GitLab eLearning Modules

These minimal, laser-focused eLearning modules help GitLab salespeople and partners sell GitLab to organizations that it would help.

  • Responsibilities: Instructional Design, eLearning Development
  • Target Audience: GitLab sales employees and GitLab partners
  • Tools Used: Articulate Storyline 360, Adobe Illustrator
  • Budget: Low to Medium
  • Client: GitLab
  • Year: 2020

Project Origins

The client requested that I convert their existing online training content, which was essentially a text-heavy wiki, into something more interactive, engaging, and effective. You can see a snippet of the original wiki content in the screenshot below.

GitLab training wiki example

They also suggested that we use Articulate Storyline 360, since that's what their internal staff was most comfortable with, and they did not have a large budget for a complete overhaul of the training.

So, I proposed designing short, minimal, text-based eLearning modules that introduce people to key topics and link out to supporting resources. This was in line with their "Handbook first" approach — the eLearning modules would reference and link to the handbook as needed.

The client was on board with this approach, so we proceeded with the project.

Design Approach

After looking at the existing content and speaking to people who recently completed the training, I learned that people felt overhwelmed by the amount of text and videos in the training. There was no way for them to track their progress, and people reported feelings of "information overload."

Because of this, I decided to focus my instructional design efforts on two main tasks:

  1. Reduce cognitive load. By including less text, more relevant visuals, and less content overall, the learning experience would not feel so overwhelming.
  2. Chunk the content and add learner freedom. By grouping related content and giving people the freedom to explore it in whatever order they please, people would report a more positive overall learning experience.

For example, I convereted a plain-text wiki page that lists the GitLab customer value drivers into an interactive slide that allows the user to explore each of the value drivers in the order that they please.

GitLab customer value drivers eLearning screenshot

These two principles —reducing cognitive load and chunking to increase learner freedom — guided my approach with the entire project.

There was also a third principle that I leaned upon heavily: linking out to relevant webpages, wiki pages, and videos.

Providing optional content and resources like this gave people the opportunity to learn more about any given concept without forcing it upon them. It also provided them with helpful links that they may decide to bookmark for a later date.

For example, I designed an interaction that allows the user to explore each step in the GitLab DevOps Lifecycle.

GitLab DevOps Lifecycle eLearning screenshot

When they select one of the steps, they are presented with a brief explanation and an option to "Learn More." When they select the "Learn More" button, they're brought to a page on the GitLab Website with additional information.

GitLab Step 10 Defend DevOps Lifecycle eLearning Screenshot

As you can see, I used click-based interactivity to strategically manage cognitive load.

To give another example, there was a long page on the wiki that listed GitLab's ideal buyer personas. I created an interactive slide that allowed the user to "speak" to each buyer, learning more about them and how GitLab could help.

Interactivity served a dual purpose on this slide: 

  1. Allow the learner to decide in which order they "speak" to the people
  2. Delight the learner. Whenever they hover over one of the buyers, the background comes into full color, the character changes their pose, and the character smiles.
GitLab buyer personas screen eLearning screenshot

When they select one of the buyers, they introduce themselves, explain their pain points, and ask how GitLab can help.

GitLab buyer persona speaking in eLearning example screenshot

I also used markers to limit the amount of text presented to the learner at any given time. When they hover over or select one of the markers, additional information is provided.

GitLab what is cloud native eLearning screenshot

In addition to using interactivity to limit cognitive load, I also used it to test the user's understanding of the content. Providing knowledge checks and timely feedback helps the learner test their understanding of the content and adjust their mental frameworks as needed.

GitLab practice question eLearning screenshot

Similarly, I included flashcard interactions that allow the learner to not only explore different words and concepts at their own pace, but also test their knowledge of that word or concept before exposing the definition.

GitLab flashcard interaction eLearning screenshot

Overall, I used interactivity to reduce cognitive load, provide access to additional resources, and provide knowledge checks throughout each module.

Process

To complete this project and ensure that the client and I were aligned every step of the way, I used my standard instructional design process. This is the process that I use on nearly all of my end-to-end design and development projects.

Text-based Storyboard

After working with the client to identify our learning goals for a given module, I worked from the existing content (and requested meetings with the client as needed) to write a text-based storyboard for the experience. 

The storyboard includes all of the text, programming notes, and imagery notes for the module. Essentially, this serves as the blueprint for the end product.

I provided the storyboard to the client to request feedback and ensure that it's ready for development.

Interactive Prototype

Once I applied the client's feedback to the storyboard and it has been approved, I developed an interactive prototype. The goal of this stage is to get client buy-in on the visuals and functionality.

The prototype includes 5 to 8 screens, and sometimes these screens are only halfway developed. For example, in the DevOps LifeCycle screenshot above where the user can choose between ten buttons, the interactive prototype only includes a few of those buttons that are functional.

Final Product

When the client is happy with how things look and function, I develop the rest of the course. There is often very little feedback on the final product since the storyboard and interactive prototype have already been approved.

You saw many examples of interactive screens in the examples above, but there were some screens that only included text.

I made these screens more visually appealing by including illustrations from Freepik Stories.

GitLab eLearning example with illustration from freepik stories

On some slides, we needed to include even more text to fully explain a concept. In these cases, I made use of Storyline's scroll bar feature.

GitLab application security testing content from eLearning example

Client Testimonial

My team engaged Devlin with a tough assignment—to build three e-learning modules in a short timeframe in a way that embraced our Handbook-first approach to learning and development.

Throughout the engagement, Devlin was always responsive, easy to work with, open to feedback, kept the project on track, and delivered a quality end product.

Given the budget and time constraints, I know we only barely scratched the surface of Devlin's capabilities as an instructional designer.

If you are looking for a quality instructional designer, be sure to check out Devlin's portfolio!

-David Somers, Senior Director of Field Enablement at GitLab

Takeaways

This project was an excellent exercise in managing cognitive load and chunking content. I also enjoyed using the clean, minimal approach to slide design, and I loved working with the modern tech graphics.

With that being said, I've become more conscious about the tools I use since taking on this project.

Now, when clients come to me for knowledge-based products, I suggest that we use authoring tools that can rapidly produce mobile-friendly content, such as Articulate Rise or Chameleon Creator.

Going forward, I aim to use Articulate Storyline for simulations or interactive stories. Storyline is capable of heavy lifting, but projects such as this would benefit from the faster prototyping and development offered by Rise and Chameleon Creator.

If you have questions about this project or would like to request a quote for an eLearning project of your own, then please contact me.

You may also like...

Beyond Meat Mobile eLearning

This responsive eLearning module introduces people to Beyond Meat's brand, mission, and products.

Learn More

The xAPI Challenges App

The xAPI Challenges App provides practice opportunities for people learning how to collect specific user data from their Articulate Storyline eLearning offerings.

Learn More

Corporate eLearning Development

I served as the Articulate Storyline eLearning developer to help Tencza Designs and DVI Group support their large corporate clients.

Learn More
View all projects