Page 2 of 3

Transforming the future of technology learning: 10 years in the making

Ten years ago, I sat in the passengers seat of my fathers Honda Ridgeline as we drove by the Niagara River in Buffalo, NY. My father, a machinist of over 20 years, shared his regrets about how he wished he continued his education. “Education is the only thing that someone can never take away from you” he said, as I listened intently.  He shared his hopes about how I would continue school and chase my dreams despite any obstacles that may get into my way. This conversation has always stayed with me and I frequently think back to it during moments of self reflection.

It should come as no surprise that since then, education and learning have become ingrained into every ounce of my being. My core philosophy in life is that learning is the basis for growth and change. I believe that every experience you have and person you encounter has something to teach you as long as you’re willing to listen. I believe that learning is a fundamental right regardless of gender, race, income level, or where you were born. This belief has guided me through constantly juggling reading at least 3 books at all times (true story – check my goodreads account), undergraduate and graduate degrees, and now the next step in my career.

Thats why, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that I will be joining Pluralsight as a Product Manager.

 

Why Product at Puralsight?

When I began my job search, I knew I wanted a role that would challenge me, align with my learning philosophy, and allow me to make a profound impact on the world.

Product Manager – The epitome of a challenging role

Never in a million years could I have imagined that the next step in my career would be a Product Manager! I’ve worked in tandem with product managers for the past 3.5 years at The Predictive Index and I’ve seen first hand how challenging of a position it can be. So when a good friend of mine actually recommended it to me over 6 months ago, I practically laughed in his face. But as things often do, the idea began to spread through my mind. After countless conversations with those in the SaaS industry, a ton of research (books, conferences, etc), and coaching with my manager; I found myself ready to take on the product manager role. I recognized that a lot of the skills I’ve been utilizing in Learning and UX and all the skills I’m looking to grow we’re encapsulated within a PM role.

 

An aligned mission driven learning philosophy

This past March, I attended UX Fest in Boston and was fortunate enough to see Gilbert Lee, Head of Product @ Pluralsight present. His presentation immediately resonated with me as he talked about the future of workplace technical learning. I remember sitting in the audience thinking “This is why I started in learning!!!”.

The future of workplace education has fascinated me since I began my career in the learning industry nearly 6 years ago. It’s what drove me to pursue my masters in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning with Boise State and is now what led me to my new role at Pluralsight.

The moment I began talking to the team at Pluralsight, I knew that learning was something that the organization was fundamentally committed to. From considering learning theories during the product development process to their iterative testing culture; learning is truly a shared philosophy across the entire organization.

Overall, I believe that providing just in time digital training is something that is necessary for workers to perform their best on the job. I have always been committed to making that happen for my learners and am grateful to be within an organization that is committed and driven to do the same.

 

Ready for takeoff

I’m so humbled and thrilled to be joining the Pluralsight team! I am so excited to see where this next chapter takes me.

Moving from Instructional Design to Learning Experience Design

Last week I was fortunate to participate in the Transitioning from ID to Learning Experience Design session that was part of the Training, Learning, and Development Community Playlist. Matt Sustatia and I spoke about the growing use of the term Learning Experience Design and how Instructional Designers can make the jump to LXD.

The session was absolutely amazing and I couldn’t wait to share some of the insights learned throughout the session!

 

What is Learning Experience Design?

I would define Learning Experience Design as the practice of creating learning experiences that enables learners to achieve a desired performance outcome. Learning Experience Design uses an iterative approach that focuses on understanding the users challenges and experiences to design iterative solutions to help solve their needs.

This doesn’t mean limiting learning experiences to formal learning that take place in a school or classroom. Quite the opposite, learning experiences can take place anywhere; at home, while working, or on the go.

Learning Experience Designers focus on the holistic learning experience and what the learner is going through. This means that rather than simply focusing on designing curriculum or instruction, the learning experience designer will consider the learner and everything they’re experiencing. They’ll then use that information to create solutions such as:

  • content (what does the learner need to do in order to perform a task)
  • the look and feel of the learning experience
  • materials
  • communication about the content
  • how the learner interacts with the content

 

What skills can IDers grow to move into LXD?

