skip to Main Content

Future Of Learning Image

Hosted by

Arup 2

In June Arup welcomed ABP members and guests to their offices and hosted an informative morning exploring the Evolution of Learning and Development. The event was attended by over 150 people.

We welcomed speakers:

  • Don Taylor, Chair of the Learning and Perfomance Institute and Chair of the Learning and Skills Group, talked to us about the current L&D market.
  • Steve Dineen, CEO Fuse Universal, introduced the innovative Fuse platform and how this is transforming workplace learning.
  • Deborah Barleggs discussed the approach to L&D within Arup and how this contributes to employee engagement.
  • David Swapp, Research Fellow & Immersive VR Lab Manager at University College London, presented the latest innovations of how Virtual Reality (VR) is being used to achieve long term behaviour change.

You can read more on each of these fascinating presentations below, with thanks again to Arup for hosting.

Don Taylor

Don Taylor on the current L&D market

The topic of Workplace Learning has become increasingly controversial in recent years.  Having matured from a discipline which was formerly regarded as a luxury for those lucky enough to be able to benefit from company sponsored training with little regard for standards or outcomes, the L&D marketplace has developed into a sophisticated commercial operation.  The problem is that it remains highly fragmented with varying degrees of standards, outputs and outcomes and expectations.  This has sparked discussion at local level as to what needs to be done to improve delivery.

To add to this development, the market has been subject to other changes:

*          there is an expectation that L&D should involve more sharing of information rather than it being a top down process

*          because of cost increases, face to face training is being replaced by online training, which can deliver more effective, highly targeted and better quality training at reduced cost.


Users of L&D need to ask two fundamental questions: how has L&D changed and where does it progress from here?  These are important because it is at a critical crossroads.  As articulated by Cassius to Brutus “There is a turning point in the times of man which is pivotal in history”.


Key features of the current market:

*          There is an expectation of scalability.  Clients expect delivery and results with the same quality and outcomes irrespective of scale.   Relevant activities need to be at the appropriate level and scale.

*          Staff are becoming increasingly time poor and have little time to learn through large scale reading programmes.  There is an increasing need for assimilation through bite sized chunks and different means of delivery.

*          Coaching is a practical way of learning, and is useful in some situations but it is increasingly too time consuming, especially for those in key process environments.

*          Application of Learning.  This is no longer an activity to be delivered in a defined time period and is to be effective has to be approached from a lifelong perspective.   Study and study shows that time dependent activities demonstrate no improvements in productivity.


Clearly L&D is trying to position itself as being business relevant.  Enlightened  organisations do it well, but two issues restrict effective use in many cases:

*          some organisations are stuck in a training ghetto and are almost obsessed with delivering traditional training programmes rather than exploring how to use online and other forms of delivery effectively

*          a lack of recognition that sharing of experiences can form part of training, helping individuals and organisations to fulfil potential.  In other words content derived from a bottom up process is more valuable and engaging.


Many young people now are taught how to pass exams.  However, relatively few are taught how to learn and to recognise how get the best from their learning experience.

Three things need to be addressed to improve L&D and meet needs:

*          building short term capability

*          building long term capability: this includes building bridges between groups of employees.  Training involving ongoing mutual support to which staff can easily relate should be included as part of an L&D programme

*          platform based training programmes can instil a sense of continuity and commitment.  At the same time they are capable of scale adaptation and models can be developed which are appropriate for different types and sizes of organisations.  However, the level of sophistication should be appropriate for the staff undergoing the programmes.


Coming back to the Cassius quote: omit the traditional training and explore and deliver what really does work.  Business psychology has an important role in assisting in this process.  This is where a link between the ABP and Learning Technologies could be so valuable as joint approaches to L&D could have a powerful effect on improvements in delivering effective L&D and improving organisational effectiveness.

Steve Dineen

Steve Dineen, Fuse Universal, on developing workplace learning behaviours

Fuse Universal Ltd. is not a training company in the traditional sense of training delivery, rather, it is a Learning Solutions Company.   The company was founded in 2008 by Steve Dineen, CEO and “chief storyteller”. The team’s collective experience includes designing online learning and knowledge solutions for a wide variety of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies.

Fuse is a cloud based platform that allows individuals to capture and share knowledge, questions and ideas in video, audio or text format.  The purpose of the software is to increase information accessibility within a company by recording and sharing examples of best practice or discussions from experts in the same industry.

The company has been through a recent round of funding and the team is growing rapidly. Currently, the organisation is made up of 55 employees. The main product is the Fuse platform, entirely cloud-based using Amazon Web Services build on Ruby on Rails, a server side web application developed by MIT, and available on all devices supporting iOS and Android systems.

The reason for their success is that they have recognised that traditional methods of training take people out of their working environment and have moved the learning experience to the concept of workplace learning.  The experience includes identifying issues and creating conversations between groups of staff.  There is no consistent approach and employees are encouraged to explore “what works”, using a mixture of social media, facebook, twitter, or own home grown apps. However, the programme is given continuity by getting staff to tackle easy to assimilate bite sized elements of ongoing work in between sessions, with continuity of momentum achieved through reporting back at the workplace sessions.


