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Animation isn’t just for Saturday mornings anymore!

Kevin Doherty on animation in training

Perhaps I’m dating myself with this title since Saturday morning cartoons mostly died off in the 1990s, but all I’m trying to say is that animation isn’t just for children. Similar to games and gamification, there can be a serious side to animation as well that can truly aid in the learning process.

Recently I had a chance to sit down and talk with Kevin Doherty, who is a Communications Manager at the animation software company Vyond. We spoke about the importance of animation software as an element to any instructional designer’s bag of tricks and we also discussed how to overcome the learning curve that accompanies any effort to grow comfortable with a new technology.

Transcript of the Conversation with Kevin Doherty

Brian Washburn: Hello, and welcome everyone to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast of all things learning and development in bite sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn with Endurance Learning.  

And before we get to our guest today, I just want to let you know that this podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, the world’s first and only rapid authoring tool for instructor-led training.  It’s a little bit like instant pot for training programs. And so you put a few ingredients in like: How long is your session? How many people will attend? Is it going to be in-person? Is it going to be virtual? What are your learning objectives? You hit send and then suddenly you get an entire lesson plan that’s built out for you with all sorts of activities that will get you to your learning objectives. So,, if you want to check that out.

Today we are joined by Kevin Doherty, who is the Communications Manager at Vyond. Kevin, thank you for joining us today.

Kevin Doherty: Yeah, thanks for having me, Brian. 

Brian Washburn: Before we get started, as we like to do with all of our guests, keeping it short in terms of introductions. We’d love to get a six-word summary of your career or your life’s goals. For me, when I think of this particular topic, and I love the fact that you’re here from Vyond talking about animations as a key part of a trainer’s toolkit. My own six word biography would be: “Growing up I loved Saturday cartoons”. How about you, Kevin? How would you introduce yourself in six words? 

Kevin Doherty: Okay. Shoot. Here we go: “I really love to tell stories.”

Brian Washburn: Which I think is the perfect way to get into this conversation, right? So, we’re taking a look at the idea of using animations as a learning tool or a training tool. And I think that animations are one way that we can tell stories, obviously, you know, for those of us that grew up in the eighties or nineties, Saturday morning cartoons. Right now, it’s, you know, cartoons on demand, cartoons from Netflix cartoons from Disney+, whatever it might be. So, there’s a lot of animation that’s out there. But when we think of it as a learning tool, why do you think that animation can be such an effective learning tool?

Animation as an Effective Learning Tool

Kevin Doherty: You know, I’m with you. I loved watching the Saturday morning cartoons and I love that all the streaming services are bringing back the ones I’m nostalgic for. But, yes, animation absolutely has a place in the world of learning, training, especially adult learning. And I think one of the reasons that it is, well, for one animation, of course is much more engaging. It’s a dynamic medium. But also it has – even more so than live action film or video – animation has this amazing capacity for breaking down and communicating complex ideas with clarity. It, you know, allows you to, sort of, work with your imagination and not the constraints of the real world and represent abstract ideas, or, like I said, complexity on screen in a nuanced and layered way, which I love. 

Brian Washburn: Yeah, and it’s interesting, I mean, there are examples of this all throughout, just kind of the flow of your day. You know, when people get onto an airplane, sometimes it’s a live action, you know, video of how to use your seatbelt. But,  other airlines have just an animated kind of sequence that you can watch that takes you through “this is how you buckle in, and this is how you put on your mask before you help someone sitting next to you”. You know, when you think of learning, what would be some examples of when someone may want to use an animation as part of a learning experience or maybe even the entire learning experience?

Examples of Using Animation in Learning

Kevin Doherty: Yeah. Well, now you have me thinking about– I forget which airline it is, but the one that they have, like, the safety card come to life as an animation, as a safety video. It’s great. But, that’s maybe an example of a good place to use animation and learning. 

