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CUSTOM E-LEARNING

NogginLabs was founded on the notion that custom e-learning design and development is the ultimate horizontal industry. Time and again, each new project, client, and industry proves it. The biggest advantage of the e-learning horizontal is cross-pollinating ideas from two wildly different domains. A restaurant service simulation for iPad may influence a high-fashion online retail challenge. E-learning for financial advisors in a bank could inspire a mobile outreach program for cancer survivors. This variety also keeps the creative folks at NogginLabs fresh. Fresh learning ideas and designs come from a set of constantly changing constraints.

Beyond words: customizing e-learning content to add depth and meaning

Labs-Blog

Beyond words: customizing e-learning content to add depth and meaning

Matt Trupia

One of the 4 pillars of development, content producers at NogginLabs need to crosstrain on a range of responsibilities: meet with client teams, interview SMEs, study, write and sculpt all the content, design interactivity, manage audio, manage video shoots, assemble course files, bug, test, debug, and more. They go deep undercover into a client’s culture to understand behaviors, procedures, values, and the minutiae of organizational knowledge. I asked Senior Content Producers Bridget Baum and Jonathan Baude to talk about their impressive experience in this vital role.

Content Producers are responsible for many critical aspects of development every step of the way, from the kickoff meeting to the final bug. What are some of your favorite parts of the role?

Bridget Baum: Brainstorming with the team is basically my favorite thing we do. Having so many brilliant, funny, and creative people in a room makes for a pretty inspiring conversation that leads us to really cool activities and games to use for the project. It also gives us a lot of time to bond over obscure opinions and talk in depth about our favorite shapes for buttons.

An obvious favorite is when we share the course with clients for the first time, in our preview demo. No matter what the course is about or who the client is, I always feel so much pride for what we've come up with. It's a great moment.

Jonathan Baude: This is pretty dorky, but, honestly, one of my favorite parts is getting to shepherd the project through the iterative process. There's something so rewarding about ironing out every last wrinkle, tying up each little loose end. It's not the showiest part of the process, but it's in that stage where a project really becomes its best possible version.

It's great to see all cylinders really firing. We're working back and forth with the client, taking their feedback and making recommendations. Designers and programmers are getting rid of any kinks, adding bells and whistles you didn't even know were possible. The collaborative process is still in high gear, but now there are no hypotheticals. Every single tweak moves the project an inch closer to perfection.

The CP role requires you to quickly think like experts across many industries and subjects, often at the same time. What are some of the different content areas you've worked on?

JB: I've worked on projects about everything from financial literacy to cybersecurity to project management, behavioral activation therapy, and--I'm not just saying this to impress you--dental cement. One of the best parts of the job is that you get to learn something new every day. It may be tiny, and it may be something you'll never need to know in your personal life, but for at least a moment, you get to feel that satisfying click of information connecting in your head.

BB: I've worked on a ton of cool projects with really compelling topics. One persistent theme seems to be retail and luxury brands, which is fun and easy to get into. It's cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at how big corporations work, and I love to pinpoint a problem they see in their existing training, so that we can come up with the best possible solution for them.

Do you have any expert tips for how to connect to each topic?

JB: To me, the biggest trick when it comes to working with that content is really knowing your audience. Are you talking to employees in one particular company or industry? Are you talking to one specific age group? How tech-savvy is your audience, how much do they already know? What's at stake? All of those questions and a million more shape the way you need to process content and present it to your audience.

I'll often use myself as a starting point for a target audience. I'm always trying to make training I could get into. So that means how can I make things as simple as possible, but without insulting my intelligence? How can I minimize the amount of hand-holding throughout, but without letting myself get lost or confused? And then I take a step back.  I try to look through my content with as many different pairs of glasses as I can think of. Each perspective sheds new light and pulls the content more and more sharply into focus.

BB: When starting a new project, one of the best ways for me to connect to the content is to connect to the brand. Viewing every possible image, video, icon, and brand standard, getting a feel for their web presence, and reading up on what the company is all about are great ways to understand a company's objectives. I feel most connected to content and able to create a strategy for a project when I feel like I've done an exhaustive search for any and all information out there. That doesn't sound daunting at all! But it really is a fun process, and I have learned so much over the course of my time at Noggin.

Are you seeing any interesting patterns or recent trends in the training solutions?

BB: We're seeing a ton of trends between projects these days! Our team continues on this awesome upswing of constantly finding new and cool ways of doing things. We've been bringing more games, more movement, more interactivity, and more bright, beautiful images into all of our courses. Our clients have been so great about trying new things, and we really take that and run with it.

JB: I'd say one of the bigger trends we're seeing right now--and this has been growing for a little while--is breaking content down into easily accessible, bite-sized chunks. There's this sort of conventional wisdom that I think we're all tired of hearing, which is that people's attention spans are so short these days that everything needs to be in tiny, microscopic little pieces or no one will ever read it. People love to describe it like we're walking into a post-apocalyptic wasteland made up of only tweet-length emoji listicles that all disappear after 3 seconds. But that's a total oversimplification.

AS WE GET MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE AT OUR FINGERTIPS, WE'RE ALL DEVELOPING A SHARPER SENSE OF WHAT EXACTLY WE ARE LOOKING FOR.

So when we're bored by overexplanation, or frustrated by a byzantine user experience, of course we check out. When we're asked to invest half an hour of our time into this entire section, and we can tell we're being arbitrarily held back from the heart of the content with endless preludes and sidelights, we resent the training experience.

What kind of approaches are we gravitating towards in projects you've worked on?

BB: We seem to be gravitating towards more complex interactions every chance we get. Instead of just an explore screen and then a multiple choice screen, we want one screen that does both. We want users to select correct answers, and then sort them into categories to understand them more fully. We want to challenge our users to really get into the content and spend time understanding and manipulating things on the screen. It's such a cool time in this industry. It feels like we're moving forward in a ton of cool ways, every day.

JB: We want to find exactly the content we need, dive in, start learning, and nail it. When we're done with that, we want to move right on to the next. When you meet people at the point of the need and serve up exactly what they're looking for, you can keep them hooked. I think it's something that users are coming to expect, and I know it's something we'll keep perfecting.