Knowledge Hub

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.

I’ve joined the Knowledge Hub project – here’s why

Imagine a virtual place where people who work in the wider UK public sector could find and network with each other, collaborate and publish, share anything, create and join expert groups. A place where a public servant or health worker or councillor or local government officer or charity worker or trustee could find and connect with likeminded people, extend their professional and personal network and improve their own career prospects and build employability currency by sharing and showcasing their work with and to their peers. Imagine if they could create public or private groups, invite their colleagues into them and start some dialogue. What if it was a place where people could also manage their business network properly and turn it into a valuable professional asset. And maybe show off a little bit about the great work that they or their organisation have done along the way.

Imagine a virtual place where as I start to type a free text question, the environment recognises some of the key words and starts to suggest to me other people in the wider public sector that I may wish to connect with or direct my question to, or offers me relevant content that I can easily squirrel away into my own private space, or offers me a “better” version of the question I’m asking along with a well-considered answer.

Imagine a vibrant virtual place that I can access from anywhere in the world and in a matter of minutes scan through all the important professional news of the day in a way that’s context specific to me.

It’s not Facebook, although it works a bit like that. Facebook is for my family and friends. It isn’t LinkedIn – good for filing away my business contacts (and great for head hunters and recruitment consultants!) but I still haven’t worked out if that’s worth it for the amount of unwanted and annoying approaches I receive. It’s bigger and works across boundaries better than Yammer. It’s an expert network, not a social network. I use it to make my own job easier and to make my organisation and indeed the sector better informed and more efficient.

Best of all it’s free to use.

The good news is that most of what I’ve described above already exists and is available for anyone to access right now. It’s called Knowledge Hub and you can join here – you can do that right now and start connecting and collaborating immediately. Everyone is welcome and there’s only one important rule – no overt selling allowed!

I’m excited and pleased to announce that I’ve joined the Knowledge Hub team this week. I’ve been aware of and closely connected to the project from the very early days when it was a seed of an idea started by Steve Dale at the IDeA, way back in the day. I used to work with some of the team members at the IDeA in the early noughties. I’ve joined them again now because I believe that the time has come for us all to pull together more than ever and work to make the public sector better able to deliver high quality services to the people we all work for and represent. Others agree with me and have joined in as well. So far we’re proud to count Socitm, Improvement Service Scotland, the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (The Schools Network) and education research and knowhow sharing charity, Education Futures Collaboration, among our early clients.

My hope? Someone once said of me that if you cut me open, I would bleed UK local government so for me the ultimate outcome for Knowledge Hub is to build an environment and community that gives its members the opportunity to do something great for themselves and for the sector. I hope you’ll all help and support us. I’m in listening mode so I’d love to hear your views or observations in the comments below.

Digital Future Gazing – 10 predictions for 2013

Breakfast with bright young things in the Soho Hotel

Yesterday I attended the 4th annual Digital Trends forecast presentation from digital PR agencies 33 Digital & Hotwire in the achingly trendy Soho Hotel.  It’s a world I don’t often stray into – marketeers, PR people, social media agencies, brands, influencing – inhabited by bright young things and beautiful people.  So what was I doing there?  I went because Peter Sigrist, MD at 33 Digital is part of my Twittergang & I wanted to see him present and also because who isn’t interested in future gazing & horizon scanning – especially when someone else is putting up the skittles & inviting everyone else to knock them down.

As it turns out, the bright young things were also well informed, fun and sincere & the event was very enjoyable.  I considered what impact the 10 predictions may have on my own public sector world – and my musings on this are below.  You can access the report in it’s entirety here www.digitaltrendsreport.com – it also contains some very cool b & w photographs.

Peter wants to encourage lively debate about the forecasts so feel free to join in on Twitter.  Use #hw33trends

  1. Internal Social Networks – yep – I like this one.  We’ve been using Yammer for years at Learning Pool & we know many of our public sector customers are trying to get started with something similar.  Our experience has been that it helps our dispersed team keep track of each other & it savagely reduces internal email.  In bigger organisations it allows everyone to communicate with each other on a more level playing field and it lets senior teams understand their own organisations better.  The challenge next will be to see if internal social networks will foster new ways to achieve business objectives and even sales.  We’ll see.  For anyone starting out with an internal social network, make it easy for your team to use & be patient.  There’s bound to be a few mistakes along the way but everyone learns and your organisation becomes more resilient as a result.
  2. Data Porn – the age of the data geek is finally here, Big Data has arrived.  The PR agencies are excited about the release of the 2011 Census data in early 2013.  This time around the data will be there in a format where everyone can access it & slice & dice until the cows come home.  What does this mean for the UK public sector?  A recent Policy Exchange report estimates that fully capturing the big data opportunity to drive up efficiency and cut out waste in the UK public sector could be worth a total of between £16 billion and £33 billion
    a year.  What’s keeping you folks?  For anyone out there who’d like to know more about what Big Data is, there’s a new e-learning course in the Learning Pool catalogue that we developed with the Cabinet Office & explains Big Data for public sector beginners.
  3. Digital Health – in 2011 global healthcare costs totalled £3.8 trillion according to McKinsey & in the US costs were 20% of GDP.  This prediction is about government encouraging people to measure & monitor their own health data to ultimately help them to help themselves to become more healthy.  I think whether we like it or not this is definitely on the cards.  I heard Nick Seddon of think tank Reform talk about this idea at length at July’s CIPFA conference and given that he was previously at Circle Healthcare he probably has a good idea about the way things are moving.  On a more positive note, people these days want to take charge of their own health.  We’ve seen that in our own team during 2012 with a number of people finally kicking the cigarette habit & the proliferation of bicycle purchases.

