Interviews from LearnX - Trends in digital learning with Brenden Carter

Robin and Brenden Carter talk about trends in digital learning, including microlearning, virtual reality, learning campaigns and xAPI.   


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Transcript -  Trends in digital learning with Brenden Carter 

Robin: Welcome to the Learning While Working Podcast, Brendan. Could you give a quick introduction about what you do and what your company does?

Brenden Carter: Sure Robin, and great to be here, mate. Interesting location in beautiful Melbourne at the LearnX.

What I do-- Brendan Carter. I'm the Creative Director and founder of The Learning Hook. So The Learning Hook, I guess we think of ourselves as a bit of a creative learning agency. So It's not quite a creative agency, definitely a learning. More so, we're, so we're turning I guess, learning solutions into learning campaigns. So yes, end-to-end learning solutions.

Robin: Cool, so what sort of trends do you think are [happening] at the moment, Brendan?

Brenden Carter: Well, I guess trends are always happening, right? I was having this conversation earlier today, at this event, and I was reflecting with an old friend that I ran into sort of saying, "Well how much have things changed? Like what solutions are you guys coming up with? And [what is] the appetite for new, more innovative, what we would call trending solutions?” I said, it's just sped up in my mind.

I guess I can talk about them specifically, Robin, but I just found it interesting because he said, "Well hold on, it's just because you've been around for a long time, Brendan." (Laughs) He knows me well, and we were actually in the army years ago together and CBT in the army was computer-based training and it was CD-ROM based and we were doing innovative things back then, actually from a rich media point-of-view. But yes, I thought he made a good point, that during that time, as always, change is the only constant.

But anyway, what trends am I seeing? Smaller bites, like everybody is. I think kind of-- learning solutions though, can only go so small. You know, if we're training somebody for more in-depth understanding of financial acumen, well I can't do that in three minutes or five minute bites.

Robin: That's actually interesting. Essentially with micro-learning it’s often not suitable for deep learning.

Brenden Carter: No, it’s not.

Robin: When it comes to learning something that’s completely fresh and complicated it takes more time to get into it. Even if you sequence up the micro value into campaigns it still needs more depth to it.

Brenden Carter: Yes and absolutely. I guess it's all about that connecting knowledge to action. And how we connect that knowledge to action-- I’m microlearning spitballing here, but maybe we just come up with a beautiful job aid so we could arguably say that job aid is a three minute long piece. It's a communication piece, but it communicates how someone uses their current knowledge and connects it to action to improve what they're doing, to help them problem solve, et cetera.

But, yes, I think for definitely the Summit Learning Solutions, that we've been asked by different people, I guess, at times who say, “Oh it just has to be five minutes” and they're saying "We can make four of them, but at five minutes each.” But I think that's interesting too. So I've been sort of talking a lot about learning campaigns and the learning campaign as a way to win the war on change, as opposed to learning events. Learning events are catalysts for change, in fact.

So that can be awesome, learning events. But it's that campaign that I think is a trend, too, so in talking campaign that's kind of a creative agency language. That's marketing language and so those bites, Robin, too, I think are often campaign based. They're a little podcast here, or infographic and [then] doing it over time. Anyway, so I think that's definitely a trend we see.

Robin: Yes, and that's one of the big things we're seeing as well with that campaign. It's interesting because essentially you are right. There actually is a classic marketing thing to be able to work across different mediums, across time. It's also interesting essentially going back to your notion of creativity, as well. Bringing creativity to it because sometimes that sense of a campaign has a creative edge to it. And we, just thinking here a little bit about marketing what L&D can learn from marketing and I'm thinking about the branding process. The process of getting to the essence of something. Just looking over a few ads the past couple of days, I've been going wow, it expresses so much in six words.

Brenden Carter: Ah, totally. Yes.

Robin: And the microlearning things that we’re seeing don't have that sense of essence which comes from very creative ways of engaging--

Brenden Carter: It can be communication cut through key messages, which is often awareness stuff, which is-- that's important. And it might create change over time if it's a really well balanced campaign, but it's not going to probably be deeper learning. So it's not going to be suitable for things, certain things. But very suitable and very hot right now for lots of things. And I think campaigns are great I guess, personally, and the new technologies are always developing.So we've done working-- well it's not about the work we've done but it’s-- VR definitely is something that's growing. I think it's still a cutting edge and there's early adopters and a lot of play in that area. If you've got the budget to play and test, great. Or you've got a real need for it, like a CFA or St John’s ambulance or something, VR could make heaps of sense and also simulation training.

What you said before, too, Robin, it made me, I should mention that we do a podcast too, so I love being interviewed on your podcast and I also listen to your podcast, so I love it. And we did a podcast recently with Clint Clarkson and he had a really interesting insight, Robin. So, Clint Clarkson does the L&D scene. He does those little comic strips you might see on LinkedIn and they're awesome. So, he's one of the sort of social commentators and does it through a little comic strip on learning and development, which is so cool.

So Clint said, though-- I asked him, I didn't expect his answer. I said sort of where'd it start, et cetera, and he said, "I was going to write blogs and I was writing some blogs. But you know, I didn't get the traction and I really wanted to get my messages out there and share, et cetera, and I didn't get a lot of commentary on my blog. So why not distill the message?” So this is sort of what we're talking about. Distilling the message to three cells or six cells in a cartoon and then he finds-- really his blog is formed through social commentary and a need. So rather than content being king, I think that conversation is king, and content is just something to talk about.

Robin: That's not so-- we quite often talk about process being king, but in actual fact, conversation is--

Brenden Carter: Maybe it is. It’s how we connect things and it's the podcasts, it's that sort of gelling of ideas and coming up with something new. It's the conversation. It's not the content. It's debatable, chicken or the egg because content kind of has to be good. The learning event has to be good for people to talk about it, so it needs to be topical, and it needs to be useful for people. So, I like that phrase anyway.

Robin: Actually, I've tried to coin a term ‘micro resources’ to make a distinction between micro learning, which is active and reflective and allow people to practise and those things you’re talking about which is just 5 minute job aids and how to play on that idea of micro--

Brenden Carter: Yes, absolutely.

Robin: --it is essentially to allow that sense, to sit there and go, “Oh gee, sometimes things don't have to be in directive, but other times you didn't need things to be--”

Brenden Carter: Oh, some of the best solutions are low-fi, you know, it’s, anyway, I couldn't agree more.

Robin: Cool. What are the trends, do you think?

Brenden Carter: Other trends... I guess a lot of interesting trends in AI, that's sort of an interesting conversation so I think that's a trending conversation and what does machine learning potentially mean for L&D in the future? I was going to do a podcast today but my table wasn't big enough to set it all out. But, I was going to ask everybody, actually, that question. I thought it would be a nice question to say, "Do you ever see your job being replaced?" Or "What functions of L&D could be replaced by AI?" Anyway, I guess definitely the clients' interest in data and useful data and what we can learn from that and build on it is increasing. Definitely it's increasing. How well they're using it, though, I'm not sure.

Robin: That edge where people think they're becoming more conscious as they need to think about the data they’re collecting. But you're not quite sure if they're doing anything with it yet.

Brenden Carter: That's right. And for years too, SCORM, which isn't a dirty word really, but it's kind of a bit of a “Ohhh SCORM” for some people. You know if you read the SCORM, sort of handbook for developers--and it's written in pretty good plain English. I'm not a developer, I'm a learning design teacher originally, but I read it and it's not light reading, but it's not too heavy. And the amount that you can track and pull from SCORM, I mean you really can be tracking what people do on every screen if you want to. So, that level of sophistication has been there for a long time.

I guess I don't want to share who, but we have certainly had lots of conversations and solved solutions where we've been doing question and answer level reporting. Robin, right? So, from the question and answer level reporting, let's do all this amazing stuff where we identify gaps or problems with the training, et cetera. But then the data, I guess-- just stop seeing the sale, the concept, it's all there. We make it, it rolls out, but there's no one in place to analyse the data and to truly use it for future strategy. So, point being, there's a love affair with data. The love affair often is short term.

Robin:Data literacy is something that everyone in L&D needs to develop right now.

Brenden Carter: Yes, true. I'm not discounting it. I think it's hugely important and it's sort of on the hype cycle at the moment, too, so these things-- innovation goes through a massive bell curve and it drop right off, then it's a slow pick up in the mainstream and it starts-- the early adopters are innovators. They're willing to champion, take a chance, and then it really hits its strides. So, we're going to see that come through. We had, with what I guess is often called micro learning, and other things, yes.

Robin: Thank you for joining me, sir. It's a great conversation. If they want to follow up with your podcast--

Brenden Carter: Thank you. Best way to find online would be to search thelearninghook.com. It's on our blog. Or go to Podbean on iTunes. It's called The Learning Hook podcast. Hugely creative name. Thanks, Robin.