by Randah McKinnie
Earlier this week I attended the Masie Learning 2008 conference in Orlando, Florida. Along with just over 1800 other learning professionals across all manner of industries, I did my best to both soak up and contribute to the wealth of knowledge, rich in this community of people passionate about learning. I believe this annual conference is beneficial to the learning professional who resides in the spectrum between the pure HR performance management role, and a technical learning systems or content implementation role.
My own personal takeaways from attendance and participation as a session presenter are these:
• Learning continues to be important in organizations despite economic challenges. In fact, learning appears to be recognized more than ever as a way to increase efficiencies, save money, and keep employees happy.
• ‘Web 2.0’ is maturing, but only slightly, in its integration into corporate learning offerings. The approach for the last three years or so seems to have been the ‘throw it on the wall and see what sticks’ method. Offer your people blogs, wikis, social networks, and tags in addition to content and courses through an LMS or learning portal, and they will jump at the chance to share their knowledge! Unfortunately, depending on the culture of the organization, either everything sticks (which is true here at Adobe) and you end up with an incredible amount of information but a hard time finding what you need, or very little sticks at all, and you continue to have a blank slate, with key information residing forever in the minds of people who don’t find themselves compelled to share, no matter how many tools you provide. I am still looking for the conference that will provide me with case studies of organizations that have provided a framework for knowledge-sharing and learning Web2.0 offerings, and their comments on what worked and didn’t, which portions went viral and which became stalled. They key question that remains for me is how to seed a viral knowledge sharing community within or between organizations – or can you at all? As Clay Shirky’s book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ suggests, the power in web2.0 communities is the rapid, informal creation of a community around which there is passion and expertise and purpose, which often naturally disbands once the purpose has been achieved.
• By far one of the best things about attending a conference that strikes a chord with me is the energy I take away. The sense that we are all up to work that has benefit to others, and through contribution of our unique expertise we continue to improve our ability to make learning programs engaging and effective.
• Mobile learning is making a steady, underground advance. Many companies and universities already have examples of programs they’ve offered and their success. Completion rates in mobile learning are higher, and experienced audiences are reportedly begging for more.
• The keynote speakers were entertaining and Elliot Masie continued with his format of an interview-style conversation with thought leaders and authors (does everyone have a book?). At the end of each keynote, Elliot added a nice touch: he asked a couple of generic questions, one of which was for a book recommendation that has made a difference to that person – in any way – in the last year. Here is a list of the keynote speakers that stood out to me and why.
o Arch Lustberg. Entertaining and wise, Arch commented on current and past presidential speakers and why we are inclined to like people we may hate, because of their presentation style. The three things every great speaker needs? Competence, likability, and trustworthiness.
o Charles Fadel of CISCO systems. Clearly a brilliant mind. Is researching and de-bunking the simple pyramid of learning retention that states we retain 10% of what we read, through to 80% of what we do. Complex modeling but clearly good science.
o The Second City. Two performers provided a brief overview of how to keep the skit going, which I considered quite apropos to social learning. The concepts of bringing ‘yes, and…’ to a skit (rather than ‘No.’ which kills any possibility), and bringing a ‘brick, not a cathedral’ to the situation, thus allowing another to bring a brick, and another, etc. to build something truly collaborative, were poignant while hilarious in the format of their presentation.
o Sue Gardner of Wikipedia spoke of the amazing success of that 4th-most-popular-in-the-world web site and small (only 22 people run that worldwide site!) non-profit organization. She is a very well-spoken woman who is clearly a person who leads with integrity.
o Steven MR Covey rounded out the conference as the anchor keynote speaker. His book: The Speed of Trust. I am inspired by his approach to instill Trust in organizations as a measurable competency, which should be linked to corporate financials and measured as a strategic goal rather than a soft virtue.
o I was sorry to miss some of the other keynotes, and still others I attended were valuable but my intention is not to review every presentation.
• In my own sessions, Engaging Learners with Next Generation Virtual Classrooms, I was pleased to have the opportunity to offer some applied techniques to help new and experienced online leaders engage learners and answer the question ‘Is anyone out there actually listening?’ I have written a companion whitepaper, which will soon be available on the Connect Pro whitepapers page on adobe.com and on connectusers.com.
Finally and in summary, the conference has reinvigorated this eLearning professional. I have restored ties with old friends, thought leaders, and colleagues in learning, and have made some new connections and Twitter buddies. The more I talked to people the more I couldn’t stop, and since I’d meta-data-tagged myself with a ‘Talk to me’ button (one of 30 or so self-tagging buttons available at the conference which were embraced by the majority despite the feeling like we were competing to wear the most ‘flair’) I felt more comfortable than ever striking up meaningful and quandary-rich conversations. So much value is gained from unexpected conversations about challenges and examples in our work, shared with peers from across the globe.
Thanks so much to Elliot Masie and his team for offering yet another great conference. Perhaps I’ll see some of you next year when I’m riding the Disney Magical Express bus to eLearning glory.