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5 takeaways from LearnX 2018

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The Learnx 2018 convention was held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on 30 October, and featured a full day of presentations and exhibitors. Most of the day involved multiple simultaneous sessions so my impression is based on only a small portion of what was on offer. I found the sessions which were structured as learning experiences themselves were far more engaging than traditional PowerPoint presentation-style talks.

The digital transformation of L&D

Almost every session I attended touched upon how new technology is continually transforming L&D. But technological change isn’t new. The biggest challenge discussed was the pace at which technology changes, and how this increases the pressure placed on the workforce. Pressure that is being passed on to L&D teams to find ways to upskill the workforce without taking up more of their time, and to increase the value rather than the volume of learning.

Virtual reality and learning

The presentation by Mark Squirrel for Global Frontline on virtual reality training developed for CFA and Ambulance Victoria saw every attendee wearing a headset, experiencing the training scenarios first hand. No lengthy PowerPoint slides here. This was the only session I attended where the technology and training discussed was available to the audience in such a direct fashion, and it made me wonder – with so much innovative technology available to the L&D industry, why were more people not using this to transform the way they shared information at events such as these? Why were the PowerPoint presentation and printed summit agenda still the main tools utilised on the day, when an L&D event could be an immersive learning experience itself? I would love to have seen more presentations which enabled the attendees to experience the training and technologies discussed, rather than be passive observers to that which was on offer.

Still on the theme of VR was a presentation by Luka Popovac from Volkswagen Australia discussing the difficulty the company had experienced with engaging their learners with online training. Despite implementing an award-winning online training program, VW found their learners disengaged with the training once the incentive/reward system was phased out. As with an increasing number of other large organisations, the switch to VR training for VW was driven predominantly by the need to engage a younger demographic of learners who are accustomed to an entertainment-based learning style (games, video, TV).

This raised a question for me. VR is a technology that is now increasingly mainstream, yet not quite at the point where it is accessible to everyone. There is still a relatively high cost for large organisations switching to VR. By the time the technology is accessible enough to be affordable and widely implemented, both the graphics and technology will again have moved on. Even VR videos developed one year ago already suffer the ‘dated graphics’ problem of the gaming industry. Is it worth investing in VR now?

I canvassed Robin’s thoughts on this subject during a break between presentations. His response was that investing in VR now is still a good move, provided that such an investment is sensitive to the organisation’s individual situation. He talked about the need to stagger investment. For instance, an initial VR immersive training video could be developed and implemented, and over time others added to it, rather than developing the entire training package in VR upfront. Because chances are that by the time the first VR training is developed, approved, implemented and tested in the field, there will be new advances in the technology. And by staggering the investment process, these changes would be flexibly incorporated into the training as a whole.

AI and learning – chat bots

Another recurring subject was chatbots and AI integrations into learning. Again, this is not a new subject, but now seemingly a more accessible one. The need for learning resources and training to be available on all platforms, in all accessibility formats, is now more relevant than ever. Dale Beaumont from Bizversity talked briefly about transforming the daily commute into learning time, and the kind of AI-assisted, hands-free audio technology which needed to be developed to achieve this.

Change and adaptability

Change was definitely the buzzword of the day. Changing industry, changing demographics, changing technology. The greatest difference in industry now vs industry of years ago is the pace in which change happens, and this is driven mostly by technology, as I mentioned earlier. Michelle Gibbing from Meridian Change talked about the need for a change mindset in her presentation on decision making. She expanded on how the decision-making processes that enable flexibility when faced with rapid change are an integral element in the learning and development toolkit.

Questions that were brought up included:

  • What makes an adaptability mindset?
  • How can changing a learning mindset positively impact other areas of people’s lives?
  • What is the role of allowing for failure as a learning and innovation tool?

Rethinking case studies

I would have loved to hear more of the behind-the-scenes thinking that went into developing the projects. Instead of simply sharing results, sharing the insights, learning tools, positive impacts and unexpected challenges involved in creating these training programs, the case studies could have been more powerful as sharing and learning experiences.

Iona Dierich