Friday Briefing: Learning Technologies Special


It’s Friday, or if you’re in the Learning Technologies industry, the day you can’t speak or walk straight after 2 days working and walking at the Learning Technologies Conference and exhibition. We’ve unpacked, re-caffeinated and are ready to bring you our takeaways from the show and conference.


netexPlatform Shift: Open, API driven Systems are Winning

There was a time when the LMS and Learning Platform market was about the vendor’s way or the highway. Walking the floor, it was interesting to see the shift here. More platforms are taking an API-driven approach to learning. They recognise that you don’t have to build or own all of the content to get traction. You can bring content in from multiple sources with APIs and let learners make their own playlists of content from anywhere and define their own experience. Modern social and learning platform companies getting it right here include Netex Learning Cloud, Bloom from Appitierre, Fuse, and HT2 labs. Yes, there are still the monolithic closed systems – but the market is going a different way.  


aiuiAI is the new UI

Upstairs in the conference, AI emerged as a key theme this year. We use Spotify, Google, Amazon and Netflix all day. They use AI to understand our preferences and make sound recommendations. Good AI-driven recommender engines are still rare in learning, but some are getting there. Donald Clark, always good value as a speaker, gave a great talk on AI including a list of 10 things AI can do that trainers can’t. That stirred it up. He also trashed Myers Briggs as a “Shameful Ponzi scheme”. But that’s classic ENTJ.


crowdSmaller Learning, Bigger Stands

Microlearning, resources not courses – not new ideas but plenty of examples at the show of organisations moving away from the 40 minute linear course as a unit of currency. Lots of examples of short content for continuous workplace learning. Video Arts has continued to reinvent itself from the VHS to short video resources in a modern platform, Kineo doing good stuff with interactive video, Logic Earth using multiple short formats, and Good Practice were showing short focused resources from multiple sources. But while learning gets smaller, stands keep getting bigger it seems – there’s a veritable arms race going on with some stands looking more like a Bond villain lair than an approachable learning provider. Wouldn’t like to be calculating the ROI on some of those.


jarcheStaying Social and Working Out Loud

Another theme that continued this year was social learning. Nearly every vendor has some social element in their platform now. The challenge with these is how to get meaningful conversations to take place, otherwise the tumbleweed blows through. Some like Netex, Fuse and HT2 use curated content to kickstart the conversation ( powered with Anders Pink, just for disclosure). In the conference, social learning pro Harold Jarche shared insights on making social learning work.  As he said simply but clearly: “The more you give, the more you get”. Harold’s Seek > Sense > Share approach is the go-to model for us, we talk about it in our new book on curation.


geShiny, Shiny…but More of the Same

The show had more exhibitors than any time in the 10+ years I’ve been going, and it’s great to see new entrants showing their wares. But for every VR, AR and fancy gamification demo, there was a lot of the same stuff – or more accurately, the same design thinking poured into new shinier containers. As Donald put it succinctly in his talk “A crap LMS with crap gamification doesn’t cut it any more”. New technologies mean we need to rethink our models. The first films looked a lot like plays because people hadn’t figured out the potential of the new medium. New design thinking is needed to move things forward in Learning Technologies. We’re optimistic though – there are a lot of new companies and original thinkers in this industry, and we’re looking forward to see where they take things over the next 12 months. The Exit Poll tells the story of what the attendees made of it all. Well done to Growth Engineering for making a real impact with those capes…


Follow all the tweets from the show at #LT17UK. See you next year learning pals!