    Peter Sigrist, MD of 33 Digital, revealing the first 5 predictions

  4. When businesses learned to be good – I like this one too & definitely agree that this is on an upward & escalating trajectory.  This topic even formed part of the CBI’s recent annual conference which included an entire panel session titled “Growing with Society – the need for new Business Models” led by Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman.  Modern businesses are becoming more transparent, more connected (and in a way where serendipity starts to play more of a role) and more community focused – both internally & externally.  For the public sector, I predict that the coming years will see a complete blurring between government, the private sector and the not for profit space as a new type of organisation emerges to deliver services to citizens.
  5. Smaller can be better – the rise of the niche social network and a move away from Facebook & Twitter.  This one is all about creating communities of interest where the measure is not the size of the community but the degree of engagement.  It’s what we’ve been doing for a few years at Learning Pool with our own specialist Learning & Development community and this is a fairly well developed idea within the public sector with many niche Communities of Practice available in recognised places like the LGA’s Knowledge Hub.  Peter talked about examples of “sub compact publishing” such as Bobbie Johnson’s “Matter” project – very interesting and described as – basically the opposite of all the received wisdom about online publishing — they only publish long pieces, they don’t publish very often, and they expect people to pay for content.
  6. Sentient World – this is where it starts to get a bit scary.  Social media gave interested parties the ability to listen to what we say; the sentient world will give them the ability to see what we’re doing.  Foursquare has launched a service for business this past week and one of their original co-founders is apparently working on a version of tweetdeck for Foursquare.  One for the public sector to sit back & think about I believe as we watch the early adopters.  Sometimes called the Internet of Things, to the layman it’s sensors & transmitters within inanimate objects connected via the internet – fridges that order more milk, shoes that can tell you how to get home, a lamp that when you switch it on in London lights your sister’s lamp in Co Tyrone so that she knows you’re at home, mirrors in shops that tell you more about the coat you’re trying on, thermostats that learn which rooms you don’t go into so they leave them colder.  I loved the story about the Fitbit & the leaderboard & this is something we will definitely be trying out in Learning Pool as the New Year kicks off.  Who can walk 1,000 miles first?  My bet is on Eddie Ryce.
  7. The Rise of Storytelling – every FTSE100 company now has a community management team.  Two years ago none of them did.  This is about using compelling stories with a beginning, a middle and an end to bring audiences to you, get them to stick around & ultimately to buy more stuff from you.  I see lots of examples of public sector organisations pushing out stories about the places they are in & the people they serve.
  8. The Un-Boxing of TV – yep – agree with this.  I can’t watch tv any more without Twitter banter running in parallel & everyone I know is the same.  Can’t think of a public sector application of this one as all that is televised is council meetings & I don’t think anyone watches them anyway.  Maybe use this medium & idea to push out campaigns about public health or to encourage more engagement in local democracy?  I have a horrific metric for you however – 70% of trending topics on Twitter are TV related 😦
  9. Selling’s from Mars, engaging’s from Venus – remember that you can only manage what you measure.  It’s easy to measure sales.  Engagement isn’t as easy to measure.  We had a good laugh about Twitter campaigns that have backfired & one that we discussed was the Waitrose campaign that asked people why they shop at Waitrose – cue hilarious results (Harrods is too far to go midweek, because I was once in the Holloway Rd branch & heard a dad say “put down that papaya Orlando”, Asda doesn’t stock peacock/unicorn feed, if you buy a full tank of helicopter fuel you get 10% off champagne and so on).  Rather than backfiring I think that campaign was a resounding success.  I think the public sector understands that if you want citizens to engage, you have to hold conversations on topics they are interested in but perhaps we don’t see enough of this happening.
  10. The User Experience of Social – this one is about thinking through the entire user experience that people have when they interact with us in more than one place.  In my opinion no-one does this right.  I’ve recently been accessing estate agent websites on my smartphone when I’m out & about & they are a curse – every last one of them.  This is about waking up to the fact that channels do not contain siloed audiences – the same people are using multi channels.  Everyone including the public sector needs to think a lot harder about UX from multiple devices & including more”helping hand services” that align service offerings & save time & energy for the user.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed yesterday’s event, even if I can’t extend the Soho Hotel breakfast to you.  I saw Jon Foster of Futuregov yesterday & we were debating whether or not local authorities really should start thinking more like brands.  We concluded that they probably should.  It’s certainly time for everyone to take better control of their conversations and interactions in a more holistic way.

As always, I look forward to your comments & your own predictions for Digital for 2013.