GovLoop Academy & Learning Platform

Software Engineering & UX Design / 2014 - 2017

How might we design a seamless user experience between learning platform and learning content?

The Brief

As the saying goes, "Everyone hates their LMS" (Learning Management System). GovLoop needed to deliver and track hundreds of microlearning experiences for their thousands of users. So rather than licensing an off-the-shelf LMS we would grow to hate, we built our own.


Design and build a lightweight LMS to deliver and track hundreds of microlearning experiences for GovLoop's thousands of users and government clients alike.

GovLoop Academy's Homepage.

My Role

Learning Experience Designer & Software Engineer

I worked on the GovLoop Learning Platform over the course of three years. Initially, my role on the project consisted of asking key questions about our users and forming strategies for answering those questions. With a better understanding of our users, I spent the next two years designing dozens of highly-interactive, bite-sized learning experiences hosted on our platform. Eventually, I moved into a Software Engineering role, taking a more hands-on approach to designing and developing platform features, including advanced reporting and content discovery.

Design Tools Used:
Sketch, Storyline 2, Captivate, Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Audition

Development Tools & Languages Used:
WordPress, HTML5/CSS3, Javascript, PHP, MySQL, xAPI

The Story

At the outset of the project, we had to answer some foundational questions:

  • 1

    Who are our users and what do they need?

    What are their primary motivations, frustrations, and preferred modes of learning?

  • 2

    What is a 'GovLoop Learning Experience?'

    How do we build a uniform, consistent marriage between learning content and platform experiences?

  • 3

    How do we change users' expectations of elearning?

    Why are our users' view of online learning so poor, and what are we going to do differently to raise expectations?

We took a service design approach to answering these questions by conducting user interviews & focus groups, facilitating structured design thinking activities (e.g. "Gamestorming"), and rapidly prototyping design concepts. While these activities were certainly a team-based effort, my contribution came primarily in the form of strategic planning and facilitation of many of the activities. In addition, I led the effort to distill our observations into actionable design insights.

Experience Design Guideposts

One of our key actionable design insights was that in order to maintain consistency, we would need 'design guideposts' to help point us in the right direction when making design decisions. So, we generated a series of guiding questions to 'unstick' ourselves throughout the design process.


How can we make this experience more gotta-share-able, so users can’t wait to talk about what they’ve learned?"


How can we make this experience easier to apply when users go back to their jobs?


How can we make this experience even more streamlined and to-the-point?


How can we make this experience more realistic by referencing our users' day-to-day lives?


How can we make this experience even more engaging by balancing feelings of challenge and success for our users?


How can we make this experience memorable through unexpected moments of pure joy?

Experience Design Constraints

Along with these guidepost questions, we developed data-driven user personas, user journey maps, and UI wireframes. Perhaps most importantly, we setup an objective system for testing the subjective quality of our products prior to release. Our team agreed that in order for any learning experience to be published, it must meet all of the following self-imposed contraints:

  • Experiences must define Learning Objectives that articulate what skills will be gained.

  • Micro-learning experiences must fit within strict duration guidelines.

  • Experiences must apply to the real world through case studies, scenarios, and task-based activities.

  • Experiences must include a call-to-action, action plan, or some other means of transferring learning.

  • Experiences must be accessible on across PCs and mobile devices, including Section 508 compliance.

  • Experiences must be a gateway to new content by linking to follow-on experiences.


Powered by WordPress and LearnDash to track learning experiences via the Experience API (xAPI), GovLoop Academy was launched in April 2014 with 25 courses available for free to the GovLoop community. With this successful launch, government clients started to ask if they could license our platform for their own internal projects

As a result, the Learning Platform has hosted training and formal mentoring programs for nearly a dozen government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.