What I Learned at LSCon 2019

Every year after I attend the Learning Solutions Conference, I highlight what I learned from each session.

I had a great time at the eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando. I loved being able to meet people in person who I had previously only met online and reconnecting with folks from past conferences. It’s helpful for me to review my notes and highlight one or two things from each session that were useful or important.

Meeting and Reconnecting

I was so happy to finally get to meet Jac Hutchinson after knowing her through the Online Network of Independent Learning Professionals and being interviewed on her podcast. Thanks to Jac and her husband Matt for driving me back to the airport too. Jac introduced me to Josh Risser and several other people.

Group in front of the LSCon sign
Me, Cara North, Josh Risser, Jac Hutchinson, and Sean Hickey

Cara North is such a lovely person to speak with, and I’m so glad I got to spend time with her and Sean Hickey. Check out her video taken with her sneaky sunglasses. I had no idea I was being recorded.

I have been reading Ashley Chiasson’s blog for years, so I was excited to get to meet her as well.

Ashley Chiasson and me (and a cup of Earl Grey)

I met and chatted with so many other people as well, more than I can mention here (so I’m sorry if I didn’t name you!).

Keynote Speakers

Baratunde Thurston: Digital Storytelling

This was a very entertaining keynote, as you’d expect from a comedian and futurist. A long portion of this keynote was about a one-star Amazon toaster review. You’d think that would be boring, but he wrapped a whole story with drama around that review.

If he can engage a huge audience by talking about a toaster review, then we can make any boring content interesting. I am going to bring this up the next time someone tells me their compliance training is “too boring” for a story.

You can build a story around anything. But these help:
Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, Resolution
*Beginning, Middle, End*

Sarah Lewis: Creativity and the Gift of Failure

Sarah Lewis spoke about creativity and failure, telling multiple stories about people who were focused on mastery and not just success. To be innovative, you have to leave space to fail. You need an interior space to process. You also have to know when to give up on certain ideas and pivot to something else.

Success: Meeting one goal, caring about the arrival

Mastery: Meeting goal 10,001, caring about the reach

Aim for mastery not merely success

Sarah Prevette: Design Thinking in Learning and Work

Sarah Prevette was great when she was talking about things she knows, like design thinking, entrepreneurship, and brainstorming. I thought the crazy 8 technique for brainstorming would be very useful in a group.

When she switched gears to talking about education, I admit I mostly tuned her out. I don’t think we need yet another entrepreneur trying to revamp the K12 education system without bothering to ask any questions about research on what works. As best I can tell, she’s not even looking at what Bill Gates and other entrepreneurs have tried and failed. At least she was talking about bigger skills like problem solving and not just trying to make education direct workforce training.

Sessions Day 1

Connie Malamed: Visual Design Challenges and Solutions

One of the recurring themes of this morning buzz discussion was that sometimes we need to push back against marketing. We need to build a business case for what we’re doing visually if there’s a reason to go beyond the branding restrictions.

Panel: Where is Instructional Design Heading?

One of the things I’ve been still thinking about since being part of this panel is the role of AI. I think we’ll get assistance from AI long before we start losing entire roles to technology. I think we’ll have more Augmented Intelligence first, where AI helps us do our jobs better. This is a larger topic than I can address here; it needs its own blog post.

Panel on where instructional design is heading
Bianca Woods, Andrew McGuire, Sarah Mercier, me, and Megan Torrance

Jean Marrapodi and Jason Kramer: Headache-Saving Process Shortcuts

I want to check out the Teamwork Projects tool they demonstrated as part of their process.

I should also be doing a better job of documenting a “development notebook” or similar guide to my naming conventions and dev notes. I’m fairly streamlined with templates for storyboards, but my processes for development could be better documented.

Michael Allen: How Do We Really Learn?

Many people think ID is common sense. A lot of things that make intuitive sense aren’t actually supported by research.

