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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.

Here's why creative writers make better custom e-learning


Here's why creative writers make better custom e-learning

Jonathan Baude

I think it's fair to say my writing career began in earnest when I won a playwriting award in 5th grade for a 10-minute play, set on the eve of Y2K, about Bill Gates and two talking computers who could see into the future. And before you ask, yes, the computers had attitudes.

God only knows what happened to the 15 dollars worth of prize money I won for that play; I'd imagine I spent it on my weight in peanut butter cups. But my interest in storytelling never went away. I've mostly focused on playwriting, though I've also tried my hand at short stories, creative non-fiction, screenplays, and, unfortunately, poetry. (Sophomore year of high school was pretty dark.)

We've got a lot of awesome creative writers (and creative other-stuff-ers) on the team at NogginLabs, and I've been thinking recently about just how cool that is. And it's not just a matter of disproving all the people who say you can't do anything with an English degree. The truth is this: Creative writers just make better e-learning. Let's talk about exactly why that is.

We're terrified of the cliché

When I sit down to start a new project, that means I've got a new idea. In my personal writing projects, that idea incubation phase takes a while, because not all of my ideas are keepers. And even worse, sometimes, I'll have a great idea only to realize it's been done before. A young woman tries to keep her decency while working for a cold-hearted magazine editor? No, wait, that's The Devil Wears Prada. Okay, a dorky high schooler finds out she's actually the princess of a small European country. Shoot, that's The Princess Diaries. What I'm saying is, if Anne Hathaway was in it, I've probably thought of and subsequently scrapped the idea. And that's because for writers, one of the worst things you can do... is something that's already been done.

We build custom e-learning, which means we look specifically at your needs and your audience to deliver a product that's tailor-made for you. We don't want to give you something that's been done to death. We don't want to give you some old thing that's been lightly tweaked or cosmetically altered to look like something fresh (like the Princess Diaries 2, am I right?). We're here to create something new, something unique, something custom, something creative. It isn't always easy, but we live for the challenge.

We love putting ourselves in other people's shoes

I'm sure this is true of most writing styles, but it's one of the things I love most about writing for theater: Every character wants something. Every character has their own perspective on things, their own voice, their own needs. Great plays thrive on the tension that ensues when strong-willed characters meet and negotiate their needs together. That means one of the most important building blocks of good drama is understanding your characters and how they see the world.

That skill at considering other perspectives is invaluable when you're building e-learning. We use it to write business simulations, where employees interact with simulated characters and help them resolve issues. We use it to speak the audience's language, thinking about what sorts of information they already know, what misconceptions they have, what their fears are. We use it to think about the structure of the course itself, considering how learners will approach it, such as if they're always on the go and in need of mobile training. Creative writers love to think about how other people interact with the world and let that understanding shape our work. 

We put our all into it

This is one of the best parts of the creative process: Once you get going, it can be hard to stop. So after you start brainstorming new ideas, collaborating on interesting new concepts and storytelling methods, your brain just keeps going. The synapses keep firing long after the meeting, often hitting you with a great new idea days later. I love letting an idea percolate, only to realize it's crystallized into awesomeness a little while later.

One of the things I love about my job is that it enables this creativity. We have an iterative development process that leaves lots of time for back-and-forth with clients and with internal teams, letting us bounce ideas around and develop each other's thoughts into something so much greater than we started with. For writers, the creative process isn't just motivating—it's addictive! We love using our creative skills to the fullest in order to make projects grow throughout the development process.

These are just a few of the strengths that creative writers bring to the e-learning development process. I still consider myself lucky to be in a field where I can write creatively in a way that helps others develop skills and improve themselves. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go watch Rio 2—did you know Anne Hathaway was in that?