Tweets covering the LTSF17 live online learning conference session

“Making the most of your live online session” was the presentation I delivered at Learning Technologies Conference Summer Forum 2017.

Click for LTSF webinar session description

LTSF webinar session description

These are the tweets that covered my session about webinars and the virtual classroom.

Ady Howes had a 360 degree camera and recorded the session. I’ll update this page when we have a video link!

My session was one of the last of the day, against stiff competition of conference Chairman himself, Donald H Taylor, as well as 702010 God Charles Jennings! I still had a packed, sold out room though.

As Kate mentions, each conference session has a person tweeting the highlights, which was the lovely Joan Keevill.

Many thanks to @Obhi and @Designs_JoanK for their tweets.

Remember to download the paper that goes with this session.

And you can also join us for the webinar version!

Conference content – how to keep your delegates enthused

I wrote a blog about a free conference I went to and how it was sales over substance. After recently attending the CIPD L&D Show in London I thought I would share my thoughts again to see what was done differently, and if it was better.

The same… but worlds apart


Both the conferences I attended contained a similar amount of people and setup; an area for exhibitors and different areas for the seminars. This is where the similarities end.

The CIPD L&D Show was not a free conference, though there was a free-to-attend exhibition and sessions. The CIPD L&D Show also opened up the seminars to experts and professionals who had real content and the passion to deliver it, rather than in-house employees.

Nearly all of the seminars I went to I came out of them learning something or going away with a drive to focus on something in particular.

Content not sales

The speakers would of course mention where they worked and their company or institution as it’s a great opportunity to enhance profile. They might mention throughout their presentation specific points of how their company did certain things but it was never done as a sales pitch. Passion was delivered and strong content provided, people would be able to go away and start trying techniques that had been offered.

I know for myself that I followed on Twitter and on Facebook the majority of the speakers at the seminars I went to. I found websites and put them into my favourite resources to go back and reference. Will I convert into a sale? Potentially. Do I have brand awareness? Most definitely!

Separating passion and sales

The CIPD L&D Conference was a great blend of the two; the free exhibitor floor had many companies trying to raise awareness and make sales. This was expected and if you moved yourself into that environment it was the mind-set you had gone into and were ready for.

On the exhibition floor there were lots of free seminars on offer. As I spent more time in the Conference I only saw the Ignite sessions (you can watch them all on Training Journal).

The conference sessions had passion and you could tell it was mainly about people who really wanted to provide some of the knowledge they had gained on their way to becoming an expert in their field or area.

Splitting the free exhibition and the paid-for conference made the conference feel complete and adjusting mind-set depending where you were was easy to do. The previous conference I had attended missed that – there was no divide between sales and content, a constant badgering of sales with next to no worthwhile content.

Knowing what people want


As a delegate we want to come away from the conference feeling the cost of the ticket was worth it for our own personal development and understanding. We take painstaking time to choose the sessions we want to attend because we are trying to maximise our own take away knowledge.

Delegates also understand that people and companies who have attended to exhibit have their own needs and requirements, cost to gain ratio whether that is sales or awareness for the brand.

We want the best of both worlds and can understand both sides of the coin.


I felt the balance at the CIPD L&D Show was spot on. I could flit between the two areas when I felt the urge, I could find like-minded individuals and get their opinions and network with them.

Content and passion and will always win over the hard sale and I saw a lot of passion and absorbed a great deal of superb content.

Conference content – how to drive away your delegates

A colleague and I went to a free conference that was hosted by a company in our business sector. We spend a lot of money on each year with this company, for many of our business and software solutions.

Some of what went on was good and some of it was very bad…

Hopes and expectations

In the days leading up to the conference I received various emails promoting the conference, guest speaker Blah the 1st from leading company X, guest speaker Blah the 2nd from leading body Y. I was ready to hear from these experts and gain from their knowledge and wisdom!

The itinerary detailed exciting workshops in the afternoon. I was upset that the two that sounded the most interesting were on at the same time and I had to choose between them.

