Conference round up – Releasing Potential: learning through people and technology’

by | Jun 19, 2009 | Articles

The British Institute for Learning and Development’s 2009 conference ‘Releasing Potential: learning through people and technology’, was held at the Open University in Milton Keynes on Thursday 11th of June and attracted a very wide range of delegates, mainly BILD members from public and private sectors, universities and training providers.

At a time when the economic climate has stimulated considerable debate about the future of learning and development, I found that many of the sessions created opportunity for personal reflection and challenge – Here are just some of my highlights from the day:

The Conservative’s perspective on lifelong learning.
John Hayes MP (Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning) gave an indication of the many changes a Conservative Government would implement in the public funded learning arena. Key themes that emerged included:

  • His strong belief that education changes lives, but that opportunity for some does not equal opportunity for all.
  • Everyone needs the opportunity to study but that we need to rethink the way that learning is provided – at a time, pace and place that meets individual needs.
  • We need to recognise changing lifestyles of individuals and different modes of learning
    widening participation requires flexibility, different entry and stopping off points and the ability to transfer credits between FE & HE.
  • We can’t just think in terms of accredited learning – individuals also need community based, impartial advice and guidance.
  • All institutions should learn from best practice (including that in the workplace) – we need to build on the best, expand and look and learn from those who led the way’

The role of technology in releasing potential

The ‘technology’ sessions brought the audience up to date with a current view of the implications of technology for L&D professionals.

 Clive Shepherd (eLearning Network) looked at 3 forces for change for L&D – new thinking (about the brain and the way we learn), new expectations (of learners – both young and not so young!) and new pressures (environmental, cost and business). He went onto consider the ways that new learning media can enable change.

There were some very interesting and practical case studies from:

Charles Jennings (Duntroon Consultancy) continued the theme of change for L&D when he looked at the contribution we can make to building workforce capability based on his experiences at Thomson Reuters. (You can hear Charles’s views in the Towards Maturity interview   or catch up with his blog).

Charles Elvin (Open University)  considered how to use the right technology to ensure learning effectiveness. For Charles , getting it right meant using the right technology within a tight budget and that simple technologies can be both effective and cost effective. He provided 2 examples of this in action – one that brought to life ancient Egyptian art ( in partnership with the British Museum) and one that provided product training for sales teams that used simple audio to reduce error rates on products and service codes and cut customer complaints over a 6 month period.

Jim Potts and Group Captain Phil Sagar (The Defence Academy) looking at 2 projects – one that was unsuccessful and one that learned quickly from other’s experience with significant results.  These sessions threw up several practical lessons that highlight it is NOT just about technology :

  • Don’t just identify risks, make sure steps are in place to militate against them!
  • Consider hidden resource requirements ( particularly subject matter expert time, money, skills, and experience).
  • Identify and address learner obstacles.
  • Use blends of learning to provide continuous development that will help minimise knowledge and skills fade & reinforce previous education.
  • Provide scenarios to contextualise knowledge and skill by rank and subject.
  • Cement wins within the organisation

Towards Maturity had the opportunity to present from our research findings that highlighted that the lessons learned from the defence academy lined up with our maturity model and were critical for all organisations looking to improve the results in the workplace  and deliver more for less.
The impact of Coaching.

The ‘people’ sessions focused on the impact of coaching. Sir John Whitmore’s thought provoking session ignited debate, and this was followed by two excellent training awarding winning organisations, Liz McCann (BBC) and Paul Sealy (Kier Group), who described how they have financially benefited from coaching programmes.  Professor David Clutterbuck completed the day with current research findings about coaching and mentoring and the vital role learning and development professional’s play in developing all talent during the recession.

Stepping up to the challenge

Peter Hawkins (Windmills ) delivered an interactive session with his creative activities helping us think about releasing our potential. He challenged the audience to consider how we balance work, learning, playing and giving so that we can look back on our lives and be confident that we have made the most of our opportunities.  Whilst his thought provoking session kick started the day , I found myself going back to his challenges throughout the conference. The current change that we are facing as L&D professionals is not something to be feared but an opportunity to personally grow and develop, to try approaches that we have not considered before and to act as a catalyst to look at what we can do to ensure that we look back on our own lives with no regrets.

What did the participants think about the event ?

Here are a few of their comments about the conference – ‘the quality of the speakers were top notch’, ‘the best conference I’ve been to in a long time’, ‘ everyone was informed, entertaining and well worth listening to’, ‘to get these high level speakers is confirmation that the BILD has pulling power’ and ‘BILD offers its members great value for money’.
Speaker slides and materials are available to BILD members via the Institute’s website www.thebild.org

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