It’s day one in Atlanta. As a business we’ve been coming to ATD for a number of years (you might have seen Peter’s blogs from last year’s Denver date), but this is our first time as exhibitors. It doesn’t matter how many times people tell you that everything in the US is just on another scale when it comes to the size of these shows – you really have to see it to believe it.
This year is no exception. The conference is set to welcome between ten and twelve thousand visitors, many of whom will be here for the entire event – which in itself makes this particular meeting of the learning and talent development world quite different to its European cousins.
The Georgia World Congress centre is a veritable maze of session rooms, corridors and conference auditoriums, and with an event guide comprising a solid 270 ring-bound pages of breakouts, key note sessions and workshops, there really is something for everyone.
Having spent the weeks running up to the show perusing the floor plan, we know we’re amongst a host of familiar faces (9 hours from Heathrow to Atlanta has also brought several of us closer!) and it’s great to be amongst the buzz of what is undoubtedly one of the major dates in the international L&D calendar.
We’re here first and foremost to launch our brand new App offering – a sophisticated learning reinforcement tool offering a plethora of neat features and functions to help turn knowledge into behavioural change. The App – as you may well have seen if you’ve been following our marketing pieces recently – is called Minds-i.
As it transpired, the topic of learning reinforcement was high on the agenda for everyone at ATD. The level of interest and precise questioning from expo delegates affirmed that the industry as a whole has moved beyond the initial ‘rabbit-in-the-headlights’ response to mobile-based learning – and into a more mature and informed understanding of what opportunities new tech offers to their specific business needs.
The morning left us little time to explore – with a constant stream of visitors keen to unpick the potential benefits of Minds-i for their various organisations.
Having enjoyed such success (and borderline hysteria) at the Learning Technologies show back in February, we thought it only fitting to bring along some of our furry friends to offer as raffle prizes for the best QuizCom score…
Conference Session Highlights: ‘Learning Trends, Hype, Disruptors and Shifts in 2017’
At 3pm there was a mass exodus from the expo hall, as everyone headed upstairs seemingly all to join Elliot Masie’s session on learning trends for 2017.
I’m aware of Elliott Masie. Not that I’ve particularly made a point of delving in to what he does, but his name has cropped up here and there. He’s tall, apparently Jewish, and wearing the oddest combination of chinos, blue blazer, orange shirt and lime trainers – which I’m told is his thing.
“Wikipedia will tell you I helped invent eLearning”, he jokes, “but I don’t really think I did.”
He’s charismatic, but rehearsed. Undeniably he has a way with the audience that means his compulsion to overshare about his involvement with ‘Spongebob Squarepants the musical’ (amongst others) seems not to be news to anyone.
“I’m here to be a bit provocative”, he announces – telling us that besides learning, his two major passions are stage musicals, and breeding racehorses.
Soon enough the bravado gives way to what I assume has compelled an auditorium full of people to traipse up several floors from their already packed schedules to listen to a veteran of the industry expound yet more neatly packaged views on trends, disruption, and – of course – Millennials.
“The biggest mistake you can make in relation to learning changes, is to think that it’s just the technology that’s changing”, says Masie – “in the simplest terms, it not the tech that’s different, but the learners. And yet, ‘learners’ continue to be an elusive breed – a ‘them’, as opposed to an ‘us’, which when you think about it is crazy because we’re all leaners in one way or another.”
He makes a good point. Arguably, it’s an obvious one – you only have to be a marginally cynical citizen of the world these days to see that a lot of what is vehemently argued by these established figureheads of the industry is artfully packaged common sense.
His next trick is to make everyone get up and spend a precise 2 mins and 30 seconds discussing the way that learning has changed specifically for them in the last five years. All around me I can hear the buzzwords we’ve been volleying about all day – microlearning, bite-sized learning, video content. “Two minutes and thirty seconds is the average time an employee spends actually watching what you send them”, he tells us. “In fact, you decide within 18 seconds whether you’re in or out.”
