Marketing of learning technologies is maturing. That, for someone who works with both creative and technical professionals, people in small not-for-profits and major educational establishments, is a great help. Yesterday I was at the Learning Technologies Exhibition in London partly to help out as a Fellow on the BILD stand and partly to check out the latest technologies at what is certainly my favourite of such exhibitions because it is well focused. This year it was even better as I had to do less work to get the answers I needed. This could be because I am getting better at asking the questions but, after a few decades of testing software and designing courses, it is probably fair to say that at least some of the change is in the way the technologies are being marketed.Some of the really big companies (e.g. Adobe) were still doing really ‘big’ presentations and that is to be expected but smaller companies were qualifying their callers, even suggesting other stands to visit. Twice I stopped conversations just by saying I was the wrong market, and twice there was a happy smile, a thank you and no need to take an armful of paperwork I did not need. A cheerful man in an olde-worlde-fayregrounde costume started a conversation with me and asked what type of organisation I came from then said he would not waste my time but I was to have a good day. Perfect: it meant I did not waste his time but nor did I have to stand through a monologue of cure-all product benefits just to find that out.
At MyKnowledgeMap, the conversation was also of the type that a year or two ago would only have been possible after a lengthy demonstration. I glanced at the product screens from the edge of the stand and saw the essence of something that could solve a problem. We established the price range and server type in two sentences so we knew there was a dialogue to be had. We progressed to the important part, the style of desired learning outcomes for which the programs were best suited and then had a short conversation comparing use of their eportfolio system with PebblePad from a learning design perspective. The whole conversation took less than five minutes and the jargon, from both of us, was not computer-speak but educational theory.
It was all a far cry from the early days of VLEs and LMSs where, frankly, an engineering dictionary was probably the educationalist’s best friend. Learning technologies are now commodities like cars or sewing machines – complicated, yes, but the buyer does not need to get involved with the detail immediately if all they want is to find the ‘go’ pedal. The best learning technology providers, it seems, have moved to targeted solutions provision with outcomes more important than inputs.
I wonder if that means I can now ditch that shelf-ful of network architecture and C-programming books?