Learning Technologies 2020: Our Key Takeaways

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Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist
Learning Technologies 2020: Our Key Takeaways

Confession: we love learning events. Along with annual reports and surveys, events such as the Learning Technologies Conference and Exhibition are the perfect way to discover exactly what’s hot in workplace learning from key figures in the industry. 

In between chatting to all the wonderful visitors to our Thinqi stand, we took the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the full conference experience to find out exactly what’s got people talking in the learning and development world this year.

Data Analysis: Know the What and the Why

“xAPI: a solution without a problem?” asked Andrew Jacobs of HMRC, chairing the ‘xAPI’ session on Day 2.

“Oh, we have a problem,” responded Megan Torrance of Torrance Learning. “In L&D, we have really bad data.”

The truth can be unforgiving, but many delegates found themselves nodding in wholehearted agreement at this statement. We’re aware of its importance, yet too many L&D departments still aren’t measuring the right data, or are treating it as an afterthought. 

Data analysis is a key focus for L&D professionals in 2020, but the big question is: how can we improve?

Richard Pedley of Fidelity International presented us with the “right” way to do data (in an ideal world). He suggested starting by asking yourself the following key questions:

  1. What do I need to know?
  2. What data do I need?
  3. How can I capture my data?
  4. What technology do I need?

These are vital points to consider from the outset if you want your data to be valid and relevant to the point you’re trying to prove.

Developing L&D analytical capability can at first appear daunting. As Guy Wilmshurst-Smith noted in his ‘Learning Analytics’ session, learning to make decisions based on data takes time, and inevitably changes our way of working. However, it’s an effort worth investing in when it comes to bottom-line results on training budgets – as was demonstrated in his case study on Network Rail. The new strategy worked to support the business by targeting train line related learning interventions based on data analytics to create measurable improvements. 

And this here is the key – using data to inform the learning, rather than treating it as an afterthought, keeps it in line with your goals throughout. It’s about tracking the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ from the very beginning, and ensuring your data stays relevant.

For more on xAPI, have a read of our blog post: ‘The Advantages of xAPI for Learning Professionals’.

It’s Time to Work More Closely With the Business

Stakeholder management is a key skill for the modern L&D practitioner. Our learning interventions need to work for the good of the organisation, and this means working together with key stakeholders to make sure everyone is clear on organisational goals. However, the reality is rarely straightforward, and lines of communication are often unclear.

In the ‘Onboarding’ session, Richard Dawson demonstrated how he improved his organisation’s onboarding process. This involved:

  • Interviews – Interviewing the people involved to identify challenges.
  • Creativity – Thinking big and asking, “What does amazing look like?”
  • The existing process – Talking openly and honestly with everybody involved.
  • Quick wins – Taking small steps first. They all add up.
  • The actual plan – Considering the bigger picture: the long-term plan.

Notice how stakeholders are involved throughout – from identifying their unique challenges in the initial interviews, to reaching out to everyone involved in the existing process, and finally the actual plan. Not only will this ensure your strategy has relevance, but it keeps key stakeholders engaged by allowing them to co-construct the solution. After all, having ‘skin in the game’ gives them more ownership of the outcomes.

To reach the right solution for everyone, it’s important to keep communicating. 

Marketing: A Key Skill in Modern L&D


When it comes to getting people on board with learning, there’s a lot we can learn from those good people in marketing. Just as a marketer influences people to ‘buy’ something, we want people to ‘buy’ into learning and development. Fortunately, there’s a whole set of tactics we can employ to do just this.

In ‘Marketing Learning’, Bianca Baumann of Learning eXperience demonstrated how building a learner persona can help you become clear on learner needs. The next step is to identify steps and touchpoints of the learning journey by asking the question: “Where and when do you connect with your learners?” This will inform where communication needs to be made.

The quality of your content offering is critical here. You should be creating meaningful, engaging and sustainable content if you want to engage your target audience (your learners). In other words, it’s about getting the right content for the right audience, at the right time and place. Just like marketing, the content needs to provide a ‘hook’.

As Bruce Swan also noted in the ‘Maximising Learning Impact’ session, relevance is vital when involving stakeholders in L&D and driving engagement. This informed his richly illustrated example of how he applied a marketer approach to explore challenges from a stakeholder’s view. 

Step into the learner’s shoes and ask the question they’re bound to be thinking: “What’s in it for me?” 

Not sure where to begin? Our free expert guide, ‘A Recipe for Success: How to Use Marketing to Boost Your L&D Efforts’, is a great place to start.

A Bright Future for L&D

It’s impossible to feature every session worth writing about in the space of one blog post. We’ll be writing in more depth on many of the topics covered and referring back to what we learned – from the engaging and thought-provoking ‘Storytelling’ session by Danny Seals and Thomas Junod, to the practical and insightful ‘Performance Support’ session by Tobias Kwetina and Adam Harwood.

Both ‘Thirty Under 30’ and ‘Women In Learning’ were testament to the hardworking and passionate individuals who are striving to make a real difference in the industry. We are keen to see how these develop in 2020 and will no doubt see big things happening – a full conference session for Kate Graham and Sharon Claffey Kallouby’s ‘Women in Learning’ next year, perhaps? A packed-out lunchtime session spoke for itself. 

What Others Are Saying

We asked other attendees what their thoughts were, and feedback, as expected, was resoundingly positive.

“There was a distinct energy in the conference this year,” says Teresa Rose of ConsultHer, who also chaired the ‘Marketing Learning’ session. “It was palpable. It took me a few days to reflect and give it a name. It came to me on Sunday: actionable belief.”

Jo Cook of Lightbulb Moment agrees. “It made me realise how amazing L&D people are. So warm, welcoming and lovely – both people I know and new people. I find the best thing about any gathering, including Learning Technologies, is the passion people have for their topic.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. So, with all that in mind, we hope to see you there next year.

We’re going to be exploring each of these trends and others in coming weeks, so keep an eye on our blog and social media channels to see when these insights are published:

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Natalie Ann Holborow
Digital Content Specialist