still the ones getting the best results from their learning opportunities. Laura explained, for everyone else issues like costs, lack of skills and IT concerns are preventing them from achieving optimum results.

Day Two’s keynote was given by Ulrich Boser, author of Learn Better, who was on a mission to share the ways we can all learn more effectively. During his presentation, we played games, took quizzes and got to know a little about the inner workings of a toilet. More importantly, he gave the ten principles of learning. I think all of us working in L&D really need to understand how these must underlie any learning programme; if you want to achieve results, you cannot ignore the way the brain works. While many of the principles seem obvious – make it meaningful, respect emotions – I think too often we forget or overlook the power of feedback, particularly negative feedback. It can be hard to take what any perceive as criticism, but it has been proven time and again as one of the best ways to learn.

Towards the middle of the day, I attended a session by Andy Hurren, npower’s Head of Learning and a Skillsoft customer. Given the universality of the challenge, it wasn’t a complete surprise that a large crowd had gathered to hear how to make self-directed learning successful. While Andy acknowledged that he didn’t have all the answers, he was able to tell us what npower had done and what worked for them. To achieve their objectives, this is what npower found:

Motivation + Collaboration + Access = Success

My last conference session was a panel discussion that included L&D professionals from Sainsbury’s, Linklaters and Pandora, each discussing either an overhaul or a complete change of their LMS. For Linklaters, an international law firm and a SumTotal customer, it was a system upgrade. While on the surface this may appear simple enough, the reality was far more complex. Now at the other end of the journey, they were able to recommend some tips for others thinking or embarking on a similar journey. Chiefly it is all about: planning design and communication of change. Both presenters, Sue Hawke, Senior Manager of Global Learning Technologies, and Suzanne Hamblion, LMS Adviser, stressed the importance of getting IT involved at the very beginning and to think about what exactly you want from the new design. They also highly recommend looking internally, to your current communications teams to enlist them and utilise their expertise and experience to the fullest.

My very final act of Learning Technologies 2018 was to, and I am delighted to say this, donate £2,110 to the Make-A-Wish foundation. Over the two days of the conference, anyone who visited our stand was invited to share their HR or L&D wish, and for every one declared, we promised to donate £5 to this incredible children’s charity. This effort raised £1,050 which I then decided to double as a token of my gratitude for all the incredible work this charity does.

So thank you to all those who participated and see you all next year!

Steve Wainwright is the Managing Director EMEA for Skillsoft & SumTotal.

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