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My Experience at DevLearn 2019

By December 16, 2019One Comment
this is my devlearn experience

I attended DevLearn 2019 this past October, in Las Vegas. It was my second time attending the conference—but it was a completely different experience from 2018 in so many different ways. It was such a profoundly different experience; I needed plenty of time to process and reflect before I could share my takeaways with all of you.

In this post, I’ll share the highlights of my week at DevLearn and my key takeaways from the event.

me standing in front of the devlearn this is community sign

Highlights From the Week

The week at DevLearn started with a fun video critique session conducted by Bianca Woods and Mark Britz, Tuesday evening. They showed us a curated YouTube playlist of training videos that the group discussed the good, bad, and ugly for each example. It was a fascinating exercise that allowed for diverse perspectives, experiences, and preferences for design to be shared—there were also plenty of opportunities for humor, which is always a plus.

I encourage you to check out their playlist with the link above and discuss the examples with your team. You might be surprised at the different perspectives that folks have—you may even find some ideas to apply in your work.

Highlights from the rest of the week included:

The most important highlight from the week had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues—and meet new ones! Here’s a photo gallery of just a few of them.

Critical Takeaways From DevLearn 2019

An important reason why I wait to reflect on DevLearn is to allow the excitement of big and new ideas to become tempered with the challenges that I’m facing in my day-to-day. This will enable me to balance the possibilities of the future with what is most urgent, today—with that in mind, here are my biggest takeaways from this year.

Demystifying Artificial Intelligence

It was interesting to see the progress that AI has made, but it’s also limited in its abilities. Contrary to science fiction, AI is not something that will become self-aware and take over the world—the technology is limited to what humans program it to do. The more significant risk is humans using AI to satisfy their greed.

As with any technological advance, though, people worry about whether or not AI will take their job. Although jobs will be replaced, new roles will emerge for skills that don’t exist yet—maintaining and working with robotics/automation/AI. Check out this website to see if robots/AI will replace your job.

Not surprisingly, Training and Development Specialists have a 1.4% chance of this happening. The limitations of AI programming and the subjective nature of learning will prevent our field from being replaced by robots.

However, we can use AI as a tool to enhance the learning experience—AI chatbots are a great example of what’s possible today. We’re also seeing AI included in learning platforms to automate the workflow of recommending resources to learners.

Using xAPI Across the Enterprise

I attended several sessions where the presenters shared their experience with incorporating xAPI into tools and systems across their companies. When used this way, xAPI makes it possible for us to understand behavioral patterns in a way that better influences how we can best respond to the needs of learners.

Implementing xAPI across the enterprise can be a big undertaking that will take time and resources—which may make it challenging to create buy-in with other priorities.

However, starting small and building a proof-of-concept example in a single project is a great way to show the value and generate support from the organization. The most crucial step is to develop a strategy of what data you want to collect with xAPI and how you’ll use it, instead of just blindly experimenting.

If you don’t do this, you may have trouble if you try to scale up the integration with multiple tools or platforms. You may never reach 100% xAPI usage in all projects, but that’s ok. Having a precise but small use-case will bring more ROI than collecting data you don’t use.

Show Your Story—Don't Just Tell It.

My last key takeaway from DevLearn was the importance of visual storytelling. Whether it’s pitching new ideas to stakeholders or sharing the outcomes of a learning solution, it’s critical to show the story you are trying to tell. Nothing can replace the value of visuals when you are trying to build buy-in and create alignment with other people.

In the case of pitching new ideas, it’s important to include functional demos whenever possible. Showing the concept in action removes ambiguity and helps you to avoid misconceptions at the earliest stages with your stakeholders. Although it may slow you down at first, the ROI at later stages is undeniable.

How you visualize data is, in some ways, more important than the data itself—your choices impact how your story is received and processed. I experienced this first-hand with the sessions that I attended. For the speakers that didn’t have a clear focus on the visuals in their presentation, the message and data felt obscured, compared to those who were deliberate with their visual and data designs.

Why I Attend DevLearn

These are all just a taste of my experience and takeaways from the week—if you want to get the full benefit of the experience, you’ll need to attend yourself. Here are my reasons why I would recommend you go to DevLearn, next year or in the future:


Having the opportunity to meet, network with, and learn from folks that are facing the same challenges as you are unbeatable. It’s great to see old friends and make new ones that are as passionate as I am about learning and technology.

Ideas and Shared Work

The eLearning Guild does an outstanding job of balancing their program with sessions that focus on the challenges of today and the potential for the future. What’s even better is the willingness of everyone to freely share what they know for the common good of our industry.

Unlimited Inspiration

Between the speaker sessions, expo hall, and Demofest event, there is no shortage of sources of inspiration. Whether it’s something that gives me a breakthrough on a current project or just soaking in the energy around me, DevLearn helps provide motivation and recharge my creative batteries.

If you didn’t attend this year, I hope you’ll have the opportunity for next year and that I’ll see you there. But if you did attend DevLearn, what were your key takeaways—share them in the comments below!

Mike Jones

Hi, I'm Mike. I design and develop high-quality learning solutions that focus on outcomes—meeting the needs of the client, their organization, and their learners. As an Instructional Designer and L&D Professional, I have had extensive experience creating eLearning, blended, and traditional Instructor-led Training (ILT) in corporate, medical, and non-profit settings. My passion for lifelong learning and cutting edge technology is only furthered through collaborating with others that are just as passionate about helping people.

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