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How Praveena Went From 'Traditional' Elearning Designer To Interactive Storyteller

 
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TRANSCRIPTION

Anna:
Hello everybody, welcome. This is Anna [Sebrownwoods 00:00:03] And I have a special guest with me today, Praveena [Mishra 00:00:05]. And she is one of the members in our interactive storytelling accelerator. And today we're going to dig into her journey and learn a little bit more about her own interactive story. And maybe get inspired by what she's done to get you to uptake your own interactive storytelling journey as well. Praveena, so great to have you here.

Praveena:
Hi Anna.

Anna:
Okay. So before you even started, before you joined, you have to tell us, how did you get into this profession? Why are you here? What got you started? And what did you do before?

Praveena:
Well, I've been in LND for almost 14 years now, and I've been an e-learning instructional designer for that long. I started my career in 2005. I have a master's in communication studies. And I've been with Elon and Company and then I moved on to larger organizations like IBM and Intesco. And now I'm working independently as an e-learning instructional designing consultant. Here in Dubai, UAE.

Praveena:
And I've worked with different backgrounds and different people from different backgrounds. The latest project that I worked on was an orientation program for new hires for a government body here in Dubai. Another one was at food safety training program. My client has been fantastic. I enjoyed working with them.

Praveena:
So this has been my journey so far. And I reached a point in my career where I felt I've been doing the same thing for a long time. The traditional e-learning that we usually do. It was the same when you are working with organizations and now, even though I work independently, the requirements have been more or less the same.

Praveena:
Even though I am a big proponent of scenario-based learning. And the use of stories because I think when we have situations that mirror real life challenges, that engages the audience, like nothing else. So therefore my attempt has been to introduce that concept to my clients and then take them through that journey.

Praveena:
It's not easy for them to understand, especially the new to e-learning or new to scenario-based learning. So that has been something that I've enjoyed. But still I felt there's more out there to do. And you and I have been talking, I think for a year now, under different circumstances.

Praveena:
And I've been following your work for quite some time. I think three years now, that I've been following your work and Learning Experience Friday emails. I still remember those weekly emails and the YouTube videos. And finally, I decided for myself that it's important for me, where I am in my career to take the next step. And here we are talking to each other again.

Anna:
Yeah. Absolutely. So, and this is interesting because when you joined, I think we were talking about the fact that your development, as far as, how you were involved in projects, you were always the person who was doing the strategy, but, the development piece was separate for you. Tell me a bit about that. So what was that like?

Praveena:
Well, all these years I've worked with development tips I have worked with graphic artists and illustrators and programmers. But with my experience of developing this interactive story with you and Ryan, I got to do that piece myself. I have been familiar with storyline 360 and how robust it is, but I never had the opportunity to develop something end-to-end.

Praveena:
So therefore that's piece for me was a bit of a challenge, but The Great Kill was when I reached out to you and Ryan, that I need help with this particular aspect. I am a designer, I've been doing this for many years now, but the development piece was they feel a bit nervous.

Praveena:
And Ryan has been fantastic. I mean, taking me through those steps in putting it together. Because there are so many tutorials out there. But the things that he taught me was exactly what I needed to complete the story within the layers and triggers and everything I don't need to get into all of that. I think that support has been fantastic for me.

Praveena:
I feel my story, Colors of The Rainbow, I think it exists because I joined this group. So thanks to you and Ryan that my first interactive story exists.

Anna:
And it's going to change some lives I think. So, okay, speaking of your interactive story, of course, tell us about it. Whose lives are you intending to change? What is its purpose in the cycle and the journey of these people? And just a little bit more about its context?

Praveena:
So this interactive story, it's called Colors of The Rainbow. It is a part of a larger LGBTQ plus awareness program. So we have these learning modules that my team and I have put together. So this is essentially an off the shelf product that we wanted to create.

Anna:
Yeah.

Praveena:
But I joined ISA in January of this year and we've been going through the process and how a story is built and what are the elements to it. And then I realize that this piece, the LGBT awareness program is a perfect opportunity to create a story. Because the learning modules that we have it's about gender, and gender identity and sexual orientation. But even before we get people to look at those learning modules, we have to address issues like biases that we have, right? And we might not be even aware of those biases.

Praveena:
So therefore when I decided that my audience would not be people from the community. My audience would be those people who do not belong to the community. Because this program is for them so that we can become aware of that bias in their mind. How do we treat our coworkers? Anybody essentially, who is different. How comfortable are we with somebody who's different? Who's not like us. So this is not just about gender or sexual orientation.