The pre-event information had got me in the right mind-set and not even the train strikes, which meant I was forced to be packed in like a sardine on my way to central London, could hold back my hopes and expectations.


A good start with good content

The morning started off well, the expert speakers were all good, engaging content and providing really useful information to take away, I was scribbling away in my notepad ready to go back to my company and revolutionise what is quite a boring and traditional business sector.

I was really impressed with the passion and delivery from most of the speakers, technology was used well by some, getting people to log in with an app and provide live polls and opinions. It was a great example of listening to the questions the sector has, and then posing those questions to the experts whom delivered great structured content to the attendees.

Downward spiral

After a nice lunch the workshops started: 40 minute seminars that attendees were able to choose out of three on at the same time. In total they would get to go three of these sessions out of the nine on offer.

I was still hyped from how good the morning was. The workshop speaker came on and it was obvious the person was some kind of middle management from the company hosting the conference.

A faltered start, low production values in the presentation and a lack of enthusiasm from the speaker: the professional air from the morning was quickly evaporating.


Where is the content?

The workshop was titled along the lines of “how to update the marketing in your business, gain sales and not lose potential sales.” The talk started as a lot of these things do with some stats, a very blatant use of stats, “how many people view a website for a company before buying something” and “length of time someone stays on a homepage.” The stats were obvious, in your face, focusing on one aspect of marketing, (the website) all from the angle they wanted to talk about. My pen had not written anything yet.

A live poll was put out to the audience, “do you think your business needs a website?” Shockingly everyone said yes. I could see exactly where this was going: I knew the organisation running the conference had recently purchased a website design company so my mind had already finished the obvious presentation. I did still have some hope it would not go the way I thought it would.

I was naĂŻve to think it would not turn into a sales pitch, I had to sit through some more stupid waffle about how important the internet is and websites are, my pen was in my pocket and my pad closed and on my lap as I was talked to like a five year old and spoon fed basic information.

Sales without content

About 15 minutes into this “workshop” the sales pitch hit and went on for the remaining 25 minutes. My pad was back in my bag and I suffered through a sales pitch that was lacking any enthusiasm or depth. I felt cheated and lied to!

I can survive a sales pitch at the end if I have been enlightened with good focused content and feel like I have something to take away. When it is just thrown down your throat and obvious, limited content is used to try and dupe me into a sale is a poor showing indeed.


Unfortunately the remaining two sessions I attended were exactly the same and my colleague who attended three different sessions reported the same feedback.

I understand companies need to make money, renting out a venue in central London to accommodate 200-400 people and provide lunch for everyone for free is not going to be cheap, you want a return on your investment. But it needs to be handled better than this.

Being subjected to three lacklustre sales pitches with next to no useful content did not make me feel for a single second that I should take on these extra services the company was offering. In fact it had the exact opposite affect and made me think I would look elsewhere if I needed to resolve these issues.


Final thoughts on content marketing and conferences 

Good content is key! When it comes to these types of events or any kind of sales pitch if it is in person, a webinar or at a conference, the content will sway the person.

What was interesting in the way that they spoon-fed these basic concepts, skirting the main subject so much and providing so little content, it got to the sales pitch and I was missing a key thing to actually buy, need and want!

I wasn’t sure I had the issues they were trying to provide solutions for because they had provided basic stats, opinions and no content about it.

Free conference or not, I expect better and I hope you do also.

Blending technology and the joy of helping others learn – Colleges Wales Keynote

On Monday 27th March 2017 I was honoured to be the keynote speaker for the Colleges Wales annual training and learning conference. This year the title is Step Up To the Future and the themes are “digital” and “more able and talented”.


Colleges Wales conference where Jo Cook is keynote speaker

The session I’m keynoting is focusing on the use of technology as part of the overall teaching blend. It’s important to start our focus on the reason most of us get into the careers that we are in, which is to set the context for those Lightbulb Moments of helping other’s learn and perform.