With any job, the actual responsibilities that someone carries out can truly vary from company to company. Learning Experience Design is no different!

I made the jump to Learning Experience Design roughly a year ago after moving to the User Experience team within my organization. The move made me responsible for designing in-product learning experiences for users of our software platform. With the transition, I’ve been able to work on some pretty exciting projects like designing in-software user onboarding for our beta software, designing wireframes, and user flows for new features, low fidelity prototypes of product features, and UX Content.

I’ve talked to many other learning experience designers who design all different types of learning experiences including elearning and instructor led training. Regardless of your background, I’ve noticed a few skills that can come in handy with making the transition to learning experience.

 

Practice Design Thinking

Most instructional Designers are very familiar with using the traditional ADDIE model to create learning experiences. Design Thinking is actually an almost identical process – you can see this by simply comparing the ADDIE and Design Thinking graphics below.

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 6.29.13 AM.png
Instructional Design ADDIE Model

 

Screen Shot 2018-09-02 at 6.29.19 AM
Traditional UX Model: Design Thinking (Source)

 

Popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin; design thinking focuses on using a human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s helpful to take the holistic view of a problem to truly understand all the different aspects that a learner is going through and then determine a solution. Since moving I’ve started using design thinking to craft learning experiences, I’ve been able to iterate quicker and have started developing things like user personas, empathy maps, and journey maps.

 

Brush up on those design skills

I definitely see e-learning design as a huge jumping point into learning experience design. Brushing up on graphic design skills like how to incorporate color, typography, layout into designs will make a huge impact on your work. Interaction design will also have a huge impact on your work. I challenge those looking to make the transition to LXD to begin by thinking about the types of elearning interactions you want to provide your learners with. You may want to consider questions such as:

  • Whats the overall goal of this learning interaction?
  • How is the learner going to move through these screens in my lesson?
  • What happens if they click this button?
  • How will they see the results of this interaction?
  • What types of graphics should I include in this interaction?

 

Change is hard

Everyone knows that change is hard! I can tell you first hand that my transition to our UX team did not come easy. My way of thinking and working completely shifted. It taught me how to incorporate design thinking, user centered design, prototyping and iteration to my approach. I was forced to think more strategically about getting to the root of a users problem and identify their pain points. But with the change also came tons of insecurities, battling perfectionism, and cognitive load. I was fortunate enough to reach out to others in the industry, have supportive coworkers, and read tons of books that helped ease the transition. If you’re feeling hesitant about making the move to learning experience design, don’t be! Feel free to reach out for any tips and tricks as you embark on your journey.

 

Sources

Design Thinking 101. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nngroup.com/articles/design-thinking/

Dombrowski, R. (2018, April 15). Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences. Retrieved from https://robertamedia.com/2018/04/14/using-design-thinking-to-craft-learning-experiences/

The Training Learning and Development Community (2018, August). Instructional Design Playlist. Retrieved from https://www.crowdcast.io/e/id-playlist/4

Uncovering the power of the journey map

The farther I get into my masters program, the more I realize how quickly 10 weeks can go by. This past semester was an absolute whirlwind – now that I’m more than two weeks out of it, I feel like I finally have some time to share all the cool tidbits that I learned.

This past semester, I took an Advanced Instructional Design course that specifically focused on how to incorporate design thinking into the instructional design process. As expected, it was an absolute dream come true! It made me so much more confident in the skills that I’ve been learning in my LXD role over the past year. It also allowed me to connect with Learning Practitioners who were new to design thinking (queue flash backs to me 9 months ago).

One of my favorite parts of the class was learning more about journey maps. I was pretty much a novice to journey maps before the course. I had assisted our UX Researcher, Zoya, at times when she was constructing an epic journey map for The Predictive Index. Despite that, I had never built a journey map from scratch. The course changed all that and they’re now my go to at work when thinking about designing new user flows or even thinking about client journeys with our product.

 

What is a journey map?

Nielsen Norman Group describes a journey map as a “visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. It’s used for understanding and addressing customer needs and pain points”. My favorite part about a journey map is that it truly combines storytelling with visualization.

