The eLearning Network: a review of 2020 and a look ahead to 2021

November is always an important time of year for the eLN as it’s usually our annual conference and it’s when we hold elections for the Board of Directors. It’s also a good time to reflect on this past year and what we’re planning for 2021.

We’re nearing the end of 2020 and many will be saying thank goodness! What an unusual year it’s been for all of us. As Chair of the eLN for the past two years, I’d like to share my reflections with you on the past year and my thoughts on the year ahead.

Last November, 8 new directors were appointed to the eLN Board of 12, which also includes co-opted director Tony Frascina; we have an admin assistant, Rowan Lingard and a marketing and conference expert, Hayley Maisey, supporting the Board. The eLN is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company and I’m pleased to say we’re financially sound. We meet monthly via Zoom and at the start of the year, responsibilities were allocated between us.

Here’s what we’ve been doing over the past year:

    • Value proposition and research projects

      With so many new directors in post in 2020, we took the opportunity to examine our ‘value proposition’ and identify how best to serve the membership. Laura Overton supported the Board, with directors Christine Locher and Jason Baker taking the lead on this, supported by Dharmesh Chauhan. This is work in progress that will continue to shape our membership offering in the coming year. We also entered into partnership with Jane Daly of PeopleStar. Jane will be working with the Board, especially Asli Derya and myself, to roll out a longitudinal research project to identify the core issues we’re all grappling with as L&D professionals in our different roles and contexts. The aim is to move towards becoming an evidence-based network. Participation in the research will be fully inclusive and open to all and we’ll launch it in January 2021. Let us know what you’d like us to do for you in 2021 and please do take part in Jane’s research!
    • The Mentoring Scheme

      This is one of our most popular member benefits and this year, it has been ‘business as usual’. It has never been more valuable, especially with so many in L&D losing their jobs and/or moving into the freelance world. If you’ve not participated yet, remember that mentoring someone else helps you be more reflective of your own practice. My thanks to directors Jayne Davids and Christine Locher for running the scheme so well this year. We’re sad to see Christine stepping down after just a year but she’s promised to remain an active network member. Email Mentoring@elearningnetwork.org to request your mentor or put yourself forward to mentor others.
    • Face-to-face members’ events 

      We’ve always held 4 or more of these in London and around the UK to enable our members to come together and network, as well as develop their skills. Directors Gemma Wells, Andy Moorman, Tony Frascina and I were putting together a series of one-day events in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh when the pandemic stopped everything. In response, we created alternative virtual events – see below. Andy’s term of office also ends in November and we’d like to thank him for his many years of service. What in-person events would you like to attend next year and where? Let us know.

    • eLN Connect conference

      Planning for our annual conference, eLN Connect 2020, was way ahead of 2019 with keynotes all booked by February, thanks to the hard work of director Gemma Wells and conference organiser Hayley Maisey. However, by the summer, not knowing if we could go ahead or not because of the pandemic, we negotiated with the venue to ‘lift and shift’ the conference to 23rd November 2021. It was the right decision! Setting up and running a virtual conferences takes a lot of effort and organisation and since everyone on our Board gives their time voluntarily, it was not something we felt we could do ourselves. We look forward to seeing you all in person next November. Save the date and look out for early bird tickets in the spring!
    • Webinars

      Back in the spring as the full lockdown kicked in, we quickly pulled together a number of webinars on working remotely, video-based meetings and coping with the challenges of COVID-19. We experienced Zoom Bombing (the session was hacked into and we had a torrent of abusive language and behaviour): fortunately the queen of virtual classrooms, Jo Cook, was hosting it and we quickly shut down that session and got another one up and running within a few minutes. Thankfully, Zoom has since improved its security. In total we’ve run 16 webinars this year where we would normally do about 10 and we have one more coming up on 4th December with The Learning Guild’s Jane Bozarth talking about research. My thanks go to Leonard Houx (who has now left the Board), Jayne Davids and Asli Derya for helping to host these with me. Gemma is planning a dedicated webinar series for members for 2021 – see below. Sign up for Jane’s webinar today; catch all 45 previous webinar recordings on our YouTube Channel.
    • Virtual networking events

      We also ran 6 virtual coffee mornings for members, hosted by Kim Ellis, and members themselves ran a session on Developing a Portfolio. Kim was co-opted onto the board to run the coffee mornings (when Anusha Jain resigned) and she has done a great job. She is now standing for full election to the Board and plans to restart the sessions in the new year. Keep an eye on our website for upcoming dates.