The full deck of slides in my presentation are available on


Title slide from Jo Cook’s Colleges Wales keynote presentation

If you want to see the tweets from the conference, this is the hashtag for the ones in English: #tlcym17

Joy in teaching

One of the things I wanted to concentrate on was the joy we have in our roles as teachers, trainers, facilitators, coaches and any learning or supporting role.

Often when paperwork, process, procedure and changes get on top of us, we forget how much we love what we do.

Ahead of the Colleges Wales conference I asked through Social Media “what do you love about your job in learning?”. As of 24th March 2017, these are the answers:


What do you love about your job in learning? Social Media responses

It’s so lovely to see these answers, about helping other people with change, helping them to “get it”, watching them grow and problem solve. The elements of working together and collaboration are important as humans are very social beings and it’s an essential element to how we learn.

Something I especially love is that people like seeing others enjoy their learning, and that there is also laughter. Anyone that knows me knows that I like a good laugh and I think that a light-hearted approach in many things can making it more enjoyable and make the learning a great experience.

On a digital note for a moment, for gathering the above thoughts I used the Anwer Garden website. It’s free and easy to gather short answers or suggestions from people. They don’t need a login or an app, just the link and they can contribute. Here’s the full question and suggestions you can look at and add your thoughts if you wish to.

Learning for life

Part of my research for the conference led me to look at the Welsh Education Reform Journey documentation. Something that especially caught my attention was this:

“Building on the 2014 OECD review and several other research reports, Wales developed an education vision and a strategic plan to move towards realising that vision, Qualified for Life: An Education Improvement Plan, published in 2014. Ongoing curriculum reform has allowed this vision of the Welsh learner to be further refined.”

The Qualified for Life element intrigued me – this is what we need to be doing in our roles, helping people for a future that isn’t yet written, for jobs that may not yet even be invented.

This could be worrying for many types of jobs, including teaching. Don Clark wrote this back in 2012 in a piece about Artificial Intelligence:

Future without teachers?

This may see hopelessly utopian. But could we have a future without teachers? Why not? Teaching is essentially being a conduit. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Wouldn’t academics really prefer to do pure research and not teach? Wouldn’t most teachers prefer not to have to mark anything and avoid the stress of the classroom? Couldn’t we dispense with teaching and just have learning?

Maybe teachers would prefer to get rid of the stressful elements in the classroom, and probably the hours or marking homework and assignments – I know they weren’t my favourite parts of teaching when I worked in a further and higher education college.

This theme lead me to thinking about the work of Canadian thought leader Harold Jarche and the concepts he has put together about the future of human work. Harold wrote this in a blog post about work:

We are on the cusp of being a digitally networked and computer-driven society and it seems we are throwing away the only thing that will enable people to have a valued role in it. Common core education standards are useless for this world of work. So are standard academic disciplines, as well as standard job competencies. These are all for machines, not humans. The future of human work is complex, creative, and unique.

Writer Sveta McShane summarised that there are three main things human are still better at than robots:

“Solving unstructured problems… working with new information… and non-routine manual tasks.”

She also highlighted that the World Economic Forum identified 21st century skills in categories of “Foundational Literacies, Competencies, and Character Qualities.”

They key point from Harold that resonates for this topic is that humans need to be ready for a complex world, where we are creative and make judgements in ways that machines, Artificial Intelligence and automated processes can’t.


Diagram on the future work for humans – click for original article and diagram by Harold Jarche

As Harold shows in the above diagram, it’s the empathy we have with other people that let’s us connect with them and build a relationship to support their learning – which is where the curiosity comes in. If we can foster this idea of curiosity and wonder in people, then they will want to learn, to improve themselves and the world around them.

Part of this future and curiosity will be encouraging people to seek information from whom or whatever their network is around them. Through a community of practice and perhaps the team that they work in, then make sense of this information.

Then it’s about sharing that information in a way that has created something new, something useful, back to the network.

This is the one way that we can manage professional development and it’s focus on continuous learning, and this is what we need to be taking into consideration when designing our learning materials.

Harold speaks of something he calls Personal Knowledge Mastery:

“PKM is a process of filtering, creating, and discerning, and it also helps manage individual professional development through continuous learning.”

