ATD TechKnowledge 2017

2017 ATD TechKnowledge Wrap Up

I just returned from 2017 ATD TechKnowledge. I really enjoy this conference because it focuses on learning and technology which are my two favorite aspects of my job. I’m going to hit the highlights of what I went to (but I probably write way too much anyway).


The Fallacy of “Impossible” Mick Ebeling from Not Impossible Labs

I really enjoyed Mick Ebeling’s talk about doing things that are impossible. The slogan at Not Impossible Labs is to change the world through technology and story. Not just any technology but technology for the sake of humanity. When we do things that we thought were impossible it opens up the gateway to doing more impossible things. When another person sees you doing the impossible, they also believe that they can do the impossible. It spreads. “Impossible” is a total fallacy.

He talked about doing good being good business for companies. It’s great branding. He’s not afraid to leverage this corporate self-interest to get things done. The company isn’t going to make change but the people inside it are. The responsibility lies in the people to make the change happen.

Visit his website, look into the Daniel Project. What an inspirational way to kick the conference off. We can all apply some of Mick Ebeling’s work to our daily lives.

Big Data and Leadership: Creating Meaningful Experiences with Analytics and Information – Rahaf Harfoush

Social Business Imperative (Adapting to the Constantly Connected Customer) – Clara Shih

Both speaker’s talks were similar in the fact that they talked about the availability of data. We are connected to our social media constantly by our phones. This constant connectivity produces a data trail that companies can use to become more efficient and automated. Technology is transforming every job in every company. In L&D we can use data to find out what our learners need.

The amount of information out there is overwhelming. A major shift that we must make in training is thinking that learning has a beginning and an endpoint. Our learners have information at their fingertips and are constantly learning. We all have access to a constant stream of information that never ends and our learning programs must adapt to this. People are getting information where and when they want it now. We aren’t directing it toward them anymore.

Big data allows companies to customize messages/experiences for customers. Hypercustomization in learning is coming because this is what our learners experience in their everyday lives. Content designed exactly for that individual. For example, systems or software that can sense when you need just in time training and perhaps push it out to the computer terminal that you’re working on.

Clara Shih’s defined social business imperatives for training and development.  I think it will be interesting to see how we handle her imperatives as a profession.

  • Community – how do we take advantage of community when people are going through learning together. How do we make them feel connected.
  • Continous – how do we make learning ongoing, personalized and delivering constant feedback.
  • Data-driiven – how do we really look at the analytics.
  • Integrated – align with business outcomes, channel perspectives and HR initiatives.


I think all of this information is great and the data produced will help us to find training solutions for our learners. However, it is my experience that typically training departments lag far behind when collecting data. These big ideas are great but I think we are a long way off from implementing them.

Hands-on Sessions:

I think it was great that ATD extended the TechKnowledge hands-on sessions to 2 hours and 15 minutes. Some topics fit well into this time block and some left me wanting more but I have resources to pursue them.

Reaching Every Device with Articulate 360

I was really excited to attend this session because I recently upgraded to Articulate 360 and have already built out a few things in Storyline 360. Plus it was exciting to meet Trina Rimmer who is a Community Manager for the Articulate Community. My hope for this session was to see Rise since I haven’t really played with it that much and maybe pick up a few Storyline 360 tricks. Unfortunately, I think this turned out to be every trainer’s nightmare due to technical difficulties. The software wan’t loaded on the machines in the room and it took a while for everyone to download. Then we couldn’t get out to the website that had sample files for us to work on in class. A few takeaways though:

  • The “hover” state is glitchy on mobile right now.
  • Articulate 360 for Mac is coming in 2017. I run it on my Mac through Bootcamp so this is exciting news.
  • Stock art is coming in a few weeks.


HTML5 Fundamentals

I’m taking the Code Academy HTML course and I thought this might be a good chance to ask some questions. I don’t know exactly what I expected to learn in a little more than 2 hours. The session was ok and the facilitator was fun. He also babysat John Mayer so that’s a plus.

Disrupt Session:


xAPI Showcase

To borrow a phrase from Cammy Bean, I’m an “accidental” LMS administrator. I wanted to learn more about xAPI and how it’s actually being used in the real world. Some highlights include:

  • SCORM tracks about 5 things in the LMS that we actually care about as IDs. I suppose if you know how to pull from the SQL server it’s more than 5 things. However, point taken xAPI can track more learning activities.
  • Every other organization in your company has better data than L&D does.
  • xAPI will let us see what links learners clicked on, what forms they filled out, how they interacted with each other, when learners were engaged or not.
  • xAPI produces realtime data so we can make adjustments on the fly to help learners get the information they need.



Gamification Elements to Use for eLearning

This session was a great review of learning games and the principles behind them. I think far too often the terminology is jumbled because it’s easy to add a few game mechanics to an activity but it doesn’t make the activity a game. I really liked a quote the facilitator shared with us from John Dewey, “To be playful and serious at the same time defines the ideal mental condition.” This is way too much information in bulleted format but typing this all out helps me to remember what I learned.

  • Games – collaborative or competitive activities played according to rules with a goal or win-state.
  • Simulations – operational models of real-world processes or system. Key characteristics and/or functions of the real-world are represented and manipulated.
  • Gamification – application of game-playing elements to another type of activity.


Implications for Instructional Design

  • Learner engagement through rewards, competition, being playful and having fun.
  • Practice opportunities embedded in the game. The leveling process (achievement) gives learners more difficult skills to practice as they progress through the game.
  • Games provide real-time feedback to learners where traditional training provides delayed feedback. Learners can make immediate changes to their performance.
  • Spaced repetition is the most powerful learning device there is. Games put the learner through similar scenarios while defining the learner’s skills.