Journey maps can be a really helpful tool to put things back into perspective of what the user, customer, or learner is going through. In other words, journey maps are great to use during the empathy stage of design thinking. Overall, they can be used to review the existing state of an experience or when envisioning a future state. Once a journey map is created you’ll be able to identify pain points or areas of opportunity for building better experiences for customers.

01.png
Example Customer Journey Map for Online Travel Agency (Source)

 

Elements of a journey map

The truth is no journey map is the same however, they will include some similar elements:

  • Persona – this will provide insight about who the journey map is about. It may include elements such as a picture and goals/expectations of the person
  • Scenario – the experience you’re going to map. For example, is it an existing process or experience or are you going to be envisioning the future state of something?
  • Phases  – these are touch points that client/user interacts with your product or service.
  • Actions/Mindsets/Emotions – for each touch point, determine the action the user takes, their thoughts, emotional experience and potential opportunities.

 

xid-28027069_1.png
Job Applicant Journey Map (Source)

 

Basing the journey on data

Now before you run off and start creating journey maps for all the experiences your customers are going through, you’ll want to ensure that you’re basing them off of data and research. This means getting as close to your user or customer as possible through things like user interviews and surveys. This will help to ensure that the experience you’re mapping is grounded and based on the actual experience your clients are going through.

During the Advanced Instructional Design Course, my teammates and I worked on designing a learning experience for volunteers at a Cat Shelter. We parsed through nearly 200 pages of existing documentation and conducted our own user interviews. Talk about a lot of data! As part of our design solution, we created a journey map for a potential learning experience. This helped our group to envision all of the emotions, goals, motivations, and actions that the learner would potentially go through with our solution. Once we had more insight into the learner, we used all of the information to help us identify potential learning opportunities that would help them along their journey.

CatVolunteer_JourneyMap
Journey Map for Cat Shelter Volunteers

Overall, I ended up falling in love with journey maps throughout the course of the past semester. They’re another tool, I’m happy to add into my toolbox. I could see them being used by learning designers to gain more insight into learners.

So go on, what’re you waiting for? I hope you give journey maps a try and end up loving them as much as I do!

 

NOTE: If you’re a learning practitioner looking to incorporate design thinking into your process feel free to give me a shout 🙂

 

 

 

 

Carving a new path: career announcements

Time truly has been flying by this year. It’s already July and the summer is heating up. I’m happy to report that the giant 15 foot squash plant in the garden hasn’t taken over my eggplants yet (fingers crossed). Any who, it’s been an entire month since my last post and I have some major updates to share!

 

I’m transitioning out of my job at The Predictive Index

When I began this year, I had a feeling in my stomach that there would be some major changes in store for my career. Even with that in mind, it didn’t make the decision to leave any easier.

Over the past 3.5 years with PI, I’ve seen the company undergo some huge changes. I’ve seen us grow more than double in size, streamline our processes, become more strategic, and truly spread our message of better work, better world. During that time I’ve also blossomed personally and professionally. For example, I entered PI as the Instructional Design Production Assistant. Fast forward 3.5 years and I am now a seasoned Learning Experience Designer whose 2 semesters away from completing her masters degree.

So it is extremely bittersweet to announce my departure. My last day is tentatively scheduled for September 30th. I’m still figuring out the next step for my career but I am beyond thrilled to see where i’m headed!

 

Elliott Masie’s 30 under 30 in Learning!

A few days after I made the decision to leave my position at PI, I received word that I am one of the recipients of Elliott Masie’s 30 under 30 award in Learning. To say that it was a surprise is a complete understatement!

It feels like all of the hard work from the past 6 years is finally starting to pay off! It also felt like the universe was supporting my decision to transition in my career in some small way. I feel beyond blessed and honored to be surrounded by such a talented group of peers in the industry. In November, I’ll be flying out to Orlando, FL to represent The Predictive Index at Learning 2018! If you’re headed out there be sure to connect – I’d love to meet in person!

 

Certificate in Workplace eLearning and Performance Support complete!