The skill of extracting rules is best learned through interleaved and varied practice. Expertise requires putting people in multiple new situations that we haven’t precisely prepared them for. Give them a situation to try, but give them support. This leads to expertise and confidence. You don’t get expertise just by watching people do things. Making mistakes and correcting them is effective for learning.

Michael Allen at the beginning of his presentation

Anthony Altieri: Using xAPI to Correlate Training Performance

We need smart data, not just big data. Think about what data you need, what data you’ll use. How will you use it? Who will use it? xAPI won’t magically make your data any better.

"Without data, you're just another person with an opinion." 

W. Edwards Deming

Sessions Day 2

Conrad Gottfredson: Learning at the 5 Moments of Need

I usually see embedded performance support discussed around software. I appreciated seeing how they do performance support for soft skills. They build a site that starts with a high level map of the workflow with major sections of the process. When they click part of the flow chart, it shows a detailed list of tasks with resources for each one. Within two clicks, people can get to a resource for any job task.

Guild Master Panel

It was fun to see so many Guild Masters all together, but it made for an unwieldy panel. It’s hard to sum this up since so many topics were addressed, but one recurring theme was trying to keep the focus on learning. We get dazzled by technology and buzzwords. In the end, it’s about what we want them to know and do, and how we’ll know if they do it.

Guild Master panel

Dawn Tedesco and Lindsey Atha: Creating a Successful Learning System

Dawn and I have known each other for several years through ONILP, and we first met two years ago at the Learning Solutions Conference. This was her first year presenting. I was familiar with some of the work she has been doing, but I hadn’t realized the scope of how they revamped their whole system of training.

Assembly Line Game
The assembly line game is part of the revamped training system.

My Session: Choosing Branching Scenarios

I was pleasantly surprised at how large my audience was for my session on Choosing Branching Scenarios When They Matter Most. Some people asked about the research supporting scenarios. I have written a little about storytelling research previously, but I’ll do a follow up post on it later.

Me presenting on alternatives to branching scenarios

Joe Ganci and Margie Meacham: Using Chatbots

They talked about chatbots for content curation. Chatbots don’t necessarily make finding content faster. Search is probably faster, but a chatbot may be a higher quality interaction. It gets users to think about what they really need. It also can give you different data on what users are looking for and what they like or don’t like.

I liked the idea of using a chatbot for a branching scenario. In fact, the first demo Joe provided was of a chatbot between a doctor and patient providing a brief intervention. I have a similar conversation as a branching scenario in my portfolio. It would be an interesting experiment to convert that from Captivate to a chatbot so learners had to type open responses.

Sessions Day 3

Cara North and Sean Hickey: Multiple Choice Mayhem

Cara and Sean had a fun intro with a game and leaderboard with a bunch of multiple choice questions demonstrating common mistakes. This was the game that won Demo Fest.

If you use a scenario for a question, make sure the question aligns to it. They prefer using 2nd person in a scenario because the learners don’t know what someone else will do in a situation. It’s also better to ask “What should you do?” than “What will you do?” That’s more likely to draw out the right answer. We know people often know the right action but do something else anyway.

I also want to look up Webb’s Depth of Knowledge and Hess’s content rigor matrix later.

Josh Risser: Stop Narrating Like a Robot

I don’t do much voice over myself, since I’d much prefer to pay a good voice over professional to do it. However, since I write a lot of voice over scripts, it’s helpful to see things from his perspective of having to read scripts.

One unexpected tip from this session was to improve the flow by adding transitions or other text, even though you’ll edit it out later. For example, just saying, “So Josh,” at the beginning of a paragraph makes you sound more like you’re explaining something than reading it. It’s counter-intuitive to record extra things and then snip them out later, but it absolutely worked.

Past Years

Congratulations for reading to the end of this enormous post! If you’re still looking for more, check out my notes from the past two years at the conference.

I posted additional photos on my Facebook page.

Thanks to David Kelly, Bianca Woods, Mark Britz, and all the folks at the eLearning Guild who made this conference such a valuable experience.

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