Creating Impactful Design with DesignJot

Instructional Design Tips| Learning Technology
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DesignJot_blog_2DesignJot leverages Allen’s ANSWER Analysis to ensure instructional strategies align with intended performance outcomes.

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Over the last 32 years, Allen has collaborated with clients to develop creative solutions; these efforts have earned industry-wide recognition and acclaim. Along the way, we decided some lessons are worth sharing.

One of those key lessons we’ve learned is this: The critical factor in impactful design is clearly linking the overarching goals, needs, and instructional strategies to the intended performance outcomes. It’s a simple concept, but it can be hard to execute. To share the process we use to make these connections happen, we created DesignJot, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind instructional design app. DesignJot leverages Allen’s proprietary ANSWER Analysis to facilitate an early examination of project context. Specifically, within DesignJot, we’ve incorporated tools that help designers complete a rapid but thorough project review and then convert that information into an actionable design process using “Performance Maps.”  For our 100+ major projects this year, we’ve seen DesignJot provide a positive impact, lowering design costs and increasing timeline efficiencies.

The use of rapid analysis processes is not unique to Allen and has been used by passionate designers across the industry. DesignJot is different, however, in that leverages new technology to provide structure to the analysis and act as a catalyst for change in approach and perspective for industry professionals and project stakeholdersWe hope that by providing DesignJot as a low-cost app, designers will have a tool that will help them make crucial training connections, create lasting performance gains, and convert projects intended as simple check-the-box programs into real opportunities to positively influence the organization.

In terms of methodology, DesignJot isolates important decision points that can often be overlooked or missed in a needs analysis phase due to incorrect assumptions or uncategorized information. For example, here are a few of these pivotal focal points that the DesignJot process guides you through:

  1. What specific business objectives are meant to be influenced or impacted by the training program?
    In my 13 years at Allen, I have yet to encounter one program that does not connect to a business need. This includes compliance projects aimed at conforming to new regulations, products releases up against strict timelines, and critical business skills that needed to influence successful change management. DesignJot helps designers focus directly on these business needs,improving both the learning experience and the long-term results.
  2. What behaviors do you want to impact?
    Once again, these are not hard issues to isolate if we know what questions to ask, and when to ask them. To take a specific example, it’s common for Allen designers to be challenged to positively influence the amount of attention an employee gives to a process. In such a case, DesignJot might help us see that we need to create greater collaboration between roles to increase up-selling or cross-selling within the organization, in addition to creating the formal training itself. Moreover, we might come up against challenges like how do we influence behaviors that impact time cycles in organizations? How quickly can the new brand standard be accepted? How much use is made of the new tools and systems? In each of these questions, DesignJot guides us through a simple, effective approach that can lead to new insights and new training approaches tied directly to the key behaviors that matter (that is, those that influence the target business results).
  3. What tools or design activities should we choose?
    Designers must consider the best blended approaches for any new project. DesignJot provides an avenue for designers to brainstorm and deliberate over which activities will most appropriately align with the performance objectives. At the very least, the process of listing options enables designers to see the choices that can be made. In many cases, we at Allen have seen organizations apply longer-than-needed training processes to cover their bases, while unfortunately missing more specific activities or training modalities that could have been identified through better mapping of the business goals, behaviors, and potential learning strategies.

Of course, in evaluating tools like DesignJot, we have to accept that we all live with the real constraints. Common concerns with process tools like DesignJot can include: Do we have the time to work through these decision points?  Do we have access to seek specific answers from the right people in our organization? Are we in a no-win situation due to low budgets or an impossible timeline? These are important considerations, and DesignJot is far from being a silver bullet. However, by incorporating DesignJot into your toolkit, you may find that, like us, you make more efficient use of tight timelines or you find surprising ways to neutralize larger concerns about project success or feasibility. The bottom line really is that DesignJot helps increase meaningful collaboration and isolate critical factors, allowing us to expect more from future trainings.

Over the last several years, the processes and technologies DesignJot draws on have been critical for Allen. While for us they fit into our larger “Assure” approach, we have found them very transferable to our clients and partners. But even putting aside the process behind DesignJot, there’s a larger issue for Allen at play here. With the prevalence of tablet devices in the market, DesignJot created an opportunity for Allen to invest in the learning industry. Launching DesignJot as a tool-based app is part of our thank you to our many clients and contacts. Simply put, it’s our goodwill gesture, and it represents a hope that our passion for better and more impactful instructional design will influence and assist the work of those around us.

In that spirit, I welcome your thoughts and feedback on DesignJot. How has it helped you? What new insights has it led you to? Have you used it in surprising new ways? As an active member of this community, I look forward to hearing about your successes and opportunities and the ways Allen and DesignJot may be able to help.

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  1. Jeri Larsen

    I love the Swiss Army Knife analogy. This also lends itself to the ever-cliché map metaphor. None of us would take a roadtrip without a destination and mode of transportation in mind. Yet, I’ve sat through many a meeting in which the business goals driving the training are left secondary to budget, timeline or politics. Final goals and metrics are left out of it completely.

    It’s so much easier to deduce the best instructional strategies if we know where the training has to get us in the end. Staying focused on the actual performance improvement metrics is critical if the training is to be successful. It’s that simple. And DesignJot makes it simpler. Every time.

  2. Nate

    In my experience, DesignJot and ANSWER are the types of design and analysis tools that, once tried, you can’t do without. Additionally, as I talk to learning professionals, I often hear about the constraints you mention in your blog–the reasons why we can’t do proper analyses. And that’s one of my favorite things about using the app. It’s simple enough to work within even the most aggressively timed projects, and insightful enough to still add real value to the project.

  3. Keith Gibson

    The key to any successful analysis is asking the right questions, and that is the main strength of DesignJot–the right questions. By reminding us of the specific questions that need to be asked to thoroughly understand the training needs and goals, DesignJot is an invaluable tool for instructional designers. I’ve used the original version more times than I can count, and I’m very excited for this new release. If successful training projects start with thorough analysis, then successful training projects start with DesignJot.

  4. Ron Zamir

    We have always wanted to do for Instructional designers what business analysis tools have done for marketing professionals .. I hope our peers as well as other creative types get value from a tool that has served us and our customers so well over the years !! Enjoy



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