Last week I was at DevLearn 2018. This is the premier technology-based conference for designers, developers, and leaders in workplace learning and development. I love going to conferences like these and seeing all those people who are “pushing the envelope” with learning and technology.
In addition to seeing lots of old friends and sharing some great ideas, I learned a lot at the sessions and events. Here are my top 6 highlights:
1. Virtual reality was a huge buzz this year, even more than past years. I was particularly excited when I saw a demo of CenarioVR, the new product from Trivantis. It’s a rapid authoring tool designed to create interactive virtual reality experiences. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, it natively creates xAPI script so you can easily track all those things your learners are doing in that VR environment. I was talking to my friend, Jeff Joanisse from Th3rd Coast Media and learned that the CenarioVR technology has existed for a while, and was just recently purchased and improved by Trivantis. So Cenario VR is also well-tested technology – it won’t be buggy or glitchy like some new products are.
2. Speaking of xAPI, I was also excited to see xapi.ly from Torrance Learning. xapi.ly is an xAPI statement builder for Storyline. Many people say xAPI is the next version of SCORM, but moreover, it unlocks the power of big data for learning professionals. If you’ve been wanting to do more with xAPI but don’t have the programming chops to write your own JSON script, xapi.ly is for you. It will write code that you can insert into your Storyline project and voila – you are able to use xAPI to its fullest potential! As one of my friends said: …and they all lived xapi.ly ever after!
3. I was honored to be asked to be a judge for Hyperdrive, a competition where participants share technically innovative ways to enhance learning and solve business problems. There were some really great projects, but my favorite was “Using Alexa to Teach Clinical Reasoning to Veterinary Medical Students” by Dr. Jamie Perkins from Lincoln Memorial University. Jamie was showing us how they had built a system that allowed students to have conversations with virtual pet owners, just like the conversations you can have with Amazon’s Alexa. It helps to build reasoning skills, and also enables students to build confidence in having conversations with pet owners. The outcomes have been so strong that they are starting to build similar scenarios for medical students too. I was really impressed with what Jamie presented, and I wasn’t the only one…she won the Hyperdrive competition!
4. The opening keynote on Thursday was author and cartoonist, Lynda Barry, talking about creativity. My favorite part was when she talked about her work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She works with doctoral students and each year she pairs her new students with a “research associate” … who is a four-year-old child! She told a story of an advanced mathematician studying number theory who tried to explain to his four-year-old partner that he wasn’t really four. She also told of a doctoral student in education who believed she couldn’t draw… but after partnering with her four-year-old assistant, became the first doctoral student ever to write her dissertation in cartoon form. Lynda talked about how we are all creative, but that we need to find ways to unlock it. I marveled at her stories and her results, and went home with new resolve to learn even more lessons from my five-year-old son, too.
5. I attended a panel discussion with all past eLearning Guild Masters. The panel had a humbling list of experts from our field: Michael Allen, Jane Bozarth, Julie Dirksen, Nick Floro, Robert Gadd, Joe Ganci, and Marc Rosenberg, and was moderated by the eLearning Guild’s David Kelly. Having been in field since we called our work CBTs (computer-based trainings), I appreciated the sense of looking back, and realizing how far things have come. But even more, I appreciated some of the very wise things that were said. Julie told us that things are changing, but “right now your weakest learner is infinitely smarter than your smartest technology,” which were wise words reminding us to take all emerging technologies, including AR and VR, and use them wisely. I also appreciated Marc’s comment that “we often use great technology to create crappy courses… and then all you have is more efficiently created crappy learning.” Thank you, Marc, for reminding us that our work is not about having the best technology, but about having the best instruction. That’s what will really make the difference.
6. Finally, perhaps my most favorite thing about DevLearn was that during my own session, “Creating an Instructionally Sound Microlearning Experience” an artist did a live sketchnote of my session! What a fun artifact. I had 250 people attend the session, and there were great questions asked and awesome conversations sparked about microlearning!
Overall, it was an outstanding week, getting to connect with old friends, and make many new ones. I’m already looking forward to next year!