DevLearn 2014! Last month, during our local STC Southern Nevada Chapter meeting, I heard about the DevLearn 2014 Conference & Expo for the first time. But the best part? The Expo would be free! The following week, I learned that the event revolves around eLearning technologies and techniques, and the free Expo would take place on October 29 and 30 at the Bellagio, Las Vegas. So I registered!
What does eLearning have to do with technical communication or content strategy? More than I initially expected. As I browsed through the schedules for the three Expo stages — eLearning Tools, Emerging Tech, and Management Xchange — I was amazed by the range of presentations covering interactive video, responsive design, experience design, mobile learning, and social learning. Wow!
Hi, my name is Jay, and I’m an IBM TRIRIGA information developer at IBM. Although my topic-based authoring tools at work are restricted to Arbortext Editor and Oxygen XML Author, my socio-mobile explorations — whether they are social-media articles, technology webinars, or trade conferences — still make DITA-XML look like a dying standard. What did I discover at DevLearn? Let’s take a peek.
What did I see at DevLearn?
To give you a taste of my eye-opening 2-day experience at the DevLearn 2014 Expo, here are 54 photos which stroll through the Bellagio from the Registration Desk to the Grand Ballroom, and wander through the 100+ Exhibitor Booths to each of the 3 Learning Stages. I soon realized the focus on employee orientation and onboarding, recruitment and retention, and learning and development.
What did I learn at DevLearn?
To give you a deeper sense of my thought-provoking experience at the DevLearn 2014 Expo, here are my observations from the 13 of 37 sessions that I attended at the 3 Learning Stages. Like I said about the online schedules, “I was amazed by the range of presentations covering interactive video, responsive design, experience design, mobile learning, and social learning.” I wasn’t disappointed.
Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014
 Although I arrived about halfway through this first presentation by Sealworks, I managed to pick up a few audio-compression tricks like converting from stereo to mono channels, and from 44.1 kHz to 22.05 kHz sample rates. My brief impression was that the presenter flew by too fast as if trying to pack as many slides per minute as possible. Luckily, you can grab his slides from his Slideshare page.
In this session, a comprehensive introduction to video and audio compression, you’ll learn the best delivery standards for optimizing content delivery to mobile and desktop devices; the session will provide an overview of everything you need to know about editing, preparing, and delivering the highest-quality video and audio to your audience. We’ll discuss techniques and interactivity that can be added, as well as the latest standards and how you can take advantage of open-source, free compression tools, as well as the latest applications for getting the smallest file sizes and the highest quality.
 This second presentation by Wisetail was quite an experience! The presenter expressed the idea of staging a theatrical training experience, like having your employees dress up in tuxedos and gowns in a James Bond-themed high-tech video-making challenge. I asked him, “Can a theatrical idea backfire or be too tacky?” He replied that if you know your audience, even a bacon theme can work!
The main driver of learning and development today is to deliver and track sufficient training to minimize company risk and ensure employees understand basic processes and procedures. It is a broken, antiquated way of thinking suited for delivery by dated legacy technology and results in minimally effective programs. In this session you will learn why emotional connections are valuable and how they are created. You will explore the parallel between how exceptional retail and hospitality companies grow by staging experiences to create emotional connections with customers, and how the same thinking, tactics, and tools can apply to learning and development.
 Responsive web design! After my recent posts on responsive web design (RWD) by IBM and WordPress, picking this third presentation by gomo was easy. But beyond RWD, their “multi-device e-learning authoring tool” is also a “collaborative, cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) tool”. For me, it’s like combining a cloud-based XML-authoring tool with the ease of WordPress and iMovie!
Tired of your legacy desktop authoring tool failing to create the beautiful multi-device learning your learners want and need? Looking for responsive and adaptive learning without blowing the budget? It’s time to meet gomo, your new authoring tool. In this session, gomo’s Mike Alcock will be running a live demo of its new authoring tool to show you how easy it is to create your own single-source content for desktops, smartphones, and tablets.
 Since the gomo session ended early, I was able to catch the tail end of this fourth presentation by IBM. Sadly, I didn’t catch enough to retain any meaningful tips. But after a few searches, I found that the IBM Smarter Workforce initiative is based on the IBM Kenexa solutions for talent management. Judging from their videos, the IBM Kenexa Talent Suite fits nicely with the IBM Connections Suite.
Find out how new social and video collaboration technologies from IBM can transform the way your people learn. Hear about best practices from customers like Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Boston Children’s Hospital, and learn how they are looking beyond the learning management system to a social, collaborative, better way of learning.