    • Slack workspace

      Knowing how important it is to stay connected to people when you’re more isolated working from home, we introduced a Slack workspace for members as a means of getting to know each other better and staying connected, as well as sharing information and advice. All full members are eligible to join this. The directors all engage with Slack but the key benefit is enabling member to member messaging. Email our admin assistant, Rowan Lingard, on ContactUs@elearningnetwork.org to request access.
    • Newsletters

      These go out every month to full members and associates and received a makeover when Kim took over editing them. Kim is always on the lookout for news items, for members to write blog posts for it and also upcoming events to highlight to members, both from the eLN and elsewhere. Could it be your turn to write the next blog post?
    • Industry Partners

      We currently have 23 companies who have signed up to the eLN as Industry Partners. This costs just £250 for the year and includes one member representative membership, the option to host a webinar and preferential access to event sponsorship. Is this something your company might be interested in? Director Luke Merrick has been working on IP relationships supported by Rowan Lingard, so please get in touch.
    • Learning Technology Awards Judging

      Director Tony Frascina has stayed co-opted onto the Board for many years as he takes responsibility for managing the annual LT Awards judging process. This year the judging was all done virtually and involved hundreds of entries and over 50 judges! Great job, Tony! Many of the directors are also involved as judges, which is a great experience. Interested in judging the awards next year? Get in touch!
    • Website

      eLN Director Dave Price took it upon himself to give the website a much-needed refresh and introduce new features such as the member profile option. We’ve also switched our membership payment platform from PayPal to Stripe, which saves the network money on transaction fees. When we do get back to F2F sessions, we will take bookings through the website, saving EventBrite fees, too. Thank you, Dave! Let us know what you think of the new design!
    • Social media

      The eLN has an amazing reach on social media. Several of the directors contribute to and/or manage the posts on these sites, particularly Gemma Wells and Kim Ellis, as well as Hayley Maisey and Rowan Lingard. Not following us yet? Follow the links below:

LinkedIn Company page (10,050 followers): https://www.linkedin.com/company/2001976/

LinkedIn discussion forum (5,785 members): https://www.linkedin.com/groups/162273/

Twitter (19,540 followers): https://twitter.com/elearningnetwk

    • Other events

      We have been supporting other conferences that made the switch to virtual, including The Learning and Development Conference hosted by Will Thalheimer and Matthew Richter in the summer and more recently DevLearn 2020 for which we were a media partner. Members could access discounts on both conference fees. We’re also taking part in the free and virtual World of Learning Summit on 9th and 10th December 2020, with two free seminars and an exhibition stand. Do join us there and don’t forget as a member you get a discount on the ticket price for Connect 2021!
    • Team membership

      In addition to individual eLN membership, we now offer team membership. This is attached to an individual (like the normal full membership) but we can invoice the company for the cost of in-house members, rather than each individual paying for themselves. The memberships are not transferable between employees, unless that person leaves the company. Interested? Email Rowan at ContactUs@elearningnetwork.org.

So what can we look forward to in 2021?

It’s interesting to see how the wider L&D as a profession has managed the move to digital and technology enabled learning over the past months and we don’t see that stopping any time soon. The rapid change has meant there are many people transitioning into eLearning and digital delivery. While the news of forthcoming vaccines is brilliant, we can’t be sure when we’ll be able to meet up again in large groups in 2021. We know members are keen to build their skills as well as their network and believe the eLN has a key role to play in our community. We’re delighted to announce that Gemma Wells is organising a series of skills-based webinars for members, to be hosted and delivered by members themselves. Well done to those who’ve offered their services for these: we can’t wait! They will launch in January so make sure you don’t miss out. Along with the research and other activities, we’re sure it’s going to be a busy year! We’ll open up bookings for Connect 2021 in spring, so put 23rd November in your diary now!

Board elections

Could it be your turn to join the eLN Board of Directors? Are you keen to step up and do more for our community? Would you like to develop experience at Board level through working with a friendly and helpful team? As I said at the beginning of this post, the nomination process for the new Board of Directors is open. You have to be a full member to nominate yourself and you need another member to second you. Find out more here. This year we have existing directors Gemma and Kim standing, plus 3 new places available. You need to be able to commit to around a day a month, spread over the month, but it’s fair to say the more you put in, the more you get out of the experience. You have until 27th November to submit your nomination.

Finally, I should add that the Board has asked me to stay on for another year on a co-opted basis, which I’ve agreed to do. I look forward to being involved in this great network during 2021.

Regards, Joan

Joan Keevill, eLN Chair

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