In Austin, Texas, June 8 – 10, The eLearning Guild launched its latest conference, FocusOn Learning Conference & Expo. The new conference builds upon the five-year history of mLearnCon by adding video and performance support to mobile learning technology. mLearnCon was founded as a means of helping learning professionals understand how to use mobile devices to better support learning. Now, FocusOn Learning extends this concept—providing support for professional development—with video, the third leg of developing practice. In future years, FocusOn Learning will continue to present leading-edge content by adding new technologies as they emerge.

Figure 1: Scott Dadich, editor-in-chief at Wired, gives the opening keynote

Over 900 were in attendance as the opening keynote speaker, Wired’s editor-in-chief Scott Dadich (Figure 1), addressed three “stories” that his magazine constantly gathers information to support. One of these stories was electric vehicles, but of more immediate interest to many were the other two trends: the evolution of virtual reality (VR) technology, and the end of code and rise of artificial intelligence.

The virtual reality boom is here now, and it is already changing our lives. However, VR systems still impose a screen (an opaque one) between the viewer and reality. Technologies such as Oculus Rift get the attention today, but waiting in the wings are augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). AR is already finding uses in performance support, but the shocking development just now appearing is MR, where “the rectangles (the screens) go away” and we remember what happens as experiences, not as media. MR forces you to be present in the world, whereas flat screens take you out of the world. Because the experience looks real and feels real—it has “presence”—there is an additional feature: emotion. We already know that emotion and movement affect and enhance learning, recall, and transfer, so these developments are waiting to (quite literally) disrupt many traditional practices in training and education.

Dadich closed his talk by discussing the ways in which artificial intelligence and machine learning are progressing, to the point at which machines essentially program themselves and even the programmers who set these machines up don’t know how this works. As time goes on, machines will learn to do much of what we do; ideally this will make us better, but in the meantime we need to be helping designers and programmers to understand and deal with mindsets, more than with coding.

Networking, discussions, and dialogue were the norm

In addition to the keynotes, discussions of advancing technology were present throughout the conference—and even before the conference started, xAPI Camp was setting the tone and the pace for many (Figures 2 and 3). This trend was evident not only in the concurrent sessions, but also in the Expo Hall and all the way to the closing panel and the traditional closing selfie (Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 2: Intense discussions during xAPI Camp were echoed all week at FocusOn Learning 2016 in Austin

Figure 3: The xAPI Camp pre-conference workshop attracted people from many different backgrounds

Figure 4: The closing panel, moderated by David Kelly, featured four experts representing the focus areas of the program. Brenda Enders, Mark Lassoff, Bob Mosher, and Megan Torrance responded to a variety of questions from Kelly and from the audience (submitted in the conference app).

Figure 5: The traditional closing selfie, featuring some of the top app users in their stylish conference T-shirts

FocusOn Learning 2016 Guild Master

The eLearning Guild is a community of practice for those involved in eLearning and learning technologies. Our goal is to enable members to share their knowledge, expertise, and ideas with other members—and our success is dependent on members’ willingness to do so. The purpose of the Guild Master Award is to recognize those members who have consistently contributed to the community in terms of both quantity and quality of content—and thus helped make the community a vibrant center for learning. New Guild Masters are announced at all eLearning Guild events.

The newest Guild Master, Nick Floro (Figure 6), is the president of Sealworks Interactive Studios. Floro has over 23 years of experience developing eLearning solutions, applications, and web platforms. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to help them understand the technology and develop innovative solutions to help their teams and customer base. Floro has won several awards from Apple and Fortune 500 organizations for productions and services. He is passionate about how design and technology can enhance learning and loves to share his knowledge and experience to teach, inspire, and motivate participants.

Figure 6: Nick Floro (right), our latest Guild Master, with David Kelly

DemoFest winners

DemoFest, sponsored by Rapt Media, featured 34 presentations by individuals who developed outstanding eLearning and performance support examples. Eight presentations were recognized as the best in their category by those who attended the event.

Best Business Process Solution

“Mobile Student, Instructor, and Supervisor Support”

Duncan Welder IV, RISC

Debbie Richards, Creative Interactive Ideas

Best Alternative Solution

“Mobile Security in Operational Environments”

Chad Udell, Float Mobile Learning

Best Academic Solution

“Davis Advantage for Pathophysiology”

Nick Floro, Sealworks Interactive Studios

Best Blended Learning Solution

“Comcast’s Path to a Customer-centric Culture”

Emily Foote, ApprenNet

Best Sales Training Solution

“Interactive Video: Personalized Adaptive Learning Paths”

Chris Ladouceur, HapYak Interactive Video

Best Onboarding/Orientation Solution

“Customized Portal and Apps for Next-gen Workers”

Robert Gadd, OnPoint Digital

Grace Bishop, Harvey’s

Best of Show—Vendor

“Increasing Student Engagement in Business Education”

Brian Surette, Pearson

Grant Hansen, mLevel

Best of Show—Non-vendor

“Organizational Values Training with Interactive Videos”

Marlena Sanchez, Curbell Plastics

Marlena Sanchez demonstrates the correct way to accept your Best of Show award

Member benefits

If you are a member of The eLearning Guild, you have access to content from FocusOn Learning 2016. Handouts are already available online in the Conference Archive. Videos will be available in July on the Guild website.

Leading the way!

The eLearning Guild continues to bring the best to its events. We hope to see you November 16 ­– 18 in Las Vegas for DevLearn 2016 Conference & Expo, sparking the creativity that is shaping the future of learning! Will you be a superstar?