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Home / Resources / Big Sponge Hangout Roundup

Big Sponge Hangout Roundup


The Big Sponge Hangout is over for 2016, but there’s still lots to learn from the virtual conference on all things L&D.

We heard 25 expert participants give tips on how to innovate, inspire and integrate with their digital learning.

The four-day event was split into themes which focused on different ways L&D can benefit from digital learning.

  • 4 days
  • 8 hours of content
  • 10 pre-recorded videos
  • 4 live interviews
  • 25 participants
  • 30 countries


Across the four days we saw common trends emerge from the different areas that were covered.

  • Engagement

One of the most important aspects of any effective digital training is making sure it makes an impact on your learners. The magic word, engagement, was discussed at length and many different approaches were considered.

Using video to increase engagement was discussed with media consultant, Nick Beddows on Day One:

“We evolved to interpret the world around us by seeing it, so video is a way of relating to a very hard-wired process that you can’t ignore. That’s one of the reasons video is so effective at engaging viewers”

Karl Kapp had this to say on what makes an elearning game engaging:

“If we focus on engagement, it makes the gamification experience from a learning perspective much stronger. It really focuses us on the content and mastery of content is engaging.”

Sophie Howe, director at Comtec Translations had a warning for L&D leaders who are going to roll out learning to different territories:

“If you don’t invest the time at the beginning to understand how to adapt the design and content for different international audiences, you run the risk of not engaging the learner, not achieving your learning outcomes and potentially it could have an effect on your global brand.”

Social learning expert, Julian Stodd talked about his recent research into how learners engage with different types of technology. Some are inherently social, like messaging or video chat apps, and some are more formal, controlled by the organisation.

“Engagement has been 20 times higher using social technologies rather than formal technologies.”

Once your elearning content has been rolled out the focus turns to measuring how engaged learners have been and the effect that has had on the business objectives.

  • Measuring results

The importance of tracking learner performance was raised throughout the event.

Geoff Stead stressed the importance of looking at the big picture and described using Piwik to provide Google analytics-style data about learner’s activity across a learning platform.

Rather than focusing on completion of individual courses, he says:

“If we’re able to show that the learning intervention made tangible difference to this business problem at this time, that’s transformative.”

John Leh discussed xAPI’s impact on measuring the interactions between learners and courses in finer detail.

“The innovation is happening where people are applying xAPI to things that SCORM can’t do, to tracking resources that learners are seeing online, to track things they’re doing at external conferences, or how they’re interacting socially inside the LMS.”

Evaluating the performance of employees using gamified learning was covered on Day One with gamification expert, Monica Cornetti.  She explained how gamification can help with measuring outcomes:

“Where are we and where do we want to be? There’s a metric there, and the cool thing about gamification is that it measures behaviour and specific actions.”

Using new techniques for tracking is becoming more important as organisations appreciate that more learning is being done through informal channels.

  • Evaluation

Closely linked with measuring the performance of your learners is evaluating the digital learning process as a whole.

The panel for the session on ‘Giving people what they want’ talked about how organisations can achieve better results by using evaluation to  tune into learner needs.

Marnie Threapleton of Towards Maturity brought up a dramatic statistic from her organisation’s research.

“70% of L&D professionals do not proactively try to understand how individuals in their organisations are learning.”

Other panel members, Phil Reddall, Vice Chair of the Elearning Network and Rhea Stevens, Senior Learning Designer at Sponge, discussed how to go about making sure feedback is captured and used to improve the learning being offered at all stages of the process.

Karl Kapp added his thoughts on how to measure the costs of learning games versus their benefits.

“Too much in training we think about the cost, but we don’t think about the value of what we’re doing. If we think value first and cost second I think we’ll see that games are very effective from a learning perspective.”

The case studies highlighted in the three live sessions also touched on the best practice for evaluating the learning, and covered the practical realities of getting useful feedback.

Watch the recordings to find out how Royal Mail, Specsavers and Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust evaluated their learning.

Catch up with The Big Sponge Hangout on Twitter through Storify:

View the story "The Big Sponge Hangout" on Storify