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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.

How a visit to Harry Potter World schooled me in learner engagement


How a visit to Harry Potter World schooled me in learner engagement

Erin Austin

Last month, I fled the Chicago weather and spent a long weekend in Orlando, Florida. As one does in Orlando, I took a trip to a theme park: Universal Studios. This entire park is great, but hands down, the real star is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It’s innovative, exploratory, faithful to its source material, and just generally fantastic. As a NogginLabs content producer, I’m always trying to find inspiring ways to engage our audience. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter does this quite well.

The great news is that a lot of their tactics and tricks are applicable to creating engaging e-learning. Let’s look at how this theme park experience engages its audience and how you can incorporate these tactics into your very own engaging e-learning course.


Here’s my Harry Potter World story: I was walking down the main avenue of Universal Studios when I spotted a few other theme park guests enter an unnamed alley. Ignoring all of the things I ever learned from my parents, I followed them. I found myself inside Diagon Alley, the underground streets of the Harry Potter world. Finding Diagon Alley was the most unexpected surprise because there were no preconceptions. Plus, it made me feel like the smartest Wizard in the land. 

How can your e-learning do this? 

  • Get to the good stuff: Don’t waste time telling your users exactly what they will learn in the course. Instead, allow them discover it. This means bypassing stuffy and overdrawn introductory screens, and moving right into the reason they are there, to learn your content!
  • Don’t force the order: Let learners jump around and explore according to their own interests and tastes. They will relish their discoveries!
  • Plant some Easter Eggs: Maybe it’s an unexpected joke, or maybe it’s a pro tip to help your learners top the leaderboard, whatever your Easter Egg is, your learners are going to love discovering it.


Walking around the park, I spotted grown-ups in full Hogwarts-style wizard capes drinking Butterbeer, children squealing in delight while riding a Hippogriff, and die-hard fans waving around their newly-purchased souvenir wands. Watching others having fun made it even more fun for me. When you see everyone else getting into the spirit, you have to work really hard NOT to get psyched.

How can your e-learning do this?

  • Leaderboards: This great tool promotes friendly competition between learners, gets them excited, and encourages them to play through the course over and over.
  • Discussion boards and links to social media: Ever feel alone in the big wide world of the web? Discussion boards and other social media platforms allow your learners to connect with other learners, compare notes, and build camaraderie.


In Harry Potter land, every design and detail is perfectly themed. Each employee is dressed in character, from the performing actors, to the ride operators, to the custodial staff. Waiting in line for a ride, I noticed that even the emergency exit doors were crafted and styled in the theme of that ride or experience. Remember that beautiful score from the Harry Potter films? It plays throughout the entire Wizarding World Park, reminding you, sometimes unconsciously, of the exciting brand and world of Harry Potter. Even when I closed my eyes, I was still immersed in the world of the park.

How can your e-learning do this?

  • Design your course from head to toe: A beautiful menu screen or a glitzy animation is great but don’t forget about the little things. Make sure that anything that is seen by the learner, all the way down to the Exit button, matches the style and the world of the course.
  • Make the writing style consistent: Do you want your course’s tone to be casual, clinical, informative, or humorous? Whatever you choose, keep all narration, audio, and onscreen text tonally the same.
  • Make it, test it, test it again, and again: I can’t imagine how many hours of testing and trials went into making The Harry Potter Wizarding World a success. That same diligence to detail and quality assurance will make your e-learning course a winning and thorough experience for your learners.