As everyone has heard, the keys to success in life are meeting underserved or unserved needs, adding value, and building a network of people who know that you deliver what you promise. This might sound like an urban legend, except that it really does work that way. To make the point, here’s a story that I recently heard in an interview, and an opportunity to learn more about what is possible with learning technologies.

Chris Paxton’s story

In 2004, Chris Paxton was hired as an instructional designer for a Native American company that had about 3,000 employees in Oklahoma. The company was part of a group of businesses, one of the initiatives of the Cherokee Nation’s tribal government. Chris is not native, and she knew that standing out would be important to her success.

Prior to 2004, Chris had taught at WorldCom and MCI, using WebEx. She was always intrigued by distance education and soon learned that her new company had purchased Lectora several years before. They had sent people through training to learn how to use the tool, but no one had built anything.

Picking up the tools

Chris taught herself to use Lectora by reading through what were at the time three-inch thick manuals and by printing the help guide. Since there was no distance learning at all, and nobody in the company was really sure about the idea, she met with someone from the safety department and she “tried to sell them on the idea that I could create an online class.”

Adding value

Because the company she worked for operated six casinos around Oklahoma, Chris pitched the idea that with an online class, employee needs could be met 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She relates: “My contact liked the idea, and the first course was a huge success. That success helped me network to different departments, directors, and vice presidents.”

New tools, faster content creation, more success

Chris continues: “That success and the network helped me develop courses across the company and eventually for the government side of the Tribal Nation.” She attracted attention and so Chris went, within four years, from instructional designer to manager of a newly created department, education services.

Delivery: A designer has to ship

It is important to understand that Chris succeeded not so much because of Lectora (although it is an essential part of her story), but because of what Chris did to understand the needs, because she worked to make other people and the business successful, and because she worked to use her software tools in the way that supported the business needs and the individual needs of the employees.

“In education services we managed the learning management system and all of the CBT developers, a team of people reporting to me. The casino, of course, loved it because the training could reach people, anytime, anywhere with any accessibility needs, whether reading, visual, you name it. The government side loved it because we had employees all over the United States doing contract work. By the time I left we had over 2,500 courses we’d custom-built within our LMS. It was amazing, it just completely opened doors.”

“Now Lectora can do absolutely anything. One of the things that I've really started trying to do a lot more of is making sure that we're being inclusive, and inclusive in this case means accessibility. It's not just screen readers for those that are visually impaired; it could be those who are colorblind, or those who may not be able to read, or whatever it may be. Whatever we can do to build the course and still make it fantastic and interactive and look great, but it must also be accessible for those who may need that extra help. I love the look toward community I have. That's the reason I have a business.

“I truly credit that for making the change in my life. I was able to go from being a developer, which I love doing, but I wanted to try something new. I wanted to challenge, to be able to learn new software, and to meet other developers. Ten or 15 years ago we were a smaller group, but it totally changed my pathway. After five years of being with a management department, I realized that I wasn't doing as much hands-on and I really missed it. I also felt the company was in a good place because my protege was ready to be promoted. He enjoyed working but he also wanted to manage and so I quit my job and started my own company, D3 Training Solutions (Design, Develop, Deliver). I get to be creative and problem-solve for clients. When things don't work right it's kind of like being a detective without all the blood and guts. Most of my clients come from other clients—people I've worked with on other projects or they see me on LinkedIn or through other developers. It’s changed my life.”

The rest of the story

Chris spoke about much more, including dealing with the digital divide (skills and infrastructure) in a rural area, and how new tools and new options enable designers to create custom solutions. Could you use some specifics and some inspiration? Or maybe it’s more the challenge that faces virtually everyone who works in the learning and development field: the constant challenge of needing to do more with less. More work—less time. More deliverables—less budget. You know the feeling.

That’s Mike Taylor’s topic, “A Fresh Perspective on What’s Possible with Today’s Learning Technologies” at The Learning Guild’s Pushing the eLearning Envelope Online Conference, June 9-10, 2021.

Mike will introduce you to new tools and approaches that can help your team work smarter instead of harder, and that open new possibilities for the way we craft learning experiences. Mike’s session has something for everyone. Register today!