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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.

Navigating the custom e-learning development cycle


Navigating the custom e-learning development cycle

Brian Knudson

Perhaps you have operated on your own for years, creating rapid-development e-learning and instructor-led training in house. Perhaps you have had less-than-ideal experiences with other e-learning vendors (we wouldn't be entirely shocked). It's also possible that your organization hasn't made training a priority until now, because you were too small or had an oral tradition when it came to training. Whatever the reason, you are here now.

The idea of building custom e-learning software tailored to your learners' exact needs is awesome. Let's just focus on the first definition there: "causing or inducing awe;inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, or fear." Essentially, partnering with an e-learning juggernaut like NogginLabs can actually be pretty daunting for a new client.

Over time we develop relationships with the our clients to create award-winning courseware that delights your learners. But a new relationship with any custom e-learning vendor can be challenging at first. It takes time to develop a working relationship. Just like a snowflake, this is different for every single client. Unlike a snowflake, there are some guidelines to keep us all happy.


Newer clients often want to give us feedback on deliverables, and then see that feedback incorporated in a finalized document or iterated version. According to our process for building custom e-learning, we take your feedback and move to the next phase of development with the understanding that all of your feedback will be implemented in that phase.

This might sound like we are being inflexible, but it helps us to avoid situations where you get locked into endless review cycles. So what is wrong with multiple feedback cycles? Multiple review cycles can negatively impact your timeline and scope, and the kind of over-thinking that comes out of them tends to hurt the quality of the final product.

For example, John didn't see versions 1 through 3, but he is reviewing version 4. Sherry decided in version 2 to remove all periods from sentences (weird, but okay). John sees this in version 4 goes about adding all of the periods back into the text. Communication has more opportunities to break down, and a series of unrelated decisions create a less-than-ideal course for your learners.

Trust us to implement your feedback. You don't need to see it again. Remain agile and understand that your opinion is valuable to us. We want to include all of your feedback. Help us keep the process streamlined and easier on you by making it easier on yourself.


Working with an custom e-learning vendor is going to mean a lot of review on your end: documents, spreadsheets, and iterated versions of your courseware in various stages of development. It can feel like a burden, but don't let it be. Focus on what is essential and critical to our understanding of your goals.

All stakeholders should review the deliverable (a script, course preview, Beta, or whatever) the first time around. The project manager on your side should compile the feedback and resolve any internal disagreements before finalizing the feedback with us. Focus on making the best experiences for your learners and recognize that this may not always align with your personal preferences.

We've built a company of published authors, award-winning playwrights, immensely talented artists, and brilliant programmers to make all the little details come together. We understand how to motivate learners and create dazzling e-learning solutions. Let us do that for you.


If you embrace the development process, this one shouldn't be hard. You could always do more and make it cooler, but at some point you have a time and (probably) a budget limit. Focus on your key goals and get it out the door. If this first course is a success, come back and expand it or add a second one in a year or two.

Don't try to make one course that is all things to all people. Inevitably, that leads to beige, boring choices that make your course uninteresting and uninspiring. Why would you want to go back and do more if that is the case (and why would anyone give you money to do that)?


The ultimate success of your training initiative is somewhat out of our hands. We can make you the best possible custom e-learning solution for you within a set of given constraints, but it's up to you to get people excited about the course, and then to actually deploy it.

If you don't think it is possible for people to be excited about training you are dead wrong. Delta Air Lines is a stellar example of how a company embraced the concept of gamification, and then promoted the game via email, cut-standees, and even a custom comic book!

You, of course, don't have to go to this far, but you should be developing training that inspires, as well as trains. Then you can feel good about blasting out that email or demoing a short video clip of the game to your colleagues to pique their interest.


Throughout the process, trust is the recurring theme. If you can't trust the vendor you carefully sought, vetted, and hired, then you are set up for trouble from the start. Remember why you decided to engage a custom e-learning vendor in the first place. The reasons here will vary, but hopefully the vendor's expertise in the field of adult learning is a primary one. Creating something great that people will love should be high on your list, too.