Essentially, he’s talking about the growing demand for shorter video. And short, effective video content that is delivered in a mobile-native environment. True enough, we’ve spent a large portion of this year talking about microlearning; but arguably what Masie says goes beyond that. What he’s really talking about it the entitlement of interconnectivity and interoperability: our expectation that our various devices and operating systems ought to be able to work together seamlessly to deliver end-to-end learning experiences that tally with our ever-shrinking attention spans.
Elliott’s presenting style is charming but tangential – before you know it we’re on a rollercoaster ride through the deepest recesses of his professional (and personal) back-catalogue – sharing experiences of dinners held with the Gates’, and his views about the relative merits of established training tools.
“Today one thing is for sure – our learners want to be in an environments of curation, recommendation, optimisation”, he asserts. “The learning experience isn’t changing because of a new LMS, or any equivalent piece of revolutionary tech. The major disruption is people. Us.”
Elliott’s Top Takeaways
1. We must challenge our rituals. The age old adage of ‘we’ve always done it this way, we don’t need to change’ has to change, he says – and fast. This includes the way that businesses seek to calculate, express and measure ‘ROI’ from their training programmes.
“The worst people to give money to and expect it back from are those in the learning world”, he says. “Forget what you think you know; we’re not interested in ROI, we’re interested in impact.”
2. There are going to be more and different formats for learning
As Masie’s passion for all things production shines through, he tells us that as learning managers, we should be comfortable with taking lessons from TV shows. “You’ve got to produce a season,” he says. “Whether I did or did not start the ‘eLearning brand’, it sucks. eLearning has and always will seemingly stand for ‘electronic learning’ – a term we came up with in back the 1900s (he’s joking, of course, but you get the point.) But we need to start moving away from this. It’s no longer about a singular format – rather we need to start being able to adapt and embrace new learning formats and new technologies.
“For me personally,” he continues, “I’d put my money on the fact that the next big thing is the recommendation engine. Something with the power to tell you who your learners are, where they’ve been, what they respond to. And it’s more than likely that this kind of tech will come in through a talent system, rather than a traditional LMS or LCMS.
3. Prevalent Learning Technologies will soon be ‘Mixed’ and ‘Adaptive’
Following on from the point about tool diversity, Maisie tell us that the learning tools of the future will not be built by learning technologies companies, but rather by consumer companies (like Amazon). “Something’s gotta give”, he says; “Your employees have better tech at home than you do at work.”
He’s talking about industry cross-pollination again. It’s not surprising because it’s a factor we’ve long recognised as being a pivotal turning point in the identity and future success of eLearning: When are we (and our consumers) going to realise that the bar has already been set for us in terms of UX, video quality and calibre of content we’ve come to expect in our day to day lives? If I can watch my home cinema in 4K, or take photos on my ultra-high spec camera, why would I forgive anything less in my video experience at work?
4. We need to accept that a permanent state of Beta and minimum viable product model are not necessarily bad things
Elliott talks for a time about apps – and the point here is pretty simple: we often get wrapped up in the development, or delivery of a product, but is this really necessary? His argument is one for replacing the compulsion to perfect these new products with an acceptance that the product will always be evolving – hence a permanent kind of beta state. “Is it such a bad thing?”, he asks. “we need to get better at buying the things that will actually solve the problems we’re setting out to address – but we also need to accept that these things are constantly evolving”. Perhaps the minimum viable product model needn’t be seen as such a bad thing.
5. In the near future, most personalisation won’t be done by the system, but by the learner
Masie’s final point was pretty self-explanatory. He spent a lot of time talking about the user experience and intuitive nature of true ‘lifestyle apps’, such as those powering Alexa (Amazon), OK Google and others – and the way that the novelty and fast adoption here are often down to the ways in which data is cleverly used to personalise your experience. “What we need to ensure, is that when it comes to learning, the system doesn’t fight the learner”, he says. “A learning management system in future ought to manage the learning, not just report.”
His session concluded with a series of impassioned soundbites about the future: “What do I think is the future?” he asked. “We’ve never lived at a better moment; learning is really exciting – every day you are curiosity driven – curiosity driven to the point that on average we’re doing between one and 25 Google searches everyday looking for answers. I am spiritually and professionally and personally excited by this time we find ourselves in. Our role in learning is to live in that moment of curiosity.”
