Learning Technologies 2015 Trends

My Top 3 Learning Technologies 2015 Trends

Last week Learning Technologies took place at the Olympia in London. Learning Technologies sees some of the big names and promising new-comers in the corporate learning sphere showing off their new learning technology, and talking about the methods they use for delivering effective learning in the workplace.

It was my first time at Learning Technologies (LT) after joining Learning Light as a research analyst in October 2014.

I found LT really interesting and I remain amazed at the vibrancy of the market and the sheer number of LMS vendors, many of which I am looking over in my role as an analyst. In this piece I’m going to talk about some of the most interesting trends, such as neuroscience and narrative, which caught my attention at LT.

You can read our full show review on our blog, but for the record this is a short impression of the LMS vendors I noted:  There were some well-known names, such as Kallidus, Virtual College and Docebo which I have looked at in my market research to date and are popular products, but for me it was there slightly smaller, newer names which stood out. LearnUpon, who were recently named as the best SMB (That’s SME in the UK) LMS by independent market-analyst Craig Weiss, had a constantly busy stand, and Nimble certainly garnered a lot of interest with their simple and attractive LMS. I’m sure their bright green scarfs and the free bags also had a part to play!

As I had a fresh view on what the trends and themes of this year’s exhibition were, here are my top 3 trends:

  1. Modular Learning and Neuroscience.

The thing I enjoyed most at LT was the seminars. I saw an interesting talk from Emergenetics on Neuroscience and the light it can shed on the way we structure e-learning courses. It turns out that the most effective way to structure an e-learning course made up of modules, which teaches the learner about Topics A, B and C,  is to teach the learner a little bit about each topic in each module.

So, rather than having a structure which goes something like: Module 1 teaches about topic A, Module 2 teaches about topic B, and Module 3 teaches about topic C, e-learning courses should be more like: Module 1 introduces topics A, B and C; Module 2 explains topics A, B and C; Module 3 goes in to detail about topics A, B and C.

This is, according to the neuroscientists at Emergenetics, the most effective way to structure e-learning courses as it does not overload the learner with too much information about one topic at once, and it constantly reinforces the knowledge that the learner gains, whilst simultaneously building upon that knowledge.

  1. Globalisation, Localisation and Specificity.

Three big words that, put together, don’t make much sense and may actually contradict one another. However, what is meant by this in an e-learning context is making your e-learning courses relevant to your audience when that audience is a member of a different culture than your own.

The seminar I saw on this topic was from WalkGrove and what I took away from it was that in order for your e-learning course to be as effective and appealing as possible, it must be relevant to your target audience’s culture. If, for example, your course on Food Hygiene uses examples which feature pork, and your audience is a member of a culture which does not eat pork, then your audience will find your course irrelevant and it will not be an effective learning experience.

When creating e-learning courses we must therefore overcome our cultural biases, which lead to situations like the example above. The first step to overcoming cultural bias (or at least down-playing it) is realising that you are part of a culture, with certain views, beliefs and values. By identifying those values, and then the values of other cultures, we can see which values are inconsistent and leave out any aspect of an e-learning course which features those inconsistences. By doing so we avoid any cross-cultural mishaps and take a step towards cultural-sensitivity.

This is the content-side of cultural sensitivity; making sure that your content doesn’t contain any cross-cultural faux-pas. These can be summed up by the acronym PARSNIP, which provides a general rule to help you avoid these pitfalls: do not include any Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics, Isms or Pork in your e-learning content.

The presentation-side of cultural sensitivity is something that, according to WalkGrove, is thought about less often and can actually enable you to achieve cultural-relevance more easily than adhering to the PARSNIP generalisation. If you can make your course culturally-relevant by simply changing the presentation of your content, then you save yourself the hassle of having to alter, or redo entirely, that content.

So how can your presentation make your course culturally relevant? Well, some cultures are more used to watching videos than others, some are more used to reading text, some are used to a rote-learning style of teaching, whereas some are used to more experiential, hands-on forms of learning. By researching the culture of your target audience, which is often best done by speaking to members of that culture, one can begin to form an understanding of their preferences, and start adapting the presentation-style of your content to that audience. For example, a course of Office Health and Safety which is being targeted to university professors in India, and to call-centre employers in the United States, might feature more text for its Indian audience and more video for its American audience.

These things are worth thinking about if you are looking to reach target audience, and can make the difference between your company tapping in to a new market and being stuck with one client base!

  1. Narrative and Learner Journeys.

KPMG Learning Academy gave an interesting seminar about an Equality and Diversity course they had created for a client.

This course took the form of a role-playing exercise in which the learner made choices which would influence which scenario they were presented with next. Think of those adventure books you had as a child in which you took control of the story by choosing an option, going to the associated page, and discovering your fate.

The course was presented in an attractive comic-book style, and the learner took on the role of an employee working in the financial sector who had the opportunity to make a potentially big deal with a dubious company. Will the learner go for the risky big win and make a name for herself? Or will she do the sensible thing and safeguard her employer’s integrity?

This course-format puts in the learner in control of her own fate by allowing her to make the choices which influence the outcome of the scenario. Because it is up to the learner how the story will unfold, the learner gains ownership of the experience. And because it is the learner who is affected by the decisions she makes during the scenario, she invests in the learning experience.

As we all know, when it comes to e-learning courses, the buzzword is engagement: get your learner engaged with the course, and you’re on the way to having an extremely effective and successful e-learning course. By giving the learner ownership of the learning experience, and having her invest in the scenario, the learner engages with the e-learning course. This format of e-learning operates, like the book example above, with a progressive narrative: a personal journey which the learner undertakes. It engages the learner, and provides a much more appealing and exciting course than a simply video or multiple choice quiz.

With the comic-book style that KPMG used, there were no video or gamified elements to create. The creativity of the course was due to its writing and interactivity. If this format of course engages learners, and doesn’t require expensive video or gamification, then why not give it a go?

Summary:

Learning Technologies provides a valuable forum for those in the corporate learning technologies space to not only display their products, but to discuss their ideas and share their wisdom. It was my first visit, and I was really impressed with the amount of knowledge and experience that can be gained from attending the seminars. Modular learning, Localisation, and Learner narrative are three keys themes that I’ll continue to draw upon when thinking about e-learning, and now that you’ve read this post they are three key themes which you can add to your repertoire!

Theo Moore