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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.

Learn at the edge of your ability: mistakes and e-learning


Learn at the edge of your ability: mistakes and e-learning

Ryan O'Neill

“If you never make a mistake, you’re not trying, you’re not playing at the edge of your ability. You’re playing safely within limits.”

- Artie Shaw, Jazz Bandleader


When we make mistakes, we learn. 

When learners face a challenging question, they are forced to think to arrive at an answer.

In her TedTalk, educator Diana Laufenberg emphasizes the importance of having students fail. When students make a mistake, they process the failure through feedback. It is through this processing that they learn. As Laufenberg says, “failure is instructional.” It must be embraced.


One of the easiest ways for adult learners to gain knowledge is to let them fail, but you can't risk real-world consequences for your business every time someone needs training. However, people can learn when they fail in a safe environment, where realistic consequences are demonstrated in the virtual world.

Custom e-learning provides the opportunity to show the consequences of failure in unique environments that mirror the job environment. For example, a business simulation allows learners to fail in a safe environment that demonstrates how their actions have consequences specific to that business. In a simulation, we are able to tell learners why they failed, and correct their behavior.

Video games are a great example of increasing the complexity of an environment while letting learners make mistakes. The ideal video game has users playing at the edge of their abilities at all times.

If you add gamification elements to an e-learning course, they can help engage a learner. But earning points should not be too easy. Easily earned points hold no weight. There is no emotional incentive to earn them. Imagine playing the first level of a game over and over again--boring, right? As the difficulty grows, so does the player. The player learns how to manipulate the controls or environment to achieve the desired results.


Don’t underestimate your learners’ capacity for mistakes. They can take the feedback and they crave a challenge. 

Playing at the edge of your ability is challenging. It’s pushing your understanding farther. When you make mistakes, you learn from them. They resonate. Mistakes force us to think. They force us to ask “Why?” They force us to learn.

Building a custom e-learning course is a great way to challenge learners on decision points and skills that are unique to your business. Challenge learners with increasing complexity. Find their edge. Learners will make mistakes while playing at the edge, but this is good. This is when they learn.