What I Learned at Learning Solutions 2014 – Bianca Woods

Earlier this month the annual Learning Solutions Conference and Expo took place in Orlando. We’re happy to welcome a member of the Guild Community, Bianca Woods from BMO Financial Group, as a guest writer for this TWIST post as she shares her takeaways from this year’s event.

Bianca Woods, Guest Writer

Bianca Woods, Guest Writer

Late March usually means two great things: the return of spring and the yearly Learning Solutions conference in Orlando, Florida. While spring seems to have given some of us up north a bit of a pass this year, Learning Solutions was fantastic as usual. Now that it’s been a few weeks, here are a few of my thoughts about what I learned while there.

I love that showing your work is becoming popular in L&D
I was surprised to find that my favorite session of the conference was a case study. Often I go to case studies and, while I learn a lot about the general thought process behind the project and the final project itself, I don’t end up finding out much about what I’m most curious about: the actual steps of the process the speakers used to develop the project. This session was different though. The presenters talked about their project timeline and then showed us many snippets of the unfinished project along the way. Getting to see how the project evolved and what it looked like before it was finished was immensely helpful in allowing me to grasp both what the project was and how I could learn from what they had done.

CaptureThis level of sharing our work, looking at the unfinished products as well as the mistakes that didn’t work out, obviously isn’t new. But I would say that we’re seeing this level of openness more and more as the concept of “share your work” takes hold in L&D. And, as far as I’m concerned, this is a big win for all of us.

There’s something for everyone
It’s not easy making a conference appeal to a broad audience. When you try to make something for everyone, often it becomes so watered down that no one gets what they want out of the experience. Learning Solutions, however, has managed to hit a sweet spot of offering a wide range of content while also ensuring that each segment of content is valuable.

This year I attended the conference with several co-workers. All of us had substantially different levels of experience and vastly different interests and yet, at the end of the conference, all of us felt like we’d gotten so much out of the experience. That’s not an easy feat to accomplish, but Learning Solutions managed to pull it off thanks to a wide range of well-curated topics and activities.

This conference will make sure you feel welcome
Conferences can be a rather intimidating experience when you’re on your own, going to one for the first time, or even more stressful, both. That’s why I’m routinely impressed with how much people at Learning Solutions do to make others feel included.

For instance, one of my co-workers came to the conference for the first time and, wouldn’t you know it, she arrived before the rest of us. She went to one of the conference mixers by herself and, when another attendee noticed she was new and alone, they went out of their way to walk her around the event and introduce her to the other attendees.

Between this and the conference docent program, she quickly felt at home. And that’s not something that’s easy to accomplish at most conferences.

Learning through games
CaptureWe talk a lot about learning by doing, which I think is part of the reason I enjoyed this year’s Game Crawl so much. Most of us learn board games not by diligently reading through rulebooks, but by having a friend show us the game and just trying it out ourselves. And that’s what this evening’s event was all about: groups of conference attendees happily trying to figure out a new game with the patient assistance of the eLearning Guild members who were running the event.

Did we all master our games right away? Definitely not. That said, despite the many good natured mistakes we all made while figuring out our respective games, I’d bet that more than a few of us can still remember the gist of the rules weeks later. I know I sure can.

Joy of touching base with friends
One of the best parts of Learning Solutions (actually, really any eLearning Guild conference) is touching base with friends. The Guild has strong ties to social media, which means many of the L&D people you chat with online will likely show up to a Guild conference or two. Also, and this is a sign of a great conference, people who have attended in the past often come back again. This makes Learning Solutions a delightful mix of meeting people IRL for the first time and catching up with the friends you met in previous years.

I’ll be honest, while I enjoy the keynotes, concurrent sessions, expo hall, and the like at Learning Solutions, there’s nothing I end up learning more from than these chats with fellow attendees.

Six words: Neil deGrasse Tyson keynote at DevLearn
This announcement happened on the last day of the conference and I may have made an audible gasp when it happened. Okay, I definitely made that audible gasp. How many days is it until DevLearn?

Wrapup
All and all, this year’s Learning Solutions was well worth attending. In particular, I’d consider it one of the best events to check out if this is your first L&D conference, you have a wide range of industry topics you’d like to know more about, and/or you’d prefer an experience that’s a bit less frenzied than the larger conferences out there.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the conference Bianca!  If you’re interested in being a guest blogger for TWIST in the future, please reach out to David Kelly for details.

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