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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


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.



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.



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.



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.



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.

Lessons Learned from Learning Solutions 2018

This week I attended The eLearning Guild’s Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, FL and as expected it was a fantastic event! For those who haven’t attended a Learning Solutions conference before, it is usually a 3 day event where practitioners in the industry gather to discuss industry trends, best practices, and tips and tricks. On top of all of that, the guild also offers 2 days of pre-conference workshops for those looking to expand their skills even more.

Overall, I’m a big fan of the guild events – its a great opportunity to connect with others in the industry and see what others are working on. Whenever I attend one of their events, I always come back with a flash of insight that i’m not the only one struggling with the problems I’m encountering and I’m doing a lot better off than I think I am. This trip was no exception! Below are some of the highlights from my trip:


Design Thinking Workshop with Connie Malamad

After fangirling about Connie’s blog for about 6 years or so now, I was so excited to attend her workshop Using Design Thinking to Craft Learning Experiences. It was the perfect workshop to attend given my recent transition into a learning experience role.

Throughout the workshop, she introduced the Standford’s process for design thinking (Empathy, Define, Ideation, Prototype, Test) and gave each group a case study on how to move through the process. Overall, I left the workshop feeling much more confident about all the work I’ve been doing over the past few months and excited about how learning practitioners can incorporate design thinking into their process.

Connie was amazing – she has such a great presence that allows her to quickly connect to everyone and she’s absolutely hilarious!  I cant wait to catch up with her at a future event. I definitely recommend one of her sessions for anyone who is able to attend!


Adopting the Performance Support Mindset 

One of my personal goals for the year was to get out of my introvert cave and on Tuesday I got to step into the teacher role and share my love for performance support with a group of about 50+ attendees.

The session was an absolute blast! The group had a ton of great questions about how to get started with performance support in their organizations and I was able to share some of the examples we’ve been crafting over the past 2.5 at The Predictive Index.

My slides are available on Slideshare to anyone who missed out on the session.


Industry Trends

Overall, I attended about 15+ sessions over a span of 3 days and noticed some trends occurring in the industry:

Learning Practitioners are starting to use design thinking in their practice

There was a lot of talk about using design thinking in learning practices. I am seeing design thinking being used as a tool to become empathetic with learners and gain a greater understanding of their pain points. Once we have this, we’ll be able to design  better learning solutions that truly meet their needs. I also am seeing a rise of practitioners using design thinking to create some rapid prototypes so they’re able to easily iterate on their solutions. It’s no longer about getting something out the door as quickly as possible, but revisiting and updating solutions to make solutions are continuing to meet learners needs.




There is a rise of simpler learning platforms

It should come as no surprise that everyone hates their LMS. This Learning Solutions, I  heard a lot of talk from practitioners about using simpler technology to get their content out to learners in a more user friendly way.  I’ve heard people using everything from WordPress to emailing courses to learners in a “marketing drip campaign” fashion.


Performance support can help learners continue their learning

I also saw a number of sessions and received questions from practitioners curious about how they can ensure learners continue learning once they’ve left the classroom. It’s definitely apparent that people are becoming more aware of the benefits of performance support and how solutions such as job-aids, knowledge bases, checklists, how to’s, etc. can help reinforce learning after the fact.


Overall, Learning Solutions was such a great experience. I am so grateful for the experiences and new friends that I’ve made over the past week. I can also say from the bottom of my heart that I’m very much looking forward to returning back to my introvert cave and cuddling with my cat. Until next time my friends!






Adopting a Performance Support Mindset: Defining your PS Strategy

In my first article of the Performance Support series, I suggested that the way that people are learning has changed. Gone are the days of learners having the ability to take off of work to attend multi-day training sessions. We’re now in an era of instant gratification where learners are finding content in a quick video or 160 character tweet. This means as learning practitioners we have to move towards a more performance support based mindset that emphasizes giving learners the right amount of support, complexity, and detail right at the time when they need it most.

Adopting Performance Support is not going to happen overnight, its a long journey that can take years to implement within your organization.


Creating a Performance Support Strategy

After attending the eLearning Guild’s Performance Support Symposium in 2015, I was all fired up and ready to start implementing it within my organization. I learned very quickly that this would not be an easy feat.

I knew that I had to start somewhere so I started to break things down into smaller steps. Before I knew it I had developed an entire strategy around Performance Support.

Below are just a few items to consider when starting to implement performance support:

Creating a PS Strategy

Business Objectives

Its very likely that performance support is a new concept that you will be introducing to your organization. In any case, you will need to relate it to your businesses overall objectives and goals.

Some questions to consider might include:

  • What problem is the organization trying to solve?
  • Whats the overall goal?
  • How does PS help you reach that goal?



Performing an audience or learner analysis is one of the most important steps a learning practitioner can take. It will give you a better idea of your learner’s background (education, demographics, skills, etc) and allow you to shape your message in a way that resonates with them.