Praveena:
However, in the context of this particular program, the LGBT awareness program, I decided that, "Okay, let's do this. Let's move these learner from being called learners. What you keep talking about." People who don't... They don't think that they would need the training in this, right? They would wonder why do I even need to look at something like this? I know, there are people with different sexual orientation and I respect them. But then what has been amazing in conversations with my SME's, that we are not even aware of our own rights. Right?

Praveena:
So that is the goal, to bring it out, which again, [Inaudible 00:08:27] we've worked very closely together. That's a very collaborative project where we have identified different instances where these biases tend to come up like conversations in the workplace. Where [inaudible 00:08:44] it's a conversation that it's just a bang done.

Praveena:
How is this person working, [inaudible 00:08:52] or mannerisms. We don't think how it might impact an individual. Or does it interfere with somebody getting promoted? Or does it interfere with your boss or your manager thinking that this is mental illness?

Praveena:
So we have tried to explore those issues. And the protagonist of the story is, again, somebody who's not from the community. And this is the story of her journey from being somebody who is a nice person who respects individuals, however, she realizes that there are things that she could have done differently.

Praveena:
And the person who is actually going through the challenge is not her, it's her a friend who is from the community. And in order to help her friend cope with these situations better, she realized that she needs to complete her own journey.

Praveena:
So this is what this entire interactive story is about. And I think what ISA has done for me is, it has helped me identify that framework. That structure to build the story with, because stories are not just random. It's not just, five, six scenarios put together and that's what I loved. That there was a beginning, a middle and an end. Right?

Praveena:
And then there are the decision points that allows you to look at the consequences of your action and then there's a pay off. What would your decision looks like at the end of that journey. Where would you like to see yourself?

Praveena:
And that is a reflection of our own lives. That if we want to see ourselves doing something, if we see ourselves in a particular way, a few months [inaudible 00:10:43] down the line. What do we need to do to reach that? What do we need to do to become that person? And that's what these interactive stories do. We tell you a story about protagonists and they help you complete that journey.

Praveena:
So I think this is what ISA has helped me achieve. Because early on, with scenario based learning we would identify with the help of an SME, we would identify a situation and then show a consequence. And this was what you need to do. And this is what you shouldn't do.

Praveena:
However, with the story, it's the entire journey from beginning to end. And what those decisions really do for you is what this story has tried to show. So, yeah, that's what my story is all about.

Anna:
Fabulous. Yes. And it's interesting because you also decided to work with an illustrator, right?

Praveena:
Yes.

Anna:
So for you, it's a different journey. I think you said that this was the first time you actually worked with somebody to realize that vision. Yeah.

Praveena:
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. And my illustrator, this was also her first project as a digital illustrator. She has a background of... She's a charcoal artist and she's a tattoo artist. She has shared her work with me, which I loved. But then again, this is an internal project, an off the shelf project and this point I could not hire a professional illustrator.

Praveena:
But here was a person who was very interested in collaborating with us. And a very hardworking individual and the method that we learned in ISA, the Marvel method, how to work with photographs and putting together the vision for the story that you have. So that helped me in my process of putting these visuals together and then communicating that vision to my illustrator.

Praveena:
And halfway through that journey, I could see that even her work has really improved. So the second half of the project looked better than the first half. And then we went back to the first half and redid it. Some of the illustrations that I think we have come up with. Of course there's a scope to improve that further, which I think we can do a few months down the line, because this is a project which can work you walk in so many different ways.

Praveena:
And the mechanics that I have... We have simple mechanics at the moment. I intend to include more mechanics as we go down this road. But this experience with my illustrator has been very interesting and truly a collaborative project.

Anna:
And I think it's cool because you've... Before you joined you're doing these things and now all of a sudden, you're not only building things yourself, now you're working with somebody and you're coaching them on how to do basically digital media.

Praveena:
Right.

Anna:
So it's a good stretch for you, hey.

Praveena:
Yes, yes, absolutely. I had to step out of my comfort zone. Even though I've worked with teams before. I was telling you that I worked with development teams, but I have to learn something and then communicate now to somebody who was doing it for the first time.

Anna:
Yeah. Yeah.

Praveena:
I was definitely outside my comfort zone. But yeah, it was a challenge I enjoyed.

Anna:
So tell me, and you joined us back when you were one of the founding members when things were just starting. So tell me what actually made you want to jump in? What was the deciding factor for you?

Praveena:
Well, the deciding factor was when we spoke last year. I think the first time when we spoke was in March of 2019, that there was a scenario program that you were planning to put together and due my personal circumstances I couldn't at that point. But we spoke again in... I think it was in the month of October.

Anna:
Yes.