I just finished up my Advanced Instructional Design class for summer semester. The course focused on incorporating design thinking into the instructional design process. I am beyond grateful that I was able to take it – it helped to reinforce many of the concepts that I’ve been learning in my role over the past year. It also helped increase my confidence in my craft and share my expertise with my classmates.

I’ll be sharing some of the techniques I’ve been learning over the coming weeks in a series of posts. Until then I’m looking forward to a full 2 weeks off before starting Fall classes. With the conclusion of my course, I realized that I completed my Certificate in Workplace eLearning and Performance Support with Boise State. The certificate was no small feat and definitely gives me the energy to power through my remaining 2 semesters in my masters program!

 

Well thats all for now. Theres definitely some big changes in the works. I hope everyone has a fabulous end to July! I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes us all.

 

 

 

 

Lost without a paddle: My journey into the uncharted waters of learning experience design

Anyone looking for L&D jobs over the past few years may have noticed a growing trend – the move away from the label Instructional Designer and move towards Learning Experience Designer.

I experienced this shift first hand after being promoted to Learning Experience Designer within my organization 9 months ago. The move uprooted me from our learning team and placed me right in the middle of our small but mighty cross-functional user experience team.

To say the transition was a challenge is a complete understatement! I very quickly had to begin applying concepts I never encountered before like design thinking, prototyping, and iteration within my content creation process. Despite the initial growing pains, I have now settled firmly into my role in Learning Experience Designer and understand the need for instructional designers to shift to a learning experience design mindset.

What is learning experience design?

I would define Learning Experience Design as the practice of creating learning experiences that enables learners to achieve a desired performance outcome. Learning Experience Design uses an iterative approach that focuses on understanding the users challenges and experiences to design iterative solutions to help solve their needs.

This doesn’t mean limiting learning experiences to formal learning that take place in a school or classroom. Quite the opposite, learning experiences can take place anywhere; at home, while working, or on the go.

Learning Experience Designers focus on the holistic learning experience and what the learner is going through. This means that rather than simply focusing on designing curriculum or instruction, the learning experience designer will consider the learner and everything they’re experiencing. They’ll then use that information to create solutions such as:

  • content (what does the learner need to do in order to perform a task)
  • the look and feel of the learning experience
  • materials
  • communication about the content
  • how the learner interacts with the content

Incorporating learning experience into digital products

If you’re like me, you may not immediately think about learning experience when thinking of the design of digital products. Digital products actually offer a number of learning experiences to customers, ranging from:

  • onboarding
  • learning the interface
  • learning how to interact with the product
  • help & support

Before my jump to LXD, I spent nearly 3 years creating software support content for clients. This ranged from creating help videos, how to articles, getting started guides, and more. During this time, I was often brought in after the software was built to explain to users how to use the system.

My move into learning experience actually transplanted me to the beginning of the design process. Now i’m working on our UX team where we handle designing product concepts that could potentially go within our software platform. This means establishing empathy with our users, gaining an understanding of their problems, and designing solutions to help solve the challenge. My deliverables usually range from creating wireframes, user flows, low fidelity prototypes of product features, and UX content.

I’m very fortunate that my organization is a test bed for new ideas. Since the transition, I’ve been able to work on some pretty exciting projects like designing in-software user onboarding for our beta software, designing wireframes and user flows for new features, and creating support materials for a new beta product.

Overall, the past 9 months have been quite the learning experience. The change taught me how to incorporate design-thinking, user centered design, prototyping, and iteration to my approach. I’ve been forced to think more strategically about getting to the root of a users problem and identify their pain points. This has improved the speed of my design  and allowed me solve our users problems quicker. In a world that is moving faster at every moment, a more strategic and agile design process will be what sets learning design apart from the pack.

Interested in learning more about learning experience? Check out these helpful resources:

Using information mapping to write clearer content

Last month, I sat down with some of my coworkers to officially hand off knowledge base responsibilities. Since transitioning more fully into my LXD role, I haven’t had the bandwidth to manage them anymore. It was a little bitter sweet, but it’s so exciting to see others step up to the plate and expand their skills.

