Learning Technologies 2018: what we learned at the conference

Together with our colleagues at LEO, gomo and NetDimensions [1], Eukleia attended the Learning Technologies 2018 conference at London’s Kensington Olympia last week. At the conference we heard a range of expert speakers and thought leaders provide fascinating insights into a broad range of topics relevant for the elearning industry.

A significant amount of focus fell on Artificial Intelligence (AI), with many contrasting views and few conclusive agreements on the effect it might have on the workplace, and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Some speakers at Learning Technologies 2018 presented AI in foreboding terms, citing the example of the gaming computers that dispatched human champions with such aplomb that they caused their human opponents great stress. Others preferred to concentrate on the endless possibilities created by man and machine when they are in synergy.

A photo of Eukleia and LTG at the Learning Technologies 2018 conference at the Olympia in London

Image: Donald H Taylor

Mixed reality at Learning Technologies 2018

In an entertaining discussion between learning experts Steve Wheeler and David Kelly, one persuasive argument spoke of “mixed reality”, in which the best aspects of augmented and virtual realities are combined.

Wheeler pragmatically called for L&D teams to consider their decisions through the lens of what can be done to supply learners with what they need, when they need it. His graph identified four areas:

  • Inertia – making no change, constantly doing what you’ve always done
  • Iteration – a new technology or method that hasn’t been used before
  • Innovation – changes that create new actions.
  • Disruption – changes that make previous actions obsolete

Too much disruption in a short space of time, he said, can lead back to inertia again, so the message to Learning Technologies 2018 attendees was to think of people first, rather than technology for the sake of it. Conversely, the case study of Blockbuster, who refused the chance to buy Netflix because they did not believe there was any future in an online video streaming platform, demonstrates the need to be aware of the opportunities that lie ahead.

Implementing new systems

One L&D team that has taken note of Netflix, stylistically at least, is Newsquest Media Group. Mel Cooley, the Group’s Learning Solutions Manager, spoke about creating a Netflix-style ideas hub for people to visit on a day-to-day basis as part of a new learning system.

Once the system was ready, Newsquest’s team spent around five months preparing for launch, building good relationships with their IT and HR departments. She advised companies to:

  • See demonstrations of the new system in advance and establish any hidden costs
  • Ensure effective analytics tools and good support are provided
  • Spark a sense of curiosity, giving people a reason to play
  • Plan an email campaign to keep learners informed of progress
  • Provide support to learners throughout the launch, ensuring that they don’t lose interest
A photo of Eukleia and LTG at the Learning Technologies 2018 conference at the Olympia in London

Image: Learning Technologies

A world of perfect knowledge

Emerging technologies are undoubtedly about to change the landscape of learning. In his keynote address for Learning Technologies 2018, Rohit Talwar, the founder and CEO of Fast Future Research, suggested that the best way to help leaders understand the potential of emerging technologies is to let them meet the people developing them.

This could involve learning how Bitcoin works, or discovering the intricacies of Airbnb and the philosophy of the companies successfully manufacturing 3D car parts, who can now make a profit after selling 2,500, rather than 40,000, cars.

According to Talwar, we could be approaching a world of “perfect knowledge”, where sensors on our clothing check our temperature and our beds measure the quality of our sleep while relaying everything back to our smartphones.

In a practical learning sense, organisations such as Commonwealth Bank are using virtual reality, created in an Innovation Lab, to change the way employees and customers perceive banking. By using cardboard goggles, users can explore the bank’s practices and solutions in vivid detail.

For executives, explaining exponential thinking could be a changing management issue. With a large proportion of jobs expected to be automated by 2030, L&D’s role will be to maximise human potential and judiciously decide how to inspire and augment creative thinking.

A photo of Eukleia and LTG at the Learning Technologies 2018 conference at the Olympia in London

Image: Donald H Taylor

Nudge theory

It wasn’t all robots and futurism, though: learning for behavioural change is a perennial topic for conversation, the Learning Technologies 2018 audience heard. A talk led at speed by David Perring, the Director of Fosway Research Group, explored the importance of the ‘nudge’. This is a theory that people can be subtly encouraged to make certain decisions

Nudge theory can be even more effective when it is taken beyond a standalone intervention and used to sustain and support learners. Appointing a ‘choice architect’ (nudge theory manager or leader), encouraging people to do something by making it easy, and allowing adult learners to opt in, rather than out, of courses were among the tips visited during the talk.

Three Learning Technologies 2018 speakers from Standard Aberdeen Life, the global investment company, also spoke about their approach to nudge theory, which included:

      • A weekly email containing 50 video interviews with colleagues around the world
      • The use of social elements to promote values externally, including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter
      • Directions to the approach “most people” take, seizing on the tendency for most people to follow the crowd

Social technologies

Social learning remains a mystery to many organisations. Isabel de Clercq is a social technologies expert who knows a lot about how technology can change the culture of an organisation – specifically, how ‘working out loud’ on social platforms can emphasise self-leadership.

In Isabel’s experience, the issues L&D has with social media sharing and internal forums can be around control. People may need varying levels of guidance, and it’s helpful to identify thought leaders so that the right people are talking about the right things on social platforms.

The barriers to knowledge sharing, according to Isabel’s talk at Learning Technologies 2018, can include:

      • Lack of trust
      • Organisational structure
      • Too much ‘noise’ (too many voices sharing at once on the same social platform)
      • People being unaware of how much knowledge they have

There must, she said, be a strategic rationale here: a link between people working on social platforms and a strategic objective for the organisation. She has also found that social media sharing falls flat when the central executive fails to explicitly communicate that they are talking about the organisation on social media.

Eagerness, willingness and genuine engagement at high level is key. That relies on executives. If they show their own vulnerabilities, people will feel more trust.

A photo of Eukleia and LTG at the Learning Technologies 2018 conference at the Olympia in London

Image: Learning Technologies

Slowly building social momentum

Sharing your knowledge openly online, it became clear, is a new skill, and people need time to learn it. Manuals, classical training and elearning are hugely helpful. Organisations should look to find people they can share with and topics they can contribute to, and ultimately become known for what they love and excel at.

When it’s done right, the advantages are huge. Personal development, organisational efficiencies and communication benefit greatly from sharing enough of the right kind of information through social technologies.

Tagging for Talent: Michael Salone at Learning Technologies 2018

Michael Salone is the author of Tagging for Talent, a book arguing that social recognition can be effective in the workplace. Salone envisages an internal profiling system that is as easy to use as an app. Among other things, tagging gives people the opportunity to:

      • Tag themselves and others
      • List three roles or jobs they are good at – but that their boss doesn’t know about
      • Name three areas of knowledge, skill or expertise that they possess but are not known to their boss
      • Identify three positive behaviours or areas of their personality

This form of talent recognition is similar to Facebook ‘likes’, and it’s a way of identifying employee strengths at an early stage and building a full picture of an individual.

These were just a few of the areas covered during a stimulating couple of days at Learning Technologies 2018. If you weren’t there but would like to know how Eukleia can help your organisation use training to prepare for the future, get in touch today.

[1] Eukleia, LEO, gomo and NetDimensions, amongst other companies, are part of Learning Technologies Group. For more, visit ltgplc.com.