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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.

Develop better custom e-learning by breaking your mold


Develop better custom e-learning by breaking your mold

Matt Trupia

“We don’t want it to look like e-learning.” Everyone is saying this now. I had a stranger shout it in my face as I was walking to lunch. In principle, people might want to get trained on something, but they don’t want to feel like they’re getting trained. They want to feel like they are doing something fun or interesting every minute of their lives. Historically, e-learning doesn’t evoke those feelings. Here are some things to experiment with to break out of that expected e-learning mold.


People have a better sense of how to move around online now. You don’t need to plant a huge Next arrow in the lower right corner of each screen and add a line of text describing how and when to click it. If it’s designed well, learners can read iconology, so spare them undue reading and save yourself some precious screen real estate.

Design some beautiful digital glyphs that give learners what they need to navigate and have them elegantly appear when needed. Also, Home doesn’t always have to be a little house icon. Along these lines, you don’t always have to make people march through screens in a linear fashion. We’re used to exploration now and don’t have to rely on having everything sequenced for us from left to right, forward, forever, in a little row.


While we’re at it, why limit ourselves to screens? Not everything needs to be in a defined box with a header bar, logo in the upper left, and controls in the lower right.Get rid of the company branding. Make your own look that no one has seen before. When you are captivated by art, it’s not because it looks like so much other art you’ve seen. People like checking out stuff that feels new or reinvented. So why not try some different, out-there looks and see how they make you feel? If you worry too much about whether learners will know where to look or click, you can miss some great opportunities to make something truly compelling. In our experience, learners will gladly rise to the challenge if the challenge seems worth it.


Often it feels like there’s not much experimentation you can do with the tone. Maybe it's locked in because of an established corporate culture. Maybe you just have a set style you’re comfortable writing in and that makes for faster development. But think about mixing it up anyway. The voice you use in your training can grab attention like good visuals.

Why not add some weird or funny things to break up the expected routine? Use a new audio and text combination that doesn’t belabor the key points in your content. Don’t be redundant just to be consistent or because you want to make sure learners review the content. 

There are many other ways to experiment in your training designs. You don’t always have to welcome learners, tell them their objectives, deliver a preamble about why the training is so important, give them some high-level concepts, and then let them mess around with an activity. In fact, try not to do that. See if something else works better, even if a different approach is just more delightful in an abstract sense. The other cool thing is that the process builds its own momentum, with one small, new idea inspiring more ideas at a faster and faster rate.

So, no big deal. Just rethink everything at all times, destroy all old methods, and innovate with every single decision you make.