Google Hangout on E-Learning with Elliott Masie

I missed Donald Taylor’s hangout with Elliott Masie from 5 December 2014 in London but it’s all been recorded and it’s definitely worth a watch. Covers MOOCS, mobile learning, wearables, personalisation and more.

E-Learning Award Winners 2014

first for effortA great evening was had by all at the 2014 E-learning Awards Gala Dinner in London on 6th November. Sponge UK took the E-learning Development Company of the year award on their 10th anniversary which was really great to see. For all the other winners see E-Learning Age magazine (the award organisers). Entries for the 2015 awards open from February 2015. Now what project could I enter I wonder?

All the winners here: E-Learning Age list of winners 

Judging the E-Learning Awards 2014

e-learning awards

This year as vice-chair of the E-learning Network I thought it only natural to volunteer as a judge for the annual E-learning Awards organised by E-learning Age magazine. In 2012 I played an active role in two winning projects so I was keen to see behind the scenes and get an appreciation of what it’s like to be an award judge.

Having made it onto the judging panel at the beginning of August I was allocated two categories Best e-learning project: Private sector and also Best LMS Implementation. I was chair for the LMS category which means I was responsible for collating results and guiding discussions on the final short list.

There were a lot of entries this year, over 250 in all, with 20 entries in Category C (Best e-learning project – PrivateSector) and 12 entries in Category O (Best LMS implementation). Our initial task was to review each entry and award marks across a range of key attributes and then to use this marking scheme to arrive at our short list. Generally the submissions were excellent but there were large variations in how clearly the organisations described the work they had done. This lack of consistency made judging tricky but it is immensely rewarding and enlightening to see how people are using e-learning in all sorts of interesting ways.

Once we had arrived at our short lists we had to dig a little deeper and this is where the short listed companies presented their projects to us either at the two day face to face event at the Oval Conference Centre in London or alternatively online via Adobe Connect.

A key focus of the judging is an evaluation of effectiveness of the e-learning project. This is always tricky and traditionally L&D can sometimes be weak at measuring effectiveness beyond Kirkpatrick’s Level 1 (Reaction – the happy sheet). E-learning often benefits from a check of understanding via a multiple choice quiz so technically it makes to to Kirkpatrick’s Level 2 (Learning), but evaluating effectiveness at Level 3 (Behaviour) and Level 4 (Results) is much harder and many entrants struggled to find reliable evidence at these levels.

Following the presentations and some additional deliberating amongst the judges we selected three award winners (Gold, Silver and Bronze) from each category. Keeping these winners secret has been pretty easy for me (my mum thinks I should have worked for MI6 because I tell her so little) but on the evening of Thursday 6th November the results will be revealed to all at the awards dinner in London. I’m looking forward seeing the smiles on the winners faces and hope that those that missed out will also take comfort from the fact that simply making it onto the short list was an achievement in itself!

Interested in being a judge next year? Judging is open to all – the only qualification you need is to be passionate about e-learning! Now where is my dinner jacket?

Learning Technologies 2014

Learning-Technologies-2014 I just completed two very long days at Learning Technologies at London’s Olympia. I wasn’t at the conference but spent a couple of hours on both days on the Elearning Network’s stand in my capacity as ELN Vice-chair. I also did an Ignite session on ‘Teaching Sells’ where my tech failed me completely but I did manage to recover after losing a precious minute. The lesson – practice with the tech before you rely on the tech! I also joined in the fringe event in the Beaconfield Pub on the Wednesday evening. I’m a sucker for anything fringey or anti-establishment – must be the Celt in me!

The show seemed pretty busy and I had lots of good conversations on the ELN stand – primarily with those e-learning newbies struggling to make sense of the multitude of different approaches to learning online. I’ve been in e-learning a long time and have grown up with it all but anyone new to the scene can easily find themselves overwhelmed. Of course that’s where a group such as the ELN can help – guiding people through the various approaches, exploring the different tech solutions. My most used one-liner at the show was that ‘we are a self-help group for those just getting started in e-learning’. That seemed to strike a chord with most of the people I spoke with.

Some other show highlights in no particular order:

A new cloud based e-learning authoring tool from elearning 24/7 looked really user friendly. Had a great quick tour from Joe Jarlett (Tech Director) and looking forward to having a play myself (blog to follow). Sadly it doesn’t use responsive design principles so isn’t really mobile friendly but it will work just fine on tablets (I’m guessing it publishes to HTML5). Link: NimbleAuthor

Responsive Authoring Tools
This is an area of particular interest for me. I’m loosely involved in Adapt (the Kineo open source initiative) so am keen to see what approaches other companies are taking.

