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Clive Shepherd

Skills Journey Ltd


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World of Learning: Round-up


Clive Shepherd, independent elearning consultant and chair of the eLearning Network, gives a summary of the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition.

As a participant at the World of Learning Conference & Exhibition for around ten years, I've seen plenty of new developments and met many interesting people in the industry. An event like this really acts as a barometer for the L&D industry as a whole, and this year was no exception. The large crowd of visitors and a really upbeat atmosphere reflected the buoyancy of the industry at a time when there are many economic pressures.

It seemed that people had come from all over the UK and overseas, which kept the exhibitors busy and the seminars full to overflowing. People weren't just taking a day out; they were keen to learn more and to discuss real business needs for which they wanted solutions. Talking to exhibitors, it seems that many visitors were in a position to invest and make active decisions on behalf of their companies, showing that the green shoots of recovery are firmly in place despite the current economic climate.
"Many visitors were in a position to invest and make active decisions on behalf of their companies, showing that the green shoots of recovery are firmly in place despite the current economic climate."
The event is also an important opportunity for visitors to obtain the latest industry knowledge. There's no doubt that, in the current climate of budget cuts, it's more vital than ever that the HR professional has an in-depth knowledge of their sector and new developments if they are to be proactive in recommending efficiencies and justifying expenditure. At this time of year, companies are also starting to plan their strategies for 2011, so the L&D case needs to resonate strongly.
One area of particular focus for HR professionals is social media. The spotlight has been shining on this area for a while and, with the ubiquity of social media tools in our personal lives, this is unlikely to stop in the near future. In fact, some would say the internet and mobile technologies are changing our lives as completely as the invention of writing, printing, the telephone and radio/TV have done in the past. The challenge for HR professionals is not only to understand how these new ideas and technologies work, but also how to apply them and evaluate them as part of their everyday work.
This was explored at the panel debate I participated in at the World of Learning Conference alongside Nick Shackleton-Jones, Manager – Online & Informal Learning Manager at the BBC, and Robin Hoyle, Head of Learning at Infinity Learning. The debate raised some interesting issues, and the sheer number of attendees and questions that they asked were proof of how vital these issues appear to be.
Talking to participants, there's no doubt the Conference as a whole was very well received with the two conference halls full of delegates engaged in case studies from leading organisations and discussing key L&D issues with industry experts. Chaired by the ever-enthusiastic BBC TV presenter Nicholas Owen, the sessions were opened by Ruth Spellman, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute, speaking to a packed audience to outline what businesses need to do to thrive and what L&D can contribute towards the future of their organisations. Over the next two days there were presentations featuring insights into organisations such as TUI Travel, Santander, Zurich Financial Services, and Radisson Edwardian Hotels.
Alongside the conference, the exhibition offered many areas where visitors could sample learning and development techniques. The Learning Architect's Workplace Wellness Zone, Professional Development Zone, the UKTI's International Zone and the Skills Workshops all proved highly popular, while the free seminars also seemed to be well attended and warmly appreciated.
One of the show's new features was the Social Learning Zone, which covered key aspects of social media and elearning, where visitors could explore further the issues discussed in the panel debate. The area was a focal point for visitors keen to find out how to use social learning techniques in their business, and was certainly busy throughout the two days of the event.
All in all, there are exciting developments ahead for the industry and the buzz at this year’s World of Learning reflected this, providing a positive outlook for 2011.
The World of Learning 2011 takes place on 27 and 28 September 2011 at the NEC Birmingham. For more information, visit

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Clive Shepherd


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