U1 A3: Using Empathy to Understand the End User

“Bauer (2010) noted that effective onboarding has short-term and long-term benefits for both the new employee and the organization, explaining that employees effectively assimilated into an organization, have greater job satisfaction and organizational commitment, higher retention rates, lower time to productivity, and have greater success in achieving customer satisfaction with their work” (as cited in Caldwell & Peters, 2017, p. 29).


We have all shared the experience of starting a new position while juggling efforts to make a good impression, understand the position’s roles and responsibilities, become acquainted with the organizational culture and build relationships with new team members. Depending upon the structure of onboarding sessions, the size of the organization and the complexity of information, it can quickly become overwhelming trying to process all the information provided. Employee onboarding should therefore be treated not as a formality and one-time event but viewed as a journey that can make the difference in employee success.

In my current context, new employees meet with a minimum of 15 teams separately over a six-week time frame for multiple onboarding sessions. Handouts are provided in each meeting; however, there is no consolidated digital repository in which employees can access information. As a result, new employees are often overwhelmed by information provided and lack resources to support organizational understanding. My interest, therefore, lies in creating a digital learning resource to support new employee onboarding.

Empathy Method

To better understand the needs of a new or returning employee partaking in the onboarding process, I have chosen a combination of direct observation and interviews. For the purposes of this blog, I will narrow in on interviews as the chosen empathic method. I value the opportunity to hear from users about their experiences and consider this an important step in the research process. IDEO (2015) emphasized that in human-centered design, the value lies in hearing directly from people you will be designing for what is important to them. I want to understand what the onboarding process is like through the eyes of new or returning employees to our unit.

As part of the interview process, I plan to use the Why-How Laddering technique which can reveal user needs and determine what is meaningful and actionable (Stanford University Institute of Design, 2016). I would like to try out this technique because asking ‘why’ can elicit intangible responses, whereas ‘how’ questions in combination with ‘why’ can lead to actionable items (Stanford University Institute of Design, 2016). My hope is that through these interviews, I will uncover any gaps that can be addressed with the creation of a digital learning resource, and provide for a more meaningful onboarding experience.


For the interviews, I will need paper and pen to record responses. I plan to interview one to two individuals; one employee who has recently been onboarded into the unit, and potentially another employee who has been assisting with onboarding efforts. I will also be drawing from my observations and experiences having recently gone through onboarding several months ago as a returning employee.


The unit I am part of is in a transitory stage as part of department-wide restructuring efforts. As a result, the onboarding has become even more disjointed, so in interviewing new/returning employees, their responses may be heavily influenced by this rather turbulent transition. Responses may therefore focus on issues that are beyond the scope of control in creating a digital learning resource for onboarding purposes. Additionally, time limitations are always a challenge, especially given the tight turnaround on gathering information in the next week which falls on the July 4th holiday (I am based out of the US). Although, I have already compiled notes from my own observations, these interviews will provide key data in reporting on needs.

I welcome any feedback and suggestions on how I might better support an empathic approach in understanding my end user, and/or overcoming challenges listed.


Caldwell, C., & Peters, R. (2017). New employee onboarding – psychological contracts and ethical perspectives. Journal of Management Development, 37(1), 27-39. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-10-2016-0202

IDEO. (2015). Design Kit – Methods. Retrieved from http://www.designkit.org/methods

Stanford University Institute of Design. (2016). Bootcamp Bootleg.  Retrieved from http://dschool-old.stanford.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/METHODCARDS-v3-slim.pdf

U3 A1 Eyes Wide Shut (not the movie)

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash

Throughout this last month in our LRNT 526 course, I have been exploring the use of Lynda.com videos and tutorials as an online instructional supplement and/or substitute for in-house instructor-customized recordings on similar topics. What I have come to realize during my critical inquiry is that my eyes have been wide shut – not to be confused with the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film of that same name!

At the start of this critical inquiry, my focus was evaluating how the adoption of Lynda.com videos, or curated video libraries could be used to supplement online instruction; mostly for cost reduction purposes. I was sidetracked by the abundance of topics, polished video quality, video speed variations, and content chunking of Lynda videos…in other words, all the ‘bells and whistles’. Through the process of critical inquiry into the implications of using Lynda.com from a pedagogical and business perspective, I realized my focus was not on how this technology could support learning, which I alluded to in my previous blog post.

Shifting gears to concentrate on pedagogical perspectives, one of the areas I explored was Merrill’s (2002) First Principles of Instruction who outlined five principles of instruction for problem-centered instruction:

“Learning is promoted when…

  1. learners are engaged in solving real-world problems.
  2. existing knowledge is activated as a foundation for new knowledge.
  3. when new knowledge is demonstrated to the learner.
  4. when new knowledge is applied by the learner.
  5. when new knowledge is integrated into the learner’s world “ (pp. 44-45).


If we look at using Lynda.com or other curated video libraries through the lens of Merrill’s (2002) First Principles of Instruction then the technology in this instance is a tool and perhaps the broader question is if learning is afforded through the use of this tool (Lynda.com videos)? Offering up a cautionary line of thinking backed by research on the use of multimedia technology, Krippel, McKee, & Moody (2010) remind us that:

“The overriding conclusion would be that pedagogy must drive educational technology usage rather than the reverse. New technology is always accompanied by unrealistic expectations of its revolutionary advantages and universal applicability” (p. 6).

Although video-based learning is not a new phenomenon, Lynda.com has repackaged it into a rather convenient learning educational technology product. However, beyond its glitz and polished appeal, it is still one tool of many that can be used in combination of others within an appropriate context to support learning. I am hesitant to claim there is a depth and breadth of learning that takes place, especially without any means of assessment or feedback to learners who use it. Needless to say, my eyes are opening wider as a result of this critical inquiry.


Krippel, G., McKee, A.J., & Moody, J. (2010). Multimedia use in higher education: Promises and pitfalls. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 2, 1-8. Retrieved from Aabri manuscripts 09239 on February 3, 2015.

Kubrick, S. (Producer), & Kubrick, S. (Director). (1999). Eyes wide shut [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Bros.

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instructionEducational Technology Research and Development50(3), 43-59.