Sunday, 16 February 2014

Learning and Skills Exhibition 2014

I went to the Learning and Skills Exhibition at Olympia this year.  It is a popular event that's co-located with the Learning Technologies Exhibition and Conference and both days were very busy.

The exhibition is free to enter and there were a large number of seminars running in parallel across 10 open theatre areas.  These were being run by commerical training providers and although this meant that they included a certain amount of 'selling', by and large, I found the content well presented and a good way of taking the pulse about what's going on in the L&D market.  It was also a great networking event.  I bumped into a lot of people both on the stands and as attendees and had some interesting chats with old and new contacts.

The things that I saw which interested me were...

Social learning using user-generated video

Fuse Universal and Phones4U gave a lively presentation about the use of user-generated video to help develop sales effectiveness.  The video link that I've added does a good job in making the case for this type of social learning.  What I can't find online is the video that was shown at the conference,  produced by one of Phones4U's frontline sales people.   It was creative, full of energy and contained lots of context-specific content with sales tips and tricks.   

Online Coaching Development

The University of Cambridge's Institute of Contunuing Education (ICE) presented their online approach to coach development.  The title of the presentation was 'Can you really learn coaching skills online?'

Given that this was a presentation about their online learning programme, then the answer was 'yes' of course.  What really interested me was the analysis from research done with students about their levels of discomfort with self-disclosure in discussions.  The continuum was from: working 1:1 with another person face-to-face (most comfortable) through working in trios, groups of up to 5, groups of 6 or more to online (least comfortable); the results were just over 70% for 1:1 to about 20% for online working.

What impressed me was that the presenter acknowledged the virtue of workshop-based coach development but also pointed towards an alternative approach using online methods.  The course uses Skype to create a 'bubble' for paired coach/coachee practice with the facilitator also present providing verbal feedback, through the Skype channel, to the trainee coach.    The rest of the learning group/set could listen to the conversation through headphones and were invisible to the coaching pair.  They were able to add their written feedback about the coaching practice. 

The point in all of this is that if you want to develop coaching skills and you can get along to a traditional workshop then this approach has a lot going for it.  But not everybody can work this way and the online model demonstrated a compellling alternative that replicated the 1:1 'safe space' for self-disclosure using Skype and also encouraged good deep learning processes from those observing through the written feedback process; an additional benefit being to the trainee coach of a permanent and reviewable record of the feedback for continuing reflection and learning.  


Ignite is the name for a particular type of event that has been held in around 100 cities worldwide, organised by volunteers, at which participants speak about their ideas and personal or professional passions according to a specific format.  The tagline is '...enlighten us, but make it quick'.  Each speaker is allocated five minutes of presentation time and is accompanied by 20 presentation slides. During the presentations, each slide is displayed for 15 seconds and then automatically advanced.  To see examples follow these links Ignite Cardiff  Ignite Showreel

At the session I saw there were 6 speakers and the topics covered were: The best training event ever - NHS Couch to 5k programme, Skills@School, Life as a Digital Apprentice, Avoiding the Mariah Carey Syndrome, Being Your Best Self and The Baloney Detection Kit - Bertram Forer's Personality Test.

Reflections about format? Positives: lots of content in a short space of time, redundancy for the listener is minimised, encourages presenters to practice because the slides' advance is uncontrollable. Negatives - creates tension for the speaker  - I noticed that several of the presenters rushed and on many occasions were waiting for the next slide to advance; creates tension for the listener - I found myself paying a lot of attention to anticipating the next slide than necessarily concentrating on the speaker.

Overall, I thought that this was an interesting idea that has value as a learning process both for the presenter and the listener. 


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