GoMo (Epic)
Epic have completely re-designed their GoMo tool and it now looks and works a lot better than Version 1 (M-Learning with GoMo). And to underline their commitment to the tool they have recruited Mike Alcock (of Atlantic Link fame) as GoMo MD. I’m on the Beta test programme so looking forward to having a play (blog to follow of course). Link: GoMo

Linestream (Line)
I watched a demo of this neat authoring environment where they made an app in 15 minutes (clearly they did some preps before they started in the best TV cookery tradition). Looking forward to comparing this with the GoMo tool. Link: Linestream

The Death of the LMS
One theme that seemed to weave its way around the show was the realisation finally that the LMS as we know it doesn’t really work for learners. I’ve always maintained that the LMS is designed primarily for managers not for learners. Little ‘L’ big ‘MS’ not big ‘L’ little ‘MS’. Toby Harris from Saffron started his talk on their Learning Experience Network with some interesting research from behavioural science and behavioural economics. The key point is that learners don’t learn in isolation and what they learn, or more importantly what they are motivated to learn, is shaped by the behaviour of others. A new manager will be more motivated to learn about a project management methodology if she sees that other managers have been doing the same thing. This of course is not how the world looks when you log-into an LMS as a learner. All you see if what you have been allocated to do by your manager or by HR. Other managers may also be doing the same stuff but you have no visibility of it – you are effectively learning in a silo of one. Anyway I don’t want to go too deep on this topic here but I am really keen to explore Saffron’s LEN which attempts to combine a socially mediated approach to learning with user generated content. Of course the death of the LMS may also result in the death of the conventional e-learning module, and even the instructional designer! Toby is clearly in the  Jeff Bezos camp in that to be really innovative you should  try and kill your existing business model!

Sponge Cake and Champagne
Sponge celebrated their 10th birthday with a sponge cake (naturally) and some champagne (happily). Julie Dirksen of ‘Design for How People Learn’ fame was the guest cake cutter.


Julie Dirksen cutting Sponge cake!

Julie Dirksen
Had a nice chat with Julie while drinking champagne and eating sponge cake. She is considering a refresh of ‘Design for how People Learn’ but there is also the tantalising possibility of a second book on learning and behaviour change. You heard it here first (probably).

Interactive Learning Maps
One interesting new content authoring tool that I came across was Learning Map from Edynco (from wonderful Slovenia). This tool allows you to create a learning resource using a kind of mind mapping approach. It supports text, images, links, audio, video and even includes a question and feedback engine. It facilitates a much more exploratory approach to learning and is a refreshing change from ‘click or scroll to see the next  bit of content’. Link: Learning Map

The LT14 Fringe 
Martin Cousins organised the friendly intimate fringe event in the Beaconsfield Pub behind Olympia. A number of ‘conversation starters’ moved around tables stimulating conversation around different topics while we all drank free beer. Not a bad format for a Wednesday evening. My fave session was with David Kelly from Elearning Guild in the US where we talked wearable tech and all tried his Google Glass glasses.


Me wearing Google Glass at the Fringe event in the pub.

I contributed an Ignite talk on ‘Teaching Sells!’ I also enjoyed Dipesh Mistry’s’ talk on ‘The Value of Paper’. Videos to be uploaded soon!

Overall a great show and a real buzz for the future of learning technologies!

TEDx Exeter, 12 April 2013


Earlier this month I attended a TEDx for the first time at the University of Exeter. I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t the speakers – they were inspirational in all sorts of ways – but the format. First of all the theatre venue was quite depressing – dark with the audience in full auditorium style. Great for packing people in but poor for audience interaction. The lack of natural light was also a problem. Ideas are much better shared under sustainable natural light. It seems that most TED events happen in the dark – maybe it’s to do with the fact that everything is videoed for putting on the web. Each speaker speaks for 18 mins, they share some slides (it seems important that they stand in the red spot), the audience claps and if the talk is really good there is a standing ovation (we had a couple of those). There is no opportunity to ask the speakers any questions at the end and therein lies the big issue with the TEDx format – apart from the clapping there is no audience interaction all. Zilch. I left early. This is my audience interaction. To finish on a positive note I was inspired by:

  • Matt Harper’s poetry
  • Tom Crompton on the ‘The Conscience Economy’
  • Kirsty Schneeberger’s Question – ‘How old will you be in 2050?’
  • The TR14ers’ dancing
  • Keister Brewin’s celebration of pirates


Next year I might give TEDx a miss.

