Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Learning Technologies 2013 Head Bang!!

Earlier this week we once again found ourselves at the Learning Technogies conference in Olympia. We’ve presented many times at the conference and are always delighted to go along as it is a great opportunity to share our thoughts and also hear from the attendees their view on what is happening in corporate learning. 

Image courtesy of @learnpatch

This year though, when David was invited to talk in the conference, we were determined to do things a little differently, instead of  just doing yet another presentation.  All too often at learning and development events, we talk about the need to shake things up, u!se technology and do things differently...whilst sticking to the tried and tested  PowerPoint slide deck. Not so this year!

David initially had the idea of an ‘ask the analyst’ session. Our day job revolves around us providing independent objective analysis and insight on the learning and talent market. We live and breathe this stuff every day. We know from our research and from many previous conversations at Learning Technologies and similar events, that many people find it difficult to get the best out of their learning systems and struggle to achieve the outcomes they want.

So we wanted to do a Q&A style session, that was a given. But then we started to think about how to make things as dynamic as possible, and involve people who could not attend the event but who would be  following the event’s back channel .

The obvious answer was to use Twitter. Rather than us posing the questions, we would ask attendees and others interested to pose them via Twitter and then pick interesting questions live during the session.  So we set up Tweet Wall using Tweet Wally  and our own hashtag #LT13headbang. We asked the audience what bugs them about their learning systems and got some great responses!

After a short intro from us, the room broke off into groups to come up with some questions for us. Tweets also started coming in from people following on the back channel too. Some were more comments and airings of frustration. Others were specific to individual organisations. Here are some examples ...

There’s no consistent experience for the learner ...and no integrated data to help planners, managers, designers etc

At times appear to have been designed with developers thinking i.e. without sophistication of useable workflow

Amount of clicks it takes to get to the learning!


Best in show?

There were a number of questions around which vendor/system is the best.

There’s not a straightforward answer to this and it’s something we try and address in our Vendor Perspectives ( as requirements will differ across different organisations. With all learning systems, it is vital to understand the context of their use, before narrowing down options. We’re not being evasive,  just transparent.

There are some factors that are always important to consider: total cost of ownership, ease of delivery, solution capability(aligned to your needs)  and the customer/user experience. Always try to evaluate a potential solution based on these criteria.

There was some great input from the audience too such as ‘A lot of the experience of these systems come from what data youput in iand how you use it’ and ‘Think about the vendors like a partner! You'll be stuck with them for a long time so better like working with them!’ as well as ‘Ask for evidence of the vendor’s claims’. It’s definitely just not as straightforward as picking a ‘best of breed’ solution and hoping for the best!


Technology trends

We discussed how a number of years ago, customisation of learning systems was commonplace. But over the years, customer organisations have realised this is a) potentially expensive and b) limiting in terms of tying themselves into one particular vendor. 

With the rise of the Cloud based solutions  (Over 75% of new learning system deployment  are now Cloud based ),configuration is king and customisation is becoming a thing of the past.  The level of flexibility in deploying the system is just another factor to consider when evaluating which system is right for you.  But Cloud is not a magic wand . Updates from multi-tenant Cloud providers are made en masse which doesn’t always suit everyone. Cloud and SaaS give you automatic innovation, but you have to manage that innovation too. That’s an overhead that not everyone understands.

One question which brought a smile to our face was when someone  asked ‘Are LMS’s a little bit 90s?’ In terms of trends, there has been some kick back against the LMS in recent years, and in some ways the expected demise of the LMS has been rather overplayed. Organisations might not like their LMS, but many of their business drivers are making the LMS more important not less. More compliance, more focus on cost efficiency, more focus on strategic capability and integrated talent. None of these factors is reducing the need for the LMS and our research shows that large corporate organisations still value the data and functionality they provide .

The flip side though is that in most cases, LMS’s are not what you might call a thing of beauty! Most companies have multiple LMS’s and the user experience is not consistent or good. They also only manage some parts of the learning in an organisation – and not even all of the formal learning. This has to change and LMS’s have to be better.

The vast majority of our corporate research network members  are trying to improve how they use their LMS and it is clear that there still significant steps to be made to make learning systems more user friendly and simpler to use. The recent acquisitions in the market of LMS vendors by much larger HR systems players has only reinforced the importance of learning management systems and further cemented their inclusion as part of a wider HR systems  architecture.


E-learning and 70:20:10?

One question was on how much of the 70:20:10 model should be provided by e-learning.

Whilst the 70:20:10 definitely model has merits (see our previous blog post below) , it’s perhaps not very helpful to break down how much of it should specifically be e-learning. Online learning solutions could be used to support all elements of the model. It all depends on what is right for your organisation, culturally as well as technically .

Of course, the new Tin Can API is going to be an interesting development in terms of its impact on learning management systems and the increased flexibility it will provide in tracking more informal learning activities. With the new standard due out in April, it will be interesting to see the real impact.


What Next?

As we didn’t get to answer all the questions on the day, we’re going to tackle some on the blog over the coming weeks to provide some more indepth commentary . Other questions included ‘What do you do when your LMS vendor gets acquired?’ and ‘What five LMS features consistently deliver the most value to the learner?’ and ‘Where does a social learning platform fit within an LMS?’. Plus several cropped up around mobile learning

We’re also launching some research during February to find out how satisfied you are with your learning solutions and providers . We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly! So keep your eyes peeled for that.

Thanks to everyone who came along to our session and those who participated from afar. It was fun to do something different and we hope you enjoyed it too.