U3-A2: Reflections from the Testing Stage

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Throughout our LRNT-527 course, we have employed the design thinking process to create a digital learning resource (DLR) to meet the needs of a targeted population. I created a new-employee on-boarding digital tool to help new employees in my department learn about my unit and our work. As a result of the design process, we were asked to reflect on the following questions.

1. What was the most surprising thing that you learned by participating in the design thinking process and designing and developing your digital learning resource?

Most of my work in the past few years has required coming up with innovative ideas to generate growth and revenue. Scanning industry trends, conducting advisory boards, and tapping into academic expertise have been the rule of thumb – although all these methods are valuable and serve a purpose, the end-user perspective was usually the last to be considered! The design thinking process puts the end-user perspective first and foremost throughout the process. I was more focused on a solution when I first began designing a tool to support new employee on-boarding. As a result of starting with the empathy steps, I was able to see how previous methods I approached in creating deliverables might not have incorporated an empathetic viewpoint and considered the end-user. Without an empathy step, the outcomes did not therefore always align with end-user needs and deliverables were not sustainable long-term. However, through a human-centered approach, design thinking balances a user-centered view within the process and guides the design toward relevant outcomes aligned with user needs (Woolery, 2017).  In turn, these outcomes evolve as does the design.

2. What suggestions and improvements did you receive? Did you get any feedback that you did not expect? What feedback needs further investigation?

The feedback and suggestions I received through the test stage have all been helpful and will continue to inform improvements on the prototype. What stood out for me were areas that I had not really considered or spent as much time examining and would like to explore further.

Suggestions/Improvements and Further Investigation

Consideration of a contingency plan for the adaptability and changeability of information in the DLR is important (Clemens & Linds, 2019) especially given my context in which staffing information provided in the DLR could easily change as employees leave. One of my goals with this DLR was to introduce our team asynchronously yet create a social presence in which team members contribute their own voice either through audio or video. However, the downside is that if the resource is highly dependent upon staff involvement and the content is tied to their ‘persona’, once they leave, it could require significant content changes. Campbell (2003) advised that the development of learning objects benefit from a comprehensive, educationally sound purpose, and yet also need to be containable in that they can be easily reused (as cited in Leacock & Nesbit, 2007). Further exploration of this aspect in the current DLR will therefore need to be explored.

The socialization necessity of new employee on-boarding came up through the various stages of design thinking process and warrant further investigation. I recognize that part of my bias as a returning employee is the desire to forgo a lot of the face-to-face on-boarding meetings because I am already familiar with the organization having worked in this department for 12+ years. New employees will have a stronger need to form working relationships and less familiarity with the organization, whereas I already have those relationships intact. I can see now why feedback provided emphasized the need for socialization opportunities which would need to be further explored as a larger aspect of the new employee on-boarding program. This tool is only a small component of that program and could potentially supplement face-to-face team specific on-boarding meetings if modified to suit those purposes.

Another area which warrants further exploration and improvement is the re-examination of learning goals to make them more measurable (J. Christie, personal communication, August 11, 2019). Although the learning goals are straightforward, they are open-ended without consideration of evaluation of their achievement. Activities within the DLR function as knowledge checks for the content provided, and there is a final reflection activity at the end of the micro-course; however, Leacock and Nesbit (2007) advised to meet alignment with learning goals, any activities “should be sufficient to provide learners with the knowledge and skills to be successful in the assessments, and the assessments should measure student achievement of the learning goals” (p. 46).

3. What are the next steps you would like to take to build upon your digital learning resource?

Given the feedback, and suggestions for improvement, I plan to test a modified version of the prototype in an upcoming face-to-face new employee on-boarding meeting. The prototype will be shortened and still encompass key areas, but it will be sent out in advance to new employees before we meet in-person. I will be including a survey to elicit participant feedback as to the usability of the design for their learning purposes, and incorporating changes based on the feedback provided in this test phase from our LRNT-527 course.

