Held at the end of January in London’s Olympia and now in its 16th year, the Learning Technologies (LT) conference and exhibition has continued to grow, year on year, in terms of visitors to the exhibition and delegates to the accompanying conference. So, last year, to ‘leverage the LT brand’, the organisers, Ian Smout and Mark Penton, organised a one day Learning Technologies Summer Forum.


Unsurprisingly, it proved a success. So Ian and Mark repeated the formula this summer. The one day event, held in London’s Olympia on 17th June, attracted a new record for the summer event – of some 1,500 visitors. Surveying the milling crowds at this year’s event, Ian Smout commented that it’s likely that there’ll be a similar one-day LT event in the autumn next year as well as a summer forum – to further exploit the popularity of the LT brand.


This year’s 34-session conference – chaired by old favourites including the Learning and Performance Institute’s Donald H Taylor and Alan Bellinger – covered current hot topics including what you need to know in order to implement apps and video communications effectively; how to implement MOOCs and how to implement the 70:20:10 formula. There were case studies from around the world outlining the use of mobile and tablet learning, as well as some ‘futurology’ – exploring such things as how L&D should adapt to the changing technological landscape and the key issues in ‘modernising learning’.


Among the top give-aways on the exhibition stands was Reed Learning’s ‘The Little Book of Inspiration’. The book’s 1930s adventure book ‘retro’ design ably fits its stirring bon mots on the subject of inspiration from 13 learning technologies gurus. Clive Shepherd, Nigel Paine, Donald H Taylor, Harold Jarche, David Wilson and even Dr Jim Kirkpatrick contribute their thoughts but the most enlightening of all the contributions comes from the best-selling author and guest lecturer at Harvard Business School, Dr Paul Stoltz. He believes that not only are we inspired by other people but we’re most inspired by those people’s perseverance and elevating response to adversity; their energy – which springs from a deep conviction, a love and concern for others – and their example. He concludes: ‘Be that person, that leader, that enterprise that is at its best in the worst moments and you will inspire others to do, to be, the same’.


The other book that provoked much discussion among both delegates and exhibition visitors was ‘Open – how we’ll work, live and learn in the future’ by the learning futurist, David Price OBE (ISBN 9-781909- 979017). The author was on hand to discuss this book – and, on receipt of £10 per book – signed copies in the event’s reception area at 12.30pm.


Noticing that global corporations are going against centuries of accepted wisdom and giving away their prized intellectual property; universities are allowing anyone to take their courses for free, via MOOCs, and so on, David Price argues that a collection of ‘hactivists’, hobbyists, forum-users and maverick leaders are leading an unstoppable revolution. They’re sharing everything they know – and, thereby, turning knowledge into action in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago. Driven by technology and shaped by common values, going ‘open’ has transformed – and continues to transform – the way we live.


Going open is also confronting our formal institutions by turning conventional wisdom on its head, says Price. They’re now giving away what they used to sell. He goes on to state that ‘open’ is not only affecting how we’re choosing to live but that it’s going to be the difference between success and failure in the future.


Those at the LT Summer Forum who were more concerned by today’s needs and responsibilities, rather than contemplating the implications and consequences of tomorrow’s, could find vendors, such as Znanja (part of gtslearning) and NimbleAuthor (part of eLearning247) – who’re able to convert existing learning materials to e-learning formats. More conventional e-learning content providers, such as Brightwave, learningpool, Walkgrove, Saffron Interactive, CrossKnowledge, Acteon, Atticmedia, Upside Learning and the new Epic/LINE Communications hybrid were much in evidence.


Apparently, word in today’s exhibition aisles asserts that the Epic and LINE brands will be merged into a new composite brand from next month. This illustrates the continuing trend within the UK e-learning sector to consolidate ‘top end’ vendors and develop new brands, letting some of the best known ‘traditional’ brands fall silent.


This trend has not quite happened with another of the sector’s major names. In this case, Kineo has merely mutated to become City & Guilds Kineo. Its products and services were easily visible at the LT summer exhibition.


The systems side of e-learning life was represented at the exhibition by NetDimensions, Blackboard, Course-Source, Saba and Cornerstone OnDemand – while the sector’s professional organisations were represented by the Corporate e-Learning Consortium and the research and benchmarking body, Towards Maturity.