Learning Technologies 2015 wrap-up

By John Helmer January 29, 2015

I write from the floor of Learning Technologies, the UK exhibition and conference – where the learning digerati come every January to pitch, preach, boast and bitch. And as usual it’s bigger and better than ever.

It’s still a ‘niche’ enough industry to cram into two halls – and Learning Technologies gives a unique chance to take a snapshot. So what does this collective selfie tell us?

The skinny

M&A activity has changed the shape of the content development market at the top end. Two of the best known brands in learning, Epic and LINE, have disappeared to be replaced by a new brand, Leo. The ‘Gang of Four’ who started Kineo a decade ago have all jumped ship bar one, following the acquisition by City & Guilds. All change at the top.

Meanwhile an already diverse supplier market has become more diverse with increased market entry from related sectors such as publishing, digital and comms.

What’s new in tech? Not much. Wearables are out, thanks to the spectacular failure of Glass (spectacular: see what I did there?). Tin Can is now called xAPI – which unfortunately will mean that nobody bar the techies takes any further interest in it. Somebody was showing a talking robot on their stand, but it probably had a person of restricted growth inside to work it. The truth is that L&D is so busy trying to apply all the technology that already exists and has proved it works, that the cutting edge stuff is really just for entertainment value.

Most of the vendors in this space offer some mix of products and services, but this year, at least, it seems that products are in the ascendant. ‘Everyone I talked to,’ said a head of L&D, ‘tried to shove a platform in my face’.

This last trend may well be more a sell-side preoccupation than one of buyers. At the Think Tank dinner Lumesse hosted as part of our L&D consultation exercise last night, we asked the assembled L&D heads if they would rather have a product or a service. Tellingly, more came down on the side of services. (But bear in mind that software can be a service!)

You’re going to hear a lot more about this initiative from us on this blog, which takes as its principal question, ‘Is L&D getting smarter at using technology?’.

Under this rubric were three subsidiary questions, which we asked of our Think Tank delegates and also more widely through the Now Communications Fast 50 at the show.

  1. Is there a skills crisis in L&D when it comes to using technology for learning?
  2. How satisfied are you with the service provided by technology-focused learning content providers?
  3. Is technology more of an enabler or a problem for L&D?

We’ll put be blogging about the results quite soon – watch this space!

Thoughts from the Think Tank

As a taster, here are few things that came out of the Think Tank discussion

  1. Training lags the rest of the enterprise in its adoption of digital technology (compared to Marketing, say, or Finance) – so it’s probably as much a problem as an enabler for L&D.
  2. On the distinction between competence and capability: ‘When they do the training, that makes them competent. But when they apply what they’ve learned in a real situation, that’s when they become capable’.
  3. If all our learning infrastructure disappeared over night, what would happen to our economy?

This last point in particular is an interesting thought experiment!

Learning Technologies: areas for improvement

There is the sense of a show that has grown without scaling up. Technical problems dogged the opening keynote yesterday. There is no printed show guide; a bold move we could all applaud if only the slightly amateurish app produced for the show had been good enough to pick up the slack. It wasn’t.

Cloakrooms overflow. Signage is a problem: on the conference floor people couldn’t find the wifi password on the first day, while down in the exhibition, it is a major work of research to discover who is giving which seminar talk. UX experts – of which there are an increasing number in the learning industry nowadays, must throw up their hands in despair.

These gripes aside, we wouldn’t be without it. See you next year!

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