Talking Learning Science, ROI, And Rebranding With Dr. Jerry Zandstra
Talking L&D Shop With Dr. Zandstra
Today, we’re speaking with Jerry Zandstra, Ph.D., who is the Chief Strategy Officer of MindSpring (formerly Inno-Versity). Dr. Zandstra holds several advanced degrees, including two master’s degrees and two doctorates. He has taught economics at the MBA level for 10+ years and has been a director at a think tank on economics and public policy, as well as helped lead MindSpring to be a trusted learning partner for some of the largest companies and institutions around the world. However, those of you who’ve had the chance to read any of MindSpring’s eBooks will, undoubtedly, recognize him as the author of numerous inspired works that use a fictional company to illustrate real-world challenges.
Which eLearning trend, technology, or technique do you think should make a comeback this year?
The last two-plus years have seen a dramatic shift toward remote learning. Given the global pandemic, that made sense, and, for many, it was the only way to ensure that their organization continued to learn. This shift was often accompanied by significant increases in learning budgets to enable learning teams to make the transition. Some of our clients reported budget increases of more than 50% in the last two years.
The learning trend comeback of 2022 will be measuring the Return On Investment (ROI). In the middle of making the emergency shift to remote, learning teams became consumed with creating learning experiences that could be delivered digitally. They had little choice. The ROI question became less important for a brief time. That is changing. Demonstrating the impact of learning has been a struggle for many learning teams for decades and will return with vigor in the coming year. Increased budgets will naturally create the expectation that those who spent the money can defend their spend.
Learning leaders will need to again focus on measuring the impact of learning. They will need to give additional thought to their key metrics and determine how they are going to measure them. Furthermore, they will need to be able to provide visuals that enable financial people and others in the C-Suite to see the impact of learning expenditures in real time. MindSpring’s Learning Scorecard will be a key tool in meeting this need.
Is there a common misconception that you believe prevents organizations from fully leveraging eLearning solutions/software?
With many learning teams, there is a common misconception that reporting the Return On Investment (ROI) for learning experiences cannot be done with the same precision and rigor as other divisions in the company. It seems that sales or marketing or operations have well-established systems and software that can show how their expenditures resulted in stronger financial results for an organization or company. Learning teams do not have the same tools or expertise available to them.
A second misconception, tied to the first, is that it is impossible to predict with any sense of accuracy how a specific learning experience will perform with learners and what kind of results can be expected.
My team at MindSpring has spent three years developing metrics, models, and software that measures the impact of learning experiences in a format that is informative to learning teams, learning leaders, and finance teams. It can report what has happened, what is happening right now, and what is likely to happen in the future.
Is there a standout eBook or article you’d like to share with our readers (and why)?
Our most popular eBook on eLearning Industry’s website is titled, How To Change The Way You Approach Needs Analysis: A Story Around The 7 Essential Elements.
Thousands of people have read the articles or downloaded the eBook. It is written as a story rather than as a series of bullet points. Those who are fans of the Patrick Lencioni business books will find a similar format.
The eBook covers curriculum mapping, needs analysis, audience definition, branding, success measurement, team building, and scoping. We have discovered that early direction setting is one of the greatest challenges for our clients. As a follow-up to the popularity of the eBook, we have added consultative services around these topics to coach learning teams through the necessary steps. When this process is completed, they have a well-considered plan for moving forward and improving their outcomes.
You’ve published a lot of content on eLearning Industry over the years. Can you give our readers a sneak preview of what they can look forward to in 2022?
MindSpring has produced multiple eBooks and webinars, and 100+ articles in the last few years. Of all we’ve written, we have never been more excited than about our next two eBooks.
The first is on the Learning Scorecard system that will empower learning leaders to measure their key metrics across multiple levels and report their findings through a dashboard that provides insight into their learning experiences, making clear what has happened, what is happening now, and what will likely happen in the future. The eBook is in a narrative form telling the story of a company that used the Learning Scorecard software to improve its reporting and performance.
The second eBook is on immersive technology. It will tell the story of a company making the transition to Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality in their learning experiences. It will introduce a MindSpring software product called ProViz that will change the immersive technology game for organizations around the globe. Just a sneak peek: MindSpring’s ProViz tool can toggle between any reality with the click of a button. Software coders are not needed. Some readers remember trying to build their websites before tools like WordPress. After these tools were introduced, anyone could make a website. MindSpring’s software is bringing that same level of simplicity and professionalism to the learning market for immersive technology. We can’t wait to tell this story.
You recently rebranded. Can you tell us a bit more about the process and why you decided to relaunch as MindSpring?
Century Technology Group, the parent of both Inno-Versity and Th3rd Coast, announced the acquisition of Th3rd Coast in August of 2021. Due to their complementary offerings, and after much consideration, the decision was made to combine our two legacy companies (Inno-Versity and Th3rd Coast Digital Solutions) under the name MindSpring.
Inno-Versity was a globally recognized eLearning firm, while Th3rd Coast Digital Solutions was an industry leader in media production and Extended Reality (XR). As a result of the merger, our new, combined organization offers a broader set of solutions to our clients in the areas of digital content, consulting and strategy, and innovative technology. Inno-Versity clients will benefit from additional immersive technology expertise and media production capabilities, while Th3rd Coast clients will benefit from expanded learning science and consulting offerings.
The name MindSpring was chosen to represent both the mind with logic and the action of springing into your initiative. The idea behind the logo concept was for the logo mark to be more abstract than the literal representation of “MindSpring.” It was designed to be the top view of a brain, maintaining the left and right sides, fluidly. It could be a coiling spring, a flowing path, or folds of the brain—open to interpretation.
By bringing our two organizations together under a single brand, we can provide even more opportunities for all team members and better service to our clients. Our consultative approach remains unchanged, but now we have more collective tools at our disposal for helping to solve client challenges.
MindSpring has a long history of eLearning innovation. What is one of your biggest eLearning client success stories to date?
MindSpring has been involved in a wide range of product development, including creating true games used to increase the financial literacy of managers, wayfinding products using Augmented Reality, onboarding, upskilling, and leadership development makes extensive use of video and animation. We have also helped learning teams understand the Return On Investment for their learning. It is not easy to pick a single success story given the variety of projects we are involved in.
I will give one example that has been one of our biggest client success stories to date. MindSpring and one of our largest manufacturing clients have collaborated on a multitude of different learning initiatives with learning science at the core. In the last year, MindSpring has helped this client create and develop their digital learning/training portfolio. To ensure all their team members were properly trained on the products, processes, and value of their product line, MindSpring built a digital training portfolio. At the beginning of this engagement, MindSpring provided the client with a consulting workshop to determine the best instructional strategies to apply when developing various learning assets. Ultimately, our two teams have created animations, videos, eLearning modules, assessments, software simulations, and much more within this digital learning portfolio.
We’d like to thank Jerry for participating in our Q&A and sharing his insights with our community. His creativity and L&D innovation know no bounds. If you’d like to learn more about MindSpring, check out their company profile page. You can also download their latest eBooks and watch their webinars to discover how to create learning experiences built on solid learning science and how to measure L&D impact to prove ROI: