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Learning Solutions 2012: Today's Solutions. Tomorrow's Vision

by Jennifer Neibert

March 29, 2012


by Jennifer Neibert

March 29, 2012

“With the right blend of strategy, technical know-how, and creative vision, today’s learning professionals are well-equipped to change their approaches to learning, their organizations, and arguably, the world in which we live.”

Today’s Solutions. Tomorrow’s Vision. With that theme, and to a ballroom full of eager learning professionals, Heidi Fisk, co-founder of The eLearning Guild, kicked off Learning Solutions Conference & Expo 2012 in Orlando, FL. For anyone focused on identifying, deploying, and managing proven technology-based learning solutions – as well as those leveraging more traditional training modalities and all manner of blended learning solutions – this annual event is the place to be.

As in years past, the two days prior to the conference provided the option for a deeper dive into special topics of interest. The eLearning Foundations Intensive (Figure 1) provided broad development for participants with training management expertise, but limited experience in the design, implementation, or management of a successful organizational eLearning effort. Industry leaders presented sessions designed to help the new eLearning practitioner design a strategy to ensure future success. Conference attendees also had the option of participating in a one-day pre-conference certificate program, with content addressing nearly 20 topics, including social media, performance support, visual design, and learning analytics, to name a few.

Figure 1: eLearning Foundations Intensive discussions led by Judy Unrein (foreground) and Patti Shank (background)

The Keynotes

Conference attendance showed an increase from previous years and those who made the trip to Orlando were surely not disappointed with the range of learning offerings. To build on the overall conference theme, keynote topics were crafted around a central idea, “The Art of….” Passionate and provocative, each of the speakers offered new ways of thinking – of learning – that will most certainly impact the standard, business-as-usual approach relied upon by many.

John Maeda (Figure 2), author, and President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), spoke about “The Art of Leadership and Learning.” He challenged attendees to think about leadership in new, imaginative ways. How will artists and designers influence business? How might the world look if moved beyond the much-talked-about STEM model of education, to the STEAM model, incorporating art with the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math ( Maeda’s redesigned view of leadership consists of four stages – build from foundations, craft the team, sense actively, and fail productively. How can today’s learning leaders embrace this leadership approach?

Figure 2: Keynote speaker John Maeda

As Maeda’s keynote was introspective and reflective, the second day of Learning Solutions started with the ever-expressive Erik Wahl (Figure 3), Artist and Change Agent of The Wahl Group. Challenging attendees even further, and with a presentation like no other, Wahl energized and inspired the audience to think differently about “The Art of Vision.” He argues the art of vision, in truth, is the science of slowing down. Through an original style and with incredible artistic talent, Wahl asked the audience to sharpen their own creative vision by asking… What is the ROI of creativity? What is it worth to take a risk? What is a creative idea worth? Creativity, he contends, is the new corporate capital. Meaningful concepts connecting the right and left brain, coupled with a soundtrack from U2, Bruno Mars, and Peter Gabriel, left the audience mesmerized with Wahl’s approaches, as well as his portraits of Bono, Marilyn Monroe, and Steve Jobs. See for more on Wahl’s ideas.

Figure 3: Keynote speaker Erik Wahl

IGNITE!, hosted by Brent Schlenker, the Emerging Technologies Analyst for The eLearning Guild, brought together six of today’s learning leaders to deliver “The Art of Ideas.” Presented using the Ignite! methodology, the speakers were limited to 15 slides that were shown for roughly 15 seconds each. With focus and well-timed delivery, they shared their most thought-provoking ideas for addressing the realities of today’s learning landscape.  

Wrapping up the keynote series and conference, Sheena Iyengar (Figure 4), Author and Professor of Business at Columbia University, presented an equal challenge in “The Art of Choosing.” She dared audience members to think about how and why everyday choices are made. How much control do people have over their choices and why do they sometimes choose beyond their best interests?

Figure 4: Closing keynote speaker Sheena Iyengar

Concurrent sessions and learning opportunities

Speaking of choices, Learning Solutions attendees had no shortage with Morning Buzz discussions, four learning stages that ran throughout the conference, and more than 100 concurrent sessions in 14 tracks.

The Morning Buzz discussions gave attendees the chance to meet and learn from each other in an informal environment, with input from today’s eLearning leaders.

In and around the conference expo, eLearning experts shared their knowledge, insights, and best practices on four learning stages (Figure 5) – Management Xchange, The Cloud, Learning Media Studio, and Learning Technology Showcase.

  • On the Management Xchange stage, presenters shared practical approaches to addressing the key issues involved in successful eLearning management.
  • On The Cloud stage, presenters shared ideas, checklists, and strategies for deploying cloud storage and Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) technology throughout an enterprise.
  • On the Learning Media Studio stage, presenters offered an opportunity to explore tools for creating and editing audio and video for eLearning and mLearning. 
  • On the Learning Technology Showcase stage, presenters shared demonstrations of new learning technologies that can solve current and future learning challenges.

Crowds filled most of the learning stages to capacity and beyond, with attendees accepting a standing room only spot at the back of the session to hear a particular presenter or topic. The conference Expo itself was an impressive array of suppliers offering learning technologies, tools, products, and services. Dozens of vendors were on hand to share the latest in cloud-based learning technologies, eLearning authoring tools, learning/content management systems, performance support solutions, and much more.

Figure 5: The Management Xchange Learning Stage drew large audiences

With a dizzying array of options, the concurrent sessions provided the ideal learning opportunity for today’s eLearning professional, whether novice, expert, or somewhere on the spectrum between the two. The sessions were offered in 14 tracks:

  • Case Studies
  • Development
  • Getting Started
  • Infrastructure
  • Instructional Design
  • Management
  • Measurement
  • Media
  • mLearning
  • Professional Development
  • Project Management
  • Social Learning
  • The Cloud
  • Visual Design

As attendees worked through the nine blocks of offerings, many found themselves deep in one-on-one conversations with presenters or other attendees following a session. One attendee making his first visit to a Learning Solutions conference said the relationships he’d made with fellow attendees were “worth more than the price of admission.” He shared that he feels a new sense of encouragement to tackle even the most complex of projects with the network of support provided by The eLearning Guild. For those attendees fortunate enough to attend Learning Solutions with a colleague, many employed the “divide and conquer” tactic to see and hear as many sessions as possible. 

Conference extras and staying connected

For those who missed a particular session or for whom Learning Solutions was not in the budget this year, never fear! Thanks to the curated backchannel, conference information and resources are available with a click of the mouse. Through the backchannel, presenters and attendees have shared content and additional thoughts to expand the conversation and increase the impact of learning. Also beneficial is Hashcaster, a real-time platform that curates and organizes all the tweets, links, photos, and videos shared with the Learning Solution conference hashtag, #lscon.

And what conference would be complete without a mobile app? The LS|12 mobile conference app gave attendees fingertip access to learning, social networking, and everything else happening at the conference. In addition to helpful features such as a personalized agenda and interactive maps, the app also included a game that rewarded players for interacting with other attendees and performing tasks while at the conference. Congratulations to Helen Rossiter, winner of the Learning Solutions 2012 mobile app game!

An exciting addition to Learning Solutions 2012 was a new cloud-based slide sharing service called MAP Deck. This innovative service allows users to tag and mash-up PowerPoint slides from the conference to create a single new presentation that can be shared with others. MAP Deck is based on the Anan software from edCetra Training and is just one more tool in the toolbox of today’s learning professional.

As in previous years, humanitarian consortium LINGOs (Learning in Non-Governmental Organizations) announced the finalists and winner of the Third Annual Global Giveback Competition. Eric Berg, Executive Director of LINGOs (Figure 6), also announced exciting changes to Global Giveback 2012 and invited the learning community to volunteer and become an active participant in supporting organizations that reduce poverty and alleviate suffering in the developing world. 

Figure 6: LINGOs Executive Director, Eric Berg

Lots more coming in 2013!

The countdown has already begun for Learning Solutions 2013 in Orlando. In the meantime, we hope you will take advantage of upcoming events from The eLearning Guild.

  • The Thought Leaders Webinar Series. With a new interview format and broader range of experts for 2012, these hour-long Webinars showcase the latest ideas for today’s learning professionals from the leading thinkers of the industry. Held monthly, the Webinars are available at no extra cost to all paid membership levels – Guild Member, Member-Plus, and Premium Member – but space is limited and advance registration is required. Click here for more information and the April, May, and June 2012 Thought Leaders Webinar Series schedule.
  • Online Forums. Online Forums offer focused content on a wide array of current topics, presented by professionally coached and engaging speakers. The Online Forum content and format ensures real learning, resulting in both professional development and improved job performance. Every event is offered both live online and in a recorded format using learning technologies provided by Adobe Systems. Click here for more information and the upcoming Online Forums schedule.
  • mLearnCon 2012 Conference & Expo, June 19-21, 2012 in San Jose, California. The premier mobile learning conference and expo, mLearnCon 2012 is focused on management strategies, technology alternatives, design and development options, and best practices for mLearning. Keynotes include B.J. Fogg on mobile persuasion, Jason Calacanis on mobile start-ups to watch, and Dan Lyons on the so-mo revolution. Click here for more information about mLearnCon 2012 and register by May 4 to save $100.
  • DevLearn 2012 Conference & Expo, October 31 – November 2, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. As North America’s leading eLearning event, DevLearn is designed for seasoned eLearning professionals who are out on the leading edge of the emerging technologies our industry will put to work for learning. Stay tuned to The eLearning Guild for more information about DevLearn 2012.

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