Ahead of the 2018 Learning Technologies conference and exhibition in London, I sat down with its Chair, Donald H Taylor, to get the inside track on this year’s event.
KG: What can we look forward to at this year’s Learning Technologies?
DT: I’m excited about the fact we have put more focus on bringing real world experience into the conference this year than ever before. We have 80+ speakers and session chairs with an emphasis on case studies to exemplify what good practice looks like. We’re also mixing it up with different session types: lunchtime roundtables for example, and increasing the number of short presentations so we can then put an emphasis on discussion. The aim is to help our audience get under the skin of a topic and think about how they can apply their lessons learnt to their own working environment.
KG: What are you most looking forward to?
Three things. First and foremost – and this one never changes year on year – it’s the opportunity to network and meet people. Catching up with people I know and having the chance to meet new people is a privilege and probably the most important part of Learning Technologies for me.
Secondly, bringing people together and making introductions. Connecting speakers with the L&D audience where commonalities can help each other and watching the conversation flow, is a wonderful part of my role.
Thirdly, the case studies and hearing people tell their stories. It’s always great to hear from the experts and thinkers in our field, but I find myself increasingly looking forward to hearing people’s stories of success – and even failure – that the rest of us can learn from.
KG: What are your top tips for attendees?
Be prepared. Know which conference sessions you’re going to go to. Figuring this out is such an important process that’s about so much more than just being organised. It’s because as soon as you start asking the questions about which sessions to attend, you’ll inevitably start asking questions about what your organisation needs, where the gaps in your knowledge are, where your current challenges lie and so on.
In every conference session there should be an opportunity to consider how you’ll apply what you’ve learned back in your own workspace. And you’ll be better equipped to answer these questions if you’ve dwelt on them beforehand.
KG: What are some of the most interesting trends you’re seeing in learning at the moment?
Technology wise, undoubtedly one of big trends is the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in all forms – from algorithms, to chat bots, to the collection of behavioural data which is then used to alter somebody’s working and learning environment. I’ve been in this field for something like 35 years and for me, AI is second only to the introduction of the World Wide Web as a game changer in the way we live, work and learn.
However, our industry suffers from a persistent, lingering headache: the sense that learning equates to courses, and that learning technology consists only of forcing these courses through an interface, depriving them of the value of a trainer, and adding only a ‘click next’ button. If you look at the proliferation of great stuff that will be showcased both in the conference and the exhibition, the persistence of this nonsense is an embarrassment to our field.
KG: Learning Technologies has partnered with Fosway Group for the third year to carry out the Digital Learning Realities research, why is it important for L&D professionals to take part?
There are so many reasons why people should get involved in this research, but for me there are two key reasons. First of all, far too much of what we do in learning technology is based on anecdote not on evidence. Participating in this research enables the community as a whole to build a better evidence base. And secondly, the very process of sitting down and completing the survey forces us as L&D professionals to reflect and consider our practice which is something that is easy to neglect, but that remains a valuable part of our ongoing learning. Hundreds of people have already taken part this year and the survey is still open here.
KG: What are your hopes for digital learning in the year ahead?
At Learning Technologies 2019, I would love to be able to celebrate the fact that in 2018 we have escaped from the training ghetto as I call it. I hope we will be moving much more at the speed of the business. And I hope this is largely because we have freed ourselves up from the time consuming practice of building courses on demand and have shifted instead to delivering value to our organisations, based on the needs of short term performance and long term capability building.
Look out for the next installment in this series in my next Q&A with Fosway’s Director of Research, David Perring. Learning Technologies opens in London on 31 January 2018. Full details here. And you can follow all the action via #LT18UK.