In order to be able to do this, we need technology skills. “Technology is not what we seek, but how we seek”, quotes Futurist Gerd Leonhard in this video about humanity vs technology.

Challenge into opportunity

I see these changes as challenges to what we currently do, what we want to do, including staying in our comfort zone. I’ve seen it especially challenging for people with many years experience of working in a similar way.

We need to encourage people’s curiosity in order to get to the point of seeing that challenge as an opportunity for self and those that we support in building their own future.

Below are two questions posed to the audience of lecturers, teachers and senior practitioners at the Colleges Wales conference:


A question for the Colleges Wales conference audience

These were group discussions, with responses via Twitter and TodaysMeet too.

These questions are designed to draw out the challenges and thinking of those who are less comfortable with the amount of digital work that they are doing in their role. It’s also an opportunity for those who are more comfortable, and perhaps could be frustrated by colleagues, to understand a different point of view.

Time for change?

This quote is from a study about comparing different types of training in the US and highlights how this is the way forwards in schools:

Quote from Jo Cook’s Colleges Wales presentation

From this study, An Exploratory Study Comparing Two Modes of Preparation for Online Teaching, we can extrapolate the issue from schools to further and higher education, as well as different industry sectors.

Another research quote I found useful in looking at technology use in learning professionals is from a University of Westminster paper (2013) about faculties implementing technology.

“Two key variables influence intention to make use of a technology: perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.”

My experience with educators, learning professionals, support staff and decision makers in more senior positions, is that they need to experience good practice and well modelled different ways of learning in order to understand their possibilities.

Without best-in-class experience, people don’t always understand how new approaches can be worth the time and learning investment and the potential culture change.

Why bother?

It’s a fair question – we might think that our current styles and approaches work excellently, or are good enough. A lot of the time, for many people, they certainly will be. It doesn’t mean that methods and approaches can’t be improved or further research won’t show up shortcomings we didn’t previously know about (see my post on learning styles as an example).

One piece of research from Towards Maturity shows how important it is for us to look at working in an online manner, focusing on what people do at work and how they learn naturally.

This report highlighted that the main reason people wanted to learn online, using a blended approach, was that they just want to do their job faster – 76% of people want to do that! Couple that with 60% of respondents wanting to increase their productivity and we can see that the workforce we have now want to do better for their organisations.

75% want to learn from their own personal development, not necessarily a formal learning course, with nearly half (47%) actively wanting to keep up with technology itself. Even if formal learning isn’t for everyone, 42% are motivated to getting a professional certification – all through blended online learning.

Also, it’s about the skills that our newer generations of workers need to develop. It’s easy to think that young people are all technology savvy experts, as they play on their tablet, message on their phone and watch the television at the same time. However the Usabilla blog reported on research that “only 5% of the population have high computer-related abilities.” So we need to help them build the skills.

Just because not every student has the right skills, doesn’t meant that they don’t know they need them. Jisc news highlighted a report that showed:

“75% of higher education students surveyed believe that, having staff with the appropriate digital skills is an important factor when choosing a university.
99% of students think that technology is becoming increasingly important in education.”

Isn’t it about time..?

I love sharing this quote:

“Both students and tutors were positive about using… online tutoring, and…interactions were perceived as successful.”

I love sharing it for two main reasons:

  1. It’s brilliant research about using online software for “synchronous e-learning system for online tutoring” and highlighting the success that can be achieved.
  2. It’s from 2007. That’s right, it’s 10 years old. For some people there is still debate about whether online, blended teaching and training can work or if we should be doing it.

A lot of the reasons for people’s reticence is fear of technology.

 One of the reasons for not using live online learning was the fear of technology. From

Fear that the robots are going to take over, as mentioned above.

However when people get to experience how good online delivery can be, it can inform them of different experiences, such as this teacher describing her reaction to using computers for teaching in the US:

I always believed I would be much better in person than through the computer, but I have found that I can still have relationships with students in this manner.
I am not very competent with the computer but I am very strong in my subject matter.”

