Paul Welch has a passion for innovation in technology. In the last three years he’s played a critical role in the design of many of City & Guilds Kineo’s most cutting-edge, business critical and award-winning projects. And last year his personal contribution was recognised when he was named Elearning Designer of the Year at the Elearning Awards 2015.
I caught up with Paul to ask a bit about his career, Adapt and the future of responsive design.
- Q: How did you first get into learning design?
A: "After leaving school back in 1990 I got onto a YTS scheme working with computer mainframes. But after five years I felt that I wanted to pursue my interest in psychology, so I got my A-levels at night school and then left work and started my degree as a mature student. Well, technically a mature student - I was still only 21!
After university I looked to combine my IT experience and psychology. A friend of mine came across some information about the elearning company Epic. I approached them and in 2000 got a job as a junior instructional designer. This was a fantastic learning experience working under people like Donald Clark and others, most notably the guys that went on to form Kineo."
- Q: What do you think of as the defining moment of your career so far?
A: ‘Tricky question! It was an exciting time to be leading one of the production teams when Kineo was growing rapidly back in the early days of the business. I’ve had the pleasure of working with lots of great clients on interesting and varied projects. And to speak at some great events - last year Westy (fellow Solutions Consultant Paul Westlake) and I delivered a session on gamification at Learning Technologies 2015, off the back of a course that I designed for McDonalds which had won an Elearning Award that year.
But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to win the award back in November!’
- Q: What led to the development of Adapt?
A: ‘Kineo was creating an onboarding course for a client, using Flash. But some of the staff didn’t have access to Flash on their work PCs. And the client also wanted a mobile-friendly version too! So we had three different versions of the course to produce, but the project was running low on budget and time. We realised we needed to develop one course that solved all of these needs.
We ended up creating a simple, functional, responsive course that the client loved and which worked across all of their learners’ existing technology.
Following this success I put in a pitch for funding a proof-of-concept project to test just how far we could push this new approach to creating courses. It was approved unanimously and we got started. We were informed by some Google research about how users switch between digital devices – it helped us have the courage of our convictions and to know that designing for multi-device was a good move for the future.’
- Q: Why is it important for Adapt to be open source?
A: ‘I think we knew early on we were onto something big here, and that it could be too important a development to keep to ourselves. Our ethos is that we don’t compete on technology, but rather quality of design and service – so why not make the technology available to everyone. We also all benefit from a stable code base – open source makes ‘all bugs shallow’ as there are so many eyes on the code.
We really do believe in sharing our knowledge at City & Guilds Kineo, and donating code back to the open-source community for others to use is part of that. In turn we all benefit from the work and expertise of others which helps to develop a better offering for customers. It’s exciting to watch Adapt continue developing.’
- Q: What do you think is next for responsive design?
A: ‘I think it will be more to do with how responsive resources are served up. How smart is the back end that’s deciding on what resources to make available to me (adaptive)? Where are they being launched from (the ‘Internet of things’)? And how can we capture and use lots more data to influence how digital resources interact with each other (xAPI) to personalise the learning - and ultimately to help us design better experiences."
I also think on a slightly more immediate level that we’ll start to design mobile first for specific audiences that truly use smartphones as the primary means of accessing content (probably as performance support rather than training courses). I’d like to see us put more distance between some of the old design approaches and learning models that don’t translate well to how we use our smartphones.’
Paul is a quiet, unassuming kind of guy – pretty humble about what he has achieved and the exciting developments he helped to kick-start. Which, of course, made it all the nicer to see him being awarded. As Paul says, it’s exciting to see the continuing development of Adapt as it gathers more and more momentum and proves its importance to the elearning design community. It’s clear that multi-device design is not just the present, but also the future.
Ever keen to share knowledge – because that’s a bit of a thing for us here at City & Guilds Kineo – Paul has recently written a guide to responsive design. He takes a look at different approaches to delivering multi-device content and how to approach designing multi-device learning.