Learning Technologies Conference 2018 Review

Learning Technologies is amongst the largest learning, education and skills exhibitions and conferences in the world and was attended by some of Health Education England’s Technology Enhanced Learning team. The conference ran from 31 January-1 February 2018 at Olympia in London.

Research and Markets estimate that the learning technology industry will be worth an estimated $331 billion (£234 billion) by 2025 so understandably, vendors were keen to impress. The team spoke with a large number of existing suppliers as well as discussing exciting new developments in the learning technology field with new businesses, exploring opportunities to pilot ideas in the health and care sector.

So, what were the trends we saw emerging in learning technology at this year’s conference?


1) The rise of the machines

We have been excited about the opportunities presented by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) for some time and this year gave us the chance to see some of the realities of this emerging technology. There is no doubt that AI will have an impact on the world we live in but as yet, the impact on education is not clear. For example, an AI could analyse historical learner data and make recommendations and personalise the learning to the individual.

For now, Chatbots (an AI powered support tool) were the talk of the show and exploring their use in the support for learning was a key development of this technology. However, as the technology develops, we will be keeping a close eye on this space to see what opportunities AI presents to support and improve learning outcomes and the provision of patient care.


2) Design thinking

Many of the presentations referred to “design thinking” and improving the user experience by designing great experiences for learners. There was talk of “learning ecosystems” and for design thinking, this means making sure everything is coherent for the learner. As learning and development professionals, we have always tried to make sure learners have a great experience but this year, it felt like the technology has matured sufficiently to realise this approach, integrating the Learning Management System (LMS) with other educational environments and making sure learning content is as good as it can be to support learning.


3) Learner Analytics

The importance of learner analytics was a trend that for the first time made an impact at the conference, with many speakers making reference to it. The impact was evident as many of the sessions on learner analytics were “standing room only”. While educational data standards such as xAPI have as yet failed to make a significant impact in UK and European education (the converse is true in the United States), learning analytics sessions referenced interoperability of learner data, and making better use of the data that is available, so a data standard like xAPI is going to become increasingly important. Similarly, AI will rely on a large, well-formed data set to produce meaningful results, so while this is unlikely to be the year that AI makes significant strides, it is very likely that 2018 will herald the evolution of learner analytics.


4) Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality

While augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been around for a number of years, the technology has often been expensive and cumbersome. It was evident from discussions around the exhibition that the technology has now matured sufficiently to make it a viable education delivery modality. The cost has certainly reduced and the equipment required has improved greatly, even providing acceptable results on a simple Google Cardboard viewing headset.

With the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) currently consulting with members on the potential to deliver nearly 50% of undergraduate nurse education through simulation, it makes sense for VR and AR to help provide this.


It is an exciting time for technology enhanced learning and events like Learning Technologies help provide context and ideas on improving the delivery of future healthcare education. You can follow the post-event tweets by following the hashtag #LT18UK

Emerging technologies in health


Keeping abreast of new and emerging tech forms part of the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) programme vision at Health Education England (HEE) so that we continue to train our staff to the highest standards, using contemporary pedagogy and tools proven to work.

In this WeCommunities Twitter chat, we explored the opportunity, implications, and readiness of some of the latest technologies identified through our recent scanning activity with #WeNurses community.


The TwitterChat was held on 28 September 2017 between 8pm – 9pm.  With a total of 70 contributors, 356 tweets and a reach that extended beyond 4 million people @HEE_TEL were delighted with the levels of participation.

What follows is a summary of findings taken from the tweets.


The #WeNurses community was invited to vote for which trend they felt had most potential for healthcare education.  The poll received 257 votes.  The top-voted trend was personalised and adaptive learning (54%) followed by virtual/augmented/mixed reality.

When asked, there was uncertainty about the outcome and supporting evidence for all the emerging tech trends cited, yet most were philosophical about the need for change.

Despite common agreement of the potential benefits for each technology trend, uncertainties about their widespread adoption for healthcare education included.

  • financial climate
  • lack of investment
  • digital literacy of staff
  • lack of evidence base
  • will it improve quality of care?
  • will it reduce cost?
  • speed of technological change
  • acceptance of the technology (AI)
  • skills loss
  • lack of understanding around the newer technologies (specifically AI and VR).

One contributor remarked that “uncertainty is a given” and that we should “encourage [a] spirit of experimentation!”

I think that virtual reality could be an amazing tool for education and learning. Also for patient experience!

Personalised and adaptive learning

There was common agreement that personalised and adaptive learning holds most potential for nursing.  Many of the student nurses supported this view; saying it would be most beneficial.  One suggested that they wanted personalised and adaptive learning to meet NMC standards.  Another remarked that personalised learning may become increasingly important for students who no longer receive a bursary.

Contributors provided broad insight on how personalised and adaptive learning may affect the education of health professionals by 2021.

  • Increased accessibility to more remote areas
  • Broader, deeper learning
  • Less pressure to learn just to pass exams
  • Improved learning outcomes
  • Professionals able to excel in ways that suit them best
  • Better patient care
  • Greater knowledge about how people learn
  • More confident learners
  • Competent staff
  • No “one size fits all” approach to learning
  • Improvements to the learning process.

#WeNurses listed several desirable outcomes regarding use of personalised and adaptive learning. These were:could encourage broader, deeper learning, less pressure to learn just to pass exams,use of #simulation to bridge knowledge gap

  • improved patient safety and outcomes
  • reduced costs
  • improved staff skills
  • better quality of care
  • person-centred care
  • MDT learning and working together
  • sustainable and mindful practice.

Yet if things went wrong with it, they were worried about having a suitably stable and modern IT infrastructure, with a system that could capture and store learning data with adequate data protection and security.  Some were concerned about the level of digital literacy of staff and that some staff may choose to leave the profession because the technology intimidates them.  An interesting point was raised about the acceptance of personalised and adaptive learning approaches by the regulators.

Looking at internal systems, #WeNurses offered their thoughts on how these might need to be change to support use of personalised and adaptive learning for healthcare education.

  • Systems must change to recognise the individual and not the job role
  • Support innovation
  • Have an acceptance of risk
  • Communicate what works
  • Provide access to external learning resources
  • National joined-up thinking
  • Provide smoother access to e-learning
  • Improve firewalls to prevent external manipulation
  • Stronger internet signal
  • Build confidence to use different learning modes
  • Organisations must be supportive of learning and development.

Visit http://www.wecommunities.org/tweet-chats/chat-details/4055#/chatSummary to view the complete transcript.

Resources cited by contributors: