If you’ve been to a conference in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that most conferences now feature a smartphone app as a way to get information and connect with the conference. These apps have evolved over the years, and the eLearning Guild continues to be at the forefront of bringing new functionality to it’s event apps.
This year’s Learning Solutions app takes things to a new level. This post explores the 2013 Learning Solutions Conference app, highlighting the new functionality. At the bottom of the post is a video that walks through all of the app functionality.
A Leap Forward for Conference and Event Apps
Conference apps usually started with a simple purpose: take the information normally contained in a paper-based program guide and digitize it into something accessible on a smart phone of tablet. Over the years, additional functionality has been added here and there, most often social components.
The social components rarely hit the mark though. They often felt like stripped down versions of an existing social network (usually Twitter) that were bolted onto the primary functionality, Frankenstein-style. Using the social add-ons of most conference apps feels unnatural, and often detracts from engagement rather than enhancing it. I’m always an active contributor to conference backchannels, and I’ve never contributed via the conference app; I’ve always used a dedicated social media tool.
That may change at this year’s Learning Solutions.
The eLearning Guild has always featured a cutting-edge app for their events the past few years, and this year’s Learning Solutions conference is no exception. The difference this year is that a major milestone has been reached.
The first time you use the app, you’ll need to log in. To log in, you’ll need to enter a user name (your email address) and password.
The username is your email address. Many people have multiple email addresses. In order to log in to the app, you must use the email address that you used to register for the Learning Solutions conference.
An App Built for Social
This years app doesn’t have a social component bolted onto it; it’s built from the ground up with social in mind.
Once you log into the app you’ll see a social feed from people posting from the app. All of the functionality you would expect from a network like Facebook or Twitter is here, including tagging speakers, locations, or sessions, liking and commenting on posts and adding photos.
It’s all here, native to the app, in a very easy to navigate feed. But it doesn’t stop there. The app easily connects to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, providing you the opportunity to share your app updates publicly as well.
The social aspect also leverages your device’s notification feature. When someone tags you, or likes / comments on one of your posts, you’ll get a pop-up notification on your device letting you know.
In addition to the robust sharing options, the app also features a new networking feature to help match and connect you with people at the conference with similar interests. When first accessed, the app will ask you to select one or two of your primary interests. Once selected, a list of people at the conference that also selected those categories will appear. You can also look at the full listing of app users without applying that filter.
Want to contact someone listed in the app? It’s easy, as there is also a private messaging function integrated into the app that allows you to send a message from one person to another without it being part of the public feed.
All in all, the social component really works in this app. It takes things to a new level, and really does a great job of integrating the app into the natural experience of the conference.
Other New Functionality
The app has the type of functionality you’d expect to have in an app, including reviewing the schedule, setting my personal agenda, getting information about sponsors and expo exhibitors, reviewing a map of the conference site, and more. Let’s look at some of the additional features that are new to this year’s app.
Online Syncing: I have both an iPhone and an iPad. Depending on what I’m doing at a conference, I may have one of the other open at any given time. With past apps, the agenda I created was local to the device. That changes this year. This year’s Learning Solutions app syncs online, so changes I make on my iPhone are synchronized on my iPad. For multi-device users, this is a welcome change.
Calendar Exports: I find it frustrating to have to manage multiple calendars, and greatly appreciate when technology enables me to consolidate. When you review a session description, you’ll notice there is an ADD TO CALENDAR option. This will take the session details and create a calendar appointment on your existing device calendar. This is a very nice option.
Leaderboards and Badges: The social aspects of the app also feature gaming elements. When you post or check in to sessions, you’ll earn points that are tracked on the leaderboard. Will you see yourself on top at the end of the conference? You’ll also have the opportunity to earn badges for different types of app activity.
QR Code Scanner: Around the expo and conference, you’ll often find QR Codes, which usually require the use of a dedicated app to scan and review. This year’s Learning Solutions app includes an integrated QR Code scanner, so there’s on less reason to use a separate app at the conference.
An App that Truly Enhances Your Conference Experience
This year’s Learning Solutions app really has raised the bar. It’s social component works very well, and the other new functions make this map a must-download. Definitely take some time to explore it on your way to the conference, and expect it to app tremendous value to your time in Orlando.
I’ve recorded a walkthrough of the app’s functionality in the video below. The video is about 20 minutes long, so I’ve also included a table of contents below the video should you want to explore specific parts of the app.
Exploring the App
Logging In – 0:00
The Social Feed – 1:20
Exploring the Main Menu – 2:50
Posting an Update – 3:30
Tagging an update – 3:43
Adding a note to an update – 5:28
Adding a picture to an update – 6:02
Sharing updates on facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn – 6:28
The networking option – 9:10
Sending a private message – 10:45
Notifications – 11:45
Getting speaker information – 12:45
Adding a speaker review – 13:15
Sponsors and exhibitors – 13:45
Handouts / Worksheets – 14:06
Using favorites – 15:30
The conference map – 15:30
Visiting the LSCon Twitter page – 16:10
Exploring MapDeck – 16:22
Visiting Hashcaster – 16:45
Exploring Photo feed – 17:10
Reviewing / Changing Profile Settings – 17:45
The app leaderboard – 20:10
Earning app badges – 20:30
Using the QR Code Scanner – 21:17