Top 100 Learning Influencers
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Instructional Design
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Top 100 Learning Influencers

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The fields of instructional design, learning & development and learning theory have been shaped by a wide range of people over many years. We decided to study these influences, to get an idea about just how wide-ranging the sources of influence are. In this post, we share a list of 100 people who are some of the most influential people within instructional design, learning and development, and learning theory. We have decided to call this list the "Top Learning Influencers".

Our list was carefully curated through extensive research and input from hundreds of experts in the field. We surveyed industry leaders, asked for recommendations from top professionals, and analyzed the networks of influence within the field to identify 100 individuals who have been instrumental to getting the industry to where it is today. We believe that recognizing and showcasing the achievements of these individuals will not only highlight the important contributions they have made to the field, but also inspire others to continue pushing the boundaries and advancing the industry as a whole.

The final list is a testament to the hard work, dedication, and innovation of these individuals, and we are proud to recognize their achievements. We hope that recognizing the achievements of these individuals is important not only for their own careers, but also for the field as a whole. By showcasing their contributions and highlighting the important work they are doing, we hope to inspire others to continue pushing the boundaries and advancing the industry.

Below is the list, and at the bottom of the post is some information about how we constructed it.

The Top Learning Influencers

The following list is in random order.

We are announcing the winners from the 3rd of January 2023 to the 24th of February. We plan to announce between 15 and 20 people per week. To see the announcements and stay up to date, follow David Kofoed Wind and Eduflow on LinkedIn.

Robert Gagné

The late Robert Mills Gagné is best known for developing the Conditions of Learning that stemmed from his work as an Educational Psychologist during World War II. The theory posits that different types of learning require complementary forms of instruction. His work also resulted in the famous Nine Events of Instruction which recommends a systematic approach to designing a learning experience.

Julie Dirksen

Julie Dirksen is the author of Design For How People Learn, which has become required reading for instructional designers worldwide. She has many years of experience creating highly interactive e-Learning experiences for clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to major grant-funded research initiatives. Her focus has been on utilizing the disciplines of educational psychology, neuroscience, change management, and persuasive technology to promote and support the improvement of people's lives through sustainable long-term learning and behavioral change.

Moe Ash

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Moe Ash brings a wide variety of experiences to his role as ‘human development consultant’ and founder of instructional design consultancy The Catalyst. From experience in business process outsourcing, and management in the United Nations, Ash has spent the last 15+ years focused on training.

Ash has conducted learning interventions with over 50,000 learners to catalyse development through microlearning, AR, eLearning creations, learning games and gamification systems.

Charles Reigeluth

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For over 30 years, Charles M. Reigeluth has worked to facilitate paradigm change in public schools, working for learner-centred instruction, and a system in which student progress is based on learning, rather than time seated at a desk. He has published 11 books on this topic, four of which received an "outstanding book of the year" award from the AECT (Association for Educational Communications and Technology), including Reinventing Schools, which received the award in 2013.

Reigeluth started our as a high school teacher, gained a doctorate in instructional psychology, and was Professor in the Instructional Systems Technology Department at Indiana University’s School of Education in Bloomington until 2013. He was also facilitator for a paradigm change effort in the Indianapolis Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township for over 10 years.

Tim Slade

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Tim Slade is a freelance Instructional Designer and the author of The eLearning Designer's Handbook. He founded the eLearning Designer's Academy and is one of the go-to thought leaders regarding design and development best practices - especially using the Articulate suite. You'll also find him offering up his wisdom as he presents at the biggest conferences in L&D.

Cathy Moore

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Author of the industry-favorite book called Map It: The Hands-on Guide to Strategic Training Design, Cathy Moore's concept of Action Mapping has left a lasting impression on the Instructional Design landscape. Her blog and frequent speaking appearances at top conferences are rich resources for industry professionals.

Connie Malamed

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As founder of Mastering Instructional Design, Connie Malamed heads up an international community of instructional designers in-training. She has also run her own ID business for 20 years, and specializes in the intersection of visual design and learning, a subject about which she has written two books.

Malamed also runs The eLearning Coach website, The eLearning Coach Podcast, and was given the Guild Master award for her contributions to instructional design.

Guy W Wallace

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Performance Analyst and Instructional Architect Guy W Wallace started out as a Training Developer at Wickes Lumber in 1979. In the 40+ years since then, Wallace has designed and developed performance-based Instruction and training for dozens of Fortune 500 companies, and been a partner in 3 consulting firms. In 2010 he was the recipient of the Honorary Life Member Award from the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).

Wallace specializes in the design and development of training experiences via group processes. He shares his methods on his website, where you can find his published work, audio and video resources, and 400+ free PDFs.

Karl Kapp

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Karl Kapp is an Instructional Technology Professor at Bloomsburg University. He is one of the most noteworthy experts in the field of gamification, and his book called The Gamification of Learning and Instruction can be found on the shelves of many learning professionals. Kapp is also an engaging speaker, having presented at top industry conferences. You can also find a number of his courses on LinkedIn Learning.

Christy Tucker

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Christy Tucker is one of the most often-invoked names at the intersection of storytelling and instructional design. In her work as a learning experience design consultant, she develops engaging learning experiences that storytelling and technology in new ways. Prior to striking out as an independent consultant, she honed her ID skills at organizations such as Cisco, Accenture, and the Career Education Corporation.

Christy’s blog contains information on everything from branching scenarios and creating characters for learning interventions, to story-based coaching and role-play.

Robin Sargent

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Robin Sargent is the founder and president of the IDOL Course Academy, a training school for instructional designers & online learning developers. Robin founded IDOL after 17 years in the instructional design industry, during which time she created learning content for both companies and universities, including the Center for Disease Control, Emory University Law School, Boston Consulting Group, and the National Parent Teacher Association.

Robin made it onto our list not only for her role in helping 100s of professionals transition to instructional design careers, but also for her work with non-profits. She started IDOL World, a project which matches non-profit organizations with instructional designers and free eLearning modules, and also serves on the board of DESIGNxHUMANITY.

Nick Shackleton-Jones

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Nick Shackleton-Jones, author of How People Learn, is best known for his affective context model of learning, and his determination to evolve learning design ‘from courses to resources’.

In 2021, Nick launched Shackleton Consulting, and organization that helps companies move their L&D efforts away from learning objectives and towards performance outcomes. Prior to that, Nick led innovative learning projects at some of the UK?s biggest organizations, including the BBC, BP, and CLO (UK) Deloitte.

In 2018 Nick won the LPI’s prestigious lifetime contribution award for services to the industry.

David Merrill

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M. David Merrill is an is professor emeritus at Utah State University, and one of the best-known researchers on instructional design and technology. He’s spent the last 50 years focused on making instruction engaging, and is known for three key educational theories—The Component Display Theory, Instructional Transaction Theory and the First Principles of Instruction. Merrill has also received numerous awards over the course of this career, including a lifetime achievement award from the Utah State University College of Education, the AECT Distinguished Service Award 2001 for advancing the field of Instructional Technology through Scholarship, Teaching and Leadership, and the AECT D&D Outstanding Book Award 2014 for his book First Principles of Instruction.

Devlin Peck

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Devlin Peck is a freelance Instructional Designer and eLearning Developer. His YouTube channel features a wealth of useful how-to videos, interviews with industry experts, and simple explanations of common concepts and processes in the industry. Devlin also runs an academy and community that helps people build their knowledge in Instructional Design.

Patti Shank

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Patti Shank is a learning designer, researcher