“We’re in the business of tapping in to people’s curiosity,” he says, “let’s not for a moment forget that because it’s a beautiful place to be.”
Check back tomorrow for more from ATD. Follow us at @unicorntraining of use the Twitter hashtag #ATD2017 for more live content straight from the show.
Although it still feels like 2017 has only just arrived, we’re very nearly into May, which means it’s time for our next Client Forum!
Thanks to a brand new structure (and a little help from a beautiful City venue) our Autumn Forum in October last year was by far our best to date, and we can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to since then.
As part of our commitment to great customer support, we believe it’s important to keep running these forums in order to give you the chance to hear about new products and services, industry trends and future developments first hand. With this in mind, the next Unicorn Client Forum will be held on Thursday 8th June, at the O2 Intercontinental Hotel, 1 Waterview Drive, London.
The Summer Forum will offer a range of sessions from our Senior Relationship Management Team, Product Managers, Executive Team, Clients and Special Guests (keynote). Following the launch of our Learning Ecosphere whitepaper at Learning Technologies back in February, we will continue to address themes of new technology, engagement and changing behaviours in corporate learning.
Throughout the day we will also be offering sessions on Cyber Awareness, GRC (including T&C, GDPR and MiFID II) and showcasing our brand new reinforcement app, Minds-i, following its official launch at ATD in Atlanta.
A full session breakdown and registration portal will be available this week and can be found by contacting your Unicorn Relationship Manager, or the Marketing Team.
**Please note that we will be starting this event late morning to allow you time to vote in the UK General Election. We will have a live feed throughout the day, and anyone concerned about timings can still register for a postal vote by following this link.**
After what can only be described as a fantastic Learning Technologies show this month, we’re also delighted to announce that Unicorn LMS has been ranked third in the world – and top overall for financial services for the third successive year. The news comes as Craig Weiss releases his latest Top 50 LMS Report for 2017.
The much-anticipated annual report analyses more than 1,000 LMSs from across world and looks at each system’s niche assets to rank the best of the best.
It’s been a big 12 months for Unicorn LMS, which has not only undergone a name change from SkillsServe but has also again upped the ante, particularly in terms of usability and mobile integration, as acknowledged by Weiss in unveiling his report.
“The name is changing from SkillsServe and the product stayed the same. Wait, scratch that, it has gotten way better,” he said.
“A new UI/UX makes a huge difference for this very strong system for compliance / regulatory (regardless of your vertical). If you are in financial services mind you, this is a system you should be looking at.”
The report also singles out the newest addition to Unicorn LMS’ compatible app suite, Minds-I, for special attention, with Weiss describing it as “by far the coolest thing I’ve seen this year”.
Minds-i harnesses the power of informal learning by enabling firms to take the best of the web and expertly curate content on topics of their choice to encourage the learner to explore. Learning becomes self-directed, user driven and personal while its just-in-time micro-bite content makes learning relevant in a real world context.
Unicorn LMS, which is set to get its official re-launch this April, first featured in the Top 50 LMSs Report top five in 2015 and has moved up a place each year since while holding on to the best financial services LMS throughout that time too.
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: We are honoured to have been ranked number one in the world for our sector for the third year in succession.
The improvement in our overall global ranking to a new high of #3 in 2017 reflects Unicorn’s commitment to continued investment in improving our LMS, to anticipate and meet the developing needs of our customers.
I would also like to congratulate the other LMS products in Craig’s top 3, Growth Engineering and eLogic, both of which are outstanding solutions in their chosen markets. It is particularly pleasing to see two UK companies in the top three!”
Yesterday we welcomed some 60 guests from across L&D, Training T&C and Compliance to the Oval for our 2016 Unicorn Spring Client Day.
But what particularly tasty morsels did we all leave to chew on? Here’s a quick look at 5 things we learned…
1) You don’t need to be Walt Disney to include animation in your learning
With an A3 pad, a few Sharpie markers, an iPhone recording on a two-second time lapse, a tripod and a fairly simple bit of editing software it was demonstrated how it was possible to bring a learning storyboard to life through simple hand drawn animation.
