What does Learning Technologies 2013 tell us about learning technologies?


The Learning Technologies 2013 conference and exhibition was the biggest ever, so what does it tell us about learning technologies?

With the scale of the exhibition it is clear that Learning Technologies has become one of the leading – if not the leading – global learning tech shows. Learning tech is a hot market right now – this year  there were more exhibitors with bigger stands – a point made by both Neil Lasher and Steve Rayson. With Cornerstone on Demand bringing 20-plus people it is clear the bigger US-based vendors are eyeing up the European market.

But what was on offer? Well, similar things really. Most vendors can now provide a suite of tools across all channels and that is a challenge for them and a potential headache for their customers. Where is the differentiation and why should an organisation choose one vendor over another, especially when they are offering similar tools and services, from mobile and social to rapid authoring tools?

Mobile was a hot topic but that doesn’t mean to say organisations are implementing it or vendors are providing what organisations might need. Take for example the GoodPractice poll of exhibition delegates which showed 65% would not be taking up mobile learning in the coming year.

Or take a look at learning technolgies manager Craig Taylor’s review of a talk he had with a vendor about a mobile solution – he wanted to talk about how a mobile solution could use the native features of a smartphone, something the vendor – in this case Certpoint – doesn’t currently offer.

So, L&D teams are interested in mobile but few are taking the plunge and vendors are still approaching mobile as a push channel for content.

There was talk of the Tin can API but no one seems to have much to share on this currently although much like mobile there is a lot of interest – Lasher says he saw two vendors talking about it.

Upstairs in the conference, David Wilson from analyst Elearnity ran a live Q&A session on what he called tech ‘headbang’ issues – the things that are annoying about learning and talent management systems. They created a Twitter hashtag  for the event, some of the tweets from which you can see below. They give a flavour of where the here and now discussions are on learning tech.

Mobile and software as a service are being talked about, as is the impact of bring your own device to work – user experience remains a thorny issue too. However, for many organisations the challenge is how to optimise current learning management systems to do more for the learners and provide better data for the organisation.

At one point in the Elearnity session a delegate was asking for a list of the best vendors for a learning platform. The exchange summed up some of the tensions within learning technology – organisations are looking for the best ways to implement learning and have a need for good quality information. Meanwhile, vendors have a challenge in differentiating themselves in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

I’ll leave the last word – or should I say tweet – to David Wilson, who says the choice of tech comes down to organisational need.

And you can see more tweets from the analyst Q&A here.

Let us know your thoughts on the show.



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  1. Martin, interesting to read your thoughts and experience from the event this year and thanks for picking up on our #LT13headbang session! I’ve been lucky enough to speak at many of the LT conferences and the advantage of running an independent analyst firm is that we’ve always got plenty of research content to discuss. My aim this year was to experiment a little and to put the audience more central to the focus of the session content. Don Taylor was very supportive of the idea and hence the LT13headbang was born.

    We did originally think about using audience polling to select from pre-written questions, but in the end decided to let the audience define the agenda completely by using Twitter to submit the questions and then we’d pick them from a live tweet wall. There is obviously more risk in this as a) we need the audience to be engaged to actually ask questions, and b) we needed something to say on the questions they actually asked. In my view, neither was a significant risk and I thought the format could work. We are constantly being asked for an inside view professionally by our clients; no reason to thing we couldn’t do it with a live audience!

    Feedback has been really good – both for the session itself and also significantly for daring to break the mold and do things differently. In hindsight, I’d also insert a second table reflection/discussion slot, and probably try and cover even more questions, but overall pretty happy with the way it went.

    Hope to see more people innovate the way conference sessions work in future.

    Regards, DAVID

    • Hi David – thanks for your comment. It was great to see you and David experiment with your session, so well done! The conversation was very interesting and provided lots of insights into the challenges organisations currently face with learning technologies. I thought the session bridged the conference and exhibition well, as they are usually seen as miles apart in terms of the issues they discuss. Next stop an analyst roadshow – what do you think?

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