Expanding the Value of the #DevLearn 2011 Backchannel

In just about two weeks one of the best development opportunities for professionals in the Learning and Performance field will be upon us: DevLearn 2011.
The annual DevLearn conference, hosted by The eLearning Guild, continues to be one of the best events to attend if you want to learn about what organizations are doing in our field, and more importantly, where the field is going.  It has a reputation for being a conference that perfectly balances visions of the future with immediate skill takeaways professionals can apply today.  This year, DevLearn will expand to its largest size ever when it arrives at the Aria Resort and Casino November 2 -4.
One of the themes of this year’s conference is Curation, a subject that I have much interest in.  If you have visited my blog in the past, you may have noticed that I often follow conferences online, and post curated lists of the many valuable resources that are shared via the conference backchannels.  If you are not familiar with these posts, I recently posted an archive that collects them in a single location.  You’ll find a link to that archive at the end of this post.
My interest in the backchannel really began at DevLearn last year, or more specifically, through its backchannel.  I was unable to attend the conference in person, yet still discovered tremendous value from the conference by following its vibrant backchannel, and the sharing taking place there.  DevLearn 2010 was actually the first conference I posted a collected resources list for, and I enjoyed it so much that I have continued to do it for other conferences over the past year.  I look forward to once again collecting the resources shared through the DevLearn backchannel again in 2011.
But this time, things are going to be a little different.
The organizers of the DevLearn conference value the backchannel very much.  They see the added value it is able to generate not only for conference attendees, but for people that were unable to attend the conference in person, and for the field in general.  With that perspective in mind, the organizers of the conference reached out to me with a fairly simple question: “We like your Backchannel Resource postings and the value it adds to our conference; what could we provide to you to help take that to even higher levels?
As someone that often thinks of ways to better leverage the backchannel concept as part of a learning and performance strategy, this opportunity is tremendously exciting.  At its core, this support will enable me to do what I’m already doing, but with greater access and outreach.  That in itself could be enough to add value, as it will result in more shared resources.  We’re also looking at doing other things to enhance the backchannel. 
One of the first pieces of that will appear here, in my blog.  For many people, the backchannel concept is still new.  In my experience, many people first learn about and experience backchannels at a conference. 
I’ve coached people on participating in the backchannel at conferences, and it’s often like trying to teach someone how to drive for the very first time… and taking them straight to the parkway.  Driving on a parkway requires an almost subconscious knowledge of driving mechanics so that the driver can focus on the interactions with the other cars.  The backchannel is very similar.  It’s hard to take in the value of a backchannel if you’re struggling with the mechanics of the technology required to participate.
Over the course of the next two weeks, I will be posting a series of blog entries that are designed to help both attendees and those monitoring the DevLearn backchannel from afar to prepare to participate, and to get more value out of the conference.
While we do have some plans as part of this process, what excites me most about this role is that it will be very much like the backchannel itself: something that develops organically and ultimately becomes what the interactions of the backchannel community determine it to be.
If there are ideas you would like to share on how the value of the DevLearn backchannel can be expanded this year, please do share them.  Post a comment to this blog, send me a tweet to @LnDDave, send me an e-mail to LnDDave@gmail.com, or just post to the #DevLearn hashtag to share your idea with the backchannel community at large.
I can say this though; what we’re doing here is very reflective of DevLearn.  Many conferences do a good job of reporting on what organizations are doing to take the field to greater heights.  What I’ve described here is an example of DevLearn actually being a part of that advancement, and looking to help drive our profession forward.  I’m honored and excited to be a part of it.
I’m looking forward to meeting many of you, either in person or virtually, at DevLearn this year.
See you there- David

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