What did we learn from Learning Technologies 2016?

The Learning Technologies conference and exhibition – held, at the beginning of February, in London’s Olympia – provided several useful insights into current and future learning technologies.
Among the key points from this year’s event are:

Gamification in eLearning is fast emerging as an effective technique for engaging learners. As such, it has already found a place in serious games (that is, those used to meet specific work-related learning outcomes). Gamification is used to create engaging and immersive learning experiences to meet varied training needs. These include on-boarding. Gamification is also being use to enhance professional skills, compliance, soft skills, and behavioral change programs. There are two key strands to gamification – and the ‘game-playing’ strand is being helped by advances in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. These advances, typified by Oculus Rift and similar tools, allow learners to feel they are inside a learning experience. These can now be allied to 3D printing technologies that allow users to construct their own tools to interact with the virtual world.

VR and AR
The many ‘AR-Ed and VR-Ed’ sessions at this year’s Learning Technologies event showed that, while these technologies may often be used purely for recreation via mobiles or tablets, the online learning field is increasingly moving towards more direct forms of AR. For example, in the field of AR, smart glasses allow for hands-free use – giving users overlays that can significantly enhance their productivity, or can be used for training and assessment. The future of these technologies appears to lie in the adoption of sensors used in conjunction with headsets (for example, Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR) to simulate ‘tactile and tangible’ interactions. These interactions can recreate physical friction and resistance and, therefore, can produce improved realism, immersion and learner engagement with the learning experience.

Learning Personalisation
Whether they like it or not, everyone is learning all of the time. This learning involves other people, tools, and resources. Many people – not just learning and development professionals – now want to track this learning, which can, and often does, occur outside the boundaries of formal learning. This tracking aims to identify patterns, behaviors and learning paths. These can be stored in a learning resource store (LRS) via xAPIs and, then, be made available to LMS and HR systems.

Interactive Video
Its proponents claim that interactive video (IV) increases learner attention, engagement, satisfaction and time spent watching a video, as well as learner recall of the video’s learning points. Much of the IV content in existence has been developed for marketing purposes but some pioneers are beginning to use it for learning. Indeed, a few companies are now enabling IV technology to work on mobile devices. With IV, all the interactivity and links to content are within the video itself – thus changing the focus of the learning from being within a program to being the program itself. In that case, however, it’s the quality and features of the video player that can make all the difference in producing positive learning outcomes.