DevLearn 2020 Week 1 Recap

Read my recap of week 1 of the DevLearn 2020 conference, also called the DDX (DevLearn Digital Experience).

Last week, I attended the first week of the Learning Guild’s DevLearn 2020 conference, also called DDX (DevLearn Digital Experience). Since we’re not able to gather in person in Las Vegas, the conference is 100% virtual. I want to reflect on my first week at DevLearn.

Online Experience via Attendify

The sessions are the easiest part of a conference to replicate online. We’ve all been doing Zoom calls and presentations, so folks are pretty familiar with that. The presenters have all done a good job of adapting for online, which is frankly what I’d expect for folks in our field.

Conferences are about more than just the sessions though. The Guild didn’t want to just do a series of Zoom webinars; they wanted to replicate some of the interactions and networking too. Therefore, they’re using the Attendify platform. This platform ties everything together. As a participant, you can watch the presentations and communicate via chat in the Attendify platform. The polls, session evaluations, and links to resources are all on the same page.

Screenshot of the Attendify platform for DevLearn 2020
Select the image to view it full size.

Juggling responsibilities

This is my first time attending DevLearn, so I don’t have a direct comparison to what it’s like in person. However, I have attended the Learning Solutions conference in person several times.

When I travel for conferences, I adjust all of my project schedules and put client work on hold (or at least 90% of it). This time, I knew I would get less client work completed, but I admit I was overly optimistic about I’d be able to accomplish. I’ve been able to get a little work done in the mornings before the first sessions (which begin at 11 AM my time), but I’m definitely slipping behind.

In addition, I’m in the same position due to the pandemic as many of you. My husband and I both work from home, and our 7-year-old daughter is doing virtual school. My husband is taking most of the school support during the conference, but I’m still responsible for breakfast and lunch. It’s hard to keep my attention completely focused on DevLearn all day when I still have other responsibilities.

Key Takeaways

I took over 20 pages of notes in the first week, so I have a lot of information to process still. As I have in the past for LSCon, I want to pull out at least one or two notes from each session to help me remember what I learned.

Day 1: 10/19

Emerging Learning Technologies

The first featured session was a panel discussion with Nick Floro, Megan Torrance, Chad Udell, and David Kelly. One big takeaway was to not feel restricted to only use apps or technology explicitly designed for learning. Marketing and other fields have tools we can use. However, you need to pay attention and plan for how you’ll collect data from those tools.

Creating an App from a Google Sheet by Cath Ellis

Cath presented on a free tool called Glide that allows you to create apps from Google Sheets. The example she used was an employee directory for onboarding, but I could see this as useful for looking up safety procedures, product features, or checklists of processes.

How Scenarios, Assessments and Feedback Can Reduce Learner Overconfidence by Bryan Smith

Bryan talked about the “beginner’s bubble” hypothesis, where people’s confidence exceeds their competence. Bryan noted that repetition is great for practice, but it can lead to overconfidence. One way to combat that is by providing variety in practice opportunities.

Bryan also talked about Will Thalheimer’s SEDA model for scenarios (Situation Evaluation Decision Action), which I want to dig into more later.

After Hours Buzz on Microlearning with Carla Torgerson

A lot of the discussion in this session was about how to convince clients or stakeholders to use a microlearning approach. One idea that was shared was to create 3 versions of a training at different lengths, and then review the data on what was used and completed.

Day 2: 10/20

L&D Lessons from Behavioral Economics: The Art of Nudging by Arun Pradhan

This session had lots of great info on how we make decisions. We think we’re mostly rational, but we really use lots of mental shortcuts. We can help people change their behavior by removing friction from those decisions.

Arun shared the EAST Framework. The desired path should be

  • Easy
  • Attractive
  • Social
  • Timely

How to Turn your F2F Training into Impactful Digital Training through Serious Games

In this session, Ibrahim Jabary demonstrated the GameLearn tool for creating 3D serious games and simulations. This tool has templates and characters prebuilt, so you can put 3D characters into situations and have conversations or explore locations. The tool is cool, especially since it doesn’t require programming. However, there’s no pricing information available. Considering how cagey they are about pricing (even when asked directly), I assume it probably starts around $10k and goes up from there. It’s not a tool I can likely justify paying for as an independent consultant, but bigger companies might be able to afford it.

Update: After I published this post, GameLearn reached out to me to share their pricing information. While it is explained on their website, this page isn’t easily accessible from their main site. You pretty much have to get the link directly. The monthly subscriptions range from free to $1890/month. There’s also a per user fee of about $10 (based on buying credits that are cheaper in bulk). So, if you’re selling training on a per user basis, you could potentially make a profit.

