Manchester eLearning Network Event: Musings


We’ve always been huge admirers of the events the eLearning Network manage to put on, and for the second year running we headed over to Manchester. This time the conference was angled around ‘What makes modern learning great?’, and it was well worth the trip!

Hannah Grennan from Belvista Studios kicked us off with some practical insights into her approach to instructional design. She took us through the creation of personas, something we advocate here at Candle Digital HQ. Personas can be a powerful tool to get beyond the ‘facts’ of your students and start to understand their hearts and minds. They can also help tease out the influences they have on them and the situations they find themselves in.

Quite rightly, a note of caution was raised. It’s key to avoid making assumptions when creating personas, and we couldn’t agree more. Impactful elearning needs to be relevant, contextual, accessible, and ultimately actionable, and making assumptions is the easiest way to reduce that potency.

Best way to avoid assumptions? Get in front of the course participants and ask (lots of) questions. This is something we try to do as much of as possible, but it was useful to get the reminder as this is oft forgotten!

We then got the opportunity to look at some award-winning elearning programmes, such as the counter-terrorism elearning from Highfield. We felt video was used especially well in Ashley Reddy’s example, particularly when grabbing the students attention at the start.

We were also treated to our first ever ‘unconference’, expertly guided by Rachel Burnham. We loved the open-nature format and it resulted in some really interesting conversations. Content, instructional design, SCORM, xAPI and learning design were all discussed across the different tables.

A pervading theme throughout many of the conversations seemed to be how much we can learn from the world of marketing. When thinking about how marketing agencies approach design, delivery, tracking and engagement there may be some useful lessons here for us. We’d welcome this – a move away from a technology focus and one more focussed towards the end user can only be a good thing. Elearning should drive change, whether that be behaviour, habit or skill set, and marketing’s ability to influence can support this.

Finally (and it’s nothing new), it was quite apparent there were many different definitions of what ‘elearning’ actually is. And that’s in a room full of elearning professionals! Hopefully we can all come to a common consensus of what this means sooner rather than later to help those on the outside looking in. But I suspect with the rise of even more ambiguous terms like ‘micro-learning’, we may be waiting a while!

(The annual ELN Conference takes place in London this November – see you there?)

Andy Jack

Andy Jack

Andy loves helping subject experts, authors, speakers, coaches and key persons of influence to monetise their expertise with online learning. When not on his laptop, he'll usually be found up a mountain!

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