90% of the content is available on own devices along with a performance support tool, helping less able staff members to develop skills.  Staff are encouraged to become engaged in life simulated deconstructions in a supported situation.  For example in a retail environment such as Vodafone a store manager will make an observational assessment.  The results are reported in the form of a set of analytics which are compared over a period of time and matched to improved performance and behaviour and benchmarked with others.


These analytics can be used to produce two phases of improvement:

*          Phase 1, capturing best knowledge and linking it into structured learning and best practice and

*          Phase 2, creating behavioural change by connecting personality and learning preferences while at the same time addressing negatives such as overt excessive individualism and consequent biases.


The results have so far been good, with increases in net promoter scores of 14% over the previous year and staff increasing on average revenue by 13% following several weeks on the programme.


The programme has proved conclusively that

Learning -> Knowledge -> Experience -> Engagement and huge reductions in rates of attrition.  This is particularly true for new starters, 86% of whom admitted to being “engaged” as opposed to 12% prior to the programme.  The ultimate goal is complete trust between staff, supervisors and managers, where competition becomes healthy and others can learn from the best.   It is effective in most situations because

*          it is linked to Business KPIs.   For example, a customer is interested in a broadband box: find the best person to discuss the merits of different products and then capture the activity and using this as training for others that people can trust.

*          Social Learning.  By using learning as a tool to encourage social integration between staff, the learning process is enhanced.

*          Monitoring the interaction with people and other staff.  The behaviour is captured and then used as a basis for a phased coaching programme.  This one-to-one part of the programme may be more expensive to manage but the rewards can be considerable: performance improvements of 30-40% are averaged.

These figures can be improved even further over time: as trust develops and the narratives and story-telling improve, more internal “experts” can be created and procedures can be customised through a more knowledgeable and highly skilled staff.


Deborah Barleggs

Deborah Barleggs, Arup


Deborah discussed the Arup approach to staff engagement and development.  In summary she quoted the aspiration of the Arup founder, who said that the organisation should have a “Thirst for Knowledge, mind-set for enquiry, generosity of spirit and tolerance of ambiguity”.


The building blocks for this aspiration are:

*          strong commitment to the whole – employee ownership.

*          sharing learning – creating a self sustaining skills network.

*          a genuine global profit share to impart a sense of sharing.

*          creation of skills networks based on social identity theory and social learning, encouraged through work based social interaction.

*          leader development, with the emphasis on creating conditions for others to experience themselves being “skilful”.

*          External coaching – introduced when specific situations arise and opportunites present themselves to practise skills.

*          Psychological Safety – developing a role modelling environment, intrinsic motivation and building self-efficacy.


The organisation encourages formal training where appropriate  Examples include

*          Masters Programmes by ArupUniversity.

*          DesignSchool, incubating creativity and consider design imperative.

*          Chartership qualifications, with emphasis on professional endorsement.

*          Leadership development: highly selective for those who would really benefit from it, such as those who would easily assimilate Catalytic Learning and Systems Thinking.

*          Organisational Change Programme within other units.  The purpose of this is to embed best practice in cooperation with other teams.


In conclusion, Arup has won numerous awards, but it is aiming for an award based on the application of evidence based best practice, with a focus on the area of taking calculated risks. The legacy of this success would be the ultimate goal of staff being comfortable with ambiguity and generosity of spirit consistent with the aspiration of the founder.

David Swapp

David Swapp, UCL, on using Virtual Reality (VR) to achieve long term behaviour change


Most behaviour change derives from circumstances, as a result of changing attitudes.  The background concepts are :

*          Active Learning

*          Embodied Cognition

*          Presence

*          Technology / sleight of hand resulting from its use


VR has existed for some time in the form of flight training simulation.  However transformation has occurred as a result of improvements in display, movement, management of risk situations.  Using the analogy of flight simulation again, coping with the loss of one engine is one situation which can now be practised by pilots using VR.


Modern VR offers

*          Presence, enabling greater levels of submersion and a lack of awareness of supporting technology.

*          Immersion, which provides wider fields of view and higher levels of resolution.

*          Quality of view and audio.  The advent of spatialised audio enables the introduction of other senses into the experience of VR.  Speeds of 30-60 ms have transformed the breadth of VR applications and these are currently improving.


How has the use of VR made a difference?


The use of VR in areas as simple as Public Speaking training can make a huge difference as demonstrated by medical students who have experienced difficulty in relating to and dealing with patients.  The older systems going back to 2002 were useful but clunky, but modern systems work seamlessly across international boundaries.  So successful is VR that UCL uses VR for international teleconferencing.


Game changing applications include court appearances by victims who can “appear” in court through VR.  Victims can now give evidence with greatly reduced elements of fear and this has transformed attitudes on both sides of cases.


Training of medical students through Haptics or Virtual Surgery has been a huge success.  It is even possibly to predict effects of antibiotics which is also useful in medical training.


There are however limitations in the use of VR.   Once created, a VR situation is recorded vulnerable to misuse by social media and no one wants to create content for certain VR applications for fear of legal reprisals.  VR has been subjected to a great deal of hype and there is a risk that use may have, at least for time being, have plateaued.  In the meantime however, it has carved a niche for itself in Motion Capture Technology is a range of activities from medical training to police negotiation, court applications and dealing with sports injuries.


Richard Taylor

11 June 2018

Back To Top