The Learning Guild released their Thirty Under 30 in Learning selection for 2020, containing some of the top minds in the industry. These people are changemakers, and to celebrate that we took some time to interview these talented individuals to hear, in their own words, what it takes to be a leader in learning.

Paige Kracke is the Manager of Curation for OpenSesame, an off-the-shelf eLearning provider, aggregator, and curator—known by many as a “one stop shop” for off-the-shelf eLearning. Connected with the brightest learning professionals across multiple industries, Paige shared much about what it takes to create a truly innovative learning experience.

Tell us about your company and your role within it?

I’m the Manager of Curation for OpenSesame, known as a “one stop shop” for off-the-shelf eLearning. I work with them to support managing the course curricula for the customers we work with—taking the massive library of work we offer and distilling it down to learning paths that make sense for our customers.

Tell me about some of the things you’re doing to stay current in the world of learning? Any people or companies you’re watching in the industry?

One of the most valuable parts of my role at OpenSesame is the access I have to learning professionals in every industry. Every day I’m talking to folks planning their training programs on all sorts of topics—personal wellness, DEI, leadership, and so much more. Getting to have those conversations one-on-one is the most valuable tool I have at my fingertips. I’m very thankful I get to do this work every day because I get to stay up-to-date with what’s on people’s minds and new industry trends.

Professional development opportunities, trade shows, workshops, and online training are great resources that I also have unlimited access to through OpenSesame. Every employee at OS has a professional development budget to use throughout the year. It’s a great incentive that I take advantage of. It’s actually the expectation that as an employee you use that budget to its fullest every year. It’s a pretty cool perk that shows that OpenSesame walks the walk, and doesn’t just talk the talk, when it comes to training.

One conference in particular, The Learning Conference by Elliott Masie, I’ve found to be a great way to connect with others in the learning space and stay tuned into buzzwords in the industry. I’ve also attended the Learning Technologies Conference in London, which was a really interesting opportunity to see what people are focused on at a global scale.

In terms of who I follow, I’ve been paying attention to some players in the LXP space that deliver content in really interesting ways—systems that make the content unique to the individual using the LXP. For example, AI-driven content curation. I think that’s the future—it’s not someone assigning a course to you and saying that one course needs to be completed by a certain date. It’s logging into your learning space and using it just like a social media platform; you’re served up information based on your user habits.

What do you find most rewarding about working in the learning industry?

Probably the focus on continuous improvement; subscribing to an always growing mindset, rather than being stagnant. That’s something that’s personally really important to me. You can always be better and do better. I love being in an industry where that language and position is commonplace. It’s motivating to go into work each day and encourage my team’s growth as people first, not just as employees. It makes me feel really good to be in a space where that’s the norm.

What makes a good learning experience? How do you evaluate a good learning experience?

A good learning experience has to have a lasting impact, something that you’re thinking about past the learning event. That “event” could be taking a course, consuming other learning content, attending an actual event like a conference, or reading a book. You think back on it, you reference it, and use it in other areas of your life.

Measuring that’s a whole different can of worms, and it’s a can of worms that everyone wants to open. When I talk to anyone rolling out content to their employees, that’s the magic question: How do we measure the success of this program?

Course completion numbers, qualitative course feedback, and surveys are common, but what truly shows the effectiveness of a training program is the ability to show on-the-job improvement, professional growth, or that someone has gone from competent to mastery—which is hard to do with a traditional, qualitative survey or a rating scale.

What’s the last thing you Googled about learning?

I was recently looking up different learning experience platforms (LXPs). I’m really interested in how that software will develop over time. I’ve always thought that the traditional LMS experience could be adjusted to fit more into a person’s normal workday—bringing learning to the learner when and how they need it. I was analyzing what that looks like today and how that will continue to progress for learners. That was a fun rabbit hole to go down!

What KPIs/metrics matter when it comes to good learning? What are the metrics you track or wish you could? How do you know that you’ve met those characteristics/qualities in your own work?

I always wish I had some data point to start with, and when the learning activity is completed (training course, session, etc.) over time be able to get an updated version of that data point that details performance. If everything could get distilled down to a data point, a number, to track over time, that would be ideal. For example, we could filter by competency level and see the training that was done to achieve that, then be able to more objectively evaluate progress.

