If I could share only three things with the ardent L&D specialist who could not make it to 2019’s HR & L&D Innovation & Tech Fest, they would be:
“Learning is an ecosystem of experiences.” – Tim Slade
“L&D has to change – otherwise we will become obsolete.” – Thea Pelser
“Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” – Wayne Mott
This year, dedicated L&D speaker streams were introduced to the well-established HR Innovation & Tech Fest – a move heartily welcomed by South Africa’s corporate learning community. Professionals are still finding their feet in this ever-changing technological and organisational landscape, and the Eventful Group’s first roll-out has been right on target. Their diverse buffet of topics had the entire L&D tribe feasting – content developers, specialists, technologists and managers; rookies and veterans.
“We are living and working in an incredibly disruptive time – technology is changing the way we work and live and it is only fitting, and essential, that the way we view and implement L&D endeavours keeps up,” says Andrea Erasmus, Co-Owner & Head of Production for The Eventful Group. “Some of the greatest minds in the L&D space came together under one roof during this conference. It connects people and gives the growing L&D community a unique platform to come together and learn, network and share ideas, challenges and wins.”
Alice Herselman, Learning & Development Specialist at Oceana Group chose the talk on Sasol’s approach to designing their Learning Technology Ecosystem as her first session, “I’m so happy that I did – this is exactly where my organisation and team are at.”
The compelling mix of speakers included international representatives that inspired, warned and equipped from their generally more-evolved L&D arena. Local speakers, in turn, shared their mighty feats of the corporate culture empires they built through the right Learning Management Systems, the stakeholder hearts they conquered, and the magic of Augmented Reality they harnessed.
Learning is an Ecosystem of Experiences
We’ve all seen this or have even designed it: learning content that is simply not crafted for how adults learn, or even worse – not designed to solve the actual performance issue. The award-winning US freelance eLearning Designer, Tim Slade, has a hard-won understanding of why learning fails (or rather, sucks, to bring home his point more vividly). “Sometimes,” he adds, “your role as an eLearning designer is to know when learning is not the answer – and be able to tell that to your clients or stakeholders.”
Yet, even when we are clear on the need for a training programme, we have to avoid the next trap: blandly capturing information within a sterile online system and bombarding our learners with it. To create this ‘ecosystem of experiences’, we need to combine as many learning styles as possible, make learning active, and embrace blended learning.
A forward-looking example of this is our own Zolani Lugawe from SA Taxi Development Finance that evangelized the digital learning revolution in his session: breaking ground for his organization, he incorporated AR (Augmented Reality) in a recent learning journey.
L&D Has to Change – Otherwise We Will Become Obsolete
“Call anything a pilot and people will try it.” This is how Thea Pelser got her L&D show on the road in 2014. As PwC South Africa’s Associate Director for Learning & Development, she ventured into very unchartered territory for this chartered community – forging their very own online learning programme.
Her success was self-evident: with the average completion rate of MOOCS (massive open online courses) at only 10%, their programme reached an astounding 75%. However, her moment of true triumph happened when top management started to ask for more online learning.
Two of the biggest obstacles was the perception around the quality of “eLearning”, and getting the right backing for her L&D development plans. She instead labelled her programme “self-paced learning”, and as for garnering support, she suggests we “work where the energy is; work with people that love new things.”
Yet this journey has also brought her to a very sobering realization: “L&D has to change – otherwise we will become obsolete.”
Don’t Throw Out the Baby With the Bathwater
Wayne Mott from Agilite Consulting shared the journey that Melbourne Waters undertook to create an intuitive learning system that could seamlessly blend into the ever-busier lives of learners, using JIT (just-in-time), WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me) and micro-credentialing formats. The vibrant, interactive end-result was called “The Pond”.
Creating a platform on this scale can be intimidating to South African L&D managers – how do we suddenly break away from the course we’ve set (often based on limited funds, technology, and infra-structure) to align with what is on offer nowadays, at a much lower cost that just 5 years ago? Wayne’s advice is perfectly pitched, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater – use what you have while you adjust and improve your learning pathways over time.”
Looking to the future, he also urged us to remember the ever-decreasing information half-life. In an era where the-learning-and-unlearning cycle will become the norm, learning how to learn will become one of the most prized skills.
During the panel discussion wrapping up the conference, Wayne mirrored Thea’s warning on the crucial need for adaptability, “At a next conference, I would like to deep-dive into how L&D needs to reinvent itself – and change to support what’s to happen in the future.”
“Upskilling,” concluded Jessica Miller-Merrell, an American speaker from Workology, in a final question about global trends, “It is going to be pretty universal across the workforce.”
Learning and Development in South Africa must be ready. We must be resilient, resourceful, and as always, ragingly passionate.
The conference sponsors also had their say:
“The Eventful Group’s conferences are always the most relevant – the team is very meticulous when it comes to the detail and very accommodating to last-minute requests.” – Judith Aranes, Marketing Manager for BountiXP.com
“Of all the annual human development conferences in South Africa, we find this one the most fruitful.” – Geoffrey Payne, Product Development Manager from Lesson Desk
About the Author
Ilse de Vries is a human-development zealot and hopelessly excited about learning and development, in South Africa and in its digital incarnation. She is also an adventurous content strategist and content creator. Over the last two decades, she has honed her skills as a learning and marketing specialist in the UK, Japan and South Africa.