Learnovation 2021 – the highlights!

Posted by Learnovate

Learnovation 2021 in three words: 

Mindset, Motivation, Inclusion

Learnovation 2021 in three quotes:

‘Communication is a line – collaboration is a network’

‘Spikes of emotion can make learning more meaningful and memorable’

‘From a safe place to a brave place’

The Learnovation Summit 2021 took place virtually over two days 12 & 13 October. This years’ theme  “The Future of Work and Learning” aligns with the focus of Learnovate over the next five years. We invited a wide range of industry experts to join us over the two days from as far away as Australia and USA. Day one focused on Talent & Skills – How does learning need to be redefined to attract the best talent and skills? Day two investigated Technology & Innovation – How will learning collaboration be supported with technology innovations? The Learnovation 2021 highlights have been outlined below and the videos of all talks will be available on request shortly. 

The idea of moving from a safe space to a brave space was discussed in the opening keynote on day one of Learnovation by Nigel Paine when he addressed some of the key challenges facing Learning and Development (L&D) professionals as they embrace the Future of Work and Learning.

During his talk, Nigel cited Etienne Wenger (the ‘guru’ of Communities of Practice) when discussing the fact that we are dealing more and more with uncertainty and working collaboratively with your peers is essential to successfully deal with the new challenges this presents. Indeed, Nigel (re-)defined learning in this new paradigm as “mutual engagement around uncertainty and not the transmission of certainty”.

Nigel also argued that organisations need to completely change their way of working and embrace a learning culture that fosters a growth mindset. As an example of how this could be done, he talked of how Microsoft has been transformed under CEO Satya Nadella into a company that one current employee described as a ‘cauldron of ideas’.

Indeed, the notion of learning as a journey of exploration into a brave new world was echoed in the day two keynote from Pam Hamilton on Supercharged Learning when she described how Diageo employees dressed up in space suits as part of a learning programme developed by her company Parrafin. As Pam explained, the aim was to foster a mindset amongst the learners that while they knew where they wanted to go, they didn’t necessarily know what they would find. Critically, this helped to create human connection – a key metric that Pam and her team now use to measure the impact of any learning programme they put together. The ‘Group of Learning Peers’ that this creates relates directly to Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice and the culture of collaboration referred to by Nigel Paine.

Pam also talked about how learning can be made more meaningful and memorable by the use of immersive technologies in which ‘spikes of emotion’ within the learning journey can help the learner embed the content more effectively. Pam calls this the ‘journey of emotion’ within the learning and she sees this as a way of addressing the raised expectation that people now have in terms of the learning experience.

Pam summed-up her approach to learning by saying that it should be considered like a never-ending campaign for hearts and minds that taps into the deep motivation within the learner. 

For his talk on ‘Student Motivation in Remote Learning’ Peter Gillis, one of Learnovate’s Senior Researchers, examined this very question of motivation particularly looking at the issue amongst third-level students. Peter focused specifically on what is termed amotivation: that is, not just a vague apathy but a set of negative beliefs that form the exact opposite of motivation. When it comes to the learner, these include things like their belief in their ability to complete the learning task or their inability to see a value in undertaking the learning task (here we can see the correlation between mindset and motivation). Peter has already taken the question beyond the initial research by conducting an experiment which used ‘nudges’ to tackle the problem of learner amotivation and the initial results have been very promising.

Motivation (and mindset) also peppered David Kerrigan’s talk on The Empowered Learner where he highlighted the importance of learner motivation when it comes to helping people become life-long learners. 

Two other Learnovate team members, Ilse White and Janet Benson called attention to the increasingly important role wellbeing is occupying in the workplace and how it will be a key element in the future of work. Again, this draws attention to the need for a ‘holistic’ approach to learning that takes account of wider issues facing the learner. In the course of the discussion, the question of how learning could help foster well-being was explored – particularly amongst employees in the corporate world. And research already carried out by Ilse shows that we can learn skills and habits to improve our well-being as well as helping to build much talked about 21st century skills such as resilience.

