We'd love to hear about your needs. Please answer a few quick questions.

Would you like us to call you?
Would you like us to call you?

4621 N Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
United States



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.

Operation and custom e-learning


Operation and custom e-learning

Ryan O'Neill

Noggins play a lot of board games. Sometimes we even play at NogginLabs. When we play games we are having fun, but we are also looking for ideas to pull into our courses.

On a recent trip home, I dug through my family’s board game collection and came across an old staple: Operation. Everyone has played Operation at some point. The game involves removing pieces out of Cavity Sam with tweezers. Though I was too young to realize just how sad it was that Sam had a broken heart that needed to be removed, I still understood that the guy was in bad shape in general. He had twelve pieces of his body that needed to be removed: Adam’s apple, wrenched ankle, charley horse, wish bone, etc. Poor guy didn’t take care of himself. 

Let’s look at some things that Operation does that we use in our custom e-learning courses today.


Operation lets you fail. It is expected that you fail. When you stick the surgical tweezers in to retrieve Sam’s spare ribs, but accidentally touch the metal barrier of the cavity, you hear a buzzer and Sam’s nose lights up red. And the nice thing about this environment is that when the player fails, Sam doesn’t die.

When a learner fails in an e-learning course, we present him or her with incorrect feedback. This lets learners know that their current line of thinking (operating, if you will) is not correct, and we can nudge them in the right direction with a little guidance. We can even have a buzzer sound when a learner gets a question wrong. The point is that learners can fail safely and learn from their mistakes.


The game of Operation is really testing players’ dexterity. Everything around the action of using tweezers to grab items is just window dressing. The board could just as easily be the floor plan for an office where the player uses tweezers to place desks and chairs. But Cavity Sam immerses players into a world where they play doctors and are saving his life. It engages their imaginations while testing their dexterity.

We can design immersive worlds that do the same thing. We can place learners in an engaging environment that entices them to explore and learn.


When I was younger, we also ditched the cards and money in the game, and chose to simply operate on Cavity Sam. Which pieces looked easy to extract? Maybe that’s what I would go for first. What areas looked hard? Maybe I would come back to the broken heart later.

Are you the type of player who wants to tackle the most difficult part first? Or save it until later? Leaving this choice up to the learners allows them to explore and learn in the style that suits them best.