Professional Training Facts 06

Stuttgart, Germany (14-15/11/06) saw the second PTF conference focusing on supporting companies interested in innovations in professional learning. Yet again the Prolearn Network of Excellence helped draw together an international community committed to supporting the transfer of knowledge between practitioners and academics.

The conference is coordinated by the Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart, Germany, under the auspices of the Prolearn Virtual Competence Centre. It has a "German-Only" parallel track running alongside the 2 "English-Language" tracks – to support SMEs and smaller German organizations. I cannot say what the German tracks were like, as my language skills are too limited, but can note that the English tracks held sessions on future trends for industry, on company performance improvement, on learning and management, and life-long learning. The theme was very strongly applied and commercially focused – aiming to get cutting edge Technology Enhanced Learning idea out of the labs and into real companies. This is not only a great idea, but is essential to this field… no activity of this sort can be sustained without the very active involvement of business and industry.

In the session that I was leading, we focused on "Company Performance Improvement and leading edge training technology". Pretty applied as a perspective, eh? Three of the Four contributions were from companies who have connected effectively with research labs. The last one was (of course) me. Oliver Korn from Korion talked about simulation and modelling in professional elearning contexts.

(And as you will see, if you have the latest FlashPlayer installed; that I took some time to capture a little from some presenters in FlashVlog! Many others will appear presently in the Prolearn VCC Expert Interviews Series).

Lucia Pannese from Imaginary talked about the power of ‘Serious Games’ for learning.

Then Karin Hamann from IAO gave a case study of the power of their online videoconferencing company VITERO. The CEO of one of their clients EMAG, joined her to enthuse about the inherent savings and transformational power of online meetings.

Now, I would usually enthuse about this latter theme too, showing our own online cooperation systems like Hexagon and FlashMeeting. However, Karin had already done this very effectively – so I switched tack and instead enthused about the potential power of doing all of this in public… via an open source learning model such as the Open Unviersity’s new OpenLearn inititative!

"What? You want us to publicly disclose and even talk about our business practices and business models in public?", they said. After the initial shock at this idea, some of the audience started to see connections with what I as saying and the earlier keynote presentation. The conference had kicked off with Rainer Zinow from SAP explaining how his companied had leveraged the public contributions of their own customers to improve their products and each others’ practice! Indeed, as he pointed out, if they did not have SAP clients supporting (freely and enthusiatically) other SAP clients, their would be no possibility of getting the quality of technical and business support that SAP worldwide currently enjoys. Supporting this form of peer-to-peer mentoring in their client base; and listening to it, has (according to Rainer) been a very powerful business driver for SAP.

SO, went my argument … if you LEVERAGE that public force you just might have your customers (and maybe even your competitors!) helping you to improve all of the key aspects of your business… ? I am not sure if they bought it. They were certainly impressed by what we are doing with open software and open knowledge in the OpenLearn project; and will watch and maybe even contribute. But, working in public?

We will see.

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