By James Oakley, eLearning Developer

In 2019 I made a big decision to pivot from being a teacher to becoming an Instructional Designer. Since then, eLearning has for me been an entirely remote experience. I moved from lecturing classrooms of over 35 students at a time, to spending my day in the privacy of a home office, my communication entirely restricted to talking through a computer to someone in another state, or an entirely different country. While I feel like switching career paths is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, working exclusively from home can at times be isolating, as you no longer have the advantage of physically going to a worksite and interacting with people there.

It is for this reason why I found DevLearn to be an invaluable experience. For the first time in 3 years, I was fully immersed in the Learning and Development community and plunged into a world far larger and more vibrant than I could have ever anticipated. It was a pleasure meeting the members of my team in person after over a year of working with them solely online. It was also wonderful to shake hands with many of the L&D luminaries whose video tutorials, work templates, and articles helped me grow in my fledgling days as an Instructional Designer.

My DevLearn experience began almost as soon as I landed in Las Vegas, as I had the privilege of speaking at the Articulate User Conference with my boss and Chief Solution Strategist, Alexandra Ryan, about ways to deliver Adaptive and Immersive Learning Experiences for training in several different industries. While presenting alongside her, I learned a great deal about how to eloquently convey training and course data and field highly technical questions while remaining accessible for someone who might be new to the industry. At our Evolve Solutions Group Booth my senior colleague, Tristia Hennessey, gave me valuable advice on how to talk to potential partners and vendors. This was advice that I took to heart as I made my way through a whirlwind 3-day convention. In that time, I made sure to network at every possible opportunity.

From DevLearn, I picked up a myriad of new training strategies, Storyline tips and tricks, and information on the latest L&D tools from the thousands of people in attendance. This included how to use TikTok in the training sphere. My interest was also particularly piqued by the possibilities presented by virtual reality and the metaverse in Instructional Design. At the Keynote speeches, I was entranced as the esteemed Michio Kaku discussed the future of technology synching up with the inner workings of the brain. This would literally make dreams reality.

That theme of dreams becoming reality continued as I attended Meow Wolf’s art installation Omega Mart and submerged in the exhibit’s enveloping psychedelic experience. My coworkers had to drag me out as I couldn’t help but try to work through each painstakingly arrayed clue, to try and solve the exhibit’s interactive mystery. It was the perfect compliment to the Virtual Reality game I played the night before, where I experienced a feeling of body-lessness alongside Tristia and another Instructional Designer, Leslie Early. In the game our senses of sight and hearing were taken to a futuristic Hong Kong, where we combatted ravaging alien hordes. I am simply glad my sense of taste was never removed because I ate some of the best meals I have ever had in my life; sushi born out of Brazilian and Japanese cultural hybridization, and sumptuous medium rare steaks.

I cannot wait for next year when I can book my ticket to Vegas and once again dive headfirst into DevLearn’s delightful pandemonium. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given since working with Evolve. I will use what I have learned at the convention to not only benefit the learners I design courses for, but  also to aid in my overall growth as an Instructional Designer and professional in general.