4. Consider how you might utilize the design thinking process for the design and creation of digital learning resources in the future, or for other tasks that you may encounter within your instructional context.

My primary goal in learning about the design thinking process is to consider how it could be effectively applied to my workplace. So far, our team at work has already begun trying it out in smaller projects where applicable and we plan to use it for the revision of a larger training program. I see the design thinking process as a valuable tool for an instructional context, that can extend to other contexts in my every-day work for organizational development.


Clemens, J., & Linds, A. (2019, August 13). Critique of Digital Learning Resource – Melem Sharpe. Unpublished manuscript. Royal Roads University.

Leacock, T. L., & Nesbit, J. C. (2007). A framework for evaluating the quality of multimedia learning resourcesEducational Technology & Society, 10(2) 44-59.

Woolery, E. (2017). Design thinking handbook. Retrieved from https://www.designbetter.co/design-thinking



U2: A3 New Employee Onboarding Design Plan

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Description: The purpose of this digital learning resource (DLR) is to provide an online tool that will support a new employee general onboarding process. As a learning resource, it will familiarize new employees to our department and provide an overview of the people and the functions in each departmental unit. Serving as one aspect of the general departmental onboarding, it will serve as a supplementary resource in addition to an employee networking event that runs twice per year. Employees also go through job-specific training in their respective units, and will be mentored by their peers when applicable.

Learning Goals – As a result of this DLR, new employees will:

  • become familiar with the focus of each departmental unit, what they do and who are the staff;
  • increase their understanding of how the work of each unit supports ties into the mission of the department;
  • be able to identify key contacts for each unit.

Intended Audience: The audience of this DLR will be new employees hired into the department.

Rationale: The DLR will provide new employees with a consolidated resource that replaces the need for extensive face-to-face meetings and serves as a standardized collection of information. The DLR enables employees to learn about the organization at their own pace and convenience and follow up with lead unit contacts if in-person meetings are needed. Since our HR unit would like to standardize how each unit delivers information, a DLR that consolidates individual unit overviews using set templates will also help to create consistent learning experiences.

Tools: I am planning to use an e-learning authoring tool, Articulate Rise 360. This platform enables a anyone to create interactive courses or presentations which can be developed for any device. Because of its easy to use interface, range of templates and content as well as the ability to embed videos and audio, I believe it will be manageable for employees of other units to build their presentation and/or mini-courses into this platform. The following supporting tools will be used within Articulate Rise 360.

Video – a welcome video will be made by the key contact or unit lead welcoming new employees into the department. The video will also help new employees to put a face to the unit.

Audio – audio recordings from each unit team member will be embedded into the course to explain specific responsibilities that pertain to that particular team member.

Assessment/Evaluation Plan: There will be no formal assessment used, however, knowledge checks will be incorporated in the overview for each unit to check for general comprehension of the information covered. To ensure that new employees view the resource, HR will track completion rates for each new employee accessing the courses and follow up with a google survey once all mini-courses for each unit have been completed to elicit overall feedback.

Learning Theories & Instructional Design Principles Used:

Learning Theories: Kenner and Weinerman (2011) posited that the field of organizational development prompted adult learning theory “where the focus on learning theory is seen as a way of providing employees with the tools they needed to perform better in the workplace” (p. 88). The intent of this DLR is to equip new employees with general organizational knowledge. The assumption is that new employees will use this resource as a starting point to further their knowledge and skills as related to their work. In this way, employees will take responsibility for developing their knowledge. Knowles (1974) identified adult learners as being self-directed, who possess a depth of experience, are likely to engage in learning, and are task motivated (as cited in Kenner & Weinerman, 2011). Since this DLR is being used in a professional development context for employee onboarding practices, the principles of adult learning theories will inform the design of this resource.

