Back from FocusOn Learning conference

Catherine Upton

A quick report of our panel session, conversations, and "Lightning Rounds."

Picture Ontuitive was pleased to be a sponsor at last week's FocusOn Learning conference[1], put on by the eLearning Guild[2]. We hosted a panel session[3] entitled "Forgetting What we Know: Re-conceiving Performance Support as Performance Learning," with L&D industry professionals and a scholar from the field of cognitive psychology. We are grateful to our panelists--Jeremy Smith from Herman Miller, Rory Francis from Huntington National Bank, and Veronica Yan of UCLA and USC--for the energetic discussion they started among the attendees. The session provided an overview of some of the basic research we've been posting about on this blog (summarized in this short white paper[4] that we made available at the conference). Our panelists then engaged the material primarily in two ways: how learners experience the application of "desirable difficulty," and the difference between performance and learning. Attendees wondered how to convince management that making learning more difficult can be effective in the long term, and expressed concern about the responses of learners who might experience frustration in such methods (and see our first Insight post[5] about emotion and learning for a reminder of how important these dynamics can be). We suggested that leaning on conventional methods of learning--blocking, cramming, long presentations, passive intake of information, etc.--might only kick that anxiety down the road. That feeling of "getting it" right after an initial exposure to new material usually creates a false fluency that only means the anxieties and frustration at work will show up later when the organization finds that the learning didn't stick.Most of our time, however, was spent on the proposed distinction between Performance Support and Performance Learning. We initially proposed:•Performance Support addresses an immediate and short-term need
•Performance Learning is structured to deliver information that is needed for a longer term, and available in a more flexible mannerBut we wondered if perhaps performance and learning are even more distinct. In a formal sense, performance only measures how well a learner has command of information in a given moment, while learning is "flexible and durable," to use Dr. Yan's phrase. The more difficult question for those planning learning is how to efficiently ascertain which information needs long-term methods (learning), and which information will be used primarily for immediate work performance (support).We also had a blast hosting "Lightning Rounds" of presentations by invited colleagues. Restricted to 20 slides, each on the screen for only 20 seconds, these presentations were a lot of fun and kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Thanks to Mark Fournier ("Mentor: Video Coaching in Context"), John Towsley ("Who Are You?"), Megan Torrance ("LLAMA and xAPI"), and Veronica Yan ("Surprising Dynamics Behind How We Learn").

Original author: Jenna Smith


  1. ^FocusOn Learning conference (
  2. ^eLearning Guild (
  3. ^session (
  4. ^short white paper (
  5. ^first Insight post (

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