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Elliott Masie’s 30 Under Thirty: Maestro Interviews Megan Bowe

If you attended the Learning 2012 Conference earlier this year, you’re probably familiar with Elliott Masie’s 30 Under Thirty list, honoring the next generation of leaders in the world of learning. Maestro was so impressed and inspired by the thoughts, vision and accomplishments of this group of leaders that we wanted to take a few minutes to chat with the honorees. We’re so excited to share with you over the next several weeks their glimpses into the future of learning and start a dialogue with them and with you about how we can all help take training and development to a whole new, previously unimaginable level.

First in our series of 30 Under Thirty interviews is Megan Bowe, who is involved with strategy and product design work on the Tin Can API at Rustici Software. Rustici builds software that supports standards for technology to, as Megan puts it, “play together nicely”, such as SCORM and AICC.

“I know, that sounds really boring,” says Megan. “The reality is that we get to solve some problems that can have a huge impact on many people across industries.”

The Tin Can API is one example of that huge impact. Rustici researched and drafted the Tin Can API for ADL (the Advanced Distributed Learning) in 2011 and continue to support people in understanding and adopting it today. As a result, Megan says “Tin Can is now in the community and being shored up to a 1.0 spec, which should be out in early 2013.”

One of Megan’s favorite parts of her job is getting to spend time talking with the people in the community and designing events for people to come together around the specification. She says it’s like “delicious, mind blowing nerd candy”. (We may need to steal that description sometime here at Maestro.)

Here’s our interview with Megan about her views of the future of learning. Enjoy!

Maestro: Tell me about some of the things you are doing to stay current in the world of learning.

Megan: I talk with people a lot on various social tools. I'm generally on top of a few twitter hashtags that break me out of my traditional personal learning network. I also have been writing a lot and in order to write, you really have to read and listen to what others are saying. It's time consuming, but totally worth it.

I think the place I learn the most is in a community built around an “unconference” that I started with Aaron Silvers last year. It's called Up to All of Us, we focus it on the overlaps of design, learning and technology. We invite people who bring unique perspectives and big, complex problems to solve. The kind that no one person could solve on their own. Big conferences are also good places to hear about the bigger trends and directions that things are going. I find the most value at larger events is to have a hit list and a problem to solve.

Maestro: What challenges do you see for the next generation of learning leaders - people like you?

Megan: I think we are entering a really interesting time, the competencies that learning groups need are changing rapidly. It’s not going to be about a group of learners talking to one another. Instead, they’re going to be more strategically embedded in the actual work that needs to be done and supporting people as individuals with unique challenges. People in learning roles will have to look at their work in terms of how they help a person improve their performance in a way that directly affects business results.

The big challenges will be developing stronger partnerships with the business team and working with data for personalization to support people as individuals. There’s going to be a growing tension we will have to manage between keeping up with technology and overdoing it. There will be a never-ending supply of new shiny tools that do interesting things. We need to make sure we don’t over complicate our systems. Making sure people have the information they need when they need it is the number one priority, the learning group needs to specialize in helping that happen in the simplest way possible without putting too much technology in between. 

Maestro: What excites you about the future of learning?

Megan: I'm generally excited that people will continue to learn in the future regardless of what any of us do. More importantly, I think we have a lot of opportunities to figure out and better support what ignites peoples’ passions, to help them down the paths they want to go down. Tin Can opens up a lot of opportunity to more fluidly record what people have already done, what they already know how to do. We can spend less time boring them with things they already know and provide them with new things that help them improve faster. Tin Can makes it even more possible for learning people to harness the power of data-driven design that is practiced so well by usability people. Tin Can even gives people a way to own their data about what they’ve done and share that data with the people they want to help understand where they are (the people who can help guide them to where they want to be).

Maestro: What advice do you have for companies struggling to keep up with the changing landscape of learning?

Megan: I think companies need to look at what it really means to support their employees in doing their jobs well and if those jobs are directly related to delivering value to their customers. The trends in learning will shift, slide, and fade. If a company is preoccupied by keeping up with learning trends, instead of helping their employees to do what they need to grow the business and satisfy customers, the company won't be around long anyway.

Interested in learning more about Megan? Follow Megan on Twitter: @meganbowe Connect on LinkedIn: Take a look at her blog: User Sciences Check out the Rustici Software: and the Tin Can API  

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