The Learning Technologies stream at OEB reflects an apparent paradox: each year appears different from the previous but the basic mechanisms of how we learn – of the processes in our brains – haven’t changed in thousands of years.
But this apparent paradox is really just two faces of the same issue, and it’s what makes this part of OEB so fascinating: learning never changes, but our understanding of it, and the ways we support it, are always improving.
Human beings are learning and communicating animals, and we are very good at both. Yet it is only comparatively recently that the learning sciences have begun to deepen our understanding of how we learn. There is, then, always something new to be learned about learning. That is why, this year, we have presentations on the mind, as well as on the value of spaced learning (where content is delivered to individuals over a period, rather than dumped in front of them as in traditional training). Similarly, we will explore self-directed learning, looking at shifting motivation from the external to the internal.
At the same time, the way we support the process of learning is changing, and becoming increasingly sophisticated. Fed on the one hand by our understanding of the brain, and on the other by advances in technology, there is now a growing set of technologies for effectively supporting learning. Naturally, we explore these too, picking over what the new learning platforms can and can’t do; for example: is a ‘Learning Experience Platform’ really any different from a ‘Learning Management System’? And as the shift from relying on a single platform to choosing from best-of-breed applications continues, we examine what makes up a successful learning eco-system, as well as how to construct successful blended learning programmes.
Expressed this way, you could think of the Learning Technologies part of OEB as consisting of two parts – one focusing on how adults in the workplace learn, and the other on the technology to support this. But there is a third part where arguably the most challenging conversations take place: in the middle, where these two facets meet.
The most effective learning technology is useless if people don’t know about it, or won’t use it, or if the culture of their organisation prevents them from using it, and so a great deal of the workplace learning side of OEB looks at implementing learning technologies and programmes successfully.
Rolling out a learning programme successfully is only partly a technical matter. The most important parts of any change in an approach to learning lies exactly in the change. How do you manage it? How do you ensure support from all levels of an organisation, from engagement with employees and managers to the enthusiastic endorsement and backing of high-level sponsors? How do you ensure a quality user experience (UX) that drives high performance, rather than regarding UX as the by-product of the process of producing a course?
These issues affect organisations at all levels of sophistication, which is why we have sessions on from making the initial shift to digital to the smart use of data analytics, as well as on building and sustaining a supportive culture of learning.
As communicating animals, we learn best when we come together to share our experiences. That is exactly what we do at OEB, from the breakfast meetings to the conference sessions and networking, through to the conversations at the Marlene bar, late into the night. It’s how we develop and grow as a profession, and as individuals. I can’t wait to join the conversation.
Written by Donald H. Taylor, curator of OEB Global’s LT workplace learning track.