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4621 N Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
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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.


The unexpected connection between e-learning and site-inspired theatre

Erin Austin

Even before I began working as a NogginLabs content producer, I knew the company was chock-full of creative individuals who spent their days writing, designing, and building courseware, and their evenings pursuing their individual artistic passions. But it took me a little longer to see how my job at Noggin and my work as an indie playwright/producer would positively inform one another.

I’m a co-founder of the Chicago playwrights collective Living Room Playmakers. We’re a group of producing playwrights who create theatrical events in unconventional spaces. Each production is a singular experience, written and built for spaces that inspire us.

After three years at Noggin, I can now see the many similarities between creating e-learning and creating site-inspired theatre with Living Room Playmakers (LRP). I love the overlap and the unexpected connections between the two:

The People

I am not the only member of LRP who happens to work at NogginLabs. In fact, there are five of us!

Tony, Jonathan, and I are content producers. At Noggin and with LRP, we spend our time dreaming up stories and scenarios, and exploring new ways to captivate, educate, and provoke our audience. We care about all aspects of the production process; whether we’re making plays or e-learning, we’re focused on the script, the visuals, the sound, and the overall journey of the learner/audience.

Jessy is Nogginlabs’ quality assurance (QA) manager. As QA manager at Noggin and as an LRP playwright, she perfects the audience experience, making sure everything is clear and consistent. Jessy has the unique ability to put herself into the mindset of the audience/learner, and both Noggin’s courseware and LRP’s productions are better for it!

Kasey is a project manager at Noggin and a producer with LRP. In both roles, she’s constantly combining her management experience with her creative problem-solving methods. Kasey applies her superior leadership skills to the sometimes-hectic theatre world and she gets. things. done. 

The Iterative Process 

Producing customized e-learning and creating site-inspired plays present unique challenges. Each project is different, and something unexpected always happens. So it’s a good thing both Noggin and LRP use an iterative process to develop work. 

At Noggin, we receive constant feedback from our internal team, and then from the clients. We work diligently through every stage of the process, starting with the big picture and not stopping until every detail is correct. Similar to Noggin, Living Room Playmakers workshops several drafts of our plays with other writers, the director, designers, and the actors, long before we show it to a paying audience. 

For many of us playwrights, getting feedback on our work can be intimidating and confusing. My experience at Noggin—working with clients and other collaborators—has taught me how put my ego on ice, incorporate valid notes and ideas, and not take anything too personally. After all, whether it’s perfecting a pharmaceutical company’s online training or writing a well-rounded antihero, getting it right is a multi-step process. 


Noggin employees are tasked with creating an excellent course under the constraints of deadlines, tech specs, and available content. Jonathan, Jessy, Tony, Kasey, and I are influenced by Noggin’s track record of successfully embracing constraints. We bring that spirit to LRP by consistently exploring new theatrical territories. 

  • Have we created a walking-audio-tour-meets-live-performance event that can be seen forwards or backwards? Yes. 
  • Have we transformed a furniture store into a theatrical venue? Oh yeah. 
  • Have we staged a three-act play that takes place on three different levels of a home? Uh huh. 
  • Have we produced all our sold-out shows on a shoestring budget? You betcha. 

At Noggin and with LRP, I’ve learned that a problem or a constraint forces creativity and yields innovation. Great plays aren’t written; they’re wrought and award-winning e-learning doesn’t magically make itself. 

It’s more work to create a product that challenges an audience’s pre-conceived expectations or reimagines how they learn, but the outcome is worth the extra work. 

Whether I’m in the office creating virtual learning or in the rehearsal room dreaming up live theatrical experiences, I’m grateful to build something unexpected. I’m challenging myself—and my audience—to think outside of the box, use constraints to my advantage, and most importantly, work with other collaborators who are just as passionate about innovation and creative advancement as I am.