Tools for the job

Enhancing the skills and responsibilities of learning and development professionals is the aim of this month’s Learning Technologies 2004 exhibition and conference. Guy Sheppard investigates


The latest developments in organisational training will be on show at Learning Technologies 2004, but the hype surrounding the event could be far more muted than in previous years.


Event organiser Mark Penton detects a new mood of realism in the market, with organisations becoming increasingly aware of the type of training that suits their needs and budget.


“Customers are more aware of what is out there and what is available to them,” he says. “They are less susceptible to some of the hype from suppliers. We’re in a transitional phase of the market where people are starting to find out what is best for their individual organisation.”


Penton says a sense of reality falling short of the expectations was especially true of e-learning, but adds: “Done correctly, it’s still an excellent way of delivering learning – although possibly not in isolation. When done in conjunction with other delivery methods that suit individual learners, it is proving very effective.”


He says the number of rival events to Learning Technologies has fallen from five to two over the past three years, underlining how the market is suffering. “But I am expecting between 110 and 120 stands which is more than ever,” he adds. “Perhaps that is partly due to the demise of the other shows, but we are absolutely delighted that in difficult market conditions the event has continued to go from strength to strength.”


Around 3,000 people are expected to visit the exhibition. “It is seen by both suppliers and visitors as the leading event in the learning exhibition market and is now the only event where all the leading suppliers are on show together,” says Penton.


Apart from a wide range of e-learning products and services, the exhibition will cover everything from virtual classroom technologies and blended learning solutions to instructor-led programmes and organisational learning strategy. Free product seminars will be held every hour throughout the two-day event.


The conference is expected to attract between 150 and 200 delegates and will be a mixture of theory presentations, panel discussions, case studies, meeting forums and workshops. There will also be special ‘webinars’ for delegates before and after the event.


Penton describes the aim of the conference as “widening the role of learning and development professionals and expanding their responsibility and credibility”.


Conference chairman Donald Taylor – who is director of skills management software company InfoBasis – says this year’s theme of aligning learning and skills to business needs is designed to help buyers make more informed decisions about the wide range of products and services on offer.


“Even in the 1990s, the rise of the canny buyer was detectable where people had a clear understanding of what they were after,” he says. “But it takes a few years for people to fully understand what is in the marketplace. People are interested in how certain products and services will fit their needs, and need to know the right questions to ask about them.”


The keynote speech, to be given by Derek Bembry, training manager at HP Enterprise Systems Group, will highlight how business values need to be incorporated into training.


Taylor says: “We’ve been very happy in the training industry to talk about inputs, but organisations are interested in outputs. They don’t care whether the skills are developed through training, recruitment or reallocation of staff throughout the organisation.”


He says this means training professionals have to put more focus on new skills that directly benefit their organisations.


Another subject to be discussed is how to take advantage of government funding initiatives to encourage training.


Taylor says an online meeting of 14 company training managers held before the conference found that most had not secured government funding for any of their training initiatives over the past four years. But he believes this is due to ignorance about the funding available, rather than a lack of funding itself.


“We have found that UK companies are generally unaware of the programmes available and how to attract funding from them,” he says. “At the conference, we’ll be laying out how to attract government funding for company training initiatives.


“Money and support for skills development are available for companies in far greater amounts than in the past, but there are many different programmes and ways to attract it.”


The panel discussing this issue includes Keith Duckitt, head of ICT (information and communications technology) at the Learning and Skills Council, and Graham Walker, director of the Central Strategy Unit at the office of the e-Envoy, which is charged with putting all government services online by 2005.


E-learning gurus, such as Vaughan Waller, chairman of eLearning Network and Nigel Howarth, director of Inspired Age, will be chairing sessions at the conference. Training Magazine and Personnel Today are among the event’s sponsors.


Learning technologies 2004




  • Date: Wednesday 28 January 2004 to Thursday 29 January
  • Location: Olympia 2, Hammersmith Road, London. Nearest Underground station is Kensington Olympia
  • Hours: 10am-5pm
  • Cost: Exhibition is free. Conference is £895 plus VAT
  • Booking: Contact Principal Media, event organiser, on 01730 817601 or visit www.learningtechnologies.co.uk

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