Conferences Need To Focus More On Learning Design And Less On Information Transfer

I Learn

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?

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  1. Mike says:

    The answer to your last string of questions is not simple, I should think. Here’s a couple of reasons I see: fear (of failure when trying something new); lack of knowledge (how do create those innovative formats); haughtiness (“I’m a professor in X – you want to tell me how to run my meeting?” “Actually, yes, I do!”); lack of guts (in the meeting industry – to admit that we’re doing things wrong and the wrong things); priorities (stress on logistics rather than on content and outcomes); laziness/indolence (why change if I can fill up my hotel this way?). Any other suggestions? Mike

  2. Lets face it most meeting planners, speakers and many trainers and professors do not know about instructional design. Many “think” they know but unless they have taken courses in this field they really don’t know. Meeting planners need to look for speakers with an instructional design background. Just “throwing in an exercise” or “asking a few questions” is not the answer. Meeting planners need to ask basic questions like “how will you present your material so it will meet each of the different learning styles in the audience?” True learner engagement and knowledge transfer requires a little knowledge in the areas of learning styles and instructional design.

  3. Rob Eveleigh says:

    Actually the article makes good points and in my company are already making the transition into offering our clients the support and service to achieve this transformation, however, the challenge remains not necessarily with our client, but with the scientists and speakers at association events. In instances where the speakers come from so many different cultures, and are eminent in their field, it is difficult to prescribe a methodology or format of presentation. With education this can change but it is a long process.

  4. […] Education professional and Global CLO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Nick Van Dam reviewed more than 355 studies on education and knowledge retention. He discovered that the delivery method, information transfer and lectures do not lead to knowledge retention. The activities, exercises and peer discussions that attendees participate in during the session lead to knowledge retention. So stop focusing on the delivery method and focus on the learning design! […]

  5. […] the future, associations will be forced to focus on the learning design of their education offerings in order to compete against a variety of resources. This means […]

  6. […] that focus on participation with the learning process. It’s more about considering the learning design of your conference sessions than just delivery of […]

  7. […] Transformational learning conference experiences require new approaches to supporting adults and their growth. It requires new ways of thinking and capitalizing on learning design. […]

  8. […] are the primary focus of your organization, you need to do things differently! You need to focus on learning design instead of just scheduling speakers and picking […]

  9. […] for events to focus on improving the attendee’s education experience. That means focusing on the learning design (what the attendee will do during the education sessions besides sitting and listening). It’s […]

  10. […] Learning design is a focus on the activities and exercises that attendees will participate in during an education session. Some conferences have evolved user experience deign (UXD) to learning experience design (LXD). The focus is on designing transformative learning experiences that change attitudes, behaviors and skills. […]

  11. […] that focus on participation with the learning process. It’s more about considering the learning design of your conference sessions than just delivery of […]

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