Customer training, customer learning is a really great place to bring animation out because it’s bite-sized. You can, sort of, in the marketing world we call it “inbound”. You can, sort of, create content that draws people in and can be, sort of, on- demand. And animation works really well for that sort of short form, bite-sized learning. And to that end too, I think even internal training, animation works great for micro-learning or blended learning, where synchronous and asynchronous modules are, sort of, combined into a comprehensive learning experience because it allows people to, you know, connect the dots on their own time, maybe learn in between sessions, instructor-led sessions, and really make things stick.

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And, you know, we don’t use animation a ton in the projects that we do, but we’ve used it in the past when we’ve been in a situation where people are like, “I don’t want to do a video of somebody on my team because they may not be here two years from now and then suddenly that video is outdated”. But when we can use an animation and maybe have that person do voiceover, whatever, then we have a little bit of more– it’s a little bit more evergreen. Right? It doesn’t expire when somebody no longer works here. So I’ve definitely seen some of those examples and we’ve used that rationale for creating animations in some of our projects. 

Now, do– you work at Vyond, so you probably have the ability to see what some of your customers are doing. I’m kind of curious what have been some of the catchiest or perhaps the coolest examples of animation as a learning tool that you’ve seen?

Coolest Examples of Animations as a Learning Tool

Kevin Doherty: Yeah. So Vyond, as you mentioned, it’s a platform for creating your own animations. And it wasn’t originally designed exclusively for learning and development. But it’s, sort of, the ease of use of the tool, and I think that iterable capability that you mentioned – the ability to go back and edit or continuously improve your animations – brought a lot of instructional designers to our yard pretty early on. 

So yeah, we’ve gotten to see some really cool stuff. What’s coming to mind right now for some reason, there’s one customer PDT Global that does a really great job of taking advantage of animation as a way to sort of present sensitive topics in particular around maybe DEI or gender diversity, as an example. And they do a great job of using animation to represent it in a specific way without oversimplifying it or right, you know, getting too deep in the weeds of identity politics, where it isn’t relevant to the content. So that’s cool. 

And then there are tons of our customers who do this, but the ones who incorporate gamification and interactivity with another platform, like Near-Life, that always blows my mind. And I feel like every day I’m seeing something new on that frontier. 

Brian Washburn: I’m sorry. What was that platform that you mentioned? 

Kevin Doherty: Near-Life. And that’s “Near”, hyphen, “Life”. It’s just one platform that– it’s a similarly, an online authoring tool for creating interactivity. So you can blend that with creating your own animated videos on Vyond and create some really, really cool, you know, choose-your-own-adventure type learning modules.

Brian Washburn: I love this concept because it does– it takes, kind of, something that drew us in when we were younger and it makes it relevant and useful. You know, as I’m thinking about this right now, one of the very first paid projects that we had at Endurance Learning was just an animation. And it was a promotional video for a chef who was going to do a series of cooking classes. And so he was going to be doing the instruction in-person and live. But in order to get people excited about, or even knowledgeable about what they’re about to see, we did this promotional video. And so I think that there’s– one of the things that we talk about a lot in the world learning and development is the crossover between instructional design, but also the world of marketing or the world of advertising. Because there’s so much that we, in the world of learning & development, can take away from the way that people in the marketing world or the advertising world, do the messaging and draw people in. Like you mentioned, if it’s external, but even internal. I think there are so many opportunities for this.

And hopefully as people are listening, they also think, “huh, maybe animation is something I need to start to put into my tool belt”. What advice would you have for anyone who’s listening? Who’s thinking, “oh great, now I need to tackle the learning curve of trying to pick up yet another digital learning tool.”

Simple Advice for Starting to Use Animation

Kevin Doherty: Yeah, it definitely is daunting. Even though I am an internet native – my generation – I’m definitely not adept at some of the more specialized authoring tools or creative tools out there. So I get it. But I also feel that if you’re asking that question, you might’ve already made some critical mistakes that are going to kill you in the water as you’re trying to adopt this new tool.

And we see it sometimes with people who go with Vyond or maybe go with another animation platform that’s out there. So I feel like you need to make sure that when you’re choosing a tool to learn, you need to make sure it has some key features, like team collaboration features, a broad range of customizations along with some ready-made content. And then there’s also just the ease-of-use, the simplicity of the interface. Those are all things, sort of, guiding ideas that we try and build into Vyond’s platform. But I think regardless of what you’re looking for, whether it’s for animation or something else, look for those capabilities in your authoring tools because that’ll make adoption so much easier and also much more pleasant, so you can just chase your creativity and have fun with it and not worry about really learning something from the ground up. 