21st Century L&D: Drive Business Results through Performance Consulting Skills by Jolene Rowan

This session defined performance consulting as a “results-focused and solution-neutral approach.” Most of the process outlined assumes working on enormous projects with a big team (the example was a project originally scoped at $400k, reduced to $170k).

One thing that could potentially be applied by smaller teams (or teams of 1, like me) is the idea of a project pre-mortem. At the beginning of the planning, imagine the project is over and is a success. What does that look like? This may result in more accurate predictions.

Incorporating Storytelling into Your eLearning by Hadiya Nuriddin

Hadiya Nuriddin is the author of StoryTraining, which I haven’t read but clearly need to add to my list.

For writing better dialogue, she provided the DARE mnemonic.

  • Distinctive (reflects the personality and is different from other characters)
  • Active (moves the story, provides the right amount of info)
  • Realistic (includes content that needs to be said, relevant, fits context)
  • Expressive (conveys emotion, has a rhythm)

Speaker Chat with Hadiya Nuriddin

One suggestion for saving time writing stories is to use several smaller stories rather than big, overarching narratives. It’s easier to write small than to have continuity and depth over a large scope. You can have a single characters who pulls everything together.

(I did a project a few years ago with a similar structure. We had 2 main characters whose conversation tied everything together across multiple modules, but each module had 2-3 smaller case studies based on individual profiles and stories.)

After Hours Buzz: Accessibility with Cara North

This was a discussion about accessibility and broader inclusion topics. Someone shared that they use 3Play Media for captioning and audio descriptions for video. While I usually build closed captions myself in Storyline or other tools, it’s good to have a source for outsourcing if needed. I also haven’t done audio descriptions myself, and it probably makes more sense to have an expert who already knows how.

Day 3: 10/21

I skipped the Expo to get work done (and to do early voting).

Day 4: 10/22

Practical UX & UI Principles to Level Up Your Designs by Tracy Parish

Tracy provided a bit of a crash course in visual design and UX/UI principles.

One useful tip: Tracy showed the Uxcel site. This is a way to learn UX and UI principles by practicing with examples for a few minutes every day with their UEye Arcade game. They also have free courses to learn the principles.

Show & Tell: Designing 3 Interactive Experiences in Real Time by Nick Floro & Sophie Brown

This session showed how they use Adobe XD to create prototypes, starting from sketch to low fidelity wireframe, and then to high fidelity wireframe.

Learning Games: From Simple to Complex by Karl Kapp

Karl showed a number of different games, starting from a simple frame game called Earthquake (similar to Jeopardy) through serious games.

Karl talked about some research that elements of fantasy may actually help learning. Sometimes in a training simulation, learners feel resistance to choices because they think, “well, that would never happen to me.” Having some elements of fantasy like zombies or being a spy master helps get past that resistance.

However, the actual activity or skill needs to be the same as in the work environment. Spymaster uses a fantasy setting to practice project management principles. The skills are similar, so they transfer to work even though the setting is different.

What Makes a Captivating Story? by Julie Snyder

This was a “watch party,” where a number of people watched the previously recorded keynote at the same time. One striking point from the keynote was that 40% of stories for This American Life never go live. They have a high failure rate, but that’s part of why they can be more creative and take more risks with their storytelling. They’re free to try lots of different things, and it’s fine if some of them fail.

Day 5: 10/23

Applied Design Thinking by Almira (Myra) Roldan

This session was focused on the tools used in the design process, especially (a collaborative whiteboard). While it was helpful to see that tool, it was challenging in such a large session (400+ people).

It was helpful to see her Google Slide template for capturing ideas in the design process. I also like the idea of using Padlet to capture questions from a group, although even that somewhat broke with 400+ people participating. The questions jumped around and rearranged so fast that it was hard to even finish reading before it jumped.

Accessibility Tips & Tricks in SL360 by Stephanie Lawless

Stephanie had tons of practical tips for doing accessibility. I have done lots of closed captions, but not much else, so this was all helpful in improving the accessibility I can provide.

One tip was to use off screen text on the first slide to provide specific directions to screen reader users.

Another tip was to use Ctrl+Shift+Enter to open the size and position window, which includes accessibility info. That window stays open as you switch the selected object, so you can set alt text for multiple objects without having to close and reopen it.

The Cognitive Science of Video by Josh Cavalier

Josh provided this structure for videos. This is often used in commercials, but can be used in short training videos too.

  1. Emotional Pull
  2. Prime
  3. Content (this section is longer)
  4. Reflection
  5. Emotional Push

Week 2

I’ll post another recap after week 2, including notes on how my own After Hours Buzz discussion and session go.