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4621 N Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
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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.

Collab in action: the four pillars of custom e-learning development


Collab in action: the four pillars of custom e-learning development

Matt Trupia

The power of teamwork isn’t a modern discovery, but it is increasingly rare in the training industry. It’s common enough for companies to get their training software developed by a vendor who shifts projects from group to group, waiting to see what the others come up with before passing it on to the next phase. One group throws out words, another slaps some images on it, and then they give it to a guy who might be named Trevor to make the buttons work. Finally, they post it for the client and hope for the best. 

So what does collaboration look like at NogginLabs? It’s a daily, variform pursuit, ranging from giant meetings to small, incendiary comments over beers. Critically, collaboration lasts from kickoff to final delivery. It’s a cross-pollination of disciplines that leads to the unique, potent solutions that define our custom training software.

To look at an example, say a company wants to make a suite of games aimed at first graders to teach them about microeconomics. They have some technical constraints we’ll need to work with. Also, the SME lives in New Zealand. Excellent. Constraints make it more interesting.

As we kick it off with the client, we come to understand their needs and how they define success. Gamification doesn't just  happen on its own. We then regroup in the office to start figuring out the details. We sit in a room and talk about every and anything the game could be, considering the scope and nature of the content, as well as the project timeline.


We write down any idea, piece of an idea, concern, or phrase that sounded interesting (“climbing koala WATCH OUT? Ask Brent about this”). The goal is to leverage the insight of everyone’s experiences, professionally and personally, to come up with something that's effective, compelling and new. Having a place to throw out any kind of idea that might work is an exciting place to get started when you’re building custom e-learning. Without fail, the best ideas are a result of mixing everyone’s cool idea pieces together. 

When we create a strong concept that accommodates the client’s constraints and looks promising, we’ll tell the client about it and get their feedback. Then we’ll explore it further, improve it, remove some features if needed, and typically add three more. We then begin developing. Look out, first graders! And naturally we keep discovering things. You can’t anticipate every challenge from the outset. It would be paralyzing if you could. So you collaborate continuously to address those things when they arise and hopefully turn them into opportunities to find an even better solution.

Good collaboration also relies on good independent work. Solo work is critical during development for every pillar: you take that time to organize your thoughts, match up the aspirational ideas with the reality of the content, and make a long series of small, important decisions to help realize and improve the overall design. You are getting a workout with your thoughts, shaping and curating and creating text, images, and code.

Designers work with IDs and CPs to establish the navigation elements needed for the interface. Programmers ask a million questions about each interaction so they can build an architecture that is flexible and expansive. At different times we’ll get back together in a room to see what we’ve come up with and re-evaluate. Does it look good? Seem smooth? Support the goals of the training? How can we push it further? Input from each team member, now inspired by the progress so far, leads to refinement. Sometimes there are donuts.

Before you know it, things are taking shape. The team makes tweaks and adds polish to really make it surprising and delightful. The koala now climbs in an eerily accurate fashion, eating eucalyptus at an upsetting rate. Watch out koala! If you eat too much at once there won’t be any leaves for your dinner. And then he falls off the tree with a stomach ache. (The eucalyptus is a metaphor for personal finances, you see). The SME from New Zealand is super excited. We raise our glasses across the globe.