New Ponies, Better Circus?
Reflections on Learning Technologies 2018

Ger Driesen

by Ger Driesen
15 February 2018

I’m not so fond of Winter (I prefer Spring), but the best part of Winter is the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition in London. Year after year, Don Taylor brings together a great lineup of speakers for the conference. The variety of topics covered across the five tracks is perfect; the international perspectives offered by the speakers and visitors have grown over the years. The exhibition also has a lot to offer. It not only provides a huge overview of providers and solutions, but also offers many, interesting free presentations. The show is now too big for the Olympia Conference Center and will proceed to ExCel next year.

Much more than just learning technologies

Although the name of the conference is Learning Technologies, that just covers a part of the program. Business alignment, social learning and organizational learning are also on the agenda. The free exhibition also provides a good impression of what “‘is hot or not” and exhibitors share interesting case studies of their projects with new and emerging clients.

Chatbots, AI, virtual reality: do new ponies make a better circus?

So, what were the main topics at LT18? Social technologies and social learning are “still going strong”. Virtual reality is growing fast and wass at the center of attention, both at the conference and at the exhibition. Many cool applications could be experienced through the growing number of demo facilities. Artificial Intelligence and chatbots are knocking on the door, promising big changes for L&D in the near future. However, in the end, the most concrete demos leave the strongest impressions. It’s easy to become enthusiastic, and that is just what the conference and exhibition should do. On second thoughts, you have to be aware of the ‘one-trick pony’ effect because that is what the nicest solutions often seem to be. Don’t get me wrong here: some are very good ponies with very useful ‘tricks’. Overall, the challenge will remain to ask ourselves if these ‘new ponies make a better circus’ back home.

The importance of learner experience design

Two people in particular inspired me with their observations related to this. The first is Sam Burrough (@burrough). He is a front runner when it comes to learner experience design and his observation was that the principles of learner experience design were part of many examples presented at the conference and exhibition. Not always mentioned as learner experience design, but Sam recognised many elements in the cases, stories and approaches he came across. For me, that is a positive conclusion because if learning professionals work with the learner experience in mind, they will indeed introduce relevant new ponies to create a better circus. (Here’s a post about designing with the learner in mind: If training is the solution, what’s the problem?) Also, here’s my session at Learning Technologies, Start with WHO: exploring the golden circle for learning design:

The 2-minute LT18 reflection tweet

I was also impressed by the recap of Kate Graham (@kategraham23) in her 2-minute video reflection tweet just after the conference. Kate tried to connect the dots of what she saw during the conference and suggested that it all drills down to the creation of a healthy learning and development ecosystem. The ecosystem is a great concept and approach to integrate new technologies and approaches and make them work together as integrated building blocks in a specific context. So, why not integrate the observations of Sam and Kate? Let’s start creating great learner experience ecosystems in 2018 and share the results at Learning Technologies 2019.

Let’s start creating great learner experience ecosystems in 2018 and share the results at Learning Technologies 2019.

PS – Since my face is already on the top of the page, here’s a picture of my colleagues at work at stand K10 at Learning Technologies.


Ger Driesen

Ger Driesen, Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring
Think of connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global L&D community and you’ve just created the perfect description of Ger Driesen. In his role as Learning Innovation Leader at aNewSpring he focuses on motivating and guiding professionals to build inspiring learning journeys. During his career he has had a variety of L&D roles, from consultant, trainer and facilitator, to L&D manager and entrepreneur. He’s also known as ‘the Dutch L&D trendcatcher’. Keep up with Ger on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Ger Driesen
Learning Innovation Leader