Every year, The eLearning Guild hosts a conference that brings together thousands of the best and brightest from the eLearning industry: programmers, instructional designers, subject matter experts, vendors. You name it, they’re at DevLearn. This year’s conference was held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The conference is only three days. However, when you factor in the co-located event hosted by Adobe (the Adobe Learning Summit) and the DevLearn pre-conference workshops, it adds up to a full week of collaboration and innovation focused on eLearning design and development!
This year was the first year that our company attended the conference, including the Adobe Learning Summit, and we came back feeling energized and inspired by the creative juices that were flowing all around us. We presented at Adobe Learning Summit and were even accepted to compete in DevLearn’s Demo Fest (check out the project we submitted here) – not bad for our first trip!
All in all, the experience was fabulous, and we realize that many people probably couldn’t attend. So, we’ve compiled the five biggest lessons we learned at this year’s DevLearn conference.
Lesson One: Innovation is the name of the game
“Innovation in the Making” was the theme of the conference, after all. Everywhere we turned, people were focused on innovating. If there is one universal truth to technology, it’s that you must innovate or risk becoming obsolete, and eLearning is no exception.
Just think about the history of eLearning software. Not long ago, you would have had to know how to write code to create an eLearning module. Now, programs like Articulate Storyline and Adobe Captivate make eLearning accessible to anyone willing to learn the program. And not only can you create eLearning with these programs, you can create great eLearning. You can create responsive eLearning that will play on any mobile device. The eLearning field sure has come a long way in such a short amount of time.
Innovation can come in many shapes and sizes. The most obvious approach is to embrace new technology. Not only have the software programs made life easier, but also a slew of programs and apps exist that can supplement your eLearning programming. Apps like Slack make it easy to keep track of your team’s communications regarding certain projects. Even simple apps like Google docs can positively impact eLearning organizations (or any organization for that matter) by helping teams collaborate effectively.
Lesson Two: Don’t be afraid to fail
I was surprised to see failure as a key message in both keynote speakers. Failure often has a negative connotation. But as David Pogue and Adam Savage pointed out in their keynote addresses: Without taking risks and trying new things, you’ll never innovate. Sure, not everything you try will work, but you learn valuable lessons from those failures and, if all goes well, those failures will bring you one step closer to your next big success.
When we think back to our team’s very first eLearning module, we’re mortified. And that’s okay. Without that first module, we wouldn’t have created a second, or a third…and, man, have we come a long way since that first module. I am constantly impressed about how every module we produce evolves and becomes better and better.
Lesson Three: Engagement is key
Learner engagement is the universal struggle faced by developers of eLearning solutions. In a classroom, the facilitator or instructor can monitor participants’ mood or engagement, or the class’s pace, and make adjustments to support the best learning experience. Monitoring your learners’ engagement is hard to do in an eLearning environment. So what are some of the strategies we picked up on to increase learner engagement?
First up: gamification and badges. Everywhere we looked, there were courses or general sessions on the use of games and/or badges in eLearning. Games aren’t just for teenagers anymore. In fact, people of all ages and demographics enjoy games – and the eLearning industry plans to make that fact work to their advantage when it comes to learner engagement through:
- Game-like interactions; and
Another great solution for maintaining learner engagement is bite-sized learning. This concept recognizes that leaners have a short attention span when sitting in front of a screen. Bite-sized learning caters to the fact that learning is more effective when it can be administered right when learners need to know the topic. Organizations can distribute bite-sized learning to learners on an as-needed or just-in-time basis, and the modules are short enough that learners can commit to staying engaged for the duration of the module.
And, finally, the conference reiterated the importance of blended learning. When done effectively, this approach combines the best of both worlds: instructor-led training and eLearning. We saw case studies where organizations had incorporated eLearning very successfully into their instructor-led programs. For example, one organization had learners perform group case studies in a virtual environment. At another organization, instructors utilized online games like Jeopardy to pit one table against another in friendly competition.
Lesson Four: Be a Storyteller
As social creatures, humans have always learned and shared through stories. One way to make sure your eLearning is engaging? Tell a story, which invokes emotion and incentivizes learners to pay attention and remember the content you are presenting.
Storytelling was another theme that we saw echo throughout the duration of the conference. When people connect to the material, the module, or one another, their engagement and learning retention increases. Here at GAAP Dynamics, we’ve always known this sentiment to be true in the classroom — and it is an art we, as facilitators, have honed. We’ve learned that the classroom comes to life through sharing our past experiences and crazy-but-true stories with our learners. They connect with us on a personal level, which increases their engagement in the classroom. Now, the trick is to replicate that “magic” in a virtual environment.
Lesson Five: Inspiration is everywhere
We left DevLearn feeling inspired. We saw amazing eLearning modules, learned about great tools, and found that inspiration can be everywhere. So, where do we recommend starting your search for inspiration? The eLearning communities, of course!
The eLearning community – whether you are a Storyline user, a Captivate user, or user of some other authoring tool – is an incredibly open and sharing group of professionals. Articulate’s eLearning Heroes Community is a place where people post and share awesome examples of the work they’re doing in the eLearning world. In fact, many users share the actual source files, so you can download them and see exactly how they built the interaction, animation, etc. These source files can help you figure out how to make a cool idea like that work for you and your organization! Adobe Captivate has its own community too, although our favorite go-to spot is our gal Anita’s blog! So check out the communities, and get involved!
Another great spot to get inspired? Conferences like DevLearn. Not only did we learn great tips and tricks for eLearning, we also learned a lot that will help all facets of our organization. It’s always nice to see others present –to see what they’ve done with their PowerPoint files and their presentation style. We learned about how other companies overcame challenges we also face, like communication or project management.
One last place to look for inspiration – everywhere! A cool layout of a website might inspire you, a style of art, a piece of art, a magazine cover. Your organization can use tools such as Trello or even Pinterest to keep your inspiration organized by project, so when you’re ready, your inspirational images or ideas are waiting for you. Need to figure out a color palette for a project? Try Adobe Color. Keep your eyes open, and inspiration will find you.