Happy September! Lisa and I are back from the Association for Talent Development International Conference and Expo, and are excited to share a recap of what it looked like to take Learning Cluster Design on the road, and in-person again. We were excited to have been given the opportunity to present in several different capacities and modalities, from a pre-conference workshop, to a TedX like talk, to education sessions, to live coaching and demo session on the EXPO floor – some of which were broadcasted internationally for virtual conference attendees across the globe.

Each session was unique, not only in terms of content and modality, but also in an era where pandemic restrictions forced us to get creative on how we deliver in-person learning experiences. 

In the video below, you can get a chance to take a peek backstage and see the highlights of the conference.

While challenges such as social distancing and new technology required us to rethink modern learning delivery strategies, it also reminded us of the constant evolution of the modern learner experience. 

Each session provided us with a lesson in that evolution, and below we share those lessons with you. 

Pre-Conference Workshop

The original duo reunited! Before the conference began, with pandemic restrictions only allowing a limited, socially-distanced audience, Lisa and I were delighted to host a group of 9 L&D professionals from around the country to our one-day pre-conference workshop.

Staying true to the Learning Cluster Design model, Lisa and I surrounded the participants with social, formal and immediate learning assets such as lectures, activities, case studies, video clips, conversation and external resource links. While the morning was spent immersing themselves in the principles of the model, the entire afternoon was dedicated to practical application. While these 9 participants entered the learning experience with limited-to-no knowledge of Learning Cluster Design, by the end of the day, together they had designed a complete learning cluster for a case study.

Modern Learning Takeaway: In this new era of virtual learning, we have so quickly categorized learning assets into two categories – “in person” and “virtual,” but have we stopped to think about how we can bridge the two together to create an extraordinary modern learning experience?

What we found is that even when you are facilitating in-person, bringing in the components of what we typically save specifically for virtual learning makes for a richer, more modern experience. Where in the past we may have used flipchart paper to gather thoughts from participants, utilizing tools such as Jamboard, we were able to gather collective wisdom inside the session quickly, creating long lasting social learning assets. In creating a webpage asset specifically for this session, we were able to hyperlink external resources that will serve as a resource for participants to refer back to. Perhaps one of the most important “virtual” assets we brought into the classroom was utilizing YouTube videos, specifically videos showcasing completed learning clusters from past practicum graduates. We found that, even when you are facilitating in person, these components, often assumed as being suited for only virtual learning, actually make the experience deeper, richer, modern and ultimately, more effective. 

Feel like you missed out? Want to know what was shared in this super session? Stay tuned – the one-day introduction to LCD is a course that is here to stay! Details coming soon. 

Super Session – Learning Cluster Design for L&D Leaders

In my hour-long TEDx style session, I introduced the Learning Cluster Design model specifically to L&D leaders. As you can imagine, this year’s conference was unlike any other, and the live super sessions were no exception. Live streamed across the world, with participants from China, to Poland, to the US, we were able to connect in-person, as well as engage through the live chat.

Modern Learning Takeaway: Tailored sessions work. In the Learning Cluster Design model, we dive deep into understanding the different learner personas, with this exact intention in mind. Rather than having an introductory session into the model for all L&D professionals, tailoring the content specifically to L&D leaders allowed us to deliver exactly what they need to know for their level, without any preamble that would come along with a position-diverse audience.

As the session ended, participants wanted to share their stories, and not only wanted to learn from me as the presenter, but from each other as fellow L&D leaders. People left the session in pairs, continuing the conversation and building a connection over this tailored content. I later even saw these same people hanging out – knowing they had just met at my super session was an honor!

Feel like you missed out? Want to know what was shared in this super session? Stay tuned, this will soon become a new Masterclass! Details coming soon. 

LCD Group Hosts Happy Hour/Dinner

Our intention in hosting a happy hour was to bring together new Learning Cluster Design model enthusiasts that we had met over the weekend, as well as LCD evangelists and friends from over the past year and a half since launch of the LCD Group. Of course, as soon as you put almost 20 modern learning professionals in one room, great conversation will come of it. As the night progressed, we entered into a deep conversation such as around origin stories of organizations, and how that can deeply impact the ability to make change happen. While these types of conversations can absolutely happen virtually, being face-to-face allowed us to be less intentional and dive deeper at the same time.  

Modern Learning Takeaway: Didn’t think a happy hour could be a social learning asset, did you? 🙂

In all seriousness, a lot of L&D professionals worry about making social learning meaningful and intentional, and we have to start to let go of the control and be okay with just putting people in the room together, virtually or in-person, and letting the learning happen. Rather than being the curators and controllers, our job as L&D is to capture the great unintended consequences and follow through with those. We often feel anxiety about controlling social learning, but the real learning happens when we set it, forget it, and circle back to the outcomes.

Live Education Session: Upgrade Action Deep Dive

Lisa hosted a one-hour live education session on one piece of the Learning Cluster Design model, the Upgrade Existing Assets Action. Rather than lecturing the entire time, Lisa provided the participants with ample time to practice using the upgrade tool on several examples.

Modern Learning Takeaway: Even in one hour, participants can get a lot of practice in. When we look at the term “micro-learning,” we often think of short snippets and bit size eLearning content, but what if we looked at it from the lens of an in-person learning experience? In what could have easily been a one-hour lecture style session, Lisa focused on using the short time she had with attendees on practical application, and focusing on that is a big win from a modern learning standpoint.

Live EXPO Demo Session

If that wasn’t enough ways to reach folks during the conference, we also hit the EXPO stage to give a live demonstration of how the LCD model works. I asked two volunteers to bring a current learning challenge they were facing at their organization, and coached them through the five Actions of the LCD model. All I knew in advance was their topic and business challenge. With a unique topic of regaining organizational trust in L&D, Kulraj Singh was coached through the kind of learning assets that would help change that perception internally. Sterling Payne, with the challenge of creating de-escalation training for TSA, was coached on how to use the LCD model to impact frontline workers who are facing a lot more violence and dissent from air travelers due to mask mandates. 

In just 10-minutes each, I was able to provide unscripted coaching that was directional in nature and demonstrated the concept of the Learning Cluster Design model, while Lisa live captured the results. We got some great initial ideas for personas and assets! 

Modern Learning Takeaway: Seeing how much impact was created in just 10 minutes was proof that we don’t always need long courses and classes. What this also teaches is that you also don’t need a script to create meaningful learning experiences, and quite often, better takeaways from being unscripted as a facilitator. In L&D, we often get caught up in the control of the conversation, and are so focused on that, that we forget to actually facilitate the conversation and encourage others to share. What being unscripted does is create deeper relevance, discovery, and generation in a session. The more comfortable modern facilitators can get with being unscripted, the deeper impact their sessions will have on their learners.

As you can tell, we had a busy week in Salt Lake City, and are excited to be back and start helping our L&D community put these takeaways into action. 

We’d love to hear from you – 

Whether you were there or not, what was your biggest takeaway from this year’s conference? 
What is a learning that you are going to put into practice? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.