Lessons from LEAP Ahead eLearning Conference 2013

Walking into the main room of the LEAP Ahead eLearning Conference this week, I was a bit frightened. Being new to the sector, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pros in the room. What if I slipped up and used the wrong acronym (don’t worry, I know the difference between a CMS, LCMS, LMS) or confused the various softwares available to build courses? And what is a SME anyway?

Fortunately I had no cause for concern (and now know a SME is a subject matter expert). The LEAP Ahead conference, organized by BlueVolt, provided a breadth of sessions for elearning professionals of all levels. I was able to dive deep into some topics, while other sessions gave a broader overview of trends in the industry. Plus, elearning professionals are some of the nicest (and hilarious!) folks I’ve met, which made for great networking!

I was most impressed with the caliber of the keynote speakers. Engaging a crowd before 9:00am can be a tad challenging, but Dale Stephens of UnCollege and Judy Katz of Nike got my blood pumping and brain firing on all cylinders. Dale shared his unschooling experience growing up and his choice to drop out of college at a young age. At 19, he started UnCollege.org to provide an alternative education based on experiential learning to students. As I am currently supervising nine interns and guiding them through their own professional development, his presentation hit home how important it is to consider different options for learning.

On day two, Judy gave a fantastic presentation on how opportunity and possibility can come from anywhere, even with a shoe string budget. Her example of the “Liter of Light” video, where a man brings light into impoverished homes using nothing but plastic soda bottles and water, was truly inspiring.

Having recently entered the industry, I was surprised at my familiarity with many of the topics and concepts. Many of my experiences building curriculum for middle school students were similar to the theories and best practices being shared in the sessions. The challenges may be different, but ultimately I took away there is much to be gained from increased collaboration between educators, elearning experts and training professionals.

Needless to say, my next elearning conference experience has big shoes to fill.

Special thanks to Gary Ewer of Platt University for the awesome prize, 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People.