I ended up reviewing some information mapping best practices to get the team more familiar with creating learning content. The session was so energizing! It reminded me of how much I love getting in front of people to share best practices and how much information mapping has helped to craft my content creation process.

What is information mapping?

Information Mapping is a researched based method that helps enable the creation of clear, concise, and focused writing. It allows content creators to put users needs at the forfont of the creation process.

I got trained in the information mapping methodology roughly 2 years ago and it’s helped every type of content I create. Everything from emails, presentations, documentation, help content, knowledge base articles, the sky’s the limit!

Below is an example before and after it went through the information mapping process. As you can see, information mapping can help to make the content more readable and bring important details to the front of the messages you’re crafting.

beforeafterbig3
Information Mapping – Before and After Example

Getting Started with Information Mapping

You don’t have to go through an information mapping training course to start using it! Here’s some guiding principles to help get you started:

Identify audience needs 

Whenever you’re creating content of any type of content, the first thing you’ll want to do is find out as much as you can about your audience. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Who is the audience?
  • Are there multiple audiences?
  • What do they need to do?
  • What do they need to KNOW in order to do the task?
  • How will they access the information?

audience

Knowing this will help guide the information you present to your users and make sure that it truly resonates with them.

 

Organize information from the user’s perspective

Once you have a better idea of the content the users will need to know,  it’s time to focus on how you’ll actually present it to your audience.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 1.25.56 PMBe sure to present the content in the order the users will need to use it. This often means introducing high level conceptual information first, then drilling down into more detailed content or steps later.Take a book for example; they’re often composed of multiple short chapters, rather than one long chapter of content. Each chunk of content should represent a new idea or topic.

 

Help users find what they need

Now that you’ve got your content down, it’s time to make some improvements to ensure that users can find the content they need.

Whenever I’m writing instructions or documents, I’ll add subheaders or descriptors to the content chunks in my document. The subheading should accurately convey what appears in it’s corresponding section. If the user is looking for something specific in your document, they’ll be able to quickly find what they’re looking for within the content.

Another best practice that i’ll do when writing directions is begin all sentences or steps with action verbs. For example, this means starting software how to’s with words such as “Click”, “Enter”, or “Select”. This puts the action that the user needs perform, front and center, ensuring theres absolutely no guess work on their end.

I’ll also emphasize words of importance by using italics, bold, or using all caps. In some cases, I’ll actually insert tips if something is really important to the user (ex: TIP: Changing this field will change all of your admin settings).

Finally, I’ll add supportive graphics throughout the document to help ensure that I get my point across. This means including pictures of software screens, machinery, or tools, you’re expecting the users to assemble or use.

Screen Shot 2018-05-27 at 2.13.28 PM
Example Instructions from The Predictive Index Knowledge Base

 

Putting it in action 

And that’s it! The next time you sit down to craft content, begin to incorporate some of these best practices to start getting your messages across to your users quicker.  So go on, and get your information mapping on!

 

Overcoming my inner critic: My journey with imposter syndrome

I do not feel knowledgeable enough to do my job, like I’m not moving fast enough. I think I might be overanalyzing everything.

– Roberta Dombrowski, 5/13/18

Chances are if you did a simple search for imposter syndrome, the computer would spit out something similar to the statement above. Reality is, I wrote this in my personal journal over 15 days ago. If you ran into me in the office or on the street, you probably wouldn’t have any idea I was battling this inner critic every second of every day.

 

What is Imposter Syndrome?

First described by Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s, Imposter Syndrome is a phenomenon that occurs in high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their successes. Often times it might mean attributing your accomplishments to luck rather than ability. This might mean living in perpetual fear that others will unmask your abilities, or you’ll be “found out”.

Common signs of imposter syndrome can include perfectionism, overworking, undermining your own achievement, fear of failure, or even discounting praise. For some, it may also be accompanied by depression or anxiety. Lucky me!