 Like many of the sessions, this fifth presentation by Grovo didn’t directly discuss its own solutions or services, but instead described the realities that today’s workers are facing. One finding that stood out was the “skills half-life of just 2.5 years”. In other words, according to a recent Deloitte study, it only takes 2.5 years for technological skills to fall to half their original value. Hence, the skills gap!
- Grovo: “How the Digital Skills Gap Is Killing Your Team’s Productivity—and What You Can Do About It”
As today’s workforce adopts new technologies, only one in 10 workers consider themselves proficient with the digital tools they use every day. Meanwhile, rapid technological change has led to a skills half-life of just 2.5 years, allowing even the most adept among us to fall quickly behind while the US economy picks up the nearly $1 trillion dollar check in lost productivity. By laying out a digital competency model made up of eight core skills, this presentation provides a tool kit for closing your organization’s skills gap so that you can catch up, keep up, and move ahead.
 Haagen-Dazs! Since my registration for the free Expo didn’t include any lunches, I depended solely on the afternoon snacks. But despite my ice-cream distraction during this sixth presentation by Brightwave, what caught my eye was how its tessello system brings together “total learning” — 70% workplace, 20% social, and 10% formal — through the Tin Can API or Experience API (xAPI). Nice!
Most online learning designed for today’s workforce has changed little over the last 10 years; it takes the form of a prepackaged course which the learner clicks through. So why, when so much has changed in the way we use technology and digital media, has so little changed in our approach to learning at work? This session provides a practical approach to overcoming this challenge and demonstrates how new learning technology that makes use of the xAPI (including, but not exclusively, Brightwave’s own learning system, tessello) is delivering more effective learning.
Thursday, 30 Oct 2014
 Just like on Wednesday, I arrived about halfway through the first session on Thursday. Fortunately, I managed to catch enough of this seventh presentation by Cognitive Advisors to notice their mobile-focused approach to the huge 90% portion of the 70:20:10 learning model that represents informal learning. Not surprisingly, their TREK solution competes in the same space as Brightwave’s tessello.
See how an organization used the TREK Learning Experience Manager to enable short, frequent, asynchronous, targeted coaching interactions—“nano-coaching—to support on-the-job learning. Learners used mobile devices to capture evidence of work along their learning path and submit it to their designated coaches. Coaches were notified and provided feedback that was sent back to the employees. The coaches were provided with performance support, including coaching guides, checklists, and success criteria. You’ll see the results of a pilot study of the effectiveness of the technology-supported nano-coaching process. You’ll also get guidelines for developing an effective nano-coaching program in your organization.
 Admittedly, after I realized the mobile-focused approach by Cognitive Advisors, the session no longer grabbed my attention. So I tried to catch the tail end of this eighth presentation by Sealworks. Like before, the same Sealworks presenter “flew by too fast”. I guess that’s his style. But one URL that looked fascinating was BrowserStack.com. Again, you can grab his slides from his Slideshare page.
This session will break down the key ingredients that will make your mobile app a learning success. You’ll learn design principles, from user interface to user experience, and how to get the best in class. You learn several ways to prototype apps prior to programming, from paper to interactive testing, and learn the techniques and tools that you can use to test your concept prior to programming. You’ll also look at the key types of apps and receive dozens of ideas to get you started and to apply when you’re back at your office.
 Interactive video! One of my favorite sessions was this ninth presentation by Lodestone. Despite a slow start, the flow grew more action-packed with video examples like Happy, the world’s first 24-hour music video, and Lifesaver, an interactive game-in-a-film. It was cool to see the different non-linear models like branch, branch-and-return, and branch-pause-and-branch-back. Finally Kahoot!
Video has long been respected as a great tool for training, but has often been dismissed due to costs. That is changing, and a dramatic drop in production costs and a wide array of YouTube-framework solutions has accelerated the role of video in corporate training. The challenge for eLearning developers is to move beyond traditional linear experiences and incorporate engaging interactions on top of traditional video. In this session you will explore how to use HTML5 interactive-video frameworks to add to your learners’ experience. You will review the planning process, including the available interaction types and how to leverage existing content delivery networks.
 This next host-and-panel session featuring PayChex and Caterpillar looked promising. In fact, it was being filmed. So I felt some tension from the camera crew. But after it ended, I was impressed enough to ask the panel, “Did your Xyleme strategy see a decline in print-based learning?” While Caterpillar’s responsive cloud content did, PayChex’s conservative nature is still slow to change.
Ten years ago, did you ever think that we would deliver an entire instructor-led course over the Internet? Five years ago, did you ever think that an ordinary worker would carry three Internet-connected devices to work? Every day, more learning organizations join the single-source movement. Can we create engaging learning content for desktop and mobile? Is reuse practical? Can our IDs make the shift to structured authoring? Will we really produce more, faster? Masters from Caterpillar, Paychex, and Xyleme come together in this highly interactive session. Any question is fair game.
