[Future of Work Ep. 2 P1] The Future of Learning and Development with Dan Mackey: How to (Re)Use Content for Microlearning

Most companies have lots of custom training material - recorded talks, webinars and presentations - that is not being put to good use. Allarium founder Dan Mackey discusses the best ways to reuse content you already have for creating microlearning experiences.
By Claudia Virlanuta • May 20, 2021


Episode highlights:

  • Most companies have lots of custom training material, in the form of recorded talks, webinars and presentations, that is not being put to good use.
  • This learning content is special, because it is tailored to your company and to how you do business. L&D leaders often miss out on this valuable content because they feel it must be perfect before being released to learners.
  • Experimenting with things like 3-D animations and role play can go a long way towards making training more engaging and impactful.


Transcript (edited for clarity)

Claudia: How did you come up with the idea behind Allarium?

Dan: It was an interesting journey: my co-founder and I came from McGraw-Hill education, and we both really had a passion for workforce development. We have this passion for training workforce – the type of training beyond the academic one. So, we asked ourselves how can companies be part of the solution of training folks and not just training employees on the internal processes, but how can companies weave in their expertise and what makes them a thought leader in their space? How can they weave that into their training for their stuff, clients, market, and really establish themselves? We saw a lot of large corporations do this, and smaller corporations should be able to do this. The hesitancy we noticed was that they do not have content. However, oftentimes we look, and we say that they actually do have content – they have all these webinars they recorded – but they do not look at it that way. They look at content, especially video content, as something that must be highly processed and produced. We do not agree. We found that most learners that are watching to learn things like more informal videos than formal polished videos. They feel like they make more of a connection to the instructor. It has been great taking a passion of mine and my co-founder’s and putting it into how we can make this efficient and work smoothly for companies at any size.


Claudia: It is funny how in the beginning, especially in the entrepreneurial world, you feel like everything must be perfect, when in fact nobody cares. How do you feel about that?

Dan: There is a joke that entrepreneurs are perfectionists. I had a manager early in the first company out of school that drilled into me that I had to learn how to delegate because oftentimes I would just want to do it all myself because I was the only one that could do it right. I finally started to delegate but it was because it was forced upon me and that is a lesson that I have appreciated ever since. Yesterday I had a really good conversation with one of my team members and we discussed a particular process to get to a conclusion on a particular course we were working on and I was thinking that the process was not followed. As we chatted about it, she very politely reminded me that I had not laid out the context of the project. She was able to contribute once I had laid out the fact that the course she was working on is actually related to the other items and allow for additional delegation. We are all still learning. When you are delegating something and you expect a certain outcome and you do not get that outcome, maybe you need to look at the process a little bit and have a good conversation about how I would do it versus how someone else would do it. Also, when you talk about delegation, that delves into trust too. Our philosophy for hiring is different from the traditional interview process. We find talented people and we give them a small project, and if they do good, we give them a bigger project, until they become well-trusted, and we can delegate functions to them. We end up getting problem-solvers not task-doers and that is what we want.


C: What is the last thing that you learned and that got you excited?

D:  One thing recently that has gotten me excited it has been pulling more of a gamified approach to learning and where that specifically comes into play is a 3D animation. Back when I was in high school, a buddy of mine and I had some fun messing around with games. We were playing certain games that had some allowance for modification behind the scenes. You could substitute different images and sounds. About two or three months ago, we have been working on some scenario-based training and we were using some animation for it, but we figured that it would be cool if the animation were more realistic, and it would mimic a Zoom call.  For example, in a particular training course, I am looking at someone who is speaking, and I have responses I can select, and we go through this interplay until I get to the conclusion and we have a score associated with it. This works well in a sales environment, but other environments too, and it was fun to go back and remember doing it when I was in high school.


C: What tools do you use to do it?

D: Before we did any of the more realistic stuff, we were using the Vyond goanimate, and you can do animations there. They have got a very cool tool. For the gamification and game engines, we used Unreal or Unity animation engines, all the programs that the studios use. There are so many other options that you can approach. Back at McGraw-Hill education my team had a challenge to get an animated zombie in one of the corporate training videos. Whenever you use a tool like Vyond or Powtoon or any of these tools, they have these template scenarios, and when we were first learning the software, we got lost for a couple of hours making silly things that clients should never see. Being able to take time and do what you love and have fun is important. There is a huge difference in staying up late working on a project for a company that is paying me, and that I have no interest in, versus something that I enjoy doing.

Claudia Virlanuta

CEO | Data Scientist

Claudia Virlanuta

Claudia is a data scientist, consultant and trainer. She is the CEO of Edlitera, a data science and machine learning training and consulting company helping teams and businesses futureproof themselves and turn their data into profits.

Before Edlitera, Claudia taught Computer Science at Harvard, and worked in biotech (Qiagen), marketing tech (ZoomInfo), and ecommerce (Wayfair). Claudia earned her degree in Economics from Yale, with a focus on Statistics and Computer Science.