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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.

Smart, Nice, Funny: Dispatches from start class


Smart, Nice, Funny: Dispatches from start class

Kayla Lane Freeman

After an intensive hiring process, I started working at NogginLabs as a Content Producer just a few months ago, in July 2016. From my first day, I hit the ground running with projects and training to get me up to NogginLabs’ caliber of CP. An immersive blend of online materials, peer-led training, meetings, and projects, this training process was unlike any employment orientation I’ve had. A key component of the on-boarding process is a series of five informal seminars to educate new team members on the uniquely Noggin approach to e-learning, called Start Class.  

NogginLabs is proud of the credo that our team is built of “smart, nice, funny” people. When I learned about this part of Noggin culture, I was even more excited to start working here. Not only was “smart, nice, funny” a flattering umbrella under which I was now included, it also felt like a promise of a working environment that wouldn’t make me want to ugly-cry by 1 pm each day. And “smart, nice, funny” is also an apt description of the Start Class seminars. 

The smart

Both of the production sessions, Content Production/Instructional Design and Computer Programming/Visual Design were quite informative. The Content Producer and Project Management students got a glimpse into the epic sorcery of programming and design. Meanwhile, the programmers learned the answer to the burning question: “What DO the CPs do when they aren’t writing a script or posting Giphy reactions on Slack?”

(Answer: a lot! Editing audio, coordinating voiceover talent, proofreading, QA testing, writing XML/JSON code, smashing bugs, eating snacks.) 

All five of us in the Start Class cohort left these sessions more knowledgeable about the interplay of the four pillars and were equipped to make smarter choices on how to best work with our teammates. 

The nice

The Start Class students, our business coordinator Aly Bosetti, and CEO Traci Knudson all went to lunch for the Start Class session regarding the business and administration of NogginLabs. After learning about the inner working of the ‘labs, we spent most of the time getting to know each other outside the office walls. Most employees don’t get to sit down to a personal meal with the CEO of their office, nor are they lucky to have a leader as personable as Traci. NOICE. 

In our session with Brian Knudson, he jokingly referred to himself as “Ol’ Man Noggin” because of his founder status. Ol’ Man Noggin regaled us with an epic origin story of NogginLabs from a two-person team of contractors to the current iteration of 60 full-time creative professionals. Like any good cinematic or literary tale, the narrative included the highest of highs when the underdog prevailed—as well as the lowest of lows. You know, Eli Cash just crashed his car into the front of the Tenenbaum house. Ron Burgundy proclaims to all of San Diego that he's miserable and that milk was a bad choice. Obi-Wan Kenobi dies and Luke is left on his own. Good stories have low points, and Noggin, too, has had its dark nights of the soul. 

As a new employee, these low points were the most compelling and educational part of Brian’s  Start Class session. It was a great reminder that some lessons can only be learned through risk and failure, and creative pioneering is not always a linear or smooth path. Brian’s vulnerability to share the less-shiny parts of this story, as well as the fact that he had to leave a bit early to care for one of his kids, firmly plants this guy (and his session) in the “Nice” zone. 

The funny

Sales team takes the cake when it comes to funny.  It was a gray afternoon, but the sales team created a fun and warm environment during their Start Class session. Not only were they the only in-office session to have a dog on-hand for petting, they also provided drinks and snacks (Hey-o Spicy Sriracha chips!), and they gamified their material! Sales team created a hilarious, interactive activity to educate the newest employees on the journey of bringing a project from conception through contract to creation. It was a straightforward guessing game about the wacky situations one may encounter through the sales process. It’s no surprise that the sales team, a core of creatives who specialize in engaging an audience, were at the helm of the most entertaining session. I took an informal survey, and all five Start Class participants agreed: Sales team’s session was the funniest, and was certainly the crowd fave. 


I’m still pretty new to the NogginLabs team, but I already feel that I’ve grown more than I could have imagined. Surround yourself with hard-working, creative people, and you’ll pretty quickly rise to the challenge. It’s been said before: passionate people create better learning. And the NogginLabs’ Start Class, in all its smart-nice-funny glory, truly exemplifies that fact.