10 things from the Learning Café Unconference

Learning Cafe

The format of every unconference that I've been to has been different. Jeevan designed an event that was a great balance between structured and unstructured discussions that the audience of 50 learning and development professionals engaged with quickly. Each of the streams had a corner of the large room where fast paced quality conversations happen.  Maybe some of the discussions were a bit too fastpaced and more time would always be great to explore the ideas in more depth. Some stages of the day were spent as a whole group in more classic unconference open space sessions.  For me it was the small discussion groups that were productive and in complete contrast to most conferences.  

As I wrote this blog post, I realised that I experienced the Learning Café Unconference through a certain conceptual lens. I spent most of the day in the technology stream as most of Sprout Labs' current projects can be thought of as performance improvement projects.  By performance improvement projects, I mean projects like designing and building a mobile checklist system focused on improving safety for electrical contractors, or helping a group of health trainers rethink their courses around workplace performance and client outcomes.

I tried to summarise the day in the comparison grid below.   



Watching PowerPoints

Exciting small group discussions  

Hundreds of people

50 great people

Learning and Development

Performance Improvement
With performance improvement, the focus is on measuring and supporting performance instead of learning. 

At the moment there is a lot of discussion in the learning and development area about performance improvement and the Learning Café unconference seems to be a reflection of this current thinking.

Focusing on formal learning

Focus on supporting and fostering informal learning

Tracking hours and activity

To measuring competency
For example, consider an employee's development plan where instead of focusing on what activities the employee is going to do, the focus could be on how new skills will be measured and observed.

Tracking competency also means we don't need to attempt to measure informal learning.  Instead, organisations measure the outcomes of learning no matter how that learning happened.

Content and then assessment

Assessment first, with learning experiences only if they are needed 

This is something Sprout Labs does with our approach to course design, where we focus on what the learners do, not on want they need to know.

Learning Management Systems and courses

Performance Support Systems

Sometimes, I wonder how much of what organisations do are driven by their real needs or driven by what vendors and providers, who sell learning management systems, to them. 

Organisations and vendors need to shift to being performance focused. Perhaps, Learning Management Systems are not what is needed. Instead, course material could be located on a company's intranet, with the assessment being in a separate trackable system.    

Pages of text, some video and quizzes

Serious games and simulations

IT as the enemy

IT as a key partner for Learning and Development

eLearning is the future

Paper based solutions can still work

Learning is not about the technology it's about the experience.

Some of this language reminds me of the language of vocational education and training but what is being talked about is different to the classic VET learner experience.

My Sketchnotes are on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/33263856@N02/sets/72157629411628741/

For more information about Learning Café see http://www.learningcafe.com.au/