Update 23 April: Over the years I have attended hundreds of conferences and though in the main I have found them positive, sometimes I come away feeling that the real beneficiaries are the organisers and the sponsors (and even these stakeholders struggle to get value sometimes). For a conference to be successful it needs to balance the needs of many stakeholders and this is always a challenge. I’ve been contributing to a collaborative effort (based in the Westcountry) on re-designing the conference – “How do you design the Ultimate Conference Experience?”   I’ve also attended a couple of ‘Unconferences‘ based on Open Space technology. Clearly the Unconference is quite a radical disruptive approach and I can’t see many professional conference organisers going down this route any time soon but maybe it’s time to at least introduce some ‘ideas worth spreading’ into the conference format. I’ll leave the last word to TED.

TED isn’t a typical conference. The TED audience has high expectations of the speakers; the TED speaker team works with speakers well in advance of the conference to help shape a presentation that will succeed on the TED stage. TED is the place to give the talk of your life.

BETT Show 2013

BETT 2013Well I made it to BETT this year by staying over in London after Learning Technologies. I had hopes that the new Learning at Work specialist conference thread would be useful but on the day I was there it was poorly attended and both sessions that I went to had little to do with learning technologies. The whole thing felt like a last minute add-on to try and attract some corporate L&D people. It’s a pity I missed Day 1 because both Nick Shackleton-Jones and Steve Wheeler were speaking – I’m guessing they drew a bigger crowd!

The show itself was massive – probably four times the size of learning technologies but of course there are a lot of schools and colleges buying a lot of IT kit in the UK. The big hardware vendors were there including Apple, Dell, Acer and Samsung plus specialist PC education suppliers such as RM and Viglen. Microsoft and Google were also there promoting their education software and services.

As I’ve noted before BETT is about technology in the classroom. It’s main audience are teachers in primary and secondary schools. For this audience online learning is something that isn’t going to happen in their schools anytime soon. Having said that there were a number of VLE vendors but it most cases the VLE simply provides an extension of the classroom experience. Children can access homework tasks, do some research, complete a quiz while parents can monitor their child’s progress.

Moodle was on show by Webanywhere and the good guys at Synergy Learning but it’s used once again to extend the classroom rather than replace it.

There is of course lots of fun stuff at BETT – programmable Lego, cool physics experiments and all sorts of learning games designed to be used in a classroom environment. There are also stacks of interactive whiteboard vendors and people who make charging and security trolleys for iPads that can be rolled from class to class.

Is BETT changing? In the education market is the technology finally breaking out of the classroom? Only very slowly.

Learning at Work BETT 2013

Learning Technologies 2013


Learning Technologies is the main conference/show for the e-learning industry in the UK. This year it neatly overlapped with the educational technology show BETT so I managed to get to both of them over a couple of days in January.

Learning Technologies is both a conference and a trade show. I didn’t get to the conference this year but there is lots going on in the show to keep anyone busy for a full day. I actually presented one of the free show seminars with the team from Sponge – our subject was ‘Brain friendly e-learning’ and specifically what we can do in an e-learning course to help the brain retain more stuff. There’s another blog post on this soon.

If like me you missed the conference you can see the videos/presentations here: Learning Technologies 2013 Conference Videos and Presentations

This year there were six seminar theatres within the show and mostly they appeared pretty busy with seats full and others standing in the aisles.

I always use the show to catch-up on the various companies in the e-learning business. Learning Technologies is one of those shows that you simply have to be seen at so as you can expect all the major players were there, and usually in their hard won stand locations.

So was there anything new this year? Not much actually.

It seems that m-learning is being dropped as something separate to e-learning – the aim of the game now is multi-device compatibility. Kineo are promoting a responsive web design approach while others are sticking to more conventional layouts based of course on HTML5.

There were a few new e-learning design and development companies exhibiting so clearly DIY authoring hasn’t completely killed the market for custom development at £10k-£15k per fully interactive hour.

e-learning brothers

E-Learning Brothers at Learning Technologies 2013

As far as DIY tools are concerned Articulate had a bigger stand this year and the Articulate guru Tom Kuhlmann was there to sing the praises of Storyline and to give us little tasters of Studio 13. I actually saw a version of Engage 13 in action on Tom’s laptop so clearly we can’t be too far away from full beta testing. e-Learning Brothers were also there all the way from Utah promoting their bolt on templates, players, and other stuff for the most popular DIY authoring tools.

There was a new UK authoring tool called Bricklayer from Training Bricks. It’s entirely browser based and looks pretty powerful but the fact that it’s priced similarly to Storyline and not yet HTML5 capable is likely to mean that it will struggle to get a hold in the DIY market. A short video review coming soon.

On the platform front there was nothing significant but one new entrant in the market is LearnUpon from my home town of Dublin. Their LMS is aimed primarily at training companies and is priced very competitively for those looking for a starter LMS. Of particular value from a learning business perspective is the fact that it supports multiple portals so a training company can deliver a branded online learning experience to a number of different customers using the same LMS instance. You can get started with LearnUpon for $99 for up to 250 active users – that’s an attractive start point for a small training company who are just getting started with e-learning. Full review to follow.


