DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas

Webanywhere USA Team at DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas

Webanywhere USA Team at DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas

This week I attended DevLearn 2017 in Las Vegas. The last time I had visited DevLearn was 10 years ago so it was good to meet up with our USA team and see how the conference had evolved. The theme for the week was “The Future of Learning”.

Two speakers at the conference caught my eye. Julian Stodd of Sea Salt Learning and Jane McGonigal a Futurist from with a PHD from UC Berkley. Julian gave a talk on ‘Social Learning’ whilst Jane would give a speech on ‘How to Think Like a Futurist‘.

Julian who is from the UK was easily identifiable with his long beard and long hair. He talked about how he’d taken Nokia executives over a 14 week social learning journey.
One of the key points that Julian made is that you have to earn the right for peoples engagement in your social learning platforms. If you don’t and the right people take their engagement elsewhere because there are other things for them to be doing.
Below is an image describing 10 aspects of social learning.
10 aspects of Social Learning

10 aspects of Social Learning

The final keynote Speech in the main hall was by Jane McGonigal a futurist, game designer and best selling author.

Jane talked about how to imagine yourself in 10 years time. There are two ways of doing this.

Firstly having a fact-based approach to the future in 10 years time and secondly considering 10 years time in the first person.

Apparently it is much more affective to view your future in the first person.

Furthermore the more details you can put down on paper about 10 years into the future more creative you are.

Jane continued her tour by describing the possibility that companies might not have employees in the future but instead learners.

DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas

DevLearn 2017, Las Vegas

These learners would have learning credits and degrees with no longer exists. Instead there would be a constant trade between companies and individuals on learning credits and people would be hired on their learning credentials not their CVs.

Jane stated that the more absurd an idea is the more likely it might become a reality in the future.

One thing is for certain whether it is today or tomorrow the more we learn and educate ourselves the greater our competitive advantage will be in a new learning era.

Stretching beyond international borders

Our brand mantra is to ‘Stretch Beyond’ it seems fitting that our recent management strategic away day was held in the Polish and Czech Republic mountains.

Getting away from the office and into tranquillity to look back on where the business is now and on where we will be in the future was a great idea from our COO Michal who has a house set in the mountains.

One bit of advice for business success is to change your environment regularly. Travelling up ski cable cars to some of Southern Poland’s highest peaks certainly gave us all a different perspective on the business.

Clearly the weather was too hot for the snow that would form on the mountains during ski season but nevertheless it made for good walking and we made it to the Polish Czech Republic border at the summit.

Climbing a metal tower and looking towards Poland, the Czech Republic and into Slovakia on a wonderfully clear day got me thinking about stretching beyond.

From our Leeds headquarters office it is approximately 900 miles to Katowice as the crow flies. Our Chicago office is 3000 miles away from basecamp!

The Internet and mobile phone changes the game on where and how you can work. With all the big mobile operators now charging the same as they do back home in the UK the cost of doing business abroad has fallen yet again.

Although it’s not great being away from a young family FaceTime, Skype and Google hangouts give you a level of comfort that you’re only really a stones throw away from loved ones.

To round off what was a perfect number of days of strategic planning our flight in Katowice got cancelled. Thankfully we were re-rooted via Kraków to Leeds Bradford airport and arrived only half a day late back in the UK.

All in all it was great to meet is the senior leadership team in the mountains as we prepare to climb our next mountain!

Being International

Our senior leadership team at Webanywhere comprises of one American, two Brits and two Pols. Our diversity of cultures and experiences gives us real strengthen and not only do we find ourselves hosting a collection of international staff but also our customer base is becoming increasingly international.

As the geopolitical situation is going against globalisation Webanywhere continues to work in partnership with other countries. Whether it’s global warming, the fight against disease and poverty or world peace it’s better when countries work together.

We need to be outward looking in our approach to business not inward looking. Whether we get a hard or soft Brexit working together as a global economy will always beat shortsighted protectionism.

Leeds Digital Week EdTech Panel at Ward Hadaway

Sean Gilligan, Steven Hope and Tim Mercer EdTech Panel Leeds Digital Week

Sean Gilligan, Steven Hope and Tim Mercer EdTech Panel Leeds Digital Week with Gareth Yates 

Webanywhere were delighted to attend an EdTech panellist event hosted by Ward Hadaway as part of Leeds Digital Week.

After welcome pizza and drinks, Gareth Yates – partner at Ward Hadaway and host for the evening – kicked off the debate focusing on Education Technology in Leeds, the opportunities and challenges in the field and what the future holds.

