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DevLearn 2021: Reflections and Elevating the Learning Experience

December 2, 2021

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Author

Krystal Windsor Burnett

E-learning Developer + LMS Administrator
Mercy Corps

One of Humentum Learning Service’s (HLS) longest-running partners, the Learning Guild is a community of practice for those supporting the design, development, strategy, and management of organizational learning. Through our partnership, HLS subscribers have access to online conferences, and the Learning Guild offers scholarships to their live conferences. Krystal Windsor Burnett, E-learning Developer + LMS Administrator at Mercy Corps, received a scholarship to attend her first DevLearn gathering in October. Join her as she reflects on the experience.

As a member of the Learning Guild and a learning partner of HLS, I received the opportunity to attend my first DevLearn conference in Las Vegas, and it did not disappoint. I fully expected that this event would be supercharged—packed with networking opportunities, expert presentations in eLearning, and exciting vendor booths at the exposition. And oh, those expectations were definitely met. But what pleasantly surprised me was the thoughtfully curated content that acknowledged the effects of the pandemic on each of us at an individual level. More so, how COVID-19 has impacted and continues to influence the future of our work in eLearning and development.

The opening speaker of DevLearn 2021, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist best known for his book, “Brain Rules”, explained the repercussions of the pandemic’s impact on the brain by stating bluntly, “The brain hates change, but the brain is really good at it. The key, though, is it takes time, and like all muscles, the brain needs exercise.” We’ve all jumped in as L&D practitioners to fully operationalize our remote work for our audiences. The abruptness of the pandemic and its challenges presented opportunities to fail, experiment, learn, and perfect how we work remotely. But have we spent time evaluating how jumping into working remotely full time has impacted us as individuals? How about our relationships? Have we taken the time to assess how stress and grief have affected our work as training developers?

Dr. Medina honed in on one key response that resonated with me on how we could move forward in a drastically different world for ourselves and our learners. He suggested practicing “social decentering”, or commonly known to most as “empathy”. We each have to recognize that as humans we can’t sweep our stresses and grief under the rug. To spot the drastic shifts in our learners’ learning experience is to acknowledge that the act of retaining information learned, and transmitting this information back to the trainer, might have to be put on hold until we recognize the impacts of grief experienced by the learner. The DevLearn opening speech set the tone for how the conference participants should go into the sessions, recognizing that we may need to evaluate our current processes and motivations and explore the multitude of offerings that could enhance our work for our learners.

With dozens of sessions made available to the DevLearn conference participants, each of us could tailor each hour to learning content that was most applicable to our work. It was valuable to learn about the challenges and lessons learned from instructional designers, working to address accessibility issues, and the importance of making content ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible. I learned super engaging methods to build video content in an approachable and memorable way for the learner. The sessions not only focused on adding to our current set of skills, but those that focused on enhancing our professional portfolio and learning how to market ourselves in our field were also available.

The three days of eye-opening sessions would not have been possible had it not been for the Learning Guild’s generous contribution to my team’s participation in the conference. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last time our organization benefits from all that our HLS partnership and Learning Guild membership have to offer to members like us. I look forward to participating in next year’s conference and seeing how much I’ve changed as an L&D professional.

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