Recent research shows that conference organizers should focus their conference education efforts more on learning design and less on delivery of information.
Too often, conference organizers and meeting professionals secure speakers to present specific topics and then think their job is done.
Their focus is completely on the content and the delivery of the information. Research is showing that those steps are not enough.
Learning Design Trumps Delivery Of Information
Education Professional Nick van Dam reviewed more than 355 studies on learning, education and knowledge retention. He discovered that the most important factor in knowledge retention is the quality of the learning design, rather than the delivery method. These studies all pointed to the need for more intentional learning design and less focus on delivery of information.
Focusing on information transfer via a typical conference education session lecture is not enough to insure that the audience retains the information. Instead, meeting professionals must begin to focus on the learning design of the session if they want their audience to really learn the information and retain it so they can apply it on the job.
Defining Learning Design
Learning design is a focus on the activities and exercises that attendees will participate in during the education session. It centers on the presenter-learner process that takes place during the education session with more emphasis given to the how the learner receives and interprets information as well as how they construct their own meaning of the content.
Learning design activities also refers to the different learning objects (PPT, visuals, video, stories, models, handouts, case studies, etc.) that are used in the activity. It also refers to the service (wiki, discussion, pair-squared, online and face to face chats, comparison and contrast, reflection, etc.) that is used to collaborate and communicate during the education session.
Securing a speaker to talk to an audience is no longer enough. Securing three panelists and a moderator will not lead to attendee attitude, behavior and skill change. The research from 355 studies shows that it does not lead to knowledge retention which is the first step needed if the learner is going to apply the information on the job.
Ultimately, we as conference organizers have failed at providing effective education and learning opportunities for our stakeholders. Our focus on content and delivery of information is misdirected at best. We’ve got to start focusing on learning design.
Collaborative Learning Outranks Lecture
So what are the best learning design activity approaches for our conference stakeholders?
Education professional Jane Hart has released the results of the best type of learning activities that today’s workforce wants.
So what do our conference stakeholders want in their conference learning opportunities?
85% of today’s workforce wants collaborative, learning experiences!
Not formal, structured, lectures! Collaborative means that they want to be involved, participate and active. It does not mean passively sitting in classes listening to a talking head!
81% want access to resources on the web.
This gives strong support for providing ongoing conference content capture, handouts and additional resources online.
79% want learning opportunities where they can have discussions, conversations and meetings with others.
They want opportunities to share and learn from their peers. They want to exchange stories, experiences, knowledge and what works! They want conference learning opportunities that focus on peerology.
75% want to be able to access personal and professional networks.
They want learning opportunites designed around their specific needs where they can learn and share with likeminded individuals in their community and networks.
70% want social learning from blogs and external news feeds.
Your conference stakeholders want a mix of content from industry peers and outside sources. Don’t get stuck on just providing presenters from inside the industry only!
Only 32% want formal, structured lectures or e-learning opportunities.
Yet most conference organizers focus their efforts on securing lectures only.
Why do you think our meeting industry organizations do not focus more on helping meeting professionals learn about learning design? What does the meetings industry need to make a shift to more strategic thinking about effective education sessions such as learning design and collaborative learning?