The other day I caught up with Stephanie Nadda. Stephanie is a consultant based in Chicago who has worked with large organizations like W.W. Grainger, Walgreens, the NCAA, the College of American Pathologists, Ace Hardware, Aon Hewitt, etc. over the last 12 years. Her niche is learning technologies and she has recently partnered with a company called Exult, based in Pune, India. Stephanie’s role will be to represent Exult in North America. Here is our conversation about learning technologies and her new partnership with Exult.
Kapp: You’ve been in the Learning and Development space for a long time, especially in the area of learning technologies, what is the industry doing correctly and where are some areas for improvement in terms of learning technologies?
Nadda:I would call out three main areas:
- Integrate the technologies that support learning management (LMS, LCMS, content authoring) and knowledge management (CMS, KMS, enterprise search, etc.). I continuously see organizations struggle with questions related to content: Who owns it? How to store it? How to reuse it? How to package it? How to work with a SME to get it? Our end goal should always be to support the user i.e., get the user to the information at the point of need regardless of whether that information is categorized as “knowledge” or “learning.”
- More video. Hosting platforms are more robust and the tools to create and edit video are simpler to use than they ever have been. Corporate learning should support this trend through technologies to support the submission process, robust hosting, detailed tracking, and governance to ensure the quality of the submissions.
- Device and browser agnostic content. One interesting European-based initiative to address this problem is the Adapt Learning Project. Adapt is a free and easy to use, open source e-Learning authoring tool that creates fully responsive, multi-device, HTML5 e-learning content. Exult is one of the seven collaborators and offers Adapt-based solutions to its clients. You can read more about Exult and why I have chosen to partner with them in the next question!
Kapp: You’ve recently chosen to partner with a company out of India called Exult, why did you choose to partner with this organization?
Nadda: In my work I have always appreciated good vendors who partnered with me to deliver excellent customer service and innovative solutions. I have known Saurabh and Sandeep (two of the founders of Exult Corporation) for over 10 years. Over the years, I have used Exult as a preferred vendor to build custom learning solutions and to build proof of concepts (mobile, learning portal). I know their capabilities.
Saurabh and Sandeep reached out to me a few months ago and asked if I would be interested in starting up an onshore, North American office for Exult. The opportunity was intriguing. I feel that they are positioned well in the market with their deep expertise in custom learning solutions, e-Learning development, software development, and mobile technology. I will also get a deeper understanding into how an offshore company based in Pune, India really works. Finally, with my home base as the Chicago market and my background, I feel that I can do justice in representing their products and services with key clients. I also think it will be fun to build something from the ground up.
Kapp: Exult has recently launched a new product called Expedite Learning. Can you tell me a little about that product?
Nadda: Expedite Learning (ExL), launched and unveiled earlier this month at DevLearn 2015, offers a vast, unparalleled and rapidly growing Articulate Storyline-based e-Learning template library. ExL offers 1000+ premium and professionally developed Articulate Storyline templates consisting of layouts, interactions, extensions, and themes with a wide range of variations.
With the release of user-friendly authoring tools like Storyline and Captivate, we have noticed a shift in e-Learning development trends. More and more independent developers, instructional designers, and even SMEs have started using these tools to develop e-Learning courses. Since these individuals often do not have specialized skills in areas like instructional design, visual design, and programming, there is a growing demand for ready to use customizable e-Learning templates. We feel this trend will grow in the coming years and thus the idea of ExL was born to empower professionals to create engaging e-Learning courses.
The primary objective of ExL is to speed up e-Learning development without compromising on quality or aesthetic appeal. This is achieved through the core design philosophy of ensuring each hand-crafted template is instructionally sound, visually enhanced, and technically perfect. The templates are designed by seasoned e-Learning professionals with decades of industry experience. These templates have already been used to develop thousands of hours of e-Learning courses across various industry domains and content types.
One additional feature to mention is that each template is thoroughly described and meta-tagged for optimized search. The templates are simultaneously classified by instructional and visual strategy to help e-Learning professionals find the appropriate template for their content treatment.
Kapp: There are a number of vendors that provide templates for Storyline, how is Expedite Learning Different? Are their plans to make the templates for other tools like Lectora or Captivate?
Nadda: Yes, it is true that while there are a number of vendors offering Storyline templates, we realized there was a void for professional and aesthetic templates catering to highly engaging rich media course development. We feel that most of the templates in the market are functional templates like drag and drop, click and learn, or are standard variations of text and image layouts. With ExL our aim is to cover the wide spectrum of all possible combinations of content layouts, interactions, extensions, and themes for a corporate or professional learner audience. This was one of the primary reasons for targeting only Storyline in the initial phase, to allow focused and undivided attention to achieve our goal. We do plan to extend the templates to other tools like Lectora and Captivate in the coming year. Graphic appeal and Instructional Design will continue to be the primary drivers for these libraries in the other tools.
Kapp: What advice would you give a graduate student interested in learning technologies as a career choice?
Nadda: First, the role as a learning technologist is more business consultant than it is technology or even learning. You will need to understand the business needs (the business could be defined as HR, learning, a business unit, department, etc.) and translate them into requirements and then ensure that the technology that is built or selected effectively meets the requirements. Technology is really just an enabler. Your job is much broader than the technology; you will be required to look at technology holistically from the perspective of people, process, and governance to ensure that the technology is successful.
Just like any career choice today, you will need to be nimble and flexible. Technology changes rapidly and seems to be changing more quickly each year. A large portion of my time is keeping up with trends, seeking out new technologies, and understanding them so I can translate them for my clients.
Also if possible spend some time in IT. Early in my career, I was promoted to manage a group of 4 software developers. I had no experience with the software and wasn’t a software engineer by trade, but I was a good manager. It was humbling to dive deep into their world and understand the time pressures they were under, the bad requirements they were expected to interpret, and the hours of quiet time they needed to produce good “code”. Make friends with IT folks who can effectively translate the “technical” stuff into words you can understand and can describe to others.
As with any career advice, always keep your contacts intact and your network strong. I have relationships that go back to the beginning of my career. You never know when your paths will cross in the future.