Wednesday 7 August 2019

Canadian eLearning Conference 2019

Last month, I attended the Canadian eLearning Conference in Toronto, Ontario. It's been on my watch list for several years (from back when it was the EACH Conference), but I was finally able to make it this year.

Conferences can be definitely expensive, between the registration, travel, accommodations, and meals. That said, I love going, and here's why:

Seeing old friends again:
My hermitage is on a farm in a very rural part of Ontario. As a general rule, I don't see people. As far as I can tell, there are no other instructional designers, trainers, or eLearning developers remotely near me. Going to conferences is my chance to catch up with old friends. This time around, I got to catch up with Anthony Altieri, Bianca Baumann, Bianca Woods, Jac Hutchinson, and Tracey Parish.

Meeting old friends for the first time:
This is both a benefit of social media (which allows me to get to know people I haven't met in person) and of conferences (where I finally get to meet my online friends). At the Canadian eLearning Conference, I finally met Chris Benz, Chris Van Wingerden, Cindy Plunkett, Clint Clarkson, Connie Malamed, Dawn Mahoney, Linda Lor, and Mark Sheppard.

Meeting new people:
I'm not so great at this part, but it's great to meet new people. I met a number of completely new people (to me, I'm sure they've been around for years), including Anurandha Satish, Janet Knighton, Marcia Franklin (I'm embarrassed to admit I'd forgotten our prior meeting at DevLearn), Misty Kitzul, Pascale Swanson, Rowena Power, and Steve Blane. I guarantee you I've left out some great people, but that's no reflection on them. My memory is not that great.

The food:
In my limited experience, conference food is a bit of a mixed bag. One one occasion, there was a green orange in my lunch. In case you didn't know, the food at the Canadian eLearning conference is excellent. Things like pan seared halibut with mango salsa, boneless braised short ribs with pearl onion, a poutine bar, shawarma station, and build your own salad station. 
    The sessions, the ideas, the conversations
    The sheer number of conversations and volume of ideas cannot be summarized briefly. Instead, I'll share some of the ones that currently stand out in my mind at the moment.
    • During Clint Clarkson's pre-conference workshop ("What the Fun?!"): 
      • In a game, you always need to know where you are and how to move forward. So true in training as well. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten messages from confused learners who were stuck in a course and didn't know how to proceed.
      • You can use games (and more particularly people's behaviour in them) to identify people with key skills or habits. They can be a good way to uncover hidden talent or identify future leaders.
    • During Connie Malamed's keynote ("A Vision for the 21st Century Learning Professional"):
      • Don't worry about AI stealing jobs, look at how it can help ease the burden. The example she used was an algorithm which can scan x-rays for dozens of diseases, alleviating the burden caused by a shortage of radiologists (and freeing them up for more demanding analyses).
      • Watch for "points of friction". That is, times/places where things happen that frustrate people. For example, getting your morning coffee could involve points of friction such as having to find a parking spot or waiting in line. By being conscious of those points of friction, we can look for ways to eliminate them and delight the people we serve. Keeping with the coffee example, an app to place your order could eliminate both points of friction.
    • During Bianca Baumann's session ("Give your eLearning Design a Face Lift Now with UX/UI Principles"):
      • Remove all instances of "Click here to" from your courses. It should be obvious. For example, instead of "Click here to read the policy", label the button "Read the policy".
      • Use intuitive design. Two examples that came up were hamburger menus (just about everybody's seen those by now, so you shouldn't have to explain them) and vertical scrolling (who hasn't used a web page in the last few years?).
    • Recording a podcast episode with Clint Clarkson and riffing about ways that groups of IDs/developers can get together to share the burden of design/development for those courses we all have to make. 
    • Drinking cranberry juice from a Space Invaders glass and discussing book plans with Misty Kitzul.
    • Commiserating with Chris Van Wingerden about the "joys" of satellite internet.
    • Chatting with Steve Blane about QA testing for eLearning and the Darn Clever Design Collective.

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