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Poverty-Awareness Simulation

A branching scenario eLearning module adapted from previous live training.

The Open Door

The Open Door is the largest food pantry in Dakota County, MN.

They serve over 180,000 people in this community and have over 850 volunteers.

Problem & Solution

Volunteers at The Open Door are often unaware of how their lives are fundamentally different from the people they serve. It isn't easy to imagine living life in poverty if you've never experienced it first-hand. The Open Door has hosted a series of live poverty awareness and sensitivity training but wanted to make them asynchronous, more interactive, and available on-demand. This would make it available to all volunteers, not just those who attended the live training.

poverty simulation mockup

I used the previous training recordings to outline the major topics to be covered in the learning material. I proposed a scenario-based approach to increase engagement and empathy.

The next challenge was to make the learning material as time-proof as possible. The eLearning modules will remain more general, while supplementary infographics and microlearning will illustrate the current statistics in the county and be created in easy-to-update graphic design software.

My Process


After much research and analysis of previous training, I scripted the first eLearning module. Once all of the content had been created and agreed upon by stakeholders, I put together a storyboard of style templates to send for approval. After feedback and a few iterations, a cohesive design was reached, which would guide the rest of the deliverables for this organization.

storyboard and script

Development tools were  Vyond and Storyline. I used Wellsaid to generate voiceover tracks. In this module, the volunteer will navigate life at or near the poverty line. The challenge of building out this module was the complexity of branching scenarios.  I had to keep the content well organized within the authoring software. Attention to detail was crucial with so many triggers involved for interactions and connections between branching scenes.

Another challenge was recording the names of volunteers who have completed the training and their responses to the final reflection questions. The Open Door does not have an LMS they use for training, so I needed to find a way to get them access to the results without a connection to one. I made this work by using the "execute javascript" trigger in Storyline and sending the results to a Google Spreadsheet through the use of Google Apps Script. The sheet is shared with the volunteer team leaders and the results are recorded to the sheet in real time.

storyline draft 1
vyond draft 2


The design and development of this eLearning module was one of the most elaborate projects I've taken on. It required constant awareness of the audience of volunteers who would be taking the training. Their generation has a wide range of computer skills, so the main focus was making the user interface very straightforward and easy to navigate. Closed captions were added and turned on automatically to better serve the audience in terms of accessibility. 

Complexity was another challenge I overcame in this project. I ran into bugs several times while developing in Storyline. I learned more about the software than I'd known previously and did a lot of research into its features and shortcomings to find workarounds to address issues.  There were times when I needed to problem-solve and adapt an interaction to create it in spite of limitations in the software, but I was able to keep the integrity of the instructional design even with constraints. 

I am happy to have created a learning tool that has such a positive impact on my community, and I look forward to designing and developing more content for this organization.

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