10 Things we learned at The Learning Technologies Expo 2016

technology in learning

The Learning Technologies (3-4th Feb 2016) annual event is a wonderful opportunity for businesses and L&D providers to come together to share ideas and best practice, discover the trends of the future and explore the services available to support effective learning and development.  It’s a huge event with a wide array of topics being discussed. As usual, this year there was an amazing amount to learn, and it couldn’t all be covered in a brief blog, so we’ve picked out some of the top things we learned over the two days. Some of them are specific to L&D, some are more general titbits of advice gleaned during the event.  A lot of it is simply common sense that’s fallen by the wayside, but it’s all information we can use to help make workplaces more effective, and employees more engaged.

The way people learn hasn’t changed

Despite there being a strong focus on the importance of technology, looking at its current and future role in learning, one of the biggest lessons, ironically, was that the essence of how people learn hasn’t changed. People still learn from each other, people still need to actively experience and apply their learning in order for it to have a lasting impact, and people still want to learn things that are relevant to their needs. Thus while technology will continue to play an integral role in the L&D profession, it has to be there to complement the way people naturally learn, not override it.

Learning doesn’t mean anything until it’s been applied

A common theme over the two days was that the theoretical approach to learning that we have all experienced at some point is probably the biggest waste in terms of investment. Unless learning is actively applied, reviewed and reflected on to lead to improvement, then it is essentially pointless. Learning only becomes true learning when it’s put into practice, so seek out training that’s relevant, and that you’ll actually be able to use, and then find opportunities to do so.

TimeGiving people time to learn is vital

In terms of classroom based learning, time is given relatively freely. Individuals are gifted hours or days at a time to leave their current workload behind to learn. However, this is rarely the case when it comes to digital learning. There were various discussions at the Learning Technologies 2016 conference, all of which stated that the majority of people do their digital learning either on the way to work or at home, due to the mind-set that if they’re at work they should be ‘working’. This view is propagated by employees and managers alike, and needs to be addressed if digital learning is to be more effectively implemented. If people are requesting, or being asked, to complete digital training about things that would improve their performance at work, they should be offered the time to do so at work. Whether it is an hour a week or a day a month, people should have the same opportunities and freedom to learn digitally as they do in classroom sessions.

If you’re going to present, do it with passion

There were hundreds of presentations during the event, covering a variety of different topics. The ones that received the most accolades were the ones where the presenter discussed their topic brimming with passion about what they do, and offered added value to the audience, leaving them feeling that they had learnt something valuable.  They’re also the ones that piqued people’s interest, and made them enquire about their services. The less impressive were those that used the seminar platform as an elevated sales pitch. The purpose of the event is to sell your services, we are all aware of that, and accept it. However if you’re presenting a seminar on a certain topic, the answer to the question you pose in, shouldn’t just be, ‘buy our product’. If people want to know more about your services, they will ask. Don’t just show off what you can do; show off how much you love to do it and demonstrate real value to your customers, you’ll inevitably sell more in the process.

70:20:10 is only effective when applied properly

70:20:10 is a hot topic in L&D, it was mentioned in the majority of the seminars being presented. But the real lesson to learn about the approach is that just applying it won’t work; you have to apply it well. If you don’t have effective methods of on the job learning, for example, it won’t matter what proportion of training uses this method, it still won’t work. If people don’t have the opportunity to share their experience, and aren’t encouraged to collaborate the 20% won’t work either, and if you ask people to attend useless and irrelevant formal training, the 10% might as well be 0%. 70:20:10 is a useful guide as to how people learn most effectively, but if you don’t put in the effort to ensure each of these elements are as effective as possible, then it won’t matter how they’re spread.

AskAsking learners what they need is essential

In some businesses L&D can be very isolated from the rest of the business; being treated and acting as a completely independent function. To resolve this there has been a lot of focus on L&D becoming more aligned with the goals of the business. But what about aiming to become more aligned with the needs of those they’re trying to help? Having a clear understanding of business impact is vital, but this can’t be achieved unless the learning being delivered is done in a way that users really engage with and benefit from, and you can’t do that unless you know what they want. It’s therefore vital to discover how your employees like to learn. Find out if they actually find digital approaches useful, find out how much time they spend learning, find out what they think of your current offering, and go from there.

Age isn’t the issue in digital learning

There are a lot of misconceptions about the uptake of digital learning in a multigenerational workforce. A lot of the thinking purports that digital approaches are best used to entice millennial employees. But what much of the research discussed at Learning Technologies 2016 stated that age isn’t the issue; e-learning and digital approaches aren’t uniquely applicable to ‘younger’ audiences. What actually impacts uptake of digital learning comes down to relevance, ease of use and availability. If all of those things are present, then digital learning will be utilised to a greater degree by all, regardless of age.

People want to learn

What was reported on numerous occasions was that people do want to learn. They want to learn so much in fact, that they will often do so in their own time. This is exciting news for L&D professionals, but only if they can learn to harness this eagerness and use it to improve the learning experience in the workplace. As previously mentioned, knowing what learners want from L&D, and making sure it’s relevant, timely, and easy to access it essential to this. But what was also highlighted several times is that L&D needs to work better at promoting learning opportunities. Unless people know what’s available to them, they won’t be motivated to access it. Marketing and communicating your services well is therefore essential to improve L&D buy in from all parties.

recognitionRecognition, not reward, is the key to engagement

Everyone likes being rewarded when they do something well, but the consensus at the Learning Technologies 2016 event was that reward isn’t always enough, not unless it is accompanied by recognition as well. Some mistakenly believe they are the same thing; but they are certainly not. Reward is often materialistic; giving someone something tangible as a result of good work. Recognition is a more emotive process; showing appreciation for the effort involved in something specific. Reward may be a bonus as a result of ‘good work during the year’; recognition is highlighting all the specific aspects of the work that was done well and offering praise and gratitude for it. Rewards are often the go-to approach, but the research presented over the two days clearly showed that recognition is what people want. Receiving it, is what helps drive engagement in employees, and being able to give it is an essential part of effective leadership.

Attitude is everything

The way people view things, and the attitude they have has the biggest impact on outcomes.   As highlighted in one, highly inspirational, seminar, the ability to approach things in a positive and curious way leads to better learning, the willingness to try new things and do things differently leads to personal growth and development. Having the right attitude is the first step to great things, and as the presenter pointed out, the best part is that attitude is free and yours to change.