ATD has produced another successful International Conference and Exposition: ATD 2017 in Atlanta, May 22 through May 25,. The major topic of the conference, as presented in the opening speech by Tony Bingham, ATD's President & CEO, was Microlearning. Modern learners do not want long training sessions presenting large blocks of content in ways controlled by the instructional designer. Wherever possible, instructional designers should breaking content into "bite-sized" chunks requiring at most 10 minutes--4 to 6 minutes is best--and then providing the learner with a learning path suggesting the order the learner might follow through them; but the learner is allowed to control their own flow through the content.
Video should be used to the greatest extent possible. The model is YouTube, where the viewer is able to able to find streaming videos on whatever topic they need when they need it. This is the model established by Linda.com a leader in self-directed learning where a course of study has a recommended playlist of video modules.
Of course, the content must be viewable on multiple platforms, mobile phone, tablet and desktop computer.
My focus during the conference was on the Science of Learning track. Advances in neuroscience has allowed us to peer inside what used to be the "black box," called our brain. Research presented showed how our the areas of the brain that relate to our physical body are triggered by our emotions; for example. when we perceive unfairness, the part of the brain associated with the physical response of disgust to things like rotten food are activated. These emotional responses are fast and dominant because the primary focus of our brain and body continues to be, like our ancient ancestors, the ability respond to threat. The cognitive areas of our brain (the ventral lateral prefrontal cortex) acts as a brake to the emotional response.
Therefore, instructors and instructional designers support learning by ensuring the cognitive portions of our learners brains are not constantly engaged in "applying the brakes". Among the ways TD professionals can do this is to consider the brain's (the whole brain, emotional and intellectual) preference for consistency, clarity, certainty and no change (the 4C). Of course, learning cannot really occur without disrupting at least one, and probably all of these. It is our challenge to construct instruction that disrupts these 4Cs and still keep the learner engaged and learning.
It has generally believed that high stress is the enemy of our ability to learn. In fact, high stress has been shown to cause atrophy in the pre-frontal cortex, reducing its ability to control emotional-reactive brain responses. One of the keynote speakers, Kelly McGonigal of Stanford University, presented her work on how to make stress, even high stress become a positive contributor to learning and to life in general. First we must change our thinking of stress as good or bad; rather it should be considered necessary and unnecessary. Unnecessary stress is usually stress we impose on ourselves--we imagine the worst, let our egos become overly sensitive, etc. Recognizing this allows us to "let it go".
Then we are ready to address the necessary stress and change our view to seeing it as a challenge. We can apply resiliency, control of our physical response (applying our cognitive "brakes" to the emotional response) and getting social support to produce positive outcomes. These can be learned and practiced.
There were hundreds of other educational sessions, career planning sessions available.
Finally, a special thanks to Caveo Learning who, for the fourth year, sponsored the ATDChi Happy Hour. Attendees from Chicagoland and beyond had a great time.