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Reflections on an Exceptional Year

I’m not really one for end-of-year reflection pieces. It’s easy to look back in hindsight and congratulate yourself on all of the brilliant strategic decisions that you made. But most of the time it’s a healthy dose of luck that helps people reach the lofty goals they set for themselves.

You’ve got to be in it to win it, for sure, but to think all good things are within your grasp is dangerously close to The Secret. And no one wants that.

But, even accounting for a whole heap of good fortune that we’ve undoubtedly benefited from throughout 2017, it has still been an outstanding year for us at Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs).

So, bear with me whilst I adopt a bit of a smug face and tell you about the year that was 2017… and keep reading to hear about the challenge we’ve laid for ourselves and for you as we move into 2018.

New Year, New Office

(Don’t worry, I’m not going to go month-to-month)

This year we’ve more than doubled our workforce, and it all started in January when we opened our first overseas office in Boston (and we’ve already had to move twice since due to further growth).

Anchored by the now familiar faces of our dynamic sales duo, James & Nicole, we’ve seen huge benefits from having a physical presence in the USA as we seek to expand the markets that we serve.

Of course it’s not all been sunshine and roses – the first week it snowed several feet whilst we were attempting to open the office for the first time. It was right around then that someone pointed out to us opening an office in New England in January was a pretty silly idea, weather wise…

Everyday is a school day, as they say.

New Investment

Towards the end of March we closed our second external financing round, led by John Yates and his team at The New Ventures Fund, part of the CIty & Guilds Group.

We’ve worked with C&G in various capacities for years; as vendors on the award-winning Skills Zone project, as partners to Kineo around the world, and as a technology partner to the ILM.

John listened closely to our rationale behind being the ‘R&D company for Learning & Performance’ and not only brought into the vision, but was also very excited about the possibilities our innovations could bring to the wider C&G group.

It was an easy decision – hopefully on both parts – and the funding that we’ve raised gave us the confidence to push out into new markets and to launch a new product…

New Software

…which meant that 2017 was the year that Red Panda was born.

Red Panda was created partly out of our continuing desire to enable individuals to take more control of their learning and partly as a response to the increasing demand for a unified ‘engagement’ layer to sit in front of an companies learning department.

Tools like Degreed, Grovo and EdCast have emerged to curate content from many resources and empower individuals to contribute back and take more control of their learning. We feel like we have something to offer in this emerging category – and Red Panda is that offering.

Our ambition for 2017 was to launch a beta of the product, acquire our first customers and really understand the value that those customers sought from the engagement layer. We’ve managed to get all of that done and we’re now gearing up to make a bigger splash with our much improved product in 2018.

Is it the Chinese year of the Panda? I do hope so…

New Interest in xAPI

2017 was an important year for xAPI with a huge uptick in interest, case studies and applications all adopting the biggest new standard to emerge in learning technologies for a decade or more.

We had released v2 of Learning Locker as an Enterprise product previously in 2016 and September 2017 saw that update become Open Source. That means that our very best Learning Record Store is now freely available to download, modify and use.

We see this as an important mark in the evolution of xAPI as well as our own product offering; to really grow the xAPI ecosystem it is important that the marketplace has a full range of commercial offerings, including open source.

Keep your eye on the ADL’s conformance test suite as more and more applications become ‘conformant’ and gain certification. Learning Analytics is one of our industry’s fastest growing categories and xAPI is set to play a major role in this evolution.

New Head Office

Somewhere along the way we ran out of space in our UK office (see pic below for evidence!) and had to find ourselves a new HQ.

Finding a new office sounds like it should be massive fun – and it is, for about the first 15 minutes. Then its a slog against the clock as people mount up and space runs short. After a few false starts we found our new home in the illustrious grounds of Blenheim Palace.

New ‘Experience Days’

Not only was the office more than double the size of our previous one, but it also gave us an event space for the first time. That gave us the opportunity to run our first two HT2 Experience DaysHT2x as we call it (and hope TED doesn’t sue).

Our first Experience Day celebrated the Open Source launch of Learning Locker v2, bringing together customers and data geeks from around the country. Our second gave our platform (formerly Curatr) customers a chance to come together, share stories of success and meet in person as we start to share more best practices about using our software.

Both events gave us a real taste for running our own shows and you can expect to see lots more dates in the diary throughout 2018 (Keep your eyes on our social media and event pages for details).

Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs) – A Place of Firsts

Our office move gave us a moment to reflect on our identity as we sought to brand the new place. We sat down and thought about what it is that our customers look for when they come to us.

Why do they choose Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs)?

Increasingly, we are of the opinion that people choose Learning Pool (formerly HT2 Labs) because we are innovators, a company set up to help other companies do things for the first time.

And our customers are nearly all trying to do something for the first time in their organisation – which can be a pretty terrifying place to be if you don’t have a trusted partner with you.

We achieved another ‘first’ in November when we became the first learning technology company to win 6 awards in a single year at the Learning Technology Awards.

With over 400 entries for 24 categories, to walk away with 6 is an outstanding achievement. What makes our ‘first’ even sweeter is that we achieved it whilst helping our customers to achieve their own.

AstraZeneca developed their own internal OLXs for the first time using the Learning Pool platform (formerly Curatr) and went on to win a Gold and a Silver for their immense story of engagement, cost savings and complex analysis.

Villeroy & Boch made it a hat-trick of awards over the last 3 major award series, picking up a Bronze for Best Blended Learning project.

Here V&B were the first major retail organisation to use xAPi to show the impact a blended learning programme could have on average transaction values – a massive 6% increase for those stores who took part in the blended approach.

And Humentum, with Action Against Hunger, picked up a wonderful Silver in the Best Project (Non-profit) category for being the first people to bring mobile, social learning to the difficult Lake Chad region of Nigeria.

Their ‘first’ has had a direct impact on the lives of thousands of people who come to rely on outside assistance to sustain their families on a day-to-day basis. It was tremendously humbling to see what can be achieved when determined, smart people use technology to great effect.

Our Challenge: Make 2018 a Year of Learning Firsts

As we look forward to another year of Firsts we want to reach out to organisations who are thinking about doing something innovative for the first time in 2018.

In particular we are looking to work with organisations who want to…

  • Use big learning data to prove the impact of training on performance
  • Recommend content and relationships based on experience data
  • Embrace the concept of the ‘invisible LMS’ to surface learning resources in the systems that their people use day-to-day
  • Deploy chatbots and conversational interfaces for learning
  • Enhance social learning throughout the organisation and get user generated content flowing like never before

If any of those sound like you, or indeed you have your own #LearningFirst concept up your sleeve, please do get in touch with us to see how we can join forces.

We’ll be sharing more of these #LearningFirst success stories at the Learning Technologies show in early 2018 – so make sure you come and have a chat with us if you’ll be attending too.

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