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Online Educa 2013: Preview

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2nd Dec 2013
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This week, TrainingZone decamps to Berlin for Online Educa, the largest global elearning conference on the L&D calendar.

Now in its 19th year, Online Educa has embedded itself in the psyche of much of the global elearning industry as one of the most important and most innovative events around. For the most part an education conference, Online Educa has expanded its remit in recent years and the 'Business Educa' part of the event has increased in profile, experiencing the same packed crowds as the main tranche of education-focused content. And besides, the corporate world can learn from the education sector and vice versa, so it's really an event that all trainers can derive a significant benefit from, whichever talks they decide to attend.

This year's themes are 'creativity and engagement', 'global learning', 'modern problems: smart solutions', 'redefining formal learning', 'learning analytics', and 'work and 'life-wide' learning.' All these are themes that could apply to the public, private or education space, I think you'd agree. Aside from an increase in scope from previous years with many more themes to be covered this time, what's also apparent is the global, decentralised nature of the themes this year. The global village/classroom/workforce is inevitable, and a dynamic that needs to be understood. For more on the themes click here.

It's always interesting to compare events with their previous years, and so I found some coverage from OE 2011 and 2010 for reference. How has the event changed? What are we discussing now that we weren't discussing then? Here's an interview with talent management thought leader Josh Bersin from the lead-up to the 2010 event that demonstrates not only how far we've come in our discussion around certain subjects, but also how other elements of L&D have barely changed at all.

And post-event, have a look at this vox pops too. Securing Sugata Mitra's time was a particular coup, considering how his profile has grown in the last couple of years.

Fast forward 12 months and we were back there again (and it wasn't -11C that time, which was nice), and for this year it felt like a more holistic look at the learning experience, as this press release attested. That's not to say there wasn't some crazy innovation happening out there too. Have a look at this video with Peter Reuter, and also this interview with Techsmith's Anton Bollen. We've only got a year or so left Peter.

A year off due to webinar commitments and now TrainingZone is off there again, and ahead of the event we caught five minutes with Professor Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger. To quote one of his five-paragraph bio: 'He is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University’s Internet Institute and a faculty affiliate of the Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. He has published eight books, including the awards-winning “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age” and he is the author of over a hundred articles and book chapters on the information economy.' Of course, his keynote is entitled: Big Data: The Next Big Thing for Education?'

What’s your advice for gaining a better understanding of Big Data?

To read our book "Big Data" (co-authored with Kenn Cukier) ;-) This is not just a marketing plug, but more serious. I believe that many misunderstand and thus misconceive what Big Data is. There is so much hype that it sometimes drones out the profound real changes that Big Data will bring about, as it changes how we understand the world around us.

Tell us a bit about your talk at Online Educa.

I can't reveal too much, but let me just suggest that one of the enticing promises of Big Data is that it will finally help us fulfill John Dewey's request to reinvent education with a focus on the process of learning, rather than on the outcomes (ie students).

What do you think will be the themes coming out of this year’s event?

How digital life, digital tools, and digital platforms are maturing to really have a significant impact on how we learn – in formal and informal educational contexts. Big Data is one (but a core) development here.

What are going to be the challenges for L&D professionals in 2014?

Not to be taken in by the hype, and not to believe that availability of technologies and tools can make up for the lack of creativity and innovation in content. And not to mistake (and thus belittle) the true significance of the MOOC movement.

And there it is again - the M word. And we're not even at the conference yet. No doubt a few more mentions to come. We'll have interviews with two more keynotes to be published post-event, and if you want to follow the goings on over the next three days, follow the #oeb13 hashtag, or our twitter handle, @trainingzone.

For more info about the event, click here

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