Animation can bring a different, often less polished and more ‘authentic’ feel, to a scene you’re trying to set, perhaps as an intro at the start of a learning programme or induction.
Using hand drawn imagery and limiting text to the use of a few key words, the pictures creates an instant, meaningful connection with the viewer and will linger much longer in the mind than being forced to read a 1,000 word flat text document explaining the same thing. Why PDF it when you can animate it instead? Your learners will thank you we’re sure 🙂
2) How many ‘mobile moments’ do you have in a day?
Apps were a big discussion point. There was a very apparent appetite to give learners ever increasing flexibility in taking ownership of their own learning and mobile technology was seen as the answer.
Fortunately we agree! This is why we’ve introduced our SkillsServe app in addition to the CPD app and the forthcoming Learning Lounge app.
Mike Hawkyard, Amuzo Games MD, explained how our day is now made up of mobile moments and that society’s behaviour in this country is now to pull your phone out of pocket for 2-3 mins at a time, all the time.
People tend not to sit there for 30 minutes using their phone so when your learner is sat on a train or bus faced with so much choice as to which app they are going to open how do you make sure it’s yours? Mobile learning app games, embedded with one core message, can be a very powerful solution.
3) The best learning games are when games are the learning
Everyone knows games and gamification are probably the the hottest issue in learning right now but understandably the fear of the unknown still remains, especially in the financial sector. You don’t want your learners playing car racing games all day when they should be working, do you?
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, showed examples of how game principles can really enhance engagement in learning but, critically, how you stop them tipping into the distraction zone.
Peter said one of the really important things about getting best out of games for learning is that the learning IS the game. The very best learning games have the game and learning the same thing. Using a matrix with ‘learning’ on the vertical axis and ‘engagement’ along the bottom he showed that where you get great learning and great engagement you get great learning games.
Have you read our ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ white paper? Download it here now.
4) Client feedback helps drive platform development
Ok it sounds all a bit fluffy but we genuinely couldn’t keep evolving SkillsServe in the way that keeps it at the forefront of learning and development delivery if you didn’t tell us what you think, good and bad.
As Mark Jones, Unicorn Commercial Director, highlighted as he ran through the ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s coming’ bits, many of the features that have been developed or are in development have come about because as a sector you’ve told us you want them.
You can read the full list at our live Client Day blog here – Unicorn Spring Client Day – but if we tell you graphical reporting and an MI dashboard, multi-language reports, diagnostic tools and a SkillsServe app are all recent additions, you can get the sense of the kind of stuff we’re talking about. Stuff that really makes a difference to your everyday working practices.
Don’t forget the SkillsServe blog where all the latest updates and roadmaps are posted – SkillsServe blog
5) The 21st Century still hasn’t arrived in some firms
We get super excited about all the cool ways new technologies can help us to deliver more effective, engaging learning experiences, but client day served as a timely reminder there is still a huge discrepancy in what some firms are able to deliver that others aren’t.
Whether it’s down mindsets, IT or a combination of both, while some firms can’t wait to bring the latest in learning technologies to their employees others have a reticence to step outside of the traditional. Despite the compelling evidence for the use of video in learning, for example, even getting that allowed is a battle some are still yet to win.
We know there are dedicated people in L&D, T&C and compliance working to educate and inform key individuals further up their company food chain as to what’s possible and how it can impact, but for many this remains a delicate, softly softly approach sometimes involving whole cultural change.
In the meantime we have to keep delivering what they need in the way they need it too.
Just when we had calmed down from discovering our SkillsServe learning and performance platform has been ranked as the World’s top LMS for financial services for the second year running, it was confirmed SkillsServe has also gone up a place in the 2016 rankings to FOURTH overall!
As he unveiled his prestigious, annual Top 50 LMSs Report 2016 last week, leading global eLearning analyst and consultant, Craig Weiss, said of SkillsServe: “Congrats to Unicorn Training #4 LMS 4 2016 – who knew a LMS geared towards Financial Services could be so modern & robust? Wait, you just did!”