Talking Brain Friendly Learning with the Sponge Team

For a quick video tour of the show see: Learning Technologies 2013 Show Tour


Learning Technologies 2013 Show Tour

World of Learning 2012

Redware M-Learing App Store

Redware App Store in the Technology Zone

I went along last week to a pretty uninspiring World of Learning show. I wasn’t at the conference but I did catch some of the seminars in the various show ‘theatres’.

World of Learning is normally heavily biased in favour of face-to-face training – but this year there was reasonable variety of learning technology solutions on offer. Not all of these are e-learning solutions, in fact the term e-learning wasn’t massively in evidence, but they do utilise technology in some way to support learning.

Not surprisingly quite a few vendors are pushing mobile learning (m-learning). I had a play with a few of these m-learning solutions in the technology zone a special area where you could play with the devices and software without the vendor trying to sell to you. It’s a cool idea actually – something that would work well at Learning Technologies.

In the technology zone I played with:

Seminar Learning Author
This is a template driven rapid authoring environment that publishes iPad friendly content. It’s pretty easy to use and is a good alternative to Articulate Studio if you feel more comfortable with a template driven approach. It’s not cheap though at £995.

Seminar Knowledge Centre
I really like this simple no frills LMS from Seminar Learning (an offshoot of Information Transfer – now Aceton). I’ve played with a demo before and it’s easy to set-up and use. It also works really well on a tablet device. I’m going to do a full review in a forthcoming blog.

Redware Learning App Store 
Redware appear to be the new kids on the m-learning block. I played with their mobile learning delivery platform which looked and worked just like Apple’s App store. It looked pretty cool but it was hard in the limited time I had to establish the full extent of their service/product offer. The web site isn’t much better I’m afraid and I couldn’t find a single screenshot of the tablet product. Nor any explainer videos which would really help. I did get a free bottle of tomato sauce however – now all I need is a bag of chips!

Absorb LMS
This is a Flash based LMS which I have demoed in the past. It looks good but Flash powering your LMS? I don’t think so.

Exscien Food Hygiene Game
This game is based on a 3D cartoon environment. It was fun to play for about 5 minutes but I would question the amount of learning that likely to take place. You can download the demo from Apple’s App Store – search for ‘KitchenMaster’.

Exscien KitchenMaster

Exscien KitchenMaster

It was good to see Moodle featured on at least three stands. Mind Click, CPD Online and Remote Learner.

Franklin Covey were giving away free Nexus 7s but only of you had a lucky barcode on one of their flyers (sadly I didn’t so I’m going to have to actually buy one at some point). It’s amazing how much mileage a company can get out of one piece of IP ( Covey’s original Seven Habits book) but more of that in a forthcoming blog.

I talked to quite a few of the conventional training companies – mainly to see what their position was on e-learning. Generally they still see it as poor solution that will hopefully go away. They are of course wrong. The problem many of them have is that their understanding of e-learning is poor. Typically they have seen a poorly designed page turner with a test at the end but they have little understanding of online learning beyond the 30 minute compliance driven e-learning module. Some see virtual classrooms and webinars as their route to online learning but their understanding of approaches beyond that is generally poor. I’m currently trying to work with the more enlightened ones – helping them to explore how online learning really can transform their learning offer, and more significantly, their business model too.

On the subject of new business models Martin Belton and Kate Graham from Ascot Communications ran a seminar on learning marketplaces (Udemy, Course Park, Udacity, etc.) and launched their own platform called  MyLearningWorx. I’m a big fan of these marketplaces – they enable course designers to create complete courses (mainly using video) and sell them online. Some of the underlying LMS technologies are really impressive with the emphasis firmly on ease of use both for the course designer and the learner. MyLearningWorx is currently in beta but I’m hoping to get onboard and give it a test drive.

See you at Learning Technologies in January!

BETT Introduces Workplace Learning

BETT 2013In January there are two big learning technology shows in the UK. One, Learning Technologies, is aimed at the commercial and public sector market while the other, BETT,  is aimed at the education market. I go along to both but Learning Technologies is the real e-learning show. BETT has always been about classroom technologies, not about online learning, but things might be changing. I was invited to attend some sessions aimed at corporate customers and I see that this year  there is a new zone dedicated to ‘Workplace Learning’. I’ve had a quick scan of the exhibitors and apart from a couple of Moodle implementors there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of online learning. I thought that with the rise of the MOOC and sites like Coursera and Udemy there might have been some new stuff happening at  BETT which challenged the belief that the classroom is ALWAYS best. Apparently not and that’s an opportunity missed in my e-book.

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