In the Jisc news item mentioned above, Jisc CEO Paul Feldman said:

“In today’s digital age, it’s crucial institutional leaders stay up to date with digital trends and grasp how to leverage new technologies if they wish to deliver an enhanced learning experience to their students. Possessing technology and understanding the digital world is no longer the sole domain of IT managers, all student facing staff need to be digitally savvy.”

We know that blended learning and online approaches can be many things, including, but not limited to:

Blended learning can be so many things

Blended learning is… from Jo Cook’s Colleges Wales presentation

This is, and should be, all be based on good pedagogy too.

This link is a great learning theory map with scientific disciplines, learning theorists, their paradigms and key concepts. I pick out from it paradigms such as social constructivism and experiential education, which are about learners having active roles with direct experience in education. Bruner’s discovery learning and scaffolding for tailored support to learners are essential concepts to be taken and used in the 21st century.

In his book, Learning with ‘e’s: Educational theory and practice in the digital age, Steve Wheeler states:

“True pedagogy is the antithesis of instructing from the front of the classroom.
True pedagogy is leading people to a place where they can learn for themselves.”

For more on classic and more modern pedagogy in teaching and the digital age, Steve’s book is an excellent read.


The invitation I give to people at the end of the keynote is to team up with someone, to learn together as professionals. Learning transfer, including our own, is about accountability, and working with other’s will help that.

Steve Wheeler, in his book, says that “every successful teacher must also be a professional learner. The essence of good teaching is to get students to fall in love with learning”. After all, if we aren’t excited by and curious about the what is to come, about developing new skills and using them in a future that is unwritten, how can we expect our learners to be?

Technology plus people equals success

The future is technology but also people, from Jo Cook’s Colleges Wales keynote presentation

Relationships not robots – Flight Hospitality Annual Conference

I’ve been invited to speak at the Flight Hospitality 2016 annual conference, where the theme is Relationships not Robots.

My session is discussing whether the virtual classroom, or live online delivery, is friend or foe.

This post is a summary of some of the key points and quotes with links to original research.

From the session

“The issue is no longer whether or not online learning is or should occur, but rather
how it is implemented”

From: An Exploratory Study Comparing Two Modes of Preparation for Online Teaching


Researched reasons for not using live online learning:

More “trouble than it’s worth”

Fear of technology

Hated web meeting/webinars: long and boring

From: Beat the Hype Cycle: Get people to use the web presentation tools you’ve paid for By Wayne Turmel

I also referenced the funny “video conference call in real life“.


“Two key variables influence intention to make use of a technology: perceived
usefulness and perceived ease of use”

From: Factors affecting faculty use of learning technologies: implications for models of
technology adoption


“What motivates people to learn online? 76% want to do their job faster and better”

From: 70+20+10=100 The Evidence Behind the Numbers Towards Maturity


“Those reporting directly to the line of business support double the number of
learners with fewer resources”



“If instructors are aware of the ease in which virtual classrooms can be set up and
used, they may be more inclined to use this technology to carry out online
instruction more effectively”

From: Use of Synchronous Virtual Classrooms: Why, Who, and How?

“Both students and tutors were positive about using … online tutoring, and …
interactions were perceived as successful”

This is from a report in 2007 – it’s 9 years old and we are still having pockets of

From: Virtual Spaces: Employing a Synchronous Online Classroom to Facilitate Student
Engagement in Online Learning


I used a graph of research about why people leave webinars early, from The Virtual Presenter.


“Over 75% of people who present using online tools do so for the first time with
innocent victims on the other end”

From the Remote Leadership Institute:

Action Mapping – summary from Learning Live

These are a few resources from my Learning Live 2014 breakout Inspire session for the Learning Performance Institute.

Action Mapping is an approach for designers to identify the measurable performance outcomes a learner needs to perform on the job.

Read more from creator Cathy Moore:

Examples in the Learning Live Inspire session were from Cathy’s Action Mapping presentation:


Some more resources on my Scoop It page, Does it need to be a training course?