Last year SkillsServe made the top five for the first time ever, but the same dedication to evolving the platform over the past 18 months, which saw it consolidate its position as the top platform for financial services, has also kept it ahead of the pack in the overall field too.
Over the past year Unicorn has launched its SkillsServe App, introduced powerful diagnostic tools, made major improvements to the platform design, including visual reporting, brand new catalogue and content management, activity ratings and feedback, and is rolling out multiple languages.
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: “We had hoped to see the work that has gone into maintaining SkillsServe’s position as the top LMS for financial services would be reflected in the overall findings too so we are obviously absolutely delighted to have seen SkillsServe move up another position to fourth overall.
“Learning Technologies 2016 last week reminded us just how much competition is out there, with more and more companies looking to capitalise on the rapid hand-in-hand growth of technology in education.
“But longevity, experience and trust are things that can’t be built overnight and we will not be resting on our laurels as we look to maintain our position at the forefront of LMS innovation and development over the next 12 months and beyond.”
At over 500 pgs, with 40+ carefully considered LMS profiles, featuring exclusive details and data, annual sales and Y2Y growth, plus lots, lots more, Weiss’ Top 50 LMS Report is considered the best authoritative and independent guide for global LMS vendors. Weiss himself was again recently voted the most influential person in the corporate eLearning sector.
Unicorn Training’s SkillsServe learning and performance platform has been ranked as the World’s top LMS for financial services for the second year running.
The news was revealed on Twitter today (Wednesday 27 January) by leading global eLearning analyst and consultant, Craig Weiss, ahead of the scheduled release of his prestigious, annual Top 50 LMSs Report 2016 next week (due 4 February).
SkillsServe first hit the top spot in 2015 and Unicorn’s dedication to evolving the platform over the past 18 months has seen it consolidate its position.
Over the past year Unicorn has launched its SkillsServe App, introduced powerful diagnostic tools, made major improvements to the platform design, including visual reporting, brand new catalogue and content management, activity ratings and feedback, and is rolling out multiple languages.
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: “Craig was again recently voted the most influential person in the corporate eLearning sector and he has a unique in-depth knowledge of the global LMS market and products. He is fiercely independent in his judgment, which is why his Top 50 report is so highly regarded in the industry.
“We are very proud to be ranked the Number One LMS for the financial sector for the second year running. We have an exciting roadmap of developments for 2016 as we do our best to retain the coveted top FS spot for the third successive year.”
Unicorn will be celebrating the release of the report at the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition at Olympia next week (3-4 February), where they will be on Stand P14 as well as hosting a games-themed coffee shop.
As well as discovering how Unicorn excels at mapping solutions to customer challenges, using a mix of platform, off-the-shelf, custom content and games, visitors will get the chance to review and chat about Unicorn and Amuzo’s new ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ White Paper too.
Mike Hawkyard, Amuzo MD, will also be providing his award-winning insight into building games for learning in two free talks at 12.30pm on both days as part of the exhibition’s extensive seminar programme.
Can’t wait until Learning Technologies? Download your copy of ‘The Future of Game-based Learning’ now!
For more information about Unicorn Training visit www.unicorntraining.com and to come and see us at Learning Technologies 2016 – register for free entry to the Learning Technologies and Learning and Skills 2016 exhibitions and seminars at www.learningtechnologies.co.uk
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, believes leading global eLearning analyst and consultant Craig Weiss “has a great record for spotting trends” as he reacted to Unicorn’s learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, being ranked fifth overall and number one for financial services in Weiss’ 2015 Top 50 Global LMSs Report.
The annual report is viewed as the best authoritative and independent guide for global LMS vendors.
A review of 645 systems was conducted and whittled down to the top 50 based on various factors and analysis including on features, design, vertical reach, support/service, future thinking approach and processes.
The report, published on Saturday (24 January), saw SkillsServe move up from number eight in the 2014 Mid-Year Rankings Report to number five overall, while holding its position as the top system globally for financial services.
Weiss identified four ‘What’s Hot’ trends for 2015 in the report around Mobile, Gamification, Predicative Analysis and Integrations.
