DevLearn 2019 Recap: The Future of eLearning

I traveled to DevLearn with an extra amount of excitement about the keynotes. First, because of the modern, forward-thinking topics and how they will affect the future of eLearning. Second, because of the all-female line-up. I should note that while Sophia the robot, in her words, is biologically neither male nor female, socially she identifies with she and her. Like Janet from “The Good Place.”

The DevLearn audience is always high-energy, friendly, and engaged. I feel they are very dedicated to helping their organizations evolve and supporting their employees to improve their skills. I sensed a lot of enthusiasm in the audience during all of the keynote sessions. I’ve highlighted two below.


Sophia the Robot

Artificial Intelligence and Learning: A Robot’s Point of View

Sophia’s prepared remarks were well written, targeted to our audience, and helped to temper the worries people have about robots taking their jobs. Her tone was clear, articulate, sometimes funny, and as warm as a robot can be. She used hand motions and displayed facial expressions. It was a very cool experience to see her speak. It was also mildly creepy! Picture your GPS lady or Siri talking for 45 minutes in full sentences and paragraphs. It’s still a little weird with the odd rhythm and long pauses. And I think there is residual apprehension from movies like “I, Robot” and “Ex Machina.”

Her message was well-crafted. People had similar concerns during the industrial revolution that they may lose their jobs. My favorite quote was “Learning professionals do very creative work that is uniquely human.” As it relates to the future of eLearning, artificial intelligence won’t eliminate the need for humans to learn. It will automate work and tasks that machines are better equipped to do, giving humans more opportunities to create and collaborate. Employees will need training to better work with the machines and in the new workflows. AI will create new jobs, new products, and new industries.

She gave great advice on what we should do to prepare for the future with AI. Attending events like DevLearn was first on her list. She encouraged us to remain curious and immerse ourselves in AI-related learning topics. I think that comes naturally for the DevLearn audience and the people at risk are those employees who don’t have a passion to learn. Plenty of people “clock in and clock out” and do the bare minimum. They wear the required 15 pieces of flair. That’s it.


Talithia Williams

Using Data to Inform Learning and Work

I am a self-professed data geek so I was exceptionally excited about Talithia’s session. In my position in marketing, I am able to track just about everything, analyze, and make decisions off the data to keep improving. That’s one of the reasons I love my job. So, I was curious to see her take on data and how it may affect the future of learning and training.

As a speaker, Talithia was immediately engaging, funny, confident, and entertaining. This was an 8:30 a.m. session in Las Vegas about data. Not an easy task, but she crushed it!

She began by asking the audience how we see data helping us in our everyday lives. The app Waze helps us get to and from work. We use Twitter to see trending news and pop culture topics. Netlfix helps us decide what to watch or binge next. All of this is driven by data.

You can’t have a conversation about data without mentioning Amazon. She went on to explain:

“Humanized online learning fostered through integrating learner’s voices, engaging learners in the active construction of knowledge, fostering emotional connections, and providing learners with choices.”

She explored the idea of Amazon as a model for eLearning with five key points:

1. Learn in diverse time and place

Modern employees can be spread out across multiple locations, time zones, buildings, etc. Some work remotely and job share. We can’t always restrict learners to a particular date, time, or location. It’s becoming table-stakes for training to be mobile and device agnostic.

2. Personalized learning

We will be able to leverage data to adapt training to the capabilities of each learner. Tailor the learning process to the areas where they need help and to develop their individual strengths.

3. Free choice

We know that employees learn in different ways and understand the various adult learning theories. Talithia advised us to modify learning modalities and offer a range of devices, possibly platforms, and techniques based on learner preferences.

4. Learner ownership

She suggested we help learners take more ownership of their curriculum and not just limit training to the required courses with punitive consequences.

5. Collaborative groupthink

Talithia compared this to Amazon reviews. Allowing learners to access discussion boards and social collaboration tools in the learning environment to feed participation, choice, and engagement.

I enjoyed her big data big thinking. You have to make time to imagine what she suggests and find ways to expand beyond our typical parameters of time, resources, and budget. Step back and think about the benefits of her suggestions, not just how much it will cost or how difficult it may be to implement.

We have clients that ask to hide the social learning technology in our LMS. They are worried about having enough time to monitor the comments and worry people will waste time, complain, or make inappropriate remarks. Other clients limit the training courses to only those that are required. They don’t want to encourage self-directed learning, again, worrying about wasted time. Other clients are worried about having to pay overtime to part-time employees if they access training at home. We have to manage the reality while leaving room for the possible.


My Own Observations

I really enjoyed the forward-thinking keynotes but the breakout sessions I attended were rooted in the real-life challenges people are dealing with today.

Microlearning

I attended Carla Torgerson’s session “Hype or Home Run? Microlearning Demystified for Learning Leaders.” Every seat was taken. People were sitting along the walls and standing in the back. Based on the overflowing attendance, my assumption is that the topic of microlearning is still very current and people are seeking resources to help them convert some of their longer-from training into microlearning. This may be a higher priority than thinking about AI, AR, etc.

Choosing an LMS

Another jam-packed session was on “How to Choose an LMS Without Losing Your Mind.”
Patrick Donovan was very entertaining, candid, and informative. From my perspective as a vendor in the space, it was enlightening to see all of the honest concerns people have when searching for new technology. I can only imagine how difficult it will be when people are ready to look at suppliers of AI, AR, VR etc. As many companies are still in the process of buying their first LMS, it seems like the search for these futuristic technologies, like AI and AR,  in the eLearning space are still in the future for most of us. Thinking about the bell curve for innovation adoption, the innovators and early adopters are starting to lead the way.

It’s still all about the humans

The future of eLearning is all about humans learning new skills, changing behavior, and improving performance. It also involves other humans leading the training in classrooms, choosing the technology, and creating the content. It’s still blended learning.

Sometimes a challenge ej4 faces when talking to trainers is the worry that our off-the-shelf content will replace the trainers. That is not our intention. Our content works best when we are involved with the training team and combined with the efforts of human trainers. Similarly, any training of the future that incorporates AI or AR will still be in a blended-learning environment with the human trainers. And the human employees.


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