Bob Spence is a widely known expert in the development of e-learning and workforce strategies, the management of e-learning development teams, processes to enhance quality of e-learning content and the use of technology to enhance human performance. During his career, Bob has been recognised through numerous awards, recorded interviews, journal articles and he has presented at more than 60 conferences in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, UK and USA.
After pioneering the use of Computer-Based Training at a major Australian Financial Institution in the early 1980’s where he led a team of 32 learning and graphic designers that developed hundreds of hours of computer-based training on CD ROM, his experience was enriched when, in 1999, he joined a “top three” Professional Services Firm as Director, e-Learning Asia Pacific. After moving on to another large Australian Bank in 2002, he led that organisation’s successful and internationally awarded implementation of e-learning.
Bob advocates strongly for the development of people capability to enable the achievement of performance potential and since retiring from full-time work in 2007, he has shared his knowledge and experiences through a variety of mentoring, consulting and speaking engagements and through voluntary work in the community education sector.
Bob was named Learning Leader at the LEARNX 2009 Conference and is currently a Co-opted Board Member of a large and very active Community College. His qualifications include an MBA with a major in Human Resources from the University of New England.
Bob was born, bred and attended school in Lithgow NSW. The early part of his career saw him serving as a bank clerk at various towns in the central west of NSW. In the late 1970s he was appointed to a position in Sydney, concentrating on work in human resources. In the early 1908s he gravitated to a learning and development role which involved very early use of audio visual (slide-tape) and video production to support learning. The natural progression to computer-based training followed shortly after and he experimented with the wonders the PLATO authoring system operating under the CPM operating system (pre-DOS), 8 inch
floppy disks and the challenging limits of technology at that time. The potential of individualised, self-paced learning took his interest and the beginning of a fascinating career in technology enabled learning began to unfold.
Bob thoroughly enjoyed working with and encouraging creative people to achieve their best. After learning many lessons about the management of people, and recognising there is much still to learn, Bob believes that trust and pride in the workplace are vital outcomes of an engaged group of learning and performance designers; that without trust creativity is stifled, and innovation simply won’t happen.
Bob often reflects on people who influenced his opinions about learning, and in particular a focus on performance through the tranfser and application of learning to task performance. One of these was Gloria Gery a USA based consultant and author who Bob worked with on the 1980s. She was perhaps the first of many people to speak about the uese of technology to enhance human performance – she coined the term “Electronic Performance Support Systems” and spoke with a great deal of conviction about the future of this technology. Bob also had some exposure with Dr Trevor Bentley from the UK. He was another who pioneered and advocated the use of “Embedded Computer- based Training and strongly influenced Bob. A further person, who was probably a man before his time, was Dr Tom Gilbert. Tom, who worked with the famous behavioural psychologist B F Skinner in the 1930s, was the author of the classic book “Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance” – must read for any learning professional. Tom (who died in 1995) was the father of the speciality known as Human Performance Technology and the founder of the organisation “International Society for Performance Improvement” of which Bob was President (Sydney Chapter) in 1996. Bob was fortunate enough to spend some limited time with Tom whose ability to explain the complexities of human performance in simple, clear but powerful terms has stayed with Bob ever since.
Two of Bob’s favourite books are The Speed of Trust by Stephen M R Covey and Performance Consulting by Robinson and Robinson. He enjoys the fiction based on fact writings of Peter Fitzsimons and Edward Rutherford but for escapism (and fun) he reads Clive Cussler and has a complete collection of his novels.
Bob has grandchildren and enjoys his close-knit family. In his leisure time he can be found either knocking up wooden toys and other various projects in his workshop, gardening, or reading. He is an admirer of the guitarist Hank B Marvin who now lives in Perth but was the lead guitarist with the British rock group The Shadows. Bob has an on-going quest to copy the techniques with his own electric guitar (to varous levels of spasmotic success!). As a sucker for frustrating activities, once a week (if time permits) he spends a morning chasing a little white ball around and trying to understand why he can have a “reasonable” round of golf one week and a “terrible” experience the next!
Bob has travelled widely during his career but has no immediate plans for further overseas travel as he says there is too much of Australia to see, and too many family and friends to enjoy it with.