Future e-learning trends – my top 3 predictions – or Learning the Norwegian Way

Our fully engaged REN Norge Showday audience

Our fully engaged REN Norge Showday audience

Yesterday I joined the Research & Educational Network Norge e-learning Showday in Oslo to deliver a 30 minute talk on e-learning trends. The event was organised by Innovasjon Norge and hosted by DNB bank. Yes – a bank. But a bank unlike any other I’ve ever been in. It’s in the centre of Oslo and it’s a new banking headquarter housing over 4,000 employees who’ve been brought together under a single roof from 17 previous locations.

Even the crockery is cool in this Bank

Even the crockery is cool in this Bank

But wait – there’s more. In Norway citizens embrace their banks and they also seem to like their banking colleagues. Banks are seen as a positive part of the economy and they do useful things. The DNB HQ in Oslo feels more like a high end accelerator. One that’s been thoughtfully designed & then kitted out with gorgeous furniture and sculptures and artworks. A big bright café in the centre where employees and visitors congregate to chat and have coffee or lunch. Cool Scandinavian egg chairs, acres of blond wood and even hip but matter of fact Figgjo Flint crockery.

Millions of electric candles in a tiny dark mirrored room

Millions of electric candles in a tiny dark mirrored room

Some whimsy is provided in the form of a small mirrored room containing an installation from a Japanese artist. Our host, Trond Markussen, kindly closed Ollie Gardener & I in there & waited for us patiently outside. We stood in hushed anticipation in the darkness and oohed and aahed as thousands of electric candles lit up.

The conference was affordable to attend (about £100). It started at 8am and finished about 2.30pm (Norway has an early start culture with many people beginning their working day at 7am). The programme was a mix of keynotes from the sector, including mine, and 5 minute pitches from the 20 or so companies with exhibition stands in the room. Everything was completely relevant to the theme of the day and we finished up with a quick telephone vote from everyone in the room for their favourite pitch – no judges or elaborate application processes required. Our hosts announced the 3 winning companies and presented them each with a bottle of wine (a valued prize in Norway given the cost of alcohol!) The day managed to be both educational and commercial and the 180 attendees stayed in the same lecture theatre all day. No comings & goings. No-one left early or rushed off after they’d spoken. The exhibition stands were around the perimeter of the lecture theatre and we had lots and lots of short networking breaks. Everyone was chatting to each other and it was hard to tell who was buying and who was selling. People clearly enjoyed catching up and chatting with colleagues they don’t often see in real life – Norway’s a big and sparsely populated country (it’s roughly the same size as Italy but with a population smaller than Scotland). The big corporates (IKT Norway, Statoil, Evry) stopped by with the startups and SMEs and it all felt collaborative rather than competitive.

Passionate presenting from Ollie

Passionate presenting from Ollie

I was there with Ollie Gardener of Noddlepod, a social learning platform that I recently angel invested in. It’s like a Slack for learning communities. Another member of the Noddlepod team, Charles Jennings, was also in town. Charles was addressing a group of senior HR Managers about 70/20/10 in a different event two buildings away.

The loft in Oslo where we're holding Noddlepod's 3 Sept event

The loft in Oslo where we’re holding Noddlepod’s 3 Sept event

All of us will be back in Oslo in September because we’re hosting a free networking event that Charles will be speaking at on 3 September. You can register to attend via the link here

I talked about where I think e-learning is going next and my slides are shared below. I finished up with my top 3 predictions for learning over the near term – 24 months – any further out than that is too hard to predict in the EdTech space with the speed technology is moving at. Here they are for anyone that’s interested:

  1. A move from MOOCs to SPOOCs with some new and interesting business models emerging and learning & development teams shifting to become profit centres instead of cost centres;
  2. A dramatic increase in the use of wearables and the Internet of Things (smart watches, smart helmets, iBeacons to be everywhere – send away for your developer kits now!);
  3. Much more usage of mobile and social plus the rise of niche Communities of Practice (check out Learning Pool’s new open source authoring tool Adapt to create beautiful mobile ready content, take a look at Noddlepod if you’re a corporate university or business school, have another go with Knowledge Hub if you work in or around the UK public sector).
With the wonderful women who translated my rambling first from English to Norwegian and then to sign language - wow!

With the wonderful women who translated my rambling first from English to Norwegian and then to sign language – wow!

I nearly didn’t go on stage at all because the two very lovely women who were doing sign language interpretation of all the presentations on the day warned me that I’d better have prepared a well structured and clear talk…I kept them each in view in the corner of my right eye and as long as I could see their hands moving I knew I was doing ok.

Well earned pints for Ollie and Charles at the end of a productive day

Well earned pints for Ollie and Charles at the end of a productive day

So what else did I learn in my 2 days in Norway? Citizens truly have a real say in what happens in their country & democracy can actually work, breakfast is the finest and most lavish meal of the day, big Norwegian corporates do seem to genuinely care about corporate social responsibility and many of them see EdTech as a way to bring about real and fast change in the 3rd world by educating and upskilling children and young people, a pint will set you back about a tenner, public transport can work smoothly, airlines can provide free on board wifi if they choose to, Oslo is guarding its green belt fiercely by creating satellite towns linked to the capital by underground trains, being next to water breathing fresh air and seeing lots of trees is good for the soul, oh – and Ollie Gardener is lucky enough to have very cool parents …

Thanks to Trond Markussen of DNB and Lisbeth Smestad of Innovasjon Norge for inviting me to speak & for bringing together such a great bunch of people & projects for a day. Thanks also to those lovely people who responded to my Twitter call re their favourite future learning trends – Andrew Jacobs, Denise Hudson-Lawson, Megan Peppin, Mark Smitham, Julie Dodd, Matt Walton, Mary Loftus, Joyce Seitzinger and last but not least, Steve Wheeler. Thank you all.

If anyone has any comments to make about near term future predictions on learning trends or indeed about Norway then I’d be delighted to receive them so please do comment below.

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