Learning & Innovation

Meet Toni Mills and Shianne MacDonald, two of CPKN’s Instructional Designers. They travelled to Toronto in July to attend the Canadian eLearning Conference and had a valuable networking and learning experience.

Sessions attended focused on:

  • Game thinking in L&D – using game elements, concepts, and techniques to improve learner engagement
  • Storytelling techniques in videos
  • Needs assessment and needs analysis – getting better at understanding needs and purpose to find the best solutions
  • Challenges in L&D
  • Scope planning in eLearning projects

Toni answered some questions about the conference for us below.

What was the biggest benefit to you in attending this conference?

It was reassuring to recognize approaches and challenges shared by others in Learning and Design (L&D), regardless of their sector, skills, or focus. It was also encouraging to see enthusiasm and optimism regarding what is happening in eLearning today and where it is headed.

Were there particular trends or changes in eLearning discussed that stand-out?

Learner-focused design recognizes that if learners are not actively engaged, learning outcomes are not likely to be met. This includes taking advantage of innovations in technology and access to provide learners with more options as to where and how they can learn.

Participants gained insight into finding solutions where existing practices overlap with newer concepts, such as game thinking and storytelling. As one presenter emphasized, “the same, but different” can offer more solutions, more opportunities, and more ways to reach learners.

What were common themes or discussions with the Instructional Designers at the Conference?

Discussions in almost every session our team attended at some point touched on the importance of communication and asking questions in order to effectively determine project needs—client expectations, learner goals, budget and timeline scope—to create the best solution.

This seems like a basic step, but it is obviously still enough of an issue to warrant discussions and entire conference sessions on the topic.

This does not mean just a cursory “needs analysis” that leans on what we routinely do or think we know. We need to challenge what we usually do and ask more questions to assess why the training is needed, the purpose of the training, the needs of the client, and the needs of learners. If we can get the full story and discover project parameters and constraints up front, then we can get creative in finding the best solution.

As well as at the advisory board and business development stages, needs assessment should also happen at the project kickoff stage, where those involved in the actual design and development of the project become involved. This includes subject matter expert, instructional designer, developer, and project manager – all of whom are ultimately responsible for ensuring the project meets scope and budget as well as the learning expectations of the client and the learners. Asking questions at kickoff and ensuring communication at every stage can raise flags where needed and help us push for efficiencies in the process.

What was the number one take-away you had from the Conference?

We can talk about new buzz words and ideas like microlearning, storytelling, interactive video, gamification, etc., but we need to keep needs assessment and analysis at the forefront in our process, so we don’t get sidetracked by the shiny distractions of new technology and industry trends.

Things may change, but we can’t let go of the basics. The challenge will be incorporating these things into our course development work.