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4621 N Ravenswood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
United States



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.

When designing e-learning, question everything


When designing e-learning, question everything

Matt Trupia

A lot of organizations want to make a game as a solution when they have a training need. It makes meetings pretty interesting here. There’s a lot to decide. So we start asking questions out loud, to each other, to the client, to ourselves, to whoever will listen (within the tight parameters of a non-disclosure agreement, naturally). We internalize the content, the learning goals, and any known constraints, but what is this custom thing going to BE? Sometimes you just shout that actual question out and a dog briefly wakes up to regard you.

What kind of game? We start talking in broad terms to describe the kind of experience that fits all the criteria we’ve outlined. First-person? Resource-management? RPG? Arcade-style? Strategy? Puzzle? Party? So many question marks. We analyze the behaviors and knowledge we’re trying to instill. We find out what the audience is expecting, used to, up for. One by one, all the question marks turn into ellipses, and then magically into periods.

So while we’re talking about the genre of game, we’re talking about how it looks and feels. 3D? Hand-drawn illustration? We'll talk about fidelity forever, what works with the client’s culture, what do they think is cool, and whether we also think it’s cool. We create a custom style that captures the feeling everyone agreed on. We’ll pick that apart and push it further. Probably take it too far and laugh about it, and then bring it back.

At this point, even though we have a lot of great answers, we’re still asking a lot of questions. The questions are narrowing now, focusing on the specific interactions and decision points. Are we giving learners a balanced, challenging practice opportunity? Is the navigation clear and unobtrusive? Why is that header there anyway? Yeah let’s ditch that. And on a gut level, does it feel right? What does everyone think? OK, what’s next?

The goal is to make all of these questions, answers, enhancements, and discoveries happen inside of a carefully organized development process that generates forward momentum. That’s important. Because otherwise you’re just hanging out, which is fun but not super productive. When you pair them with nimble management and hands-on development, questions become an indispensable tool for real innovation.