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Learning Trends from Online Educa Berlin – or how SAP HANA could solve all learning challenges

I have just participated at Online Educa Berlin 2012, one of the the largest global conferences on technology supported learning & training for the Corporate, Education and Public Service Sectors and wanted to share some impressions and key trends from this conference.

Video – the new buzzword

Just like with many learning or IT conferences there is always a new buzzword or new kid on the block. Having worked in the training & development industry for quite some years I get used to these trends coming and going, and tend to not jump on the wagon straight away. Although, this year’s learning buzzword, video and how it can be utilized for educational purposes, is certainly not to be ignored – especially considering how powerful it can become when taken outside the traditional studio (or should I say outside the classroom?) walls as can be seen in the many great  learning video examples on Youtube. There were many presentations on this topic (including a very interesting key note speech presented by Michael Grisby, a well-known BBC documentary film maker) as well as many hands-on labs where production techniques and tricks were shared.

With hundreds of session to pick from I, however, tried to focus on the more business relevant sessions that covered best practices from other learnig organizations as well as emerging learning trends and how to best capitalize on them. Before I dig into these trends I wanted to refer to an interesting keynote from Sir Michael Barber from Pearson Education which describes some of the drastic changes taking or about to take place in the academic sector.

An avalanche in the academic sector

Sir Michael Barber uses the metaphor of an avalanche to describe the pending revolution in higher education – like in an avalanche many changes happen under the surface until they finally reach breaking point and cannot be stopped anymore. I am not sure if this is such a positive metaphor when talking about education , however, I think it does describe the underlying changes taking place in that sector very well. With the avalanche Barber essentially means that through the commoditization of education, universities are starting to lose control of their traditional domains. For instance, most prestigious universities have now made their curricula and courses available online on the internet and therefore directly compete amongst each other for the learners that can be based anywhere in the world.

One research quote from Barber struck me as being very alarming – only 10% of retained learning comes from the classroom, 20% coming from informal conversations and 70% from actual application. So whatever we hope to teach or learn in a classroom, learning in most cases will by default take place elsewhere! This thought left me somewhat troubled, thinking of the incredible amount of valuable content and courses we are all creating but with how little we may actually be reaching our learners!

But as Barber says, content is ubiquitous – when asking my native English-speaking seat neighbor what that means, she said she has not quite figured out the meaning of that word herself. Oh well, we live and learn!

Learning Personalization

If you look at the new types of learners emerging from such an education system one can clearly see the link to another learning trend that was debated in many sessions – learning personalization. With the abundance of content how can learning be easily findable and relevant to each and every learner in all kinds of situations? I thought this graphic captured that quite nicely:  


So whatever information and content we create, we have to make it all consumable and findable, otherwise we will lose our learners’ attention quickly (especially those learn outside the classroom).

The quantified self

Another emerging learning trend was that of the quantified self movement. I had to look twice at the session description ‘quantified’ what? But then I was pointed to this neat little youtube video which was produced as a result of a workshop from last year’s conference to describe future learning scenarios. In essence “the quantified self” learning scenario describes how in future learners will make learning decisions based on the rich data of their historic personal performance. But then it suddenly occurred to me – hang on a minute, we have just what you need: SAP HANA! But no one listened to me.. instead they were showing all kinds of fancy gadgets with which you can measure and track your body’s or brain functions. I think at that point my brain was in dear need of some coffee so as to return to normal functions.

UK Corporate Training  Benchmark Study 2012

Although there were many other very interesting sessions I attended, there certainly was some redundancy and unfortunately sometimes lack of presentation quality focus in the conference overall. However, one last presentation run by an organization called “Towards Maturity” was highly interesting and useful. Towards Maturity is a UK based organization that creates an annual benchmark study on the adoption of learning technologies in all types of approx. 550 national & international UK companies. The study is freely available for download at

towards maturity.jpg

The above shown benchmark slide caught me again as somewhat alarming – most organizations that were asked the question of ‘how they allocate budget resources to facilitate internal learning’ answered that in 2012 more than 25% of their budgets were spent on training delivery rather than tools that facilitate collaboration or informal learning.

This finding brought me back to planet earth very quickly as its message is very clear to me – no matter how bright we learning professionals may envision our learners’ future, the reality in organizations is still far from that.

I would like to finish with a quote that I caught in one of the presentations that sums up all these challenges quite well “Perfection is the enemy of good” (Voltaire).

Happy (informal) learning!


PS don’t forget to measure and quantify 🙂

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  • Thanks Arnie – yes it was indeed an excellent conference with some really innovative ideas. And as I am often told  – the secret of a good specialist is not knowing everything but knowing where to look to find it out so here it is 😉

    I also had the honor of participating in a very lively debate on the merits (and constraints) of diplomas and degrees in higher education in the face of massive youth unemployment in Europe The debate attracted a huge amount of audience feedback and was also great fun 😆 and some very active debate around how universities and colleges prepare youngsters for working life. The “opposition” had some very valid points around the way in which diplomas and degrees in their current form validate skills for later life. So yes – we did lose unfortunately – but it was a worthy battle that brought up many interesting points!