Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Reflections after Learning Technologies 2011 Part 3

In my attempt to reflect on my goals with visiting Learning Technologies Conference in London last week I have now come to my third and last goal. For those who don't remember the third goal, here it is:

To get ideas on how to strengthen our L&D department in terms of brining value to the business.
I will not go into details on how the department I work in is setup and how we need to change, this is important to remember as some of the things I reflect on here isn't really based on my current job. It is more a general reflection on how any L&D department need to work in order to be at their best. 

The topic of how to work with my own Learning & Development as well as the Learning & Development for my department is something that I have always found interesting. It seems to me that the L&D department are often so focused on L&D for everyone else that they forget about their own L&D. One of the reasons for this is probably that L&D isn't the core business of the workplace and of course we should focus our Learning and Development on the core business. Another reason is probably that "very little" has really happened in the field of Learning & Development the last couple of decades. When you look at some of the theories and names often referred by L&D people, like Behaviorism (1913), Cognitivism (1950's), Kirkpatrick's Four levels of evaluation (1959) it's easy to see that they all are more or less old. But in the last couple of years things have really started to happen in the field of Learning & Development. New tools and theories are being introduced and the old ways of delivering training are rightfully questioned. This is the background to why I think this is such an important issue for everyone involved in the L&D field.

In one sense all sessions that I attended had the purpose of strengthening the L&D department, but some of them more than others. One in particular had this in focus:

Building a better learning department

This seminar was facilitated by Nigel Paine and gave us as participants a chance to discuss with each other. It was very thought provoking and interesting to hear other persons views on these matters. Two main themes stood out.
When it comes to competence development it's important to have a long term strategy in place. To decide where we want our department to be in, say five years, and then take the necessary actions according to that strategy. That makes it easier to evaluate my development and to secure I am on the right track.
When we were discussing how to deal with new technology we ended up in a discussion of how to work with the IT-department that many of the attendants saw as a great hinderance. Some even went as far as calling it the Innovation Prevention department. Neils take on this was that it was better to make friends with the right people within the IT-department. It is also important to think about how to approach the IT-department. Instead of demanding a specific solution we should present our needs and ask them for a solution. I fully agree with this approach as we may not have all the information needed to make the correct decision on the perfect solution. If we have made sure that the IT-department are our friends we can work out the best solution together and hopefully end up with a solution that everyone involved are satisfied with.

In all honesty it must be said that if we look back just ten or twenty years people working with learning had little or no contact with the Tech department. Maybe to only time they were connected was when they needed help with changing light bulb in the projector. So this situation is quite new to both L&D department and the IT-department, so in my world it's very much up to how we manage change and how we find ways to work together.

This session was full of interesting discussions and what I have scribbled here is just a summary of the things I found most interesting. I would love to hear what others attending this session has to say about it.

Action mapping for great e-learning.

Host for this session was the very interesting Cathy Moore. The session was a very hands on guide on how to create an engaging and rewarding e-learning for the learners. I simply love this approach. It's easy to understand, it makes perfect sense and most importantly it works. I have read about this in Cathy Moore's blog and I have tried it in one project so far and my experience is all positive.
To make a short summary of the method it's about going from traditional information packed e-learning courses where the focus is on what the learners should learn, to an e-learning based on what the learner should be able to do and information is only given to support the actions and exercises the learner is undertaking.
I had planned to go through the action mapping model shortly in this post but then I read Cathy's blog post from the conference and realized that it is better if you just go there and read it from the one who really knows  what she is talking about. So go to and then come back here and continue the reading.
This session was so interesting and the action mapping approach appeals to me in so many ways. I love working with mind maps, I see it as a great way for us in the L&D field to get closer to the real business, it's quite easy to explain, it makes perfect sense and most importantly it works. This session is definitely the one that I will pass on to my co-workers to give them this tool to work with.
There is really only one thing that I haven't quite understood with this method, and that is: Why is it that it is said to be a method to create better e-learning? To me it seems to be perfect for any kind of learning experience. I am right now involved in a project where I will try this method for both an e-learning and a traditional face-2-face training. And I am pretty convinced it will work for both. If you have experience in working with this method please share it so we can all learn from your experience.
Thanks to Cathy for explaining this method to us in such a fascinating way.

From cognitive psychology to learning design

Dr Chris Atherton revealed her key findings from her research on how to design learning experiences that sticks with people. She made a very interesting presentation on how much people remembers from presentations depending on how the presentations are designed. We have all heard the expression "Death by Powerpoint" and we have probably also experienced it a couple of times. My believe has always been that you should work with images instead of words when creating your presentations (see this post for more about this ). And to my satisfaction this was proven in her research. Presentations packed with bullet points simply don't work. Or as Chris said "bullets don't kill, bullet points does".
She also talked about the magic number 4. The thing here is that humans can only remember four things at a time. She asked us to look at 10 random letters and then see if we could remember them. Once again I was very satisfied that I actually managed to do so. What I did was basically to chunk the letters into groups that I could remember. Without knowing of the magic number 4 I actually grouped them in four clusters and by doing so I could remember all ten.
This session was engaging and fun and very interesting. Dr Chris Atherton presented it in the best possible way and of course she had the best PowerPoint presentation of the conference (with Craig Taylor right behind her, he also worked mainly with images so again the point is proven).

Engaging learners with social learning tools

Paul Simbeck-Hampsons session was probably the nerdiest of them all (and I mean this in the best possible way) Paul talked with great inspiration about QR-codes. Many people in the audience didn't know what a QR-code is, but Paul showed how they can be used in a very interesting way. So in the nature of Paul's session I will not explain all about QR-codes. Instead I ask you to bring out your smartphone and scan this:


Thank you Paul for making such a nerdy subject really interesting. It will be so interesting to see the future usage of QR-codes.

Wow, this post got longer than I expected. Sorry about that, but that is what happens when I have so many interesting things to share.
I just hope you enjoyed reading it and that you didn't fall asleep.

Thanks for taking the time,


  1. Hey, Mattias. Kudo's on your trilogy postings, I've really enjoyed the content and it seems you really got a great deal from the conference, which is what it's all about - well done!

    Thanks also for your write up, I'm really chuffed that a nerdy topic managed to resonate for others ;) As people start to recognise what QR codes are I can see the uptake growing exponentially in 2011/2012. They are however, not without competition, in the form of AR, RFID and NFC technology. In essence, there is likely to be a boom in the coming future about how we link real world objects to digital content and as you rightly say, it's going to be very interesting watching how and who develops which mediums and channels.

    If any of your readers were not at LT or they missed the QR Code session, here is a early release video -

    Thanks again,

  2. Hi Mattias!

    Interesting reflections on the conference. I wish I had been there. Like yourself, I am a big fan of Cathy Moore. When I design courses I use a method very similar to action mapping. It has strong influences from David Merril and his work-task centered design approach combined with the impact mapping method suggested by Brinkerhoff and Mooney

    Anyway, many thanks for the summary.

  3. Hi Anders,

    Interesting to hear about your work. I would like to know more. If you want, contact me and maybe we can learn from each other.

    Thanks for the comment,

  4. Hi Matthias,

    I'm sorry to be so late commenting on your post! Thank you for your very kind comments about my presentation. And of course, you score bonus points for having chunked the information without being told how ;)

    It was great to meet you at the conference and I've really enjoyed reading about it from your point of view. Of course, one of the frustrations of attending any multi-stream conferences is wondering about the road not travelled; Twitter is sometimes good at helping to fill in the blanks, but you can't say very much about a session in 140, so I always love reading blog posts about what went on in the other sessions. You're providing a valuable public service :)

    Kind regards,