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The Rock Stars of eLearning: An interview with Tracy Bissette

By Rick Raymer / August 2013

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When I first conceived of this series, Tracy Bissette was at the top of the list of instructional designers who I wanted to interview. Perhaps you are not as familiar with Tracy's name as others on this list, but make no mistake, she is one of the best designers in our industry. Her company, WeejeeLearning is an award-winning independent design and development studio that is dedicated to defeating the "arch-enemy of boredom and its ugly cousin dullness." Her solutions are truly innovative, making the most out of any training budget.

Tracy and the Weejee crew are like indie artists in the music scene. So what does this mean? In doing some research, I came across a set of definitions by Dave Charest, who is an experienced marketer of indie artists, which sums up my feelings exactly. "Indie means you create your own opportunities. Indie means you set your sights on a goal-and then you make it happen with whatever resources you have at the moment. Indie means you surround yourself with like-minded people who provide you the encouragement to keep going through the tough times." As for what makes an artist, "An artist practices his/her craft. An artist seeks feedback from trusted sources in order to improve. An artist wants to grow. An artist needs to continually move forward. An artist is actively engaged in their craft. Whatever it may be."

With these definitions in mind, Tracy exemplifies the qualities of an innovative indie artist. I recommend her work without exception. With utmost respect and admiration, I present our next eLearning Rock Star, Tracy Bissette.

When people ask you, "what do you do?" What is your response?

I begin by saying that I'm an instructional designer and follow that up by explaining the role as the architect of a custom learning design.

If you were going to classify the industry you are currently a part of, what would you identify this industry as? What motivated you to get into this industry?

This industry is typically classified as "training" or "learning and development" but these days, the lines between this industry and many others (e.g., advertising, gaming, feature films, and curriculum design) is blurring. I was motivated to get into the industry because I've always loved teaching and technology and being super creative. The role of instructional designer is the perfect blend of all three.

Why are you passionate about what you do? What makes you enthusiastic about what you do?

My greatest passion is taking what my clients consider "dull material" and transforming it into a course or initiative that employees or customers are excited to engage with. In a recent project, we took two hours of "legal-approved" wording and created an illustrated game with talking parrots, gadgets, and backpacks. The learners loved it and were more effective as a result. That is so satisfying!

What are some of your "big ideas" for improving yourself, your learners, the industry, society, etc.?

I want to rid the world of all ho hum learning. ELearning should be amazing and visually spectacular! I'm always trying to put myself in the shoes of the learner to think of instructional strategies to make the learning exciting and effective. "Schoolhouse Rock" is an early example of fun and memorable learning, broken into bite-sized chunks. I still remember "Conjunction Junction" today.

What suggestions do you have for "turning your learners into fans"?

I think we have to meet the needs of clients with regards to proactive communication, effective project management, talented resources, etc. but then go a step further. It's not enough to deliver what the client is asking for. It's important to educate them on the latest techniques and technologies, offer out-of-the box learning ideas, and emphasize that fun is scientifically proven to improve performance.

What are some of the best examples of eLearning that you have seen? What is considered "state of the art" in our industry?

I'm a big fan of Stormwind's instructional videos. They're entertaining, emotional, educational, and short. They tell a story in one and a half minutes. To me, "state of the art" is any disruptive learning initiative that creates energy and excitement around learning.

What needs to change in our industry? How will it evolve?

We should always be looking to other industries for inspiration and process improvements. "Text and next" designs will be less and less acceptable as stellar eLearning examples emerge. Learning programs will become bite-sized and accessible on any device, offering learning opportunities at any time in any place. We have an opportunity to enhance the culture of an organization through engaging learning designs.

Who are some of the people that you consider to be the "rock stars" of our industry, and why?

Cathy Moore is an inspirational thought leader around instructional design. I'm also inspired by Tom Graunke, Stormwind, Tom Crawford, VizThink, Tom Kulhman, Articulate, and Dr. Nada Dabbagh, professor of instructional technology at George Mason University. All of these individuals led me to "ah-ha" moments that changed my beliefs about learning.

About the Author

Rick Raymer is an eLearning consultant specializing in gameful design. Previously, he was a primary solution architect at Serco Inc., working with integrated product teams to design, develop, and deliver state-of-the-art learning games, interactive courseware, and simulations. In addition, he designed and managed production of eLearning, games, and simulations for the North Carolina Community College System's BioNetwork organization, and was the VP of Product Development for Oasys Mobile, a top 10 mobile games publisher. Raymer has been designing videogames professionally since 1996. He has produced more than 40 games, with titles on every major gaming platform including consoles, PCs, handheld devices, and mobile phones.

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