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Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017: a view from the conference

Another year, another great day for LEO at Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 (#LTSF17), the follow-up event to February’s Learning Technologies 2017. LEO, alongside fellow Learning Technologies Group brands NetDimensions and gomo, were there, meeting attendees, doing demos and presenting talks on a broad range of subjects like measuring business impact, LMS implementation and microlearning (more on that later!).

Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 LEO stand
Learning Technologies Summer Forum’s conference offers an engaging way for delegates to network, share wisdom, collaborate and touch on some of the big themes in the learning and development industry – trends that are currently hot topics, those that are perennial favourites (like blended learning and microlearning), and the big issues facing learning departments of the future. Here are my highlights and key ‘takeaways’ from this year’s LTSF conference.

How we learn: a neuroscience approach

Conference chairman Donald H Taylor kicked off the Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 conference with a nod to February’s LT event and the view that LTSF is a chance for the industry to pick up on key conversations from a few months ago. Don then introduced the dynamic, passionate (and hilarious!) opening address speaker Dr Itiel Dror, a Senior Cognitive Neuroscience researcher who spoke about the brain science behind how we learn, what we learn and why.

Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 opening address by Donald Taylor
Dr Dror’s message is a warning to L&D professionals who think that simply delivering learning and hoping it ‘sticks’ is enough. Real learning, he says, is difficult and I particularly liked the quote he uses:
“It’s not what you teach. It’s what they learn that counts”. He approaches things from a neuroscience point of view and it’s all about retraining the brain – to adjust behaviour or learn and retain new info we need to rewire the brain. Brain capacity, he says, is limited and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with info and then retain nothing. We forget quickly, so he asks an important question: how effective is your learning if learners retain nothing or significantly less than the key information delivered a week after the training?

The future of learning

Later that morning, I attended David Kelly’s conference talk entitled ‘The now and the next of learning and technology’, where he spoke about what’s coming down the pipeline for elearning and how technological advancements have changed the learning landscape. David, who’s executive director of The eLearning Guild, makes the valid point that trying to predict the future of learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach for all organisations. “What works for one organisation won’t work for others,” David says.

David then looked at 10 learning trends, adding that what’s coming will disrupt training more than desktop elearning did.

  1. Multi-device learning – content needs to be accessible on all the devices people are now using. Responsive design is not enough anymore. Mobile learning needs to be adaptive too.
  2. Data and analytics – computer power has increased to the point where we can crunch that data and make sense of it. The way organisations use data is changing so even if you’re not talking about learning analytics, it’s a conversation you need to be prepared for.
  3. Interactive video – it’s a lot cheaper now and is highly accessible to consume and create. More people are using video than ever before. Many people are now watching their news, not reading it.
  4. Games-based learning – there’s a lot more research on the benefits of learning games and how they work.
  5. A shift to performance support – microlearning comes in here or as David puts it “What they need, where they need it, when they need it.” Performance support is not training; it’s “in the moment of need” support.
  6. Curating – A great quote he used was “curation replaces noise with clarity”. A good piece of advice is to curate content for an audience and not for yourself. Ask yourself what’s the purpose of curation? It needs to solve a problem.
  7. VR – this transformative technology is rapidly becoming more accessible to consume and create. Innovation in virtual reality, in David’s opinion, is coming from the games space and not from learning.
  8. AR – David believes that augmented reality will have a bigger potential niche in the workplace than VR will.
  9. Wearable technology – devices on our person can create data which relates to performance. We now have the ability to measure how we use a tool in a manufacturing plant using wearable tech.
  10. Internet of things – these are devices where being connected to the Internet opens up many options and functionalities. David believes that this is still conceptual for many people right now.

Lastly, David believes that none of these learning trends are replacing any existing technologies. “They’re added tools in the belt. Use them where it’s appropriate for you,” he says.

Microlearning myths

Another stand-out LTSF conference session was Clive Shepherd and Barry Sampson of The More Than Blended Learning Company’s session on how microlearning really works and who’s using it successfully. Their main point is that microlearning is happening all around us – something which LEO has blogged about recently – but not everyone in the industry fully understands its many benefits.

For those who don’t know what microlearning is, their definition is “a way of organising self-directed learning into lots of small chunks”. Microlearning can be the kind of elearning where teams of workers are expected to learn and retain knowledge in order to improve and maintain business goals. Or, in the case of how-to videos, it can be a case of needing to do something (and not necessarily needing to learn it).

Their 6 myths of microlearning are also worth looking at and unpacking:

  • Microlearning is new
  • Microlearning works because nowadays people have shorter attention spans
  • Microlearning automatically solves the problem of retention/transfer
  • Microlearning can be applied to any learning problem
  • Microlearning is inherently motivating
  • Microlearning is for mobile devices only
Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017

LEO team members on our stand


The LEO team had a great time at Learning Technologies Summer Forum 2017 and enjoyed many conversations with guests. If you didn’t have a chance to pop into the event at the Olympia in London and would still love to speak to a LEO expert about your company’s learning needs, please
get in touch here.

Jared Orlin is LEO’s Content and Press Specialist.

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