And the winner is…

30 Nov 2018 |Written by Kevin Maye

What are the Learning Technology Awards?

We're not talking about the Oscars here - but for us learning professionals, it's pretty close! Every year, in late January or early February, there's a big conference in London - the Learning Technology conference.

There are hundreds of exhibitors, internationally renowned speakers, debates and seminars about learning theories, and demonstrations of new and emerging technologies. Tickets cost over a thousand pounds (there is free entry to the exhibition that happens alongside the conference).

It's a big deal.

The Learning Technology Awards are organised by the same people to recognise excellence in our sector.

That all sounds nice but does it have any relevance to Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network?

Of course it does!

The conference, exhibition and often the awards will focus on training for employees in large corporations. Charity categories are often dominated by larger organisations talking about their development programmes.

But effective methods to help people develop new skills are generally transferable. Those methods work for smaller organisations or helping the public develop their digital skills.

As a team, we've learned a lot at the conference. Previous award winners have inspired us with some of their techniques and technologies, which helps us improve Learn My Way.

What and why we entered?

This year we decided to enter the awards. We were sure the great work in Online Centres could inspire others.

We entered two categories:

  • Best use of blended learning (UK) for the use of Learn My Way that happens in Online Centres
  • Learning team of the year for the team here in the Good Things Foundation office supporting that delivery.

Looking at the information and knowledge we had available, deciding on which categories to enter and what to include in our submissions was a no-brainer.

The Best use of blended learning (UK) category was a great fit for us thanks to our model of delivery for the Future Digital Inclusion programme.

Obviously, the stats helped - since the beginning we've supported 998,092 people to improve their basic digital skills thanks to the community reach of the Online Centres Network. We think our model is a great blended approach for both learners and tutors and it really works - the number of people reached so far is a testament to that.

For Learning team of the year, we thought it might be ambitious but someone has to win, right? And because we have so much fun and love what we do, we knew there was lots of juicy stuff we could include in our submission.

Not to blow our own trumpet too much but some examples of what we do as a team are:

  • Create content for and manage the Learn My Way platform
  • Develop resources for Online Centres to support learners
  • Support international delivery of basic digital skills training in Australia and Kenya
  • Develop and help others with the delivery of training and workshops
  • Support other teams within Good Things Foundation by developing learning content for specialist digital and social inclusion projects.

Being a small team we often have to use our brains to the max and think of innovative ways to tackle problems. Often our solutions may be low tech but, as mentioned before, collectively Good Things Foundation and the Online Centres Network has reached almost 1m people with digital skills and confidence. We must be doing something right.

What did we learn from the process?

Entering awards sounds easy, but it's a lot tougher than you think.

  1. Choose the category for what you do.
  2. Explain what you do, including how/why you do it better than anyone.
  3. Add proof of results.
  4. Serve with a smattering of applause!

Actually, even though we had great results and knew brilliant stuff was happening, finding the right words wasn't easy. Word count limits meant some things that we'd like to talk about had to be left out.

The process is a lot like applying for funding from a critical funder. Luckily we attended our great funding and bid writing training - you can too.

Reflecting on what was being achieved in Online Centres and by our own team was great. It really forced us to consider if we were doing the right things in the right ways.

Amazingly both our applications were shortlisted. So in September, we had two trips to London to present to a panel of judges.

Think of a daunting interview. Where you explain how you do something to a group of experts who are doing exactly that thing. Then put that in a box at the Kia Oval while a game of county cricket is taking place for distraction!

The winner is…

So on the 21st November right after our conference (#DigiEvol18) finished, along with our Head of Learning, I nipped across London for the Learning Technology Awards presentation.

We found ourselves at the back of the room, which we took as a bad sign. But we were sitting with some great people from the BBC and Aardman Animations (yes the same Aardman Animations as Wallace & Gromit) - a good sign.

I may have been a bit awe-struck. When they won a Silver Award (Best learning game for BBC iReporter), if I'm honest, I thought we would be lucky to get a mention.

To say we were surprised and delighted to win the Bronze Award for Best use of blended learning would be an understatement. As you can guess to then be announced as the winners of Learning Team of the year left us totally speechless. Read more about the awards and who we were competing with.

Both of these awards are a testament to the great work that goes on every day in Online Centres up and down the country. The learning team award recognises that our team of four (Harriet, Michael, Aniela and me) have done amazing work. However, none of that would be possible without the inspiration we get visiting and talking to Online Centres here in the UK.

Next year?

Of course, having entered two categories and received both a Bronze and Gold Award at our first attempt, the pressure is now on.

So expect to see and hear more from the learning team as we try to make Learn My Way even better. Maybe we'll be talking to you about what would improve the blended learning approach you take. We could even be developing a game for you and your learners.

This year a Learning Technology award, next year who knows. Aardman Animations did have nice things to say about the Oscars…