 

My Story

Above all, I’m someone who tries to push herself to be the best possible version of herself. I’ve always juggled multiple hats. Whether it meant simultaneously juggling 4 part-time jobs and taking 20+ credits each semester during undergrad or currently working full time and completing my masters part-time. I am not satisfied with good enough or average. I want to know that I’m giving 110% to whatever it is I’m doing.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit I’ve always juggled this determination with feelings of self-doubt or lack of confidence in my own abilities. I’ve always felt out of place or that I’ve had to try harder than others. I’ve never seen my accomplishments as something to be proud of. But every once in a while when I’m not judging myself, I’m able to take a step back and appreciate the journey that I’m on.

My most recent experience with imposter syndrome was triggered by my promotion to Learning Experience Designer roughly 8 months ago. This transition meant moving from the learning team to the UX team within my organization. The change marked a huge shift in my way of thinking. It also impacted who I interact with on a daily basis and what I’m responsible for.  I’ve had to jump head first into creating UX designs for our software platform with little knowledge of what makes a good user experience. For months, I’ve felt like a fraud, like I didn’t know enough to do my job well, or how I even got to where I am.

It wasn’t until most recently that I’ve started talking about my struggles with others. In all of my discussions and research, I’ve found out that I’m not the only one who deals with these feelings of being an imposter on a daily basis.

 

Tips for overcoming imposter syndrome

If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, the good news is that there are strategies to help identify, combat, and manage it. Below are some helpful tips that I’ve discovered throughout my journey with imposter syndrome.

 

Identify the cause

Whats shaking your confidence? Is it your new job? Is it that interview or job search you’re going through? That big presentation you have coming up?

In my case, the answer was pretty obvious – I felt like I didn’t have enough knowledge to do my job correctly. Think long and hard about what your cause might be. It’s most likely the skills you’re selling yourself short on when talking to others.

 

Talk to someone

Now that you have a better idea of what’s causing the feelings, take a deep breath and talk to someone about it. There’s nothing like getting an outside perspective to gain a better understanding of how you really are doing. This person will be able to help identify what fears are irrational and remind you of your strengths and areas for improvement.

I’m very blessed in the fact that I’m surrounded by loving and supportive people inside and outside of work. One of the most enlightening discussions I had over the past few weeks was with my manager. He was able to show me some things I wasn’t able to see through the fog.

 

Stop trying to achieve perfection

Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham describe the quest for perfection superbly in their book, The Spirituality of Imperfection:

“For to be human is to be incomplete, yet yearn for completion; it is to be uncertain, yet long for certainty; to be imperfect, yet long for perfection; to be broken, yet crave wholeness. All these yearnings remain necessarily unsatisfied, for perfection, completion, certainty, and wholeness are impossible precisely because we are imperfectly human – or better, because we are perfectly human, which is to say humanly imperfect.”

One of the few things that are truly guaranteed in life is the fact that humans are imperfect. Rather than struggling to achieve perfection, focus on the value you bring to the table. As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, this is probably the most difficult. I frequently have to remind myself on a daily basis that perfection is the enemy of experience and I’m doing the best that I can.

 

Own your story and stop comparisons

Too often we fall into the trap of comparing our weaknesses with the strengths of others. We tell ourselves “If I could just be as good at presentations as Jennifer” or “Why can’t I be as creative as James?”. These comparisons are subjective, biased, and unhelpful.

Shift your perspective to think about what your unique qualities are. What are you good at that others are not? After opening up to a good friend about my struggles with not feeling like I knew enough, he suggested that I try using one of my most powerful traits, intuition. It was a watershed moment for me. For someone who trusts their gut above anything else, why was I overanalyzing everything and hell-bent on researching new theories?  I was afraid of failing and thought that learning more or knowing more could help. It wasn’t until I started to own my own story and trust my own abilities that I started to feel more confident in myself and what I already brought to the table.

 

A new beginning

It takes courage to admit you’re feeling a certain way and decide to open yourself up to make a change. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy but I promise it’ll be worth it. It wasn’t until I decided to own my story that I’ve become more confident in my path and where I’m headed. So what’re you waiting for? You’ve got this!

Catch me if you can: A midyear check-in

Spring time is in full effect here in Providence, RI!

