Igniting the future of workplace learning

OEB 2011 saw the introduction of a new session format: Ignite. Part of the Business EDUCA programme, the Ignite session, entitled Preparing for the future of learning at work, brought participants together to talk about business issues in an innovative, energising and fun way.


Developed in 2006 by Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of Makerbot.com, the Ignite session allows speakers just 5 minutes to deliver their presentation accompanied by 20 slides, each of which is automatically advanced after 15 seconds. This challenging format requires speakers to clarify their thinking and to present their arguments concisely and effectively.


Chaired by Jay Cross, the brave presenters successfully shared their visions of the future of learning in the workplace, raising vital questions and ensuring that all participants went away thinking, talking and exploring.


According to Laura Overton, one of the five presenters, “the format was very exciting and energetic. It allowed for a number of different points of view to be presented in a focused and fun way and provided food for thought for both the educators and business people in the room.”


Toyota’s Sann René Glaza kicked off the session by asking how organisations can best reach people with the knowledge they need, in the language they want: although people may speak English as a business language, is it really the best language for them to learn in? With mobility increasing across Europe, this is a vital question for the future of learning at work.


The business value of HR departments was the next under the spotlight, with Jack Wills of MASS Consultants taking a humorous look at the foibles of HR departments, leaving the captive audience in stiches. Through his tongue-in-cheek presentation, Wills posed the fundamental question of what the HR function needs to do in order to really add business value, and argued that nothing can be taken for granted when preparing for the future of learning.


Following Jack Wills’ exploration of the longer-term future of workplace learning, Laura Overton of Towards Maturity looked at the immediate future, outlining why and how learning and development need to limber up in 2012. Overton argued that learning professionals need to be more engaged with businesses and increase their understanding of the businesses themselves. In order to ensure that learning and development are not neglected, we need to get involved by encouraging, supporting and coaching businesses, to ensure they get fitter.


Next to take centre stage was Medhi Tounsi of Speexx, with his presentation The Future of Corporate Language Training: New Content and Innovative Technologies, which explored the impact of an increasingly diversified workforce on the content and delivery of workplace learning.


The final presentation was delivered both physically and virtually, with Sarah Frame, OLF, and Charles Jennings in the room, and Nick Laycock participating by video. A vision of a new type of workplace learning was painted, where the university experience is brought into the heart of the workplace. This brand new vision of university and workplace partnerships for the future is a challenging one, which has the potential to completely change the way in which we educate, both in academic and workplace settings.


Once the presenters had outlined their visions of the short-term priorities, long-term challenges and vital questions regarding how we prepare for the future of workplace learning, the audience, who were on the edges of their chairs throughout the session, took charge and discussed the issues raised in an informal way.


Feedback from the session was unanimously positive: according to Chairperson Jay Cross, the session format “saves time, cuts to the chase, and eliminates boredom”; the speakers found it exhilarating, daunting and helpful in clarifying their thinking, and the enthusiastic audience were engaged and provided with food for thought throughout; once the session’s time was up, the discussions stimulated by the presentations continued into the night.


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