Peter admits he was delighted to see how closely those trends reflect Unicorn’s own views and 2015 development roadmap.
He said: “When it comes to mobile and native Apps, on-off sync and xAPI, SkillsServe was one of the first LMSs to provide on/off sync when we launched the CPD App in 2013. As Craig reports, this has changed from a nice to have to a must have feature, and Unicorn will be launching our exciting new SkillsServe App this spring.
“What Craig refers to as Predicative Analysis and Adaptive Learning is a core feature of Unicorn solutions. From the hugely successful Gap Fill tool that met the RDR needs of over 80% of the UK financial advisors in 2012, to our competence and role-based content mapping and diagnostic tools, SkillsServe excels at providing personalised learning paths to optimise learning effectiveness.”
On the subject of gamification, Peter insisted that while it was a much misused term there is no doubt adapting game principles to learning is the hottest topic of 2015.
He continued: “We believe it’s possible to make even the most unpromising compliance learning engaging, and even fun, which is why we invested recently in chart-topping game studio, Amuzo, and why our friends at Growth Engineering, the gurus of platform gamification, are a worthy number one in Craig’s rankings.
“Meanwhile we are fully in agreement with Craig’s observations around integration. Increasingly the learning management platform is seen as only part of a wider learning and HR ecosystem, and the ability for users to have seamless single sign-on, and for systems to exchange data securely and reliably has never been greater.
“As the TinCan xAPI gathers momentum we will also see more demand for seamless data transfer between LMS and LRS, or of course, like SkillsServe, you can have your TinCan LRS integrated within the platform itself.”
SkillsServe celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, with version five of the platform being officially unveiled, alongside Unicorn’s new in-build authoring tool eCreator, at Learning Technologies over the next two days (28-29 January).
Visitors to Learning Technologies will be able to find Unicorn on Stand 95 and discover why SkillsServe is the preferred choice for compliance plus learn all about Unicorn’s innovative new in-build authoring tool, eCreator.
Unicorn’s latest training App will be unveiled next month after Unicorn partnered with digital publishers, YUDU, to create the ‘Unicornucopia’ App.
The App, downloadable onto any device (iOS, Android, Windows), is a sales support compendium of free videos, user guides, factsheets, blogs and client case studies, and is Unicorn’s first project with YUDU in the corporate training App space.
Unicornucopia will contain free guides to all Unicorn’s learning solutions, enabling prospective customers and existing clients to learn more about Unicorn’s award-winning learning and performance platform, SkillsServe, our bespoke and off the shelf eLearning, T&C monitoring, compliance training and much more.
Leaving meetings with reams of scribbled-on paper will be a thing of the past, as customers will be able to get the full interactive experience of Unicorn’s solution range whenever you need it. You will be notified when new content is released, all of which will be free.
Unicornucopia is set to be showcased for the first time at Unicorn’s next client day, on Tuesday 10 June at Kings Place, London.
Unicorn launched its first App – the CII My CPD App – earlier this year, to support CII adviser members in recording their Continuing Professional Development to meet the regulatory requirements of the FCA. It enables member to update their CPD status on the go the moment they have completed an activity.
Peter Phillips, Unicorn CEO, said: “Mobile is an integral part of all online learning development now.
“Whereas a few years ago mLearning was viewed as a standalone branch of eLearning, with technology and lifestyle evolving in the way they have, mobile learning is arguably the main way we all consume and digest information today; simply a part of a seamlessly inter-connected learning space.
“Apps are a key part of this evolution. The CII My CPD App has been very well received and this new YUDU App is the latest we have in the pipeline to provide more streamlined and accessible learning, resource and content opportunities for people wherever they are and whenever they need it.
“One of the beauties of the new App is you don’t need to be connected to the internet, whether wirelessly or by 3G or 4G, to access the content. Once it’s downloaded you can view and review content as many times as you like wherever you may be. This is another resource we hope will make our clients lives’ a bit easier.”
YUDU and Unicorn Apps take advantage of the Tin Can API, a brand new API specification for eLearning that enables a far broader range of data to be recorded than previously possible.
To get the full lowdown on YUDU and Unicorn’s new training App solution, click here