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Key issues arising at the H.O.T. Conference


The Hands on Training conference lived up to its billing as the HOT event with nearly 200 delegates attending sessions over the three days. Reports from individual sessions and speakers are reported elsewhere in these news pages. Here we focus on several of the key themes to emerge from debates with the presenters.

  • Organisations are complex, not complicated. Several speakers explored the issues of organisational change and learning and were critical of current approaches which attempt to rationise and define through analysis all the component elements of organisational functioning. Using different metaphors and methods, speakers looked as organisations in a more complex and holistic way, exploring the inter-dependent functioning of their systems, and showing how cause-and-effect within organisations were rarely obvious or truly linked. This has led to the emergence of sub-conscious and narrative approaches to encapture to map what is happening within organisations and to act as the starting point for developmental change.

  • Is training the solution or the problem? More than one speaker criticised the 'jump to training' approach which offers training as a solution to a problem which has not even be adequately defined. Whilst better definition and analysis of the problems is essential, so too is an exploration of problem-ownership, manifestation and commitment to solution. In a challenge to the work of many consultants and training providers, many problems can be solved by a closer scrutiny of organisational activity without leaping to staff training as the panacea.

  • Diversity is key. As the range of afternoon practical sessions showed, there is a fast expanding repertoire of interventions and methods designed to assist change and learning processes. Unconventional and intriguing new methods were showcased with case studies and practical guides. In a challenge to the established practices of many training professionals, here was a wealth of diverse new thinking all designed to engage learners in their own development.

  • The role of the trainer has changed fundamentally. There was no doubt from the presentations across the three days that online forms of learning delivery is here to stay. And this has fundamentally changed the role of the training professional from that of 'expert' and 'tutor' to a more diverse role encompassing 'learning designer', 'learning facilitator' and 'remote coach'. For many trainers, these will be new skills which they must acquire if they are to stay in the game. Online learning has already placed the learner in charge of their own learning. The trainer is no longer the pivot around whom the learning takes place.

  • E-learning does offer a realistic new approach. Several speakers addressed the issue of placing learning ahead of technology in the development of e-learning solutions. Whatever technology issues are encountered, they will be solved - and probably more quickly than people realise. e-Learning offers a real world of learning anywhere, anytime and any size. What is visible today is merely the tip of the iceberg. In a shift from computer-based training, through web-based training to technology-supported learning, we are embarking on a paradigm shift in the way in which people can access the learning they require individually and 'just-in-time'.

  • National training policy is bypassing most people. One day of the conference was devoted to recent policy changes including UfI, learnDirect and the Learning and Skills Council. Significant amounts of money have been allocated to these initiatives and yet their message is not attracting significant attention amongst the majority of training professionals. These were the less well attended sessions - reflecting the fact that they are not impacting the training sector in a positive manner. If anything, the complaint from a great many smaller training providers was how much more difficult their work had become following the switch to LSCs. These policy initiatives appear to be following a different tract to the rest of the event.

  • Finally, there is some very adventurous thinking in the training sector. This was a dynamic event with some new thinking radical methods, and a firm belief that the training practice trends which are now in evidence point the way to a stimulating and very different future.

Over the next few days we hope to publish more content from the H.O.T. event on the H.O.T website.


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