DevLearn: We're Better Together! Reflections from my favorite industry conference

November 10, 2022 Ann Rollins

It was wonderful to be at DevLearn two weeks ago. As a number of us at Blanchard have been speaking on the conference circuit throughout the pandemic, I can definitively say this was the first conference that felt like we were really back! It was humbling and quite emotional for me to see thousands of people—my people—together after so long.

One of the most inspiring parts for me was the opportunity to connect on all things industry with a lot of folks in my speaker peer group. It was exciting to hear about the work they’ve been doing throughout the pandemic to forward and build momentum behind their specific discipline in L&D. While many of us have specializations in the field, we all have dealt with the common challenge of creating effective experiences when deep uncertainty clamped budgets down and learners didn’t have the ability to come together as they had before. Whether it was evangelizing best practices for developing virtual live experiences, building gamified learning, advancing the accessibility mandate across the industry through new content generation, or refining the immersive XR and sim experiences—all while reducing barriers to engage—we’ve all been very, very busy!

After all of those conversations, it was very clear to me that our industry has not been part of an evolution, it has been part of a revolution! For my dear friends who were already in the chatbot/flow-of-work space, you certainly were well positioned for a new method of working, learning, and delivering to your customers—and the rest of us had to run as quickly as possible to catch up.

Another observation that is indelibly clear: technology has forever changed our industry. If you were to do a side-by-side comparison of a typical DevLearn attendee from three years ago to one from two weeks ago, you would see the attendee archetype has changed. A few years ago, there may have been a learning technology team who scouted ideas and reported back to a broader group. But today, organizations are sending large, full teams to the event to level up their business. Learning leaders are more present as well. The talent and knowledge management and learning functions are so interwoven that senior learning leaders need to have a vision and a guiding, driving voice. Their jobs, and the analytics they need to prove ROI on capital investments, human learning time, and performance outcomes, depend on it. It doesn’t stop there. Whether you’re designing and delivering technical skills or human skills, we are all in the learning technology game today.

Blanchard had a booth at DevLearn. Many may think it strange for a leadership development company to be at our industry’s largest technology-focused conference. Quite the contrary. Leadership development experiences today are served up via technology—ours, yours, or that of a third party such as Intrepid, Degreed, NovoEd, Edcast, etc. Practitioners and consultants need to be fluid when it comes to knowing what different learning platforms and tools can do to advance the human experience of leadership.

As for me, I have been plugged into the learn-tech scene for some time. It is the foundation for nearly all of the custom solutions work we do at Blanchard. Whether we are using a new platform to deliver part of our experience, pulling best practices from our platform to use in a client’s tech structure, or evolving our platform based on innovations we’ve seen in industry, the tech enables our work and our work builds leaders who change the world.

Here's my final key observation from DevLearn. For me, many of our disciplines within L&D used to feel somewhat siloed. For instance, in the broadest brush, Kassy and Cindy were the virtual gals, Karl was the gaming guy, Cath was the accessibility guru, Vince was the chatbot guy, Betty, Debbie, and Destery were the XR people—and of course, there are additional voices and new emergents in each of these disciplines. Then, you could go to a conference and focus on a few areas that you felt met the needs of your learners and get away with less familiarity in others. But the solutions being created today are deeply woven and bring the disciplines together into singular solutions with much greater impact. To really benefit from that, you need to be plugged into each of them at some level.

When I step back and think about my DevLearn experience, one truth is front and center: the seismic shifts in our world have forged the L&D industry together. And together is where I like to be.


About the Author

Ann Rollins

Ann Rollins is the Chief Solutions Architect for The Blanchard®. She is a modern learning champion with more than 25 years of industry experience helping develop and execute learning strategies for Fortune and Global 500 companies. Unintimidated by global scale, she always has her eyes on the emerging technology horizon to improve and effectively scale the learning experience for her clients.

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