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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.

Four ways your e-learning sells learners short


Four ways your e-learning sells learners short

Matt Trupia

Underestimating is so easy. This dance competition is going to be boring; this street fair is going to be terribly organized chaos; this pear is not going to be ripe. All of those things are probably going to be true, so why waste time experiencing them? It’s a great time-saver! 

The problem is that underestimating so often becomes a practice in pessimism, right? You are making a judgement call about something, maybe based on experience, but also colored by a belief that the thing will never live up to your expectations. When you’re building e-learning, the effect of underestimating your learners’ abilities can lead to missed opportunities, disengagement, or worse. Here are some common ways learners get sold short:

  1. They are too busy to care about training.

    It’s probably true that they are too busy, or at least there is a respectable perception of that being true. A lot of people wind up getting overloaded with day-to-day work responsibilities, and taking training can be viewed as too time-consuming to focus on.

    That’s an important constraint. Why not create a performance-support design that fits perfectly into their workflow and delivers the content that helps them do specific tasks right at the point of need? (boom!) Training doesn’t have to be a separate event that diverts their attention, requires them to shut all applications down, or retrieve long-forgotten log-in credentials to a million places. Use an approach favoring concise content development with fast, strategic accessibility and deployment to acknowledge that your learners' time is valuable.

  2. They don’t like stuff that is too complicated.

    Me neither. People rarely pride themselves on how complicated things are. Try identifying the chief concern. Do they mean sophisticated? People love sophistication, which is often achieved through simple, elegant means. Do they mean complex navigation? Great point. Let’s make it ultra intuitive, removing extra navigation, combining functionality, or enforce it with clear, optional guidance features. These are great practices in any case. Do they mean the learners don’t like games? OK, that could be, and maybe a game isn’t the right move.  But the design can still be surprising, compelling, and fun even if it’s simple and not a game. Given the chance, every learner would advocate for those traits. 
  3. These concepts are too boring to them.

    Maybe the content is dry. Maybe it’s deadly dry, even to people in the trade that are familiar with the concepts and language. That’s a great challenge. Let’s break it up into more meaningful tasks or concepts, add some relevant, real-life examples, edit out the extraneous background info, and complement it with a visual treatment that draws the learner in naturally.
  4. They just don’t like training.

    If this is the kind of feedback learners are providing, it is probably time to re-evaluate the training they are used to taking. Consider shaking up the look, feel, tone, deployment, format, anything. Everything. Why not? Well, at least it’s worth a conversation. Find out the main concern. Is it often too long or slow to complete? Is the sequencing too repetitive or the interactivity is too limited? Maybe the interactivity is overkill, too generic, or doesn’t target the optimal behaviors. Maybe there is no perceived incentive to completing it. You can change the reputation of the training experience by offering something  that addresses the most challenging or staid elements of the current approach.

Often, underestimating learners comes from a place of frustration or habit. Familiar places for lots of reasons, but not a great foundation for creating training that learners will appreciate and internalize. Start a new habit of building e-learning that give learners the benefit of the doubt, and they won’t doubt the solution.