What began as a fascination with both cognitive and computer science in college, led to a professional career in learning design. Learn more about Ashley Reardon, Kineo US Lead Designer and what makes her so passionate about learning.
Tell me about your background and what led you to pursue learning design.
My interest began while I was in undergrad at UCLA studying cognitive science and minoring in computer science. I was really inspired by the process of figuring out how to use computers to change the face of education to make it much more individualized and self driven. This led me down the path of learning more about computer software and learning. While I was in undergrad, I came across some research by Roger Schank and I was really intrigued by his “learning by doing” approach and what he was sharing in terms of the benefit of computer-based education -- helping them remember and making connections with the content. After graduating and some stints in curriculum development focused on K-5, I went to graduate school and studied under Roger Schank, and ended up taking my first job with a custom eLearning development company focusing on immersive, simulation-based stuff. I really got my foundation there. So 15 years ago I started out in eLearning and have since continued down the path, and my experience has really spanned the whole breadth of learning solutions design.
What interests you the most about learning design?
From a personal standpoint, what I love about it stems from the fact I am truly a curious lifelong learner and it doesn’t matter what the context is - it could be seeing how a particular product is made but I also love making the connections in my own head between things that are seemingly unrelated. What excites me about learning design is having the opportunity to set those light bulbs off - “aha”moments -- connections -- give people the real edge and power to take themselves even further in what they are doing in their own interests, and allows them to realize their potential. Learning design is such an amazing opportunity to dig in and make sense of the world, and then help translate it for others.
What brought you to Kineo?
I worked for many years as a contract designer where I had great autonomy over everything I did. It was a very big decision to join another company. I knew it had to have people that I loved working with--people that were just great human beings. I wanted to work with people that were dedicated to relationships and would work hard to get things done...and be focused on a shared goal and shared purpose.
There are so many eLearning design companies that just turn stuff out and it doesn’t have a lot of thought behind it, and it gets out there but ultimately it doesn’t leave people with “ah that was a really cool experience.” At Kineo, we have such high quality and design standards and put a great deal of thought and care into everything we do. We have a talented graphics team and a development team that is continually striving to find a better way of doing things. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage the learner. We are all on the quest to push the envelope….and have a balanced sensibility.
What has been your favorite aspect of working at Kineo thus far?
Being able to get to know everybody and feeling like even in my short time I already have a voice and can contribute something to the conversation and we really lean into that to make collective decisions. I also love that everything is so transparent. It is almost like being a part of co-op. We are all looking at the same data, schedules, and knowing how we have to collaborate.
We talk a lot about eLearning but there are just so many areas that we are tapping into. Being apart of City & Guilds is also very exciting. We have the potential to make an impact in so many different areas.
What are your interests outside of work?
Any kind of exploring whether it is on foot or shopping. We have been living in NY over 10 years. For many years we didn’t have a car so our exploring was limited to where we could get to on foot or public transportation. Now that we have one, we are looking to expand our reach. A lot of my hobbies are focused on outdoors and getting back into nature.
I’m from California originally. I love the landscape of Cali but it is really spread out and it can feel a bit isolating. Being in NY I’m just surrounded by people and I find it inspiring. It gives me a lot of energy to walk and see what people are doing on the street. I’m a really big people person and observer. It’s a tough city sometimes but you have to really expand your vision of life and what things should be like. We don’t have a backyard but we have coffee shops and parks, and lots of people in the building. We’ve really loved it so far.
It’s all about connectedness and finding a way to connect with people you work with or the people you are designing for and being able to tap into what makes these individuals tick. That’s really what work should be about and the heart of what we produce.