Praveena:
Were you were putting together the accelerator program and you said, "Look, I'm doing this now. Is that something you would be interested in?" And then I attended your webinar. You had a two hour long awesome webinar. And then we spoke. We had a call and we spoke and he wanted to know if you were to put this program together, what is it that I would want in that program. And it was a good conversation.

Praveena:
I was already in. I had seen Broken Coworker that you and Ryan had put together and that fascinated me. And is [inaudible 00:15:43] that I would like to do. So I had already looked into this idea that I would like to do more with my work. Do More with my career. Because I feel about the conversations that we have with our clients and stakeholders, the conversations need to change.

Praveena:
We need to be different because sometimes we have to initiate them into something that would work for them. Because we have seen traditional e-learning. But in order for them to understand that there is more out there, I think the onus is on us to have that conversation with them and I think joining this group at that point I felt was the next step for me. And therefore, I'm here.

Anna:
So when you joined, what surprised you about just being a part of the group and this community and the program itself?

Praveena:
Well, I think what surprised me and it continues to surprise me, even though it's been eight or nine months into the program, is the willingness to share. The information that you and Ryan... The resources that you share. You don't hold back, right? The structure of the scripts.

Praveena:
You shared your script of Broken Coworker. And I would share a story like [inaudible 00:17:23] the entire... Like, I have this effect in my story where I'll be going into the past and coming back to the present because the protagonist is thinking about what are the things that went wrong. And it's a flashback effect that I picked up from one of the Pixar movies. And I reached out to the Ryan and I said, "I want to do this." Right? "Is this achievable, can we do that?" And he said, "Yes." And it was, again, "Okay, this is how you should do it."

Praveena:
So for me, something that seemed, achievable, suddenly became something that I couldn't do myself. So this is what surprised me because I've been part of different communities before. And I've included multiple certifications. That's the kind of support that is available.

Praveena:
And I think the story, the way it looks like at the moment, the way it has shaped up, you and Ryan have played a huge role in giving me that feedback and how make it tighter, right? How to remove the fluff from the story.

Praveena:
So I think that is something that has remained with me. That this is a community where I can go and completely be myself, because even the other community members, they have had similar journeys. They've had similar struggles and they want to move forward with their careers and you take that next step. So there's a camaraderie in the group.

Praveena:
So this is my go-to group for any question that I have. So this support I've never had before. So I think this is something that surprised me and it continues to be that way for me.

Anna:
So as far as elements of even just learning how to do a directive stories professionally, what do you think was the most beneficial piece for you that you could take away and maybe apply anywhere else?

Praveena:
So there are a few things. The first the the practitioner interview. The questions that you shared. Because all this while we do the training needs analysis, right? And that is something that I've been doing in the questions that we have.

Praveena:
But this is different. This is not just with me SME. This is with the practitioner and not just about the process that practitioners follow. It is about their journey of doing that. Something that they are good at and how do they do it. And how do they feel when doing it? What makes them rock stars?

Praveena:
So I think those questions that you shared... The very first time that I used those questions to interview my SME, I was a bit skeptical, because I wasn't sure how she would respond to those questions. But it's pretty seamless when I started asking you those question and the entire interview was very seamless because one lead to the other.

Praveena:
I didn't have to force anything upon her. And she came up with a lot of ideas while she was talking. So the ideas that I could put for my interactive story that came from the practitioner interview. So I think that is a huge takeaway for me.

Praveena:
The second one is, the Marvel method that we talked about. And I never thought that we would be discussing XR, movies and Disney movies. I thought, "Okay, this is e-learning." This is completely a different space. And to take, those kind of examples and then to see how they can be replicated using storyline 360.

Praveena:
Now I feel that a lot of things are achievable. It's just a [inaudible 00:21:42] of really how to do it and therefore, this group has been a right fit for me. So now I have the confidence. If I could pull this off, there are a whole of other things that I could do as well.

Anna:
And I know you rediscovered Ratatouille as a result, right?

Praveena:
I have. I have because I kept going back to it because when I was writing the script, I was wondering about, "Okay, how do I show this flashback effect?" And I was doing a bit of research and this popped up on YouTube. Where a food critic is sitting in the restaurant and is eating that food and then suddenly he's transporting the past where he's eating the food prepared by his mother.

Praveena:
So I said, "Okay, I want to be able to do this in my story, but then I want to do it with storyline 360. What is the best way to do that?" So, yes, I never imagined myself really doing these things but I have and I learned that I can do this

Anna:
Well. It's awesome when you... I think one of the things that's really interesting when you do the Marvel method, it forces you to think visually.

Praveena:
Yes.