Something like this is easier and more achievable with certain topics over others, like compliance and safety where someone can track a decrease or an increase in number of accidents, but when we get into softer skills there are gaps in KPIs/metrics tracking that many are trying to solve now.

Tell me about your favorite learning projects you’ve ever worked on? What were the most successful parts of them? Why?

My favorite internal project was a lean process improvement initiative. We assembled a cross-functional group with a representative from every group on our greater team. We mapped out the content process from creation to completion. It included all of the teams at OpenSesame, some that I work with and some that I don’t. It was so much fun to interact with new people on a project and it got me out of the silo that I spend most of my time in. We made significant process improvements in a short period of time. We always strive to have lean initiatives going at OpenSesame, and I love being a part of those.

Recently, I worked with an organization on a DEI initiative. They wanted to build out different paths or curricula for each of the roles in their organization. I worked with their team to optimize their entire DEI program, creating a strategy and foundation to pitch to their leadership. It was near and dear to my heart because of the subject matter, and it was awesome to build something that was optimized for their audiences of thousands to interact with.

With this project, it felt like we were pushing beyond the basic question of “What is diversity?” and getting into harder conversations. We were able to incorporate some of our new content from RobinDiAngelo, PhD, the author of White Fragility. We’re stepping beyond the easy, warm, and fuzzy stuff and stepping into a realm where you don’t feel warm and fuzzy, but you’re going to make change. It was fun to feel like I’m making a real impact in partnership with this organization.

On a scale of 1-10, how important are the visual design and overall aesthetic of learning content (10 is high)? Why?

10—the visual look and design of content is extremely important. I don’t think there’s one right design for every organization, but identifying what’s right for you and your organization is what makes it a 10. There are also some design elements that are essential and important as we move towards a more accessible world. Accessible learning design is imperative to laying a foundation for something that will make a lasting impact.

Also, people are used to interfaces that are incredibly strong in terms of UX/UI. When we look at social media and how people spend their time online, everyone’s most familiar with actions like scrolling, liking a post, or commenting on it. There needs to be a shift to using modern design elements in courses that people are used to interacting with on their social feeds daily. Learners are beginning to expect those elements and ones similar in course design.

Where do you see the learning industry going in a post-covid world?

We’re already seeing the content providers we work with get more creative with how they address the questions that have risen during the pandemic and the anticipated questions concerning a post-pandemic world. Questions like: How do I create a viable option for something that was traditionally ILT? Their answer: Instructor-led training via video, for example.

This is part of the reason LXPs intrigue me so much. From an admin side, and looking at how LXPs handle courses, videos, articles, and content—it’s really appealing. They make coordinating virtual learning, bringing people together from all over the world, and creating online spaces for learning possible. We don’t always need to be in the same place to learn. I think that’s what everyone’s realizing. And transitioning to virtual in many cases makes things easier, more of that is inevitable.

What excites you about the future of learning? What’s missing in the learning industry today?

The shift in mindset for people going from, “I have to do this,” to now, “I get to do this,” because of changes the industry is going through now.

In terms of what’s missing? Truly accessible content. That’s something I’m personally really passionate about. If you’re making training that’s not accessible, you’re telling x% of people that they don’t matter to you, and that isn’t ok. Part of the solution to that is technology and implementing closed captioning, screen readers, and other accessibility features. Those tools will hopefully become more and more common practice in learning development.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to companies when it comes to learning?

Starting small is a good piece of advice. You can always (and will likely) grow into more learning.

A lot of companies I work with say they want all of the content for everyone right away, and they want to throw it out there—like casting a fishing line—and see what works for their employees. A better approach is to pick a starting objective, something focused, and build out content around that objective. Then take the time to improve from there and gauge its success through feedback.

As tempting as it is to grab a bunch of content right away, curating it and distilling it down for your audiences is so important. You could have 10,000 courses, but what does it mean if no one is taking them?

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Paige’s unique perspective from the content curation side of learning reminds us that there are so many paths to take your learning and development, and that the only right way to go is one that meets the organization where they’re at. Keep in touch with Paige Kracke on LinkedIn.

Learn more from other Thirty Under 30 members

We’ve spotlighted a few so far on our blog. They gave us some really great advice.

Read more here