Elements of games

  • Story – a narrative arc or a quest or hero’s journey.
  • Time – countdown clock or a series of events that are reliant on each other to complete the task.
  • Personalization – avatar selection, avatar customization, character naming, interactive conversation interfaces (e.g. You Don’t Know Jack).
  • Microinteractions – an environment that responds to the player’s actions. (SFX, Toggles, rollovers, easter eggs.


Things to consider

  • Game balancing – keep learners engaged while they are learning and developing.
  • Players will find ways to cheat – play testing will uncover some of this.
  • Test out or level up to recognize previous knowledge or or achievements at the company.
  • Typically don’t need to address top performers – need to address those in the middle.


Gamificaiton vs. Serious Games – What’s the Difference?

I never really thought about it but traditional instructional design pushes content to learners while game-based learning makes the learner go find the information. The speaker at this session said that we are no longer in the age of information but rather the age of instant gratification. People will pay to grow crops in Farmville for no reason other than to speed up the game play. We need to reflect our audience because the majority of people under the age of 34 consume their entertainment in video game format.

Best practices:

  • Play games across multiple genres and formats.
  • Learn game elements and mechanics.
  • Develop complex and detailed storylines with multiple endings.
  • Thank about the learning first and then the game.
  • Watch kids play games – see what drives them. Find out why they play and what drives them.
  • Implement mechanics, rewards, and measurement all in the design document.
  • Serious games are constantly evolving – you don’t just design them and you’re finished.
  • Use Agile and ADDIE when designing games – games are not straight line development they must be interesting and motivate people. Therefore games are best suited for iterative development.


From Immersion to Presence: How Virtual Reality is Disrupting Learning

This was another session that had some technical difficulties. It’s strange to me that a technology conference had so many technology issues.  Virtual Reality (VR) is nothing new, it’s been around since 1908 when flight simulators were invented. Today VR work is all custom and evolving rapidly. It is the ultimate display of empathy because you step into someone’s shoes. Prices are coming down on the equipment because companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google have made major investments in VR and Augmented Reality (AR). AR is the next step and it’s already here with games like Pokemon Go.

Designing with Animation

I read Tim Slade’s blog and I really like his perspective. My eLearning tends to fall on the side of not using a whole lot of animation but I’m going to implement more now. This session was really useful. Some of my key takeaways:

  • Animation can direct or distract the learner’s attention. He compared it to a cat chasing a laser pointer.
  • “Click the next button to continue.” Tim isn’t a fan of this. I’m kind of torn. If you need to explain your navigation, it usually means your navigation is crap. I think it’s ok to point it out once but I like the idea of a blinking arrow or something subtle to point the learner where to go next.
  • Treat everything like physical items in physical space. Where we were, where we’re going and the new meaning when we get there.
  • Use animation to visually explain complex ideas and processes. For example, if you say the moon orbits the Earth, everyone has an idea of what this looks like. Animate the moon revolving around the Earth and everyone is on the same page.
  • eLearning is instructional design, UX, and graphic design. If your course doesn’t look good the information gets lost.

Tim’s three rules of animation were great. There’s a point when animation can just be distracting and these rules are great reminders of when to use animation in eLearning. Three rules:

  1. Use animations to see what you’re saying
  2. Use animation with purpose and intention – if you can’t answer what the purpose is, don’t use it.
  3. When in doubt, fade in and out.


The Top 5 Big Mistakes Made When Creating eLearning and how to Avoid Them

This was another session with technology problems. The presenter’s laptop crashed right before the session started. I think his plan B was ok. He accessed his program slides from the conference app on his phone, however, you could tell that he was rattled by his laptop issues. I didn’t really pull a lot of new content from this but it was a good refresher.

The top 5 mistakes:

  1. If your course doesn’t interact with the learner, the learner isn’t learning anything. PPT is great for presentation slides but not for eLearning. Challenge learners to solve a problem they would experience in real life.
  2. We aren’t asking the right questions in the analysis phase. Don’t forget to survey the learners – what they need to know and what they don’t need to know. Who is the audience? That is their primary language? What is their level of expertise? Cultural differences?
  3. What technology is supported? Ask about internet connection where the learners are, screen sizes, browsers that people are using, etc.
  4. The team. Who is going to help with the project. Source out the work when you need to.
  5. The design of the program. What will actually work? Design interactivity that learners will actually use. Design activities that are close to real-life. Don’t scale things back because you can’t do them in the tool. Don’t start designing based upon what the tool can do.
  6. I think this was a bonus. Evaluate your course after to determine what worked and what didn’t.


Successfully Implement your LMS

I wouldn’t normally go to a session about LMS implementation but I’m doing this in my current job right now. I’ve been a domain administrator and can troubleshoot somethings but never anything this early in the process. I think the most valuable information I walked away with is to develop a list of internal helpers who can assist in the rollout. Having the marketing department develop a campaign to roll out the LMS is a brilliant idea. I have a few ideas, and a new book, to help me with this process when I get back to work.

Exhibit Hall:



I’m a frequent visitor to the eLearning Heroes community and it was really cool to meet David Anderson from Articulate. I talked to him for 45 minutes about the eLearning Heroes challenges and how I should submit more of them. We also talked about an Articulate Users Group in Denver. If you’re reading this and you’re interested it’s going to happen in the near future. I really like building in Storyline and the best part of the 360 version is that we won’t have to wait for versioning for updates but I hope they do something about the $1,000 a year price tag. It makes Storyline much more expensive when compared to Adobe Captivate.

That is my ATD TechKnowledge wrap up for 2017. I have plenty of things to start working on to be a better ID, eLearning Developer and plain old human.

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