Ilse and Janet’s discussion was nicely complimented by Michelle Fogarty from Peptalk who spoke about “How Technology Supports Learner Well-Being”. In her talk, Michelle stressed that well-being was more than just fresh fruit and yoga – it is a wider, more complex concept composed of many elements such as the connections to the world around us and how we are led. In other words, all the things an employee needs to perform to the best of his or her ability. Michelle highlighted the real dangers of ignoring employee well-being citing an IBEC survey showing that 50% of employees would leave their job if they felt the company they were working for didn’t care enough about their well-being.

According to Michelle, technology can help improve well-being in a variety of ways, including by fostering communities of like-minded people who can support each other; by providing on-demand and in-the-flow well-being resources; or by providing ‘gamified’ challenges that incentivise the learner to change their behaviour. Again, motivation (specifically intrinsic motivation) came up as a crucial building block to better well-being. This involves facilitating as much as possible the behavioural changes people already want to bring about.

One of the Learnovation Fireside Chats saw an interesting discussion about the effective use of immersive technology (specifically VR) in hazardous work environments. Niall Campion of VRAI (who design and develop immersive learning experiences) highlighted how his company are now using real-time data capture to adapt the immersive learning experience. Capturing detailed data from the learner’s immersive experience also allows VRAI to calculate what they call a ‘Cognitive Load Score’ that can indicate, amongst other things, how stressed the learner was during the training.

Learnovate team member Bilal Ahmad talked about how the research shows that even low-fi immersive learning can be highly effective – provided the learning is correctly designed. Bilal also talked about a current Learnovate project in the area of Safety Critical Training for which the team have built a low-fidelity prototype that could be used in a variety of environments to deliver training and provide immediate feedback. The immersive technology employed by the Learnovate team to develop this prototype allows the learning content to be presented in a real-world context while also providing a more engaging user experience. At the same time, immersive technology has now matured to the point where it is affordable (at least in some form) for even the smallest organisation. If this is of interest to your organisation, we will be running a Link & Learn webinar to delve into this topic in more detail on 18 November, keep an eye on our website and socials for registration details. 

In the final keynote of the summit, the ever-engaging Bob Mosher spoke about Workflow Learning and highlighted that, in the modern world of work, delivering learning ‘in the flow’ without obliging employees to step away from their job was a key challenge that L&D professionals should be addressing.

A key theme running through the summit was the importance of considering L&D within the wider organisational ecosystem. Thus, fostering a learning culture doesn’t start and end with the learning resources but is inextricably linked to a range of other concepts including the values an organisation holds dear and what motivates employees to become life-long learners in order to achieve their full potential. Having a skilled workforce is no longer enough (was it ever?) – it now needs to be complimented by a set of values that fosters a sense of belonging and motivates employees to use their skills in the best possible way.

Another topic that ran through the two days was the growing gap between the skills required within the corporate world and the level of these skills amongst 3rd level graduates – be it digital skills, data skills or transversal skills. Indeed, Kathryn Cullen from Technology Ireland Digital SkillNet Ireland addressed this very question in her talk on Upskilling and Reskilling Multiple Talent Pools. She explained how, across a whole range of business sectors, digital transformation is driving the need for up-skilling (and even complete re-skilling) of employees. She spoke of how the pace of change is becoming both remarkable and frightening – for both organisations that find themselves without the skilled teams they require and also for employees who find themselves without the in-demand skills for their role. 

Once again, the Learnovation Summit offered the chance for people from all around the world who share a passion for L&D to come together and join the conversation about some of the key issues they are facing. 

So, whatever the L&D challenge your organisation is grappling with, why not talk to the Learnovate team and discover how we can help you successfully navigate your journey from ‘safe’ to ‘brave’.  

If you would like access to any of the recordings from the Learnovation talks please email us for details info@learnovatecentre.org