Brian Washburn: I love that advice. It’s so simple. Just to make sure that you’re using the right tool, right? Just because we’re talking about it makes it maybe a shiny object. But if it’s something that can really get you where you need to go, it’s worthwhile to investigate a few different options and then figure out maybe what’s going to be the easiest, right, to use.

And, you know, I don’t work for Vyond and I don’t get any support from Vyond, but honestly we’ve used it. And we used it because it was simple. And so I think that finding a simple tool is really important, whether it’s Vyond, whether it’s something else that, kind of, makes it user-friendly and intuitive, and it’s easy to pop in your own stuff as well.

So if you have within your organization, you know, it could be something that–  custom drawings, if you have avatars for employees, if you have other things that it’s easy to pop those in as well. So, you know, there are probably other, really more powerful, kind of, Pixar-esque tools that are out there. But I mean, finding what works for you. Kevin, thank you so much for sharing some thoughts on this.

Get to Know Kevin Doherty

Brian Washburn: That conversation went pretty quick, but before we go, I do have a few speed round questions so that people can get to know you a little bit more. Are you ready for this?

Kevin Doherty: Cool. Let’s do it. 

Brian Washburn: Alright. So, when you are putting together a presentation yourself, what is your go-to food or snack right before you give a presentation?

Kevin Doherty: So I’m actually kind of a faster before presentations. I think I forget to eat and then I end up just eating all the leftovers in the fridge right after, as I come down from the presentation. (CHUCKLING)

Brian Washburn: What’s a piece of training tech that you can’t live without? 

Kevin Doherty: I love Jamboard. It’s one of the best kept secrets that’s in everybody’s Google drive account. If you haven’t heard of it, find it. It’s a great visual white boarding tool that takes zero training for any participant to learn. 

Brian Washburn: And that’s something– that’s really interesting. I just want to pause here real quick, because that’s another digital tool that people are like, “oh great. I have to learn another digital tool.” But that’s something where you can actually– it’s interactive, right? So you can have the people that– your participants typing things or putting things onto the screen at the same time. Do I understand it correctly? 

Kevin Doherty: Yeah. If they know how to click a link, they can probably figure out the rest. I’ve had meetings where I just spontaneously start using Jamboard and the participants without any instruction from me are able to pick it up immediately.

It’s great. 

Brian Washburn: How about things that people should be listening to right now? Or reading? Do you have any book or podcasts recommendations? 

Kevin Doherty: Yes. And it’s kind of not in the learning space. It comes from the world of, like, user experience and systems design, but I think the world would be a better place if everyone read Just Enough Research by Erika Hall. If you are interacting with a people-oriented system or you are creating learning for people, it’s one of the best ways to learn how to research your audience and serve them. 

Brian Washburn: And I love that recommendation because– and a number of other guests have said this. People in learning and development need to get outside of the learning & development space in order to learn what’s going on and how to interact with the people that we’re trying to reach.

How about the– the last thing that I have to ask is, do you have any shameless plugs for us? 

Kevin Doherty: Well, I said do well by my employer and give a shout out to Vyond. For those wondering it’s like “beyond”, but with a V as in video, V Y O N D. So, Vyond, like we said before is an easy-to-use platform for building your own animations.

And even if you just want to, sort of, play around and get started and experiment, but you don’t become a Vyond customer, you should check out our free trial. It’s great – 14 days and yeah, it lets you play around with creating your own cartoons.

Brian Washburn: Kevin Doherty from Vyond, the Communications Manager there, thank you so much for joining us. And for everybody else who’s listening, thank you so much for listening to another episode of Train Like You Listen, which is a weekly podcast that can be found on Spotify, on Apple, on iHeartRadio, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you hear, go ahead and give us a rating because that is how other people will find us. And don’t forget to subscribe. 

Until next time, happy training everyone. 

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.

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