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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.

How do the four pillars collaborate on custom e-learning?


How do the four pillars collaborate on custom e-learning?

Matt Trupia

NogginLabs brings our four pillars to every custom e-learning project: instructional design, writing, graphic design, and programming. We feel confident that this approach offers the broad range of creative expertise required to make the project reach its potential, but what does it really look like?

Each discipline takes the lead on its respective domain, and the disciplines collaborate regularly to share and expand ideas and keep everyone on the same page. By the end of development, you have a product that has been considered from every angle to create a cohesive experience that can change someone’s behavior. Let’s look at how one small aspect of a custom training course--direction text--can get the 4 pillar treatment.

When a project kicks off, your goal is to have the broad strokes determined. Is it a full game? Are we gamifying certain content areas? What are the objectives, the core mechanics, and additional key features? All four pillars on the project team meet internally, and with the client, to decide the big stuff, to get inspired, and to toss out ideas. As we progress, we document ideas from each discipline to help everybody can start envisioning the project at the same scale and level of complexity. We're not thinking about details like direction text quite yet. Well, if you are like me, you always are, but it’s not the most pressing issue at that point.

Next we break off and start digging into the project as it relates to each discipline. Instructional designers and writers start writing outlines and scripts, during which they decide how to handle both the content and the supplemental text and audio needed to create a great user experience. Do we need a caption box? A navigation tutorial? How are text and audio being used, and how will visuals best complement them? Writers consult with the other pillars for added insight as needed, by asking questions and pitching solutions.

We’ll start off with a simple philosophy: Let’s not overload learners with info they don’t need, or clutter the visuals with text that isn’t serving a clear purpose. So let’s say we don’t want to have persistent directional text onscreen. Cool. We talk with designers to let them know they don’t need to create specific space for that text on every screen layout.

As we develop more custom screen types, we may begin to think the learner will need some more support. We want to allow for some natural exploration, but don’t want to make them struggle to figure out the interaction. Activities that have multiple phases, cover critical learning points, or require a unique layout often need some concise direction to keep the learner on task. We need a place to offer that.

The pillars briefly chat to find an elegant solution. Let’s add a button the learner can click to show the direction if and when they want it. That way it’s available, but not persistent and not cluttering the screen, just like we prefer. The programmer now knows she has to build in that button feature and overlay, and the designer has to style them so they are suitably handsome. Writers need to compose the text in a way that is clear and effective. 

We repeat that process as necessary, formally in meetings and informally online, to make sure each element is getting the attention it deserves. Here's something to consider when investing in a partnership with an e-learning vendor (or even if you're building out an internal department): if they aren’t using all four pillars to contribute expertise and support the design, you might be getting shortchanged in the ways solutions are refined and implemented. Didn't mean to end it on a weird down note, but that's the nature of the truth.