Some questions to consider might include:

  • Who is the audience?
  • What are their needs?
  • What do they know?
  • What do they need to know?
  • What tasks do they have to do to perform?



Getting stakeholder buy-in within organizations is a gift! I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mentor at The Predictive Index who could truly get anyone behind her ideas.

Some items to identify include:

  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • How involved will they be?
  • How do you plan to get their buy-in?



Next, you will need to think about who your subject matter experts are and how you’ll be working with them.


  • Who are the SMEs?
  • How often will you be interacting with them?
  • How will you be meeting with them?
  • Will they be reviewing content?



We all know that content is king! You should begin to think not only about the content you will be creating but also any historic content that you may be using.

Think about:

  • What type of historic content will you be dealing with?
  • What type of content will you be creating?
  • How will learners get access to the content?
  • How will you keep track of your learning content?



Now that you have a better idea of the content you will be creating, it’s time to think about the design and development process you may be using.


  • What is your workflow for creating content?
  • Will you have reviews?
  • How will you deal with change management?



Technology not only impacts your development process but it can also impact how your learners as well.


  • What type of technology will your learners have?
  • What type of expertise do your learners have with technology?
  • What type of tools will you be using?
  • Do you have to purchase any new tools?



I know many training programs that have failed because they never identified what success looks like. This will vary across organizations based on the businesses larger goals and objectives. Be sure to identify success at the beginning of your project, this will help to prove it’s worth over time:

  • What does success look like?
  • What types of evaluation will you use to measure your performance support?
  • What type of metrics will you gather?

Again, the above list are recommendations on how to get started with performance support within your organization. Remember, every company is different! You may have a variety of things you might have to consider that I haven’t mentioned. But this list should help you hit the ground running!

Ready to learn more?

Check out my Adopting the Performance Support Mindset session this month at Learning Solutions.


Adopting a Performance Support Mindset: The 5 Moments of Learning Need

It should come as no surprise that the way that people are choosing to learn has changed.

Gone are the days of attending multiple days of training to learn a new skill or software program. Instead, learners are looking up content when they need it most.

If I think about all the ways that I learned something over the past few months, I could rattle off a list of answers ranging from articles, books, and videos. Just a few weeks ago when I was putting together a new bookcase for my home office, I quickly flipped through the instructions and put it together in less than 30 minutes. Does this mean I’m doing to become Rhode Island’s Next Top Carpenter? Not a chance! But I did learn just enough to get the task done.

Performance Support Defined

The eLearning Guild defines performance support as “a tool or other resource ranging from print to technology- supported, which provides just the right amount of task guidance, support and productivity benefits to the user, precisely at the moment of need”.

In other words, performance support is a resource available at the moment of need that makes it easier for people to perform. Performance Support is not about teaching someone EVERYTHING there is to know about something; rather it’s about giving them the right amount of support, complexity, or detail right at the time they need it.

This might seem like a new framework to some, but performance support has actually been around for decades in the form of checklists, job-aids, help articles, process diagrams, recipes, you name it.

How to get into the Performance Support Mindset

Two years ago, I read Bob Mosher’s and Con Gottfredson’s book Innovative Performance Support.  The book provides a framework based on the 5 moments of learning need.

The 5 moments of learning need

  1. NEW: When learning something for the first time.
  2. MORE: When you’re seeking to learn more about something.
  3. APPLY: When trying to apply or remember something or adapt performance to a unique situation.
  4. SOLVE: When attempting to solve a problem or deal with something that has gone wrong.
  5. CHANGE: When something changes that requires a change in how work gets done.

The first 2 moments focus on the learner’s knowledge acquisition, whether this means training people on processes, procedures, or concepts for the first time or expanding upon their existing knowledge. The remaining moments of need shift to learners applying their knowledge, solving issues, or adapting to change. It’s helpful to keep in mind, that you would provide a learner with different content and information based on their moment of need. For example, if the learner is trying to solve a problem with a software program they might contact a service desk or read a help article. On the other hand, if they’re learning about an updated sales procedure, the learner may watch a video about the changed process.

Now, think about the 5 moments of learning need and where you may encounter them within your own lives. As you begin to think about the framework, I have a feeling you’ll be amazed with how frequently the moments come up within your day to day tasks.

In my next article, I’ll cover considerations about developing performance support and how to get buy in within your organization.

Ready to learn more?

Check out my Adopting the Performance Support Mindset session at Learning Solutions in March.


2017 Year in Review

2017, what a ride it’s been! To much of my friends dismay, I actually revisit my goals every year during my birthday month (November). I’ve spent the past few weeks mulling over 2017 and finally decided to write about some of the things I’ve accomplished this year:


I launched my personal website

Talk about long overdue! Redesigning my personal website has been on my goals list for about 15 months now and I am so happy that I crushed it out in the final month of 2017.

