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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.

Try again: E-learning and the lessons of mistakes


Try again: E-learning and the lessons of mistakes

Geoff Hyatt

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is an adage that focuses on the importance of tenacity and overcoming failure. But what about the value of failure itself? After all, the ladder to success is often built on a series of failures.

Whether you’re giving your all at baseball practice, pouring your heart into a poem, or cramping your fingers on a guitar, your early attempts will always have more missteps than triumphs. Doing things incorrectly is not merely a behavior to overcome and eliminate. It is a valuable part of the discovery process leading to doing things right. Good e-learning, just like any positive learning environment, provides learners with a safe place to discover and explore mistakes. 


The importance of accepting and integrating the lessons of failure into education and training is gaining some ground in forward-thinking circles. It’s not surprising that among artists, where experimentation and exploration is a central tenant of their work, failure is more likely to be understood as an inescapable—and necessary—part of the development process.

The School of the Art Institute offers a class on the subject, initially called “The Ethics and Aesthetics of Failure.” A recent article in Chicago magazine takes a look the course’s basic tenants and how they have influenced other teachers and artists. One instructor expresses how vital it is to teach students that “failure is part of making art, and that it doesn’t have to be traumatizing.” However, another lecturer, suspicious of “romanticized” views of setbacks, counters, “Real failure is hard to recover from. It can mean real loss.”


So that’s the critical balance that successful e-learning must achieve: the integration of failure's lessons while protecting the learner and his surroundings from real loss. Failure on the sales floor, or when dealing with government regulations, or while operating a piece of industrial machinery, isn’t something that can be casually chalked up as part of the learning curve. These types of failure can be costly—or disastrous.

One of the most valuable aspects of a retail simulation, or a gamified training program, or a mobile product knowledge quiz, is that it affords learners a place for mistakes without negative consequences. We understand the value of e-learning that can frustrate learners, challenge their misconceptions, and let them witness the results of missteps without real loss. Rather than being told, warned, or advised in a series of handbooks or presentations, learners can interact with content and directly make the right and wrong choices. All of the gain—none of the (actual) pain. E-learning gives learners a place to try and try again, so when it’s time to apply their skills in the real worlds, they can start with success.