In that enduring Disney children’s classic, ‘Mary Poppins’, Julie Andrews – in the title role of the magical nanny – sings: ‘In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and ‘snap’ [click of fingers], the job’s a game…’


For its September conference (in London on 24th September), the eLN – a UK-based non-profit organisation run by the e-learning community for the e-learning community – seems to have taken Mary Poppins’ advice to heart.


Chaired by Rob Hubbard, of LearningAge Solutions, the eLN conference will take the format of a game. In particular, the event will investigate learning technologies in the broadest sense, identifying when each form of e-learning is likely to be effective, and learning from those who have successfully thought beyond the confines of the ‘course’. Speakers include Ben Betts, of Warwick Digital Lab; Graeme Duncan (Caspian Learning); Jane Hart (Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies); Patrick Fitzpatrick (PTK Learning), and Ed Stonestreet (Yoodoo). More details from


Comment: Once epitomised by the self-paced online ‘course’, e-learning now encompasses mobile learning, simulations, 3D learning environments, performance support systems, knowledge management, informal media, social learning and more.


Despite all this, learning is still generally seen as an extremely serious matter. So it is no wonder that, following the ’80-20’ rule, 20 per cent of people are motivated – or forced via their industry’s compliance regulations – to study 80 per cent of the learning materials available; only 20 per cent of e-learners complete the learning, only 20 per cent of what’s studied is ever applied, and other less-than-flattering statistics.


Along with Mary Poppins, the eLN has realised that a spoonful of sugar helps the (learning) medicine go down. Maybe, following the lessons of that film, it can find a way of inducing a banking crisis and produce cartoon-based environments which learners can explore in order to complete the ‘e-learning Mary Poppins experience’.


Wait a moment – these things now have a familiar ring of reality to them. So all that’s left is for the eLN to hold its fabled lunches on the ceiling and Mary Poppins’ magical influence over e-learning will be complete.