My goal was to at least to get something live to showcase projects I’ve been working on. I also wanted an area where I could start blogging about learning, UX, and a ton of other topics. I hope to grow onto the foundation of the site in the coming months.



I finished my second year of grad school

At the beginning of 2017, I decided to drop down to one class per semester. This was such a hard decision for a perfectionist like myself but looking back I’m glad I decided to go this route.

Lessening my course load meant that I could fully immerse myself in readings and assignments. I’m happy to report that this month, I finished my second full year of classes! The change pushed my graduation date back to August 2019, but grad school is a marathon, not a sprint. I’m also loving reading about theories in my classes and then immediately going into work to applying everything I’m learning directly into projects.


I trained for a half marathon

After spending roughly 3.5 months training in the freezing winter weather, I had to bow out of the Providence Half after tearing my hip flexor muscle. I’ve been in and out of PT since then and still have a pang in my heart for missing that race. This was the first time in my life where my brain wanted to do something so badly, but my body just wasn’t having it.

The recovery time was excruciatingly painful but the down time taught me the power of listening to my body and intuition more. I also have so much more appreciation for my body in it’s healthy state than I ever did before.


I rediscovered my love for mindfulness practices

The down time from running gave me time to rediscover my love for mindfulness practices like yoga, reiki, and meditation.

After a few years off, I dived back into practicing meditation on regular basis. I read a ton of books on various holistic practices and attended a ton of classes and workshops. This meant getting level 1 certified in reiki and even signing up for my level 2 certification in early 2018!

My true dream is to combine my love for learning and holistic practices into the world of technology. I’m not sure what that means yet but I’m so excited to see how it pans out.


I embarked on my first consulting project

During the spring, I attended an Astrology 101 course at The Empowerment Factory in Pawtucket, RI. That is where I discovered the truly talented Astrologer, Steven Seinberg (Arrow in Flight). I was immediately drawn to Steve and his passion for metaphysical practices. We partnered together, and we’re currently in the process of redesigning his in-person training courses into a series of virtual micro-learning videos! He is such a pleasure to work with and has a ton of knowledge about a number of metaphysical practices.


I applied and was accepted to present at some conferences

You heard that right! This introvert got her wings and is ready to take the conference circuit by storm in 2018.

It’s no surprise that I LOVE Learning. So much that I made it my career and spent much of my life filling my brain up with random facts. This year, I decided it’s better to share everything that I’ve been learning with others.

I’ll be presenting at The Elearning Guilds Learning Solutions conference about Adopting a Performance Support Mindset in March. I’ll also be heading to Seattle to present about Designing eLearning for Cross Cultural Global Workplace Needs at the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) conference in April.


I began 2017 as my “Adventurous Introvert year” and it truly has turned out to be such a wild ride. I look forward to everything that 2018 has to offer!


2018 Speaking Engagements

I am very excited to announce that I have 2 upcoming speaking engagements slated for Spring 2018!

  • Adopting a Performance Support Mindset @ Learning Solutions in Orlando, FL. Learning Solutions is a great conference put on by the eLearning Guild every year. I truly cannot recommend the Guild highly enough!
  • Designing eLearning for Cross-Cultural Global Workplace Needs @ the International Society of Performance Improvement (ISPI) Annual Conference in Seattle, WA. This will be my first year attending and I will be co-presenting with my one of my professors for the OPWL program, Lisa Giacumo.

I hope to see you there!


Lessons Learned from FocusOn17

Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to go to The eLearning Guild’s FocusOn 2017 Conference in San Diego, CA. It was my third conference with the Guild and once again I was able to I walk away with some great insights! Each year the FocusOn conference centers around 3 technologies within the learning industry. This year the focuses were mobile, games, and video.

As always, many of my best conversations came from speaking with others in the field. The eLearning Guild conferences provide a great opportunity for practitioners to get together to share their expertise and lessons learned.

I attended a number of sessions about up and coming technologies within the industry. Many of these sessions focused on incorporating the use of virtual reality, personalized learning, and curated content. One thing that jumped out to me with the rise of personalized and curated content is the importance of content management systems. Often times, learning organizations are producing mounds of content and in order to provide better recommendations for our learners we need to make sure that the content we are creating and pushing out is appropriately findable, keyed, and tagged.

I also attended a number of sessions about gamification and scenario based learning. These sessions seemed like a great reinforcement to much of the content that I am learning in my coursework this semester. I was able to see some real world examples of branched scenarios and interactive videos.

Finally, this trip was very eye opening for me personally! I am a little over 1/3 of the way through my masters program with Boise State, while simultaneously working full time with The Predictive Index. This means that I am often heads down with work and classes. This trip allowed me to reach my head above water and see how far I’ve come within the industry. My masters program has allowed me to speak intelligently about theories and concepts, while my full time position allows me to begin applying new lessons learned immediately.

Overall, it was a great conference and I cannot wait to begin applying what I’ve learned within my organization!