People joining myself on the panel were:

  • Steven Hope – Technology Enhanced Learning Manager – Leeds City College
  • Tim Mercer – CEO of Vapour-Cloud.

After a short introduction of each panel member and general questions of the panels’ motives for starting in the EdTech business, Gareth opened the floor for general questions.

How do you involve teachers in your development plans?

At Webanywhere we hire ex teachers and gain feedback to influence product roadmaps so products are fit for purpose and useful. We believe in a co-creation to coming up with technology to ensure amazing learning experiences. 

Teacherpreneurs + techies + sales = EdTech business with scale.

How does implementation affect the use of EdTech products/services?

The panel agreed that implementation was of key importance in order that schools gain a return on their investment on software and hardware procurement.

As teachers have varied levels of digital skills, you need to look at the lowest common denominator in terms of teacher training. Non tech savvy teachers do need hand holding if they are to be successful.

There was a general discussion about taking the learning to the student be it on their mobile, playstation and making the learning experience awesome. Digital education in schools needs to catch up with what is out there in the consumer marketplace as quite often our personal computers and apps are more advance than what’s in the classroom.

Tim Mercer highlighted that at the moment, for children who have serious illnesses or can not attend school 1 to 1 teacher, face to face tuition is provided. The panel were incredulous that with all the technology out there, why was this prohibitively expensive method of learning still deployed? Suggestions were made that the use of digital technology would benefit students in this case through the use of lessons via video as a smarter way of engaging distant students.

What is the future of EdTech?

Several key ideas arose from a discussion of the future of EdTech which was thrown out to the panel and audience:

  • Virtual Reality;
  • Conversation as a Platform – Amazon Alexa, Google Home etc;
  • The Internet of Things including the connected home and how this could enable improvements in learning outcomes; and
  • Machine learning and analytics.

Following the final point, JISC’s release of a learning analytics projects was cited. However, LMS analytics for improving learning outcomes and interventions are only useful if the learning platform is used and therefore data can be aggregated for analysis. This means the content and the learning experience has to be highly engaging to ensure there are lots of students logging on.

Who did we chat to?

Among many of the startups present, we got chatting to:

  • Chatta who use audio technology to help children accelerate their language skills.
  • Planet Bofa – an online personalised platform for learning Maths.
  • Jack Cherry – helping kids get through their SATs using Emotional Intelligence

After an interesting evening with full attendance and most of the pizza eaten and beer drunk, it seems that the Leeds Digital Festival and EdTech in West Yorkshire are booming!


Africa Trade Delegation visit Webanywhere HQ

Africa Trade Delegation

Africa Trade Delegation Department for International Trade

I was delighted to welcome a delegation of Africa Trade Advisors from the Department of International Trade yesterday. Mark Robson the Regional Director for DIT for Yorkshire and the Humber kindly invited people from Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Gambia and further a field to our City Exchange headquarters in Leeds.

Topics of interested included Education Technology on the African continent and how Africa is quite often ahead of Europe when it comes to the mobile adoption of technology. Many African countries have better wireless internet connections than fix line wired access.

Webanywhere hope to attend a number of EdTech conferences on the African continent in the future. With the population of Nigeria at 173 million and Egypt at 82 million there are big opportunities to drive up education standards in Africa with disruptive digital technology!

As Nelson Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Looking to Africa post BrExit might not be a bad idea!

Learning Technologies 2017, London

Webanywhere at Learning Technologies 2017

Webanywhere at Learning Technologies 2017

Early in February saw Webanywhere exhibit at London Olympia for Learning Technologies 2017. I have to admit the stand was the best designed yet and I was very proud to see some of the logos displayed of blue chip clients which we have grown over the years.

It was great to take one of our key customer UCLH to dinner and to socialise with the Workplace Learning team. This year we not only  talked about our and platform solutions but also about content services. Our Head of Learning Design Stuart Dyson had flown in from Katowice after missing his plane! Stuart was able to showcase some of the examples of our work and demonstrate our capabilities. Webanywhere now has instructional designers dotted across the globe in Chicago, Leeds and Katowice.

Sean with Gill of UCLH

Sean with Gill of UCLH

Webanywhere decided to offer content services a few years ago. In our experience platforms without content don’t get used. Content which talks to the LMS allows you to leverage big data for the learner, the teacher and the manager. You can then track people’s learning and use this feedback to enhance your online courses.

We now offer content to all our customers and this enhances the learner experience providing value for money on the implementation of your learning management systems.

As they use to say at my first job as youngster starting out content is king! And it most certainly is!