Testing the Ground

By Niall Gavin,  Interim Head of L&D and Learning Technologies, First Group Plc

"You'll never be able to walk the talk unless you're prepared to step out onto shaky ground first", said no-one ever - until I made it up just now.

It sums up in one sentence my whole career history to date - actor, trainer, training manager, Head of L&D and now Head of Technology Assisted Learning.  And it conveniently explains why I'm going to be presenting my first ever Ignite session alongside seasoned practitioners Andy Lancaster, Paul Taylor and Perry Timms at the CIPD Annual Conference in Manchester on the 6th of November.

We're discussing 'new skills and tools in people development' and it promises to be a fun, interactive and hopefully inspiring session, with each of us delivering an Ignite presentation (20 slides, 15 seconds for each slide) on related topics, followed by an attendee-driven 'Open Space' discussion. I've never done either of these things before - Ignite or Open Space - but I have learned over the years that if I'm going to continue to develop my own skills and tools in people development, then I have to step out onto that shaky - and scary - ground first. Call it a 'stretch assignment', if you will...!

I'm going to be sharing something of our journey towards and about the deployment of our current Virtual Classroom solution at FirstGroup Plc, the largest transport operator in the country. I shan't rehearse our story here, but suffice to say that, with our UK staff population dispersed between Aberdeen and Penzance, travel, subsistence, accommodation and time away from the office to attend 'traditional' classroom training programmes is no longer sustainable in our fast-moving, information-hungry, Internet-enabled world.

I'll share some of our successes and also some failures about how, as a now global operation, we are still learning how to utilise the depth and breadth of this technology and are sharing the expertise with, and enabling our stakeholders across our business, to use it too - and not just for training!

We wouldn't have been able to walk that talk without stepping out onto that shaky ground first ourselves, to understand the medium and then develop the necessary skills to be able to exploit its potential!

Hopefully we will be able to explore some of these points, and any other issues you may wish to raise about Virtual Classrooms and technology assisted learning, in the Open Space session after the Ignites. I'd also like to learn something from you to take away for myself and my colleagues back at work, so be prepared to share! 

As part of the CIPD Leaders in Learning Network, Niall will deliver one of the four Ignite presentations at the CIPD Annual Conference 2014 innovative Session G2 Open Space "Leaders in Learning: exploring new tools and skills in people development."

You can follow Niall on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/niallgavinuk

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