Anna:
And then it's neat because the visual effects you are going for, it had to work visually, without you saying, "Now let me think back to..." It's like we know we're going back in time, but it's almost like this visual training that we're doing with the audience. And I thought that was awesome.

Anna:
And it's cool because I think you came in with this idea saying, "How can I do this?" And then even in 360, it actually evolved into something more that was a representation of what you wanted to see.

Praveena:
Yes.

Anna:
So, yeah. And it's [inaudible 00:23:45] and it rocks. It's awesome. So that's cool. And I love it where you can pull inspiration from outside, the outside world saying, "I want to do this."

Praveena:
Yeah.

Anna:
So I love that.

Praveena:
Yeah.

Anna:
So if you could give advice to your say earlier self or somebody who's just joining, what would you say to them? That person?

Praveena:
So what I would tell somebody who's new to this group, because I know that there are people who have just joined, I think last week or a week before that. And it's been eight or nine months and we've been doing it. So we've already covered a lot of ground here.

Praveena:
But what is great is the masterclass. The six week masterclass that you've put together, you and Ryan. Which has everything that we have covered so far. So I would recommend that anybody who's new to the group and go through all those resources, one at a time. And to ask whatever questions they may have in the group. And this is something that I learnt myself.

Praveena:
Sometimes we come with some insecurities wondering, "Okay, this question may seem very basic, or maybe I'm the only one who doesn't have an answer for this question." However, if you have a question to which you don't have an answer for, it's best you ask.

Praveena:
So the more questions that we ask in the group, we will get the answers. And just the way I could complete this journey with my fast interactive story, I'm sure they would get there as well.

Praveena:
A little bit of overwhelm in the beginning it's fine. It's acceptable. But it's a great community. You and Ryan are very selfless with your time, with your feedback, with your input. And the group is very proactive. I think even we give each other a lot of feedback.

Praveena:
I think eventually we reach a point where we start to feel comfortable in this process, even though the initial weeks might seem overwhelming, but we all get to a point where we feel, "Yes, this is now within my control and I can do this."

Anna:
I like what you said about really stepping outside of that hesitance of asking.

Praveena:
Yes.

Anna:
Because I mean, it's difficult when you've been pro for a long time for you it's been like-

Praveena:
Yeah.

Anna:
Right. And now all of a sudden you're stepping in... You're, a fish out of water almost. And you assume everybody else knows this, but it's actually not true. Most people are, I think, appreciative when somebody says, "I'd been thinking that, but I didn't even know to ask that question because it's been assumed." So I love that.

Praveena:
Yeah, because I did that. I was very off asking in the group. "Can somebody teach me the basics of 360?" And Ryan did that for 45 minutes on a call. So yeah, please ask your questions.

Anna:
Please ask your questions because then later it helps everybody else to do that. So that's awesome.

Praveena:
Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Anna:
So where can people who want to work with you, who wants to learn more about the work that you've already done, how can they get in touch and where should they go?

Praveena:
Well, I think LinkedIn is the best place to connect. Please get in touch with me on LinkedIn? I am currently working on an article. I'm putting together an article, in the process of putting together this story. I will make it available on [inaudible 00:27:24] and on also putting together a portfolio of projects. Then I can share it with the world to see. So LinkedIn is the place to connect.

Anna:
That's fabulous. And I'll put the link to your LinkedIn underneath this video. So that'll be fantastic. They can always search for your name. Praveena Mishra there as well. So that'll be there. That's fantastic.

Anna:
And I really do look forward to seeing your next interactive story. I think it'd be fun. I can't wait to work on it with you.

Praveena:
Well, the feeling is mutual.

Anna:
Awesome. Awesome. Still after all these months, she's still not sick of us.

Praveena:
After all these months. No, no, no. I think this is something that inspires about you and Ryan is the energy that you bring to the group, right? Because I know that's there's so many things that you do. It's the masterclass, it's ISA and I'm sure that you have your own personal projects.

Praveena:
But the fact that you're able to do so much and because you love what you do. And that is what I would like to get to, right? That you like your work so much that it doesn't seem like work.

Anna:
Absolutely. I love that.

Praveena:
And I want to get to that place. So therefore ISA and I believe ISA is something that would take me. That I want to reach so-

Anna:
We are glad to help you.

Praveena:
It's a long association.

Anna:
Yeah. Absolutely. We're here for years to come together.

Praveena:
Absolutely.

Anna:
Awesome. Well, I hope everybody enjoyed that. Got a few nuggets of inspiration and I hope you reach out to Praveena and get in touch with her if you want to craft your next interactive story. So thank you, my lady.

Praveena:
Thank you so much. Anna it was lovely talking to you.

Anna:
Awesome.

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