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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.

Pick your e-learning battles


Pick your e-learning battles

Matt Trupia

My kids are finally old enough now that we can have more interesting arguments. We can each use our own versions of logic, reason, and persuasion. I can posit that brushing your teeth is a universally acclaimed way to maintain lasting, overall dental health; they can counter that, based on their research and experience, it’s actually super boring. Eventually we come to a fruitful compromise, teeth get mostly brushed, and we prepare for our next debate on the merits of bedtime.

In plenty of cases, arguments are natural and even necessary when people are collaborating. Take building a custom e-learning solution. It usually requires a lot of decisions, from mundane to thrilling, vast in scope to totally minuscule. A veritable parade of decisions to make, options to field and consider, and design items to talk through. It follows that some disagreements would surface along the way. From our perspective, navigating these moments effectively is a big indicator of how successful the end product will be.

With any sizable simulation or game, it’s very common that there are a lot of distinct opinions in play: the vendor, your team, the stakeholders, the intended learning audience. Hopefully all the key players involved share the same basic goal of making a meaningful, custom e-learning solution on budget and on schedule. That’s a great, key thing in common to keep as the guiding ideal.

From there, you will want to handle each issue as it arises, being frank about which issues are subjective and important, and which issues are too tricky to resolve or don’t matter that much in the end. To help your efforts, here is a very quick, unscientific way to categorize decisions when you sense an argument on the horizon.


These are clear issues that need to be fixed to make the course function, make sense, and have a chance to impact the audience as envisioned. Everyone can focus their effort on creating a plan to address these items in a quick and clever manner. Build up some momentum and goodwill tackling these things as a team.


These can be challenging issues to resolve. Things like an instructional design approach, the aesthetic direction, and style of interactivity are all critical to consider but can be subjective, an art to customize and finesse. Not a hard science. Personal tastes can be in conflict. Schedule some meeting time in person to talk honestly about what’s driving each of the varied viewpoints. Work towards a new solution that, while born of compromise, achieves the same original standard of quality. Try having people articulate how they see their idea improving the learning experience for the audience, as well as identifying the specifics of what they object to about other ideas. Frequently, the best solutions come from these talks because you are prompted to think of new possibilities beyond your initial idea.


These issues are the ones where the best choice seems pretty clear, but the effect the individual choices have on the project is fairly minimal. Go ahead and have fun making decisions here and documenting them. This is one area where customization can be satisfying and breezy. You may as well make things as cool as possible. After all, small decisions can group together to have a pretty memorable impact and be a learner’s favorite detail.


Be wary of these! These are issues that can have many valid, serviceable outcomes but won’t necessarily lead to much impact on the overall effectiveness of the e-learning. Arguing about these is a trap. Examples could be a non-playing character’s last name in a game, the spelling of a fictional organization, the shade of green used as an accent in a background. Yes, details are important, but not all of them are worth damaging the harmony of your collaboration. In general, a learner isn’t going to get hung up on super small things, so there usually isn’t a need to create tension over them during development. Pick your battles. Do the benefits outweigh the cost or resources required to make changes?

For all of these, a good vendor should be able take the lead and resolve discrepancies in a professional and positive way. Or, even more interesting, your custom e-learning vendor should be able to orchestrate a productive argument that respects everyone’s voice and focuses on brainstorming a better solution altogether.