The first half of the year has proven to be quite busy. Just within the past month, I finished up my spring semester and moved my entire apartment to the East Side of Providence, RI.

giphy

Yep, you heard that right! My month off in between classes was no cake walk. I traded in my solo apartment in Pawtucket, RI and took a leap to the city. During the transition, I also took a hard look at the 2018 goals I set up for myself. I realized I’ve already completed roughly 65% of them and it’s not even the end of May! To say i’m exhausted is an understatement.

So, whats up next?

As I start to look at the second half of the year, I’m beyond excited to see what’s in store.

Next week, I’ll be starting an Advanced Instructional Design course (my last class to complete my Workplace eLearning and Performance Support certificate with Boise State)! The class will focus on incorporating user experience practices like journey mapping, personas, and prototyping into the learning design process. If it sounds right up my alley, thats because it is! The past 8 months have been a huge transition to my LXD role, so i’m excited to learn more about theories and gain more confidence in the work that i’m doing.

Another focus for the coming months will be slowing down, reflecting, and creating. I hope to redesign my personal website, write more, and do all the artsy stuff I used to have more time for.

So heres to a rocking start to 2018. I can’t wait to see where we all end up in the next few months!

My Love Affair with Task Analysis

My name is Roberta and I have a confession to make. I LOVE doing task analyses. I’m not even sure exactly when this love affair started. It makes sense when I really stop to think about it.  I’ve always loved processes, procedures, and organizing things. What better way to get my perfectionist tendencies out by writing laundry lists of instructions?

In fact, if you stop by my desk at any given time of the day, you’ll be sure to find a giant note to-do list written in order of how I plan to get things done. Now, I’m not advocating for my Type A tendencies by any means. My perfectionism can get me into a lot of trouble – it slows me down and makes me hyper focus on things that don’t matter. It’s also one of the many reasons why I’ve gained such an expertise with task analysis that have proven to be pivotal in my role as an instructional designer and now as a user experience designer.

What exactly is a task analysis?

A task analysis is exactly what it sounds like! It’s when you analyze a task in order to document step by step how it’s completed.

It might seem straight forward but even the simplest of things are very complex. I find that as soon as I start breaking things down into steps, there’s way more involved in a process or procedure than I originally thought.

A Multipurpose Tool

Task Analysis have become a mainstay in the instructional designers toolbox. Why? Instructional designers create training on how to do something and task analysis tell you the steps to do it.

I created a ton of task analysis when I was writing help articles for The Predictive Index help center a few years ago. Since I’ve moved into user experience, I’ve noticed task analysis popping up again but in a slightly different way.

User Experience Design is all about creating products. UX Designers will perform task analysis to gain an understanding of how users are performing tasks within their products, websites, or apps. This then enables a UX Designer to figure out where help might be needed or allow them to improve an existing feature or functionality. Since becoming a Learning Experience Designer, I find myself doing task analysis the most during requirements gathering. I’ll also use them when creating prototypes, wireframes, and performing usability tests.

A Simple Equation

Writing task analysis are super simple! Let’s look at some easy steps to help get you started.

Identify the task – The first thing you’ll want to do is identify the task you want to analyze. Tasks could include a process or procedure that someone does in order to perform. This could be anything from sending an email to tying your shoes. When picking a task to analyze you’ll want to be sure you describe it with an action verb.

Break down the task into subtasks – Next you’ll want to break your main task down into smaller chunks of the main task. These should be short, and again start with an action verb.

Identify steps in the subtasks – Finally, you’ll want to identify and list the steps for each of your subtasks. You can do this by breaking down the actions of the subtasks and placing them in chronological order. You’ll want to find a balance between providing users with just the right amount of information – not too much and not too little. Again, begin each subtask step with an action verb.

Below is an example of a task analysis from the University of Strathclyde. The analysis walks through the process of warming up a furnace. As you can see, when you begin to write out the steps you can see that there is more involved than one might think. It’s important to note that the university also did their task analysis in a flow diagram format. This format can be helpful to visually display a users flow to the audience.

