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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.

Trusting your learners to do the math


Trusting your learners to do the math

Ryan O'Neill

A common mistake in corporate training is underestimating your learners. Many corporate training departments are hesitant to trust all of their employees to fully engage with the material, often with good reason. This can result in bland, straightforward e-learning courses that lecture employees when they should be challenging them.


Andrew Stanton, the maker of Finding Nemo, among other Pixar classics, spoke about the importance of creating an engaging story for the audience. He does this by challenging the audience.

“Don’t give them four,” he says. “Give them two plus two. The elements you provide and the order you place them in is crucial to whether you succeed or fail at engaging the audience.” That addition of two and two is engagement. You are asking something of your audience. You are asking them to make connections, to actively participate in the construction of the story. You are asking them to think.

This process can be applied to e-learning courses and simulations as well. Rather than spoon-feeding the information to learners, it is best to let them figure things out for themselves. People learn when they make mistakes. Not only should learners add two and two together to equal four, but they should also be allowed to add two and three together first to see the results. It is okay to let them make mistakes.


Let your learners know you respect them by challenging them. People respond better to challenges than to deluges of information, or worse, being coddled.

Speaking down to people does not boost their confidence, nor does it help teach them the things they actually need to know. If you underestimate your learners by speaking down to them, the biggest thing they will take away from your course is that you don’t respect them.

You learn when you are active. Think about drivers' education classes. Did you learn more from being told how to drive or by putting in time behind the wheel? Lecturing may be necessary to instill key concepts, but true knowledge and behavioral change comes from active learning.


Stanton also says that a good story is “making a promise to you that [it] will lead somewhere that’s worth your time.” Trust your audience to actively participate in a learning experience if you make it engaging.

Promise the audience that they will be challenged. Promise them that you respect their intelligence. Promise them that they will learn something.