We’re pleased to have guest contributor Debbie Richards, president of Creative Interactive Ideas aDebbieRichards_headshot_webnd an ATD Houston chapter board member, recapping the inaugural FocusOn Learning Conference! Her unique insights and viewpoint add a different dimension to this conference.

Debbie was named one of the most influential people in corporate eLearning for 2016. She serves as a consultant to corporations and organizations, and supports clients in the area of instructional technology.  She also works with organizations to design, develop and deliver technology-based adult learning programs with measurable impact. Passionate about working with and mentoring other learning professionals, Debbie is a past president of the ATD Houston chapter and a National Advisor for Chapters, ATD Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.  Connect with Debbie via Twitter – @cre8iveii.

FocusOn Learning

I love conferences!  It’s an opportunity to network, learn and share ideas with your peers. There are many to choose from – check the ATD website or eLearning Guild for general conferences. You can also check to see if your industry has a specific learning conference – for example, this week there’s a conference in Maryland for Life Sciences Trainers & Educators!  Some local ATD chapters (such as Houston) hold one day conferences as well.  Attending a conference for personal development is something that you can do for yourself – and to help your company and community!  Here’s a great article on how to get the most out of conferences – ‘Guild Tips: What We Do to Get the Most Out of Conferences.’

I recently attended and spoke at the inaugural eLearning Guild FocusOn Learning 2016 Conference & Expo last week in Austin Texas.  This conference targeted the trends and technologies that are changing our approaches to training. FocusOn Learning explored three topics that today’s learning professionals need to understand and incorporate into their work: the reliance on mobile as a primary technology to interact with content, the growing use of video as an interactive light for learning, and the continued interest in integrating performance support directly into organizational workflows.  The conference will be in San Diego next year – mark your calendar and try to attend!

A really good session at FocusOn Learning conference was the “cmi5: An Example Implementation of the New SCORM” session presented by Art Werkenthin, president of RISC. Art wrote an article about cmi5 in Learning Solutions magazine last year, ‘Experience API, cmi5, and Future SCORM.’ It was great to hear him discuss the release of the Quartz version of the cmi5 specification which is the first production release of cmi5, an xAPI protocol that is the “use case” for xAPI in learning management systems (LMSs).  Yes – it got a little “geeky” but Art provided a clean and concise definition of cmi5, why we (as learning developers) need to care about cmi5 plus he provided a sample with the step by step process of how it worked in the LMS.  Blew me away!  For more information on the cmi5 specification, check out the


fo16-best-business-processThe eLearning Guild includes DemoFest – a chance to explore mobile, video, and performance support technologies inaction and see a wide variety of solutions in which these technologies were used to address common challenges we all face.  I like wandering around the Fest and looking at the unique solutions that are presented.  This year, I got to be a part of the action along with Duncan Welder, RISC’s Director of Client Services.  Our entry – Mobile Student, Instructor, and Supervisor Support (RISC VTA mobile apps) –  was the winner in ‘Best Business Process Solution’ category!

Conference Expo

I loved the energy and compactness of the FocusOn Learning Expo.  It was small enough that I wasn’t overwhelmed with the number of exhibitors.  I was actually able to spend quality time visiting vendors. The Expo also includes learning stages – if you can’t afford the complete conference and/or you just want a taste of the event, you can get an Expo pass and still take in some presentations, discussions and demonstrations.  Companies that got my attention included Mzinga (interesting mobile video learning platform – TWIL – what I learned this week) and XanEdu (Nimble – assemble and deploy content via mobile apps.  Has back end tools for assessment and reporting).  Of course, I always support and visit our Houston vendors – RISC, Inc and Obsidian Learning! We even had a bit of excitement on the last day of the Expo — with 40 minutes remaining, the venue’s fire alarms sounded, prompting everyone to evacuate the premises. Fortunately, it’d been a false alarm, but it sure shook things up!

Pre-Conference Workshops

The FocusOn Learning conference included a number of preconference workshops which I did not attend (so many things, so little time!).  One of the workshops was an xAPI camp which showcased what’s possible with xAPI.  If you are thinking about that big “what’s next” for my organization, you need to know about xAPI.  The Experience API (xAPI), is an eLearning software specification that allows learning content and learning systems to speak to each other in a manner that records and tracks all types of learning experiences. Learning experiences are recorded in a Learning Record Store (LRS). It’s real and you will see curated examples from real-world applications of xAPI.  eLearning Guild is hosting another xAPI camp at its fall conference DevLearn on November 15th.  The day will be filled with case studies, problem solving, and networking. Mark your calendar and try to attend. Join the Connections Forum to keep abreast of the latest xAPI news and events!

More Session Reviews…

Now on to more session reviews.  Of course, keynote Scott Dadich, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine blew me away!  If you haven’t read Wired magazine – start with his article and video on the future of storytelling. I did a session called “Coaching SMEs to Produce Rock-star Videos” with David Curtis of Aramco (my SME).  We talked about techniques to get SMEs started with video production—including basic, practical tips for content development, production value, and timing.  You can access the presentation via SlideShare.

My favorite session was called “Site Level Learning at ExxonMobil”.  It wasn’t my first choice for the time slot. I had planned on attending another session – after listening for a few minutes, I eased my way out of the room.  Don’t ever be afraid to leave a session if it’s not what you expected!  The Site Level Learning session was next door (always have a backup session planned).  In the session, we explored 10 factors that led to the successful design of two large-scale mLearning projects at ExxonMobil. We also examined the practices that resulted in a successful mLearning user experience, from the choice of images to technology decisions to screen design. I loved that the speakers presented their justification for their best practices and as an added bonus, we were able to experience and try one of the projects ourselves!  You may try a sample project yourself on your mobile device.

For more information about the conference, check out David Kelly’s backchannel.

Access the up-to-date FocusOn Learning 2016 backchannel via Twitter hashtag: #FocusOnLearn

I hope to see you soon at a conference!

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