891db68260e343d97dd6a381abc8ffa1
University of Strathclyde, Management Science Dept., Wikimedia. Copyright terms and licence: CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Overall, task analysis are one of the most powerful tools in a learning and user experience designers toolbox.  Keep in mind when creating a task analysis, they should always be performed from the users perspective. It’s so easy to get started using a task analysis in your practice and once you do, you might find yourself in a love affair of your own!

Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences

Last month I was fortunate to attend a Design Thinking workshop with the eLearning guru Connie Malamed. After reading Connie’s blog for over 8 years  I was beyond psyched for the opportunity to meet her in person!

The workshop was absolutely wonderful (as expected) and really helped cement many of the ideas I have been implementing over the past 6 months in my new learning experience role. It opened my eyes to how important design thinking is and where some of the crossovers between Learning Experience and User Experience are as a whole.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a strategy that became popularized by Tim Brown, David M Kelly, and Roger Martin. It focuses on using a structured human-centered approach to solving problems. It’s gained popularity over the years as businesses began adopting it to respond to growing trends, gain a better understanding of consumers and try to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Using Design Thinking in your Learning Practice

Over the years many variations of Design Thinking that have emerged. This became even more apparent when looking for a graphic to represent the framework. If you simply do a quick google search of Design Thinking you’ll find thousands of graphics showing different steps and processes.

For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to focus on the variation of Design Thinking that Connie emphasized in her workshop. I think it’s a great fit for anyone who is looking to use design thinking in their learning practice.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 9.57.50 AM

EMPATHY

The design process should always start with empathy. This means trying to gain insight and perspective of your target audience. For learning practitioners, this might mean the learners who attend your instructor led training courses, virtual trainings, or watching your eLearning videos. This stage is similar to your traditional audience analysis. Whoever your audience is, try to gain a deeper understanding of their world by putting yourself in their shoes. The best way to gain empathy is to connect with learners directly. You can do this by performing user research in the form of interviews, observations, creating user personas or empathy maps.

 

DEFINE

The next step in the design thinking process is to define the problem your learner is having. You’ll want to look at your findings from your research and see if any patterns begin to emerge. For example, are all of your learners encountering the same problem? Are they feeling a specific way about something?

Once you’ve identified common trends you’ll want to distill all of your findings down into a problem statement or performance goal. You’ll use this to focus on when designing an effective solution.

 

IDEATE

Once you’ve defined the learners problem is when the fun starts to happen! Ideation is when you start to generate possible solutions for your learners performance problem. As an introvert, I tend to do some some of my best thinking alone first then i’ll gather a group of my coworkers and guide a brainstorm session.

While brainstorming, I’ll usually ask others to write their ideas down on post it notes and put them on a white board. Once everyones done writing their ideas we’ll create an affinity diagram and group solutions with common themes together. From there we’ll discuss all of the ideas and pick one or two to create a prototype from.

 

PROTOTYPE

Next, you’ll want to take your the final ideas that you generated with your team and create a prototype. A prototype is a simple and inexpensive model of the ideas you selected.  Prototypes are awesome for testing out your ideas with your users without investing tons of money and resources before you’ve determined whether the solution is successful or not! In other words, it’s a great way to fail quickly.

Depending upon your solution, your prototype could be a paper sketch, exercise, case study, storyboard, wireframe, or interaction concept.

 

TEST

Once you have a prototype, you’ll want to return to your users to solicit feedback. Test out your prototypes and observe how they respond, interact, and their overall experience with it. Be sure to test your prototypes on more than one person.

Don’t worry if your prototype absolutely failed – you’re not meant to get it right on the first try! It’s highly likely that you’ll have to do a few cycles of iterating your prototype and refining your ideas. Once you’ve refined the prototype and you’re confident with how your users are responding to it is when you’ll want to start bringing it to life!

 

Putting it Together

Since leaving the workshop – I realized that I’ve been using Design Thinking in my new role without even realizing it. I feel more confident than ever applying the new methodology to my projects. I actually think i’m actually going through ideation and prototyping faster because of attending the workshop.

For those in the world of learning incorporating Design Thinking into your practice can help eliminate costly development efforts and increase the likelihood that your learning solutions will meet the needs of your users. I definitely recommend trying it out when working on your next project.