Instructional Design Principles: Using relevant elements from the SECTIONS framework (Bates, 2015), integration of digital technology as an appropriate DLR for this context will be used. Additionally, the TAPPA Process (Moore, 2016) is a model adequately suited for micro-instruction which would lend itself well to this current context. TAPPA (Target, Accomplishment, Past, Prototype, Artifact) provides significant flexibility while providing a framework to effectively “move through the design, development, and implementation process” (Moore, 2016, p. 429).

Instructions for Use: New employees will be introduced to the DLR during their meeting with our department’s internal HR coordinator. The coordinator will provide a brief overview of the DLR ensuring that all new employees have access through the department intranet. New employees will be asked to view the min-courses in the DLR during their first six-weeks of being hired into the department. The HR coordinator will confirm with the new employee’s supervisor when all courses/presentations have been completed. Unit leads will be responsible for updating content as needed in the DLR.

Plan for Use: Employees will be able to use this onboarding resource any time and it will be available for both new and current employees. It will not be an open resource since the content will be specific to our department and therefore may contain confidential information.


Bates, A. W. (2015). Chapters 6-8. In Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning. Vancouver BC: Tony Bates Associates Ltd.

Kenner, C., & Weinerman, J. (2011). Adult learning theory: Applications to nontraditional college students.  Journal of College Reading and Learning, 41(2), 87-96, DOI: 10.1080/10790195.2011.10850344.

Moore, R. L. (2016). Developing distance education content using the TAPPA processTechTrends60(5), 425–432.

U1: A4 Deeper Layers Revealed: Reframing the Problem

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I recently conducted a human-centered needs assessment to explore an educational need for the design of a digital learning resource (DLR) to improve delivery of information presented in general onboarding sessions in my department. My findings based on interviews, observations and secondary data revealed employee needs and insights that are critical to consider if I am to develop a DLR that places the end user at the forefront of the design.

As part of the empathy process, I uncovered a gap between employee needs and interests for general onboarding in relation to their own work experience and business acumen. Employees who are starting their career and who may have limited work experience seem to be more interested in attending face-to-face general onboarding sessions to meet new co-workers and learn about the department. While employees who have worked in higher education previously and have been in the workforce for several years were selective of the onboarding meetings they would need to attend. Some employees prefer to attend onboarding sessions that are relevant to their current work and role with the option to learn about other units in the department through other means. In this way, they are able to set up their own onboarding meetings with internal stakeholders (from other units) to become better acquainted with their work.

Given the insights obtained through empathy mapping, I used the Point of View (POV) Madlib as a define method to help narrow and reframe my design challenge. The POV Madlib allows you to synthesize user needs and insights collected through the empathy stage to create a problem statement (Stanford University Institute of Design, 2016; Woolery, 2017). The original design problem at the start of this needs assessment was to create a meaningful DLR that would support understanding of content presented in the general onboarding sessions. Based on the findings from the field research and by reframing the problem, my new problem statement places more emphasis on the end user needs as opposed to only the creation of a deliverable. I am hopeful that with this reframed problem statement, I can now explore actionable solutions that might better address the user needs in this design process.

New Problem Statement:

New employees need to understand the overall work of department units in a way that relates to their work and meets their learning preferences to help them effectively process information and feel more knowledgeable in their job.

Through completion of the Empathy and Define phases in the human-centered design process, I have a greater appreciation for the time it takes to conduct these phases. I consider myself to be empathetic but faced with time constraints and limited exposure to end users, I wonder if I am truly empathetic as I could be if I had further time. For example, although I conducted two interviews, a larger range of interviews would most likely have provided a more in-depth experience in understanding a range of perspectives. As it was, I could only interview two employees and draw from past experiences in onboarding sessions. Despite these limitations, using new methods such as empathy mapping and the POV Madlib proved to be very insightful as I was able to step back from immersing myself in the end user experience, and then evaluate it as objectively as I could. The POV Madlib, in particular, was helpful in revealing deeper insights into the problem.


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

Woolery, E. (2017). Design thinking handbook. Retrieved from https://www.designbetter.co/design-thinking


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