5 minute read

How one instructional design consultant taps into the power of stories

Tricia Whenham
Posted by Tricia Whenham on Mar 14, 2019 6:00:00 AM
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When Shelley Pinder thinks about her goals as an instructional design consultant, she has an unlikely inspiration.

“I feel like the Marie Kondo of learning and development,” she jokes. “People call me – and they have a lot of collateral. They have breadth and depth of experience. But they really need help organizing it.”

It’s a fitting comparison. When Shelley works with a client to plan a new training course or e-learning experience, she has to manage a lot of moving parts – including the complex needs of the organization and the learner. Her aim is to eliminate the clutter and design a program that’s engaging and effective (and hopefully even sparks a little joy).

It would be easy to get overwhelmed by all the competing needs, objectives and possibilities she must consider. That’s why Span™ Workspace has become her new favorite tool for planning and organizing learning initiatives with clients.

Span Workspace used for instructional design

Cutting through the noise

A veteran of instructional design, Shelley has many years of experience working in government, telecommunications and the financial sectors. Throughout the years her mission has remained steady – to make learning and development a valuable part of people’s work lives.

Recently she took a big leap into the world of consulting. As she began working with multiple clients, cutting through the noise to deeply understand an organization’s needs became increasingly important.

Then BalancePoint Partners introduced her to Span Workspace, an expansive cloud-based canvas for teams to map out ideas and visualize plans in real time.

“My first thought was, this looks cool!” But the more she used it, she saw how helpful it would be in her learning design projects. “It became evident that it would be a great tool to make my work with clients more collaborative.”

Ending the document delivery spiral

As a consultant trying to balance client needs while building her own business, Shelley finds time is always in short supply. It wasn’t until she used Span Workspace that she realized just how much more efficient things could be.

Each new project usually begins with a client meeting to gather information – including needs assessments, sharing current training assets and clarifying goals and objectives. But then the dreaded document delivery spiral would start.

“You’d write everything in a document and send it to a client. And they’d look at it. And they’d make changes. And then I’d make changes…. You can see how this could go on and on. It’s clunky and takes a long time.”

Using Span Workspace couldn’t have been more different. Instead of passing the info back and forth in Word docs, Shelley built a canvas that mapped out her initial ideas. “Then I asked the client to go into the canvas and add his own sticky notes,” she says. “And we kept building on all the ideas in the canvas together.”

By keeping the process collaborative and halting the rally of the Word docs, Shelley reclaimed a huge amount of valuable time. Span Workspace is also dead simple to use, and clients can quickly get in there and collaborate without having to learn the software.

“What would’ve normally taken a week, two weeks (in some companies more!) honestly took a day,” she says. “It really did save me a lot of time. This is why I fell in love with Span Workspace.”

Instructional design consultant uses Span Workspace

Crafting a story

These efficiencies were just the beginning. She also found Span Workspace was a natural tool for one of her favorite things – telling a story.

“Story is just how our brain thinks,” she explains. “When we look at brain history, words are new. We stumble on them, and we don’t all have the same meanings for them. A story creates pictures. It creates feeling. It creates emotion. It creates attachment. And we know that all of those things help someone learn.”

The ability to pan horizontally through a canvas, rather than clicking through multiple PowerPoint® slides, made it easier for Shelley to craft a story of how a learning initiative would unfold.

“With a canvas, you have all of your pieces – sometimes it’s 100 pieces of training – and you can move them around and group them,” she says. Then when presenting to the client, Shelley pans through the canvas, showing how all the different elements connect and contribute to the end goals. “It makes the work so much tastier for the client, and it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.”

Beyond the value of the large space, Shelley found that the flexible canvas was particularly well suited for her mindset when she designs courses.

“A Word document simply isn’t a creative place to be,” she says. “If people can move things, use their hands and be tactile, that changes the game – as opposed to sitting in front of your computer and looking at a document.”

Using Span Workspace means Shelley can place items anywhere and show how they’re connected. She can use images and sketches. And she can dig into ideas and think big – without getting caught up on formatting issues.

“Span Workspace really allows you to explore all options,” she says. “I think that’s important when you’re trying to solve a problem.”

Span Workspace helps make work with clients more collaborative

Keeping everyone together

Using Span Workspace has also helped Shelley make instructional design more collaborative – something she values. She never wants to return to the days of waterfall project management.

“A client would come and say, ‘I need training on this,’” she recalls. “You’d go away for three, six, even nine months. You’d create this big, elaborate course and take it to the client. And they’d say ‘No’ or ‘I like some of it but not all of it.’ Then you’d go back to the drawing board. And learning development started to feel like an anchor to the business.”

Span Workspace is tailor-made for a new agile approach – one that involves the client every step of the way. Ideas are transparent and accessible, so any misalignment or change in strategy is caught immediately.

“When we build together on a canvas, clients can access it whenever they want,” she says. It’s also simple for everyone work in a canvas at the same time – a feature that can be hard to find. “You can’t have multiple people in PowerPoint or Prezi. They’re great tools that I love, but they don’t let people collaborate that same way.”

Spreading the word

Shelley sees herself as an early adopter – she relishes the chance to get her hands on new tech and start tinkering. But what impressed her about Span Workspace was how easy it was to pick up and start using right away – without a learning curve. “I had no need for the training videos,” she says. “It was so intuitive.”

She’s confident that any instructional designer can get value from Span Workspace right away. “I showed it to my friend on my computer. And she immediately said, ‘Oh my goodness, hook me up!’”

With every convert, Shelley is hoping her new tool can help other instructional designers spark collaboration and limit paperwork. Seems like a very Marie Kondo thing to do.


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Topics: Consulting Span Workspace Customer Story