Lessons learned connecting product maxims & learning principles.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

— Groucho Marx

“We’re not so different, you and I.”

— Every Movie Villain

Before filling myself to the brim in grad school with learning theory, I cut my teeth in a startup incubator preaching the Gospel of Lean product development. Two days after earning my masters, I started my first job in EdTech. I had the faintest idea how the two worlds overlapped.

Early in my first instructional design role, though proud of what I self-righteously saw as the noble path, I…

“Push-button education” in the May 25, 1958 edition of the Sunday comic “Closer Than We Think”

As Covid-19 took a grip on everyday life, educational technologists quickly offered their insights and educational companies shared their products to those scrambling to move learning online. In this push to provide the immediate essentials, many parents and educators quickly came up to speed on how to use new technology to offer a calming space.

Simultaneously, I suspect just as many folks caught a glimpse into the need for better designed online learning that mirrors aspects of our most memorable in-person learning experiences and satisfy our expectations of digital and physical products outside of education.

This is a tough standard…

Machine Learning is one of the most alluring tools among learning experience teams because it is at once accessible and intimidating. While the logic underpinning machine learning (ML) has aspects related to how we understand human learning, the statistics behind its execution can make any feasible pilot project seem like a pipe dream.

However, this stage of experimentation and pilots is where the vast majority of companies are at with AI at the start of 2020, and the missing piece to getting started is not necessarily learning the statistics and engineering behind it — though a foundational understanding is very…

On train rides home after a busy day at work, I found solace in the tattered copies of Dwell Magazine I rented from the Brooklyn library. The descriptions of how architects spent seasons considering every detail of a home — its neighborhood, zoning restrictions, budget constraints, occupant habits, landscape, angles of the sun — in order to arrive at a simple and elegant space was oddly soothing.

Nearly 18 years ago, a group of engineers got snowed in at a Utah ski-resort. Over the course of a few days, they got to talking about their grievances with the software development process of the moment and developed a vision for how it could be better — more collaborative, flexible, and customer-centric.

For anyone who has vacationed with a group of engineers, this story isn’t particularly surprising. However, the result of this group diatribe is. …

Photo by Nicholas Santoianni on Unsplash

In my younger and more vulnerable years, my incubator mentors gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind recently:

“Whenever you feel like offering more, just remember that you’ve got to get your product out, and everyone doesn’t need all the affordances you can offer. Consider building an MVP.”

Seven years ago, an MVP was a rebellion against the business plan, and it was how you started a business from a basement, which is what Andy, Danielle, and I did at LendingStandard.

Today, the bar for entry is higher as blitz-scaling, omni-channel delivery, and tailored services…

Photo by Robin Glauser on Unsplash

“Make it interactive” is one of the most frequent requests learning designers receive from their clients. While Drag-and-drops and polls are how interactivity is often explained in the request’s inevitable follow-up question, these are likely grasps for interactivity’s more elusive form, that hidden fantasia of worlds — what’s under the hood, beneath the surface, that something something.

One of the hardest things to communicate about learning experience design is how the end result is the synthesis of tools from multiple disciplines working in harmony. …

Photo by Sierra Ray on Unsplash

It seems hard to imagine now, but back in 1997, starting with the customer experience and eschewing waterfall were novel ideas in software development. For those early folks who saw the importance of delighting their customers, the pay off was great. Between then and now, the customer experience has become one of, if not the most important focal points of a business’ health and one metric has risen to become its benchmark: the net promoter score or NPS.

Our team uses NPS alongside other learning analytics to assess our curriculum’s ability to deliver meaningful experiences and learning outcomes. Over the…

Photo by Josh Withers on Unsplash

Context is expensive, no matter how you pay for it. But it’s worth it every time.

Previously, as a consultant who worked with businesses to create employee onboarding journeys that spanned into a new hire’s first year, I know that providing context to support productivity and culture is more expensive than just providing an org chart, a clean desk, and a t-shirt that fits. On the other hand, as a current hiring and product manager for a team that recently tripled its size while balancing competing priorities, I also know that providing context is expensive — just in other ways…

During a vacation in 2018, my wife and I met a striking woman. It was Mothers Day and we sat next to her at a restaurant her son was working at. We shared part of our dessert with her and got to talking. She was older, maybe mid 70s, and was actively running an impressive farm and residence in rural Maui. She managed to do this all completely off the grid, completely on her own. …


EdTech Product Design & Direction

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