I enjoyed this year's conference, perhaps more than previous. In previous years I've listened to the suggestions of the Brave and the Bold with the familiar sinking feeling of ' I'd never be able to do that at my work '. The reasons would range, depending on the speaker, from bandwidth to management inertia to lack of skills. This year, however, I went empowered by fact that we have a new management team in place who want to push new ideas, have been given a mandate to do so, and have given me a mandate to bring in new thinking and proposals for them to consider. So my feeling at the conference was different.
One session that I particularly enjoyed was that of Itiel Dror and Chris Atherton on 'Learning and the Mind'. I had a minor shock during Chris's talk when I realised this is my territory. I'm not claiming I know much about it, but my realisation was that this is where my interest lies in the whole field of online learning – memory, motivation, learning load, attention and so on. If you like, the interaction between an individual and the material presented. Or as Chris put it when I approached her in a rather burbling enthusiastic way at the end, user experience. Since I first learned about instructional design in the 80s that's what's got me reading and thinking, and that's what I am most critical of in the elearning I see at work.
Which led me to consider why it's rarely discussed at my work. I saw that all the vast majority of the effort in our team and the L&D team in general goes into efficiency – delivery, LMS, management information, portals etc – and not much into effectiveness – what actually works? And when you ask that question it's usually thought to be the realm of 'evaluation' and 'ROI' and all the conundrums and cliches that brings with it.
I've been given a remit to pull together a community of practice of all the people involved across our Group involved in some way with elearning – developing it or commissioning it – and that's where my enthusiasm can find its place. I want to share ideas and debate with these people the quality and effectiveness of the material and experiences we offer people, rather than getting bogged down in the mechanics of how we get it to them. I feel more at home in work than I have for ages and thanks to those talks by Itiel and Chris I understand why.
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