By Mike Collins on the 2nd February 2013

This week has been a mixed week. It started on a real high when I attended the second ever L&D Connect event and ended in a mighty low when I had to leave the Learning and Skills Exhibition early on the second day due to the dreaded norovirus.

I did manage to catch up with some great folks and get through my talk but I had to admit defeat and headed home disappointed and feeling that I had somehow lost out on something. It’s the law of sod that a 48 hr virus hits you in the most important 48 hrs of 2013 and a particular highlight of your year. I’m not one to dwell on negatives though so my thoughts soon turned from what I had lost to what I had gained from meeting up with some really inspirational L&D folk at L&D Connect.

There are some events that truly make an impact, some events that last long in memory, where conversations there still inspire and make you smile long after they finish. I’d put last years L&D Connect in this category for ALL the above reasons just as I put my first Learning Technologies Conference in this category back in 2008. These events or rather the people involved in them inspire change.

There have already been some great blogs about the latest installment of L&D Connect which you can read here, here and here and there is also a great Storify of the event worth checking out. So what did I take away from the event?

Deciding on tracksWell I took some photos for one and I’m doing this more and more now (probably coz I got a decent phone now) to help me remember and reflect on things and to come back to conversations that without them would slip in to the realms of distant memory. The facilitation was excellent and the afternoon organised well with a minimum amount of structure in place to keep things free flowing and open.

After some small talk and nibbling on @Resourcingmagic‘s buns we introduced ourselves formally and discussed what we would be talking about for the remainder of the afternoon. I found last years event to be fantastic in terms of diverse topics and again this year was no different with some rather provocative questions to kick start things. I definitely felt that the conversations that followed had matured and moved on and that the things that were being suggested and discussed were a development or perhaps an evolution of things from the previous event. Regardless of this it was wonderful to see such a diverse group of people coming together again from various backgrounds and different levels of experience. The final trackFinal Trackss can be seen below.

I’ve been reflecting on my journey since the last event and was thinking what I’d have picked and what conversations I’d have benefited the most from. Thinking back to where I was and what I was doing this time last year I am certain I would have gone for the “Benefits of Technology” and “How to be BOLD” as my main focus of conversation. Whilst the unconference style of event encourages you to participate in many conversations and to drop in and drop out as you see fit, I honestly prefer to see a conversation through and for me, the purpose of attending the event was to enjoy deep and meaningful conversations with this group of people on subjects I don’t often get to talk about in detail. So why didn’t I pick these topics this year apart from the obvious “I fancied a change”?

Well I’ve come to terms with the fact technology is a part of and can be hugely beneficial in supporting  learning whether we (you) like it or not, but it’s only an enabler that should be used in the right place at the right time and shouldn’t be the focus. As I think about walking around Learning Technologies Exhibition I was amazed how busy it was and how people were crowding around stands to see the latest mobile learning thingy or the latest iteration of rapid authoring tool number X or even the latest and greatest SaaS LMS with a social learning platform integration whatsit.  Don’t get me wrong I love the latest gadget and technology in general but for me creating great learning experiences is fundamentally about people, connections, behaviours, conversation and reflection. I’ve also spent the last 12 months being BOLD so whilst I 100% agree with the sentiment and encourage everyone to be bold, I personally felt a bit bolded out. Instead, I thought I would benefit most from developing a greater understanding in something a little different but very relevant to me. I intend to post up more detailed thoughts on both of these topics but for now I’ve summarised the main reasons why below.

The two areas that stood out for me this year were:

1) How do we get in to learners heads?

In the last 12 months I’ve become fascinated with human and social behaviour, primarily because of my work in developing online communities and how behaviours translate in to the online world. I’m no expert in this field or academic but I’m reading more about it and I’m experiencing it first hand. I’m undertaking a community management course with Feverbee over the next few weeks and psychology and human behaviour is going to play a big part I’m sure. I’m also interested in how data can help us design and create better learning experiences and help us understand trends and patterns. Some questions I left with to ponder over:

  • How do we connect with people and help people connect?
  • How do we encourage people to share what they know?
  • How can we help people become more motivated and better equipped to learn for themselves?
  • Can I expect people to behave online in a way that they don’t behave in real life?

2) What are the skills needed for L&D?

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and it’s something we as a profession need to look long and hard at. I recommend you take a look at the LPI Capability Map and Jane Hart has written an excellent post recently on Emerging new roles for the learning & performance professional. It’s a very exciting time to be in our profession and our conversations reflected this excitement and I got a real sense of change during these discussions with real tangible examples of how this change is occurring being shared.  As I now work for a leading CIPD training provider who specialises in Learning & Development qualifications I am relishing the opportunity to influence the knowledge and skills we are looking to develop to better reflect these changes. This is one of the main reasons why I joined DPG and I’m hugely excited by the opportunities ahead. The DPG Community is one of the ways I’m doing this and is becoming central to how we facilitate our programmes and enhance the learning experience.

Just like last year, I left L&D Connect inspired and more determined to make a change and continue making what difference I can to how we all progress and develop as Learning Professionals. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a HR role, a general L&D role or you specialise in any particular discipline, the conversations were powerful and the message was clear.

There is a growing community that are making a difference, that are doing things differently and focusing on the positive and are being BOLD.

I’m proud to say I’m in some way part of this and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with old friends and new and sharing our stories and journeys whatever they be and where ever they may take us. I’ve benefited from being part of this community and sharing ideas and thinking in and around learning and I can see this in my own personal and professional development over the last 12 months.

I can’t recommend the L&D Connect unconferences highly enough and you can connect with this community and the people within it so easily through Twitter @LnDConnect, LinkedIn and via the hashtags #ldcu #LDconnect

Go on….. you know you want to 🙂