 Because I wasn’t familiar with Adobe Captivate or Articulate Storyline, I figured I might enjoy something new from this eleventh presentation by Artisan. Although the session centered on the new features in Storyline 2, I was captivated by the endless array of text-editing features, animations, transitions, and other motion-editing settings. Forget PowerPoint — Storyline 2 felt more like iMovie!
Articulate has released Articulate Storyline 2, the first major upgrade to its award-winning rapid eLearning authoring tool. In this session, you’ll explore more than 20 new features and enhancements you’ll find in Articulate Storyline 2. You’ll see how many of the new features work and have the opportunity to ask your most burning questions.
 Like the gomo and Xyleme sessions before it, this twelfth presentation by Obsidian explored mobile learning and responsive design. In fact, since their demo didn’t look very responsive, a fellow attendee thanked me for asking them about it. Despite their focus on services, they invited me to join their mysterious Obsidian Black Beta Program for their upcoming product. I signed up, of course!
The use of mobile technologies for learning is on the rise. Learners want just-in-time training and performance support, and they want it on their mobile devices. But do your development tools let you meet your learners’ needs? In this session, we’ll look at trends in mobile learning, take a critical look at how current development tools fall short, and see how a new HTML5 tool fills the gaps in available tools.
 Finally, since the Obsidian session ended somewhat early, I was able to catch the tail end of this thirteenth presentation by BrightCarbon. I admit, after the presenter performed his last magic trick — creating a 3D-shaped-and-shaded golden key from scratch in PowerPoint in just 60 seconds — I applauded! So did everyone around me! Luckily, the same PowerPoint tricks might be on their site.
PowerPoint is the basis for much of the training material you use, and yet it’s text-heavy, dull, and boring. See how you can revolutionize your presentations and other training material using visuals, diagrams, and animated sequences, with some helpful how-to guides and a collection of awesome PowerPoint tricks, plus a free PowerPoint toolkit to kick-start your efforts for everyone that attends. Steps to take: 1. Attend this session. 2. Become a PowerPoint Legend.
What are my final thoughts?
When I chatted with my manager about my eye-opening DevLearn experience, she was curious to know what my top-three takeaways were. At the time, besides the overarching technological themes of cloud, social, and mobile, I couldn’t answer her with specific points because I hadn’t processed everything for my blog article yet, and there was so much to process. But now, I think I’m ready!
 My first top-three takeaway is the idea by Wisetail that we should “stage theatrical experiences” to create emotional connections, not only with our customers, but also with our employees. This idea actually ties back to a previous post where I touch upon the natural power of storytelling. In Kevin Spacey’s words, “The story is everything, which means that it’s our jobs to tell better stories.”
 My next top-three takeaway is the reality observed by Deloitte and reiterated by Grovo that “the rapid pace of technological change in the workplace is leading to a skills half-life of just 2.5 years”. If this half-life applies not only to technological skills but also to the technology itself, then since 2009, IDCMS Blue — the CMS behind IBM Knowledge Center — has fallen to 25% of its original potency!
 Finally, my third top-three takeaway is the approach by Brightwave that brings together “total learning” from all facets of the 70:20:10 model — 70% workplace, 20% social, and 10% formal — through the Tin Can API or Experience API (xAPI). It reminds me of how WordPress plugins can pull in content through the Twitter API, but it aims for a much broader cross-platform cross-device scale!
Earlier, I reflected how my explorations “make DITA-XML look like a dying standard”. My DevLearn experience continued that trend. Although eLearning tends to focus on employee development, its vibrant approaches to staging, accelerating, and capturing experiences should also be carried to technical writing. Instead of simply directing readers from A to B, why not entice them to learn C too?
Do I have an update?
Wow, 18 months after descending into the DevLearn Expo, I animated ideas in Adobe Captivate 9!
- Free Authoring Tools for eLearning (www.elearningindustry.com)
- Tin Can API & the Future of E-Learning (www.learnnovators.com)
- SCORM Shareable Content Objects (SCOs) (www.scormsoft.com)
- The Power of Storytelling in eLearning (www.learningsolutionsmag.com)
- The Ultimate List of Cloud-Based Authoring Tools (www.elearningindustry.com)
- Instructional Design Versus Technical Communication (www.idratherbewriting.com)
- The 70:20:10 L&D Model for a High-Performing Workforce (www.learnnovators.com)
- Celebrating the 10th DevLearn Conference & Expo (www.learningsolutionsmag.com)
- Five Tips: Are You Ready to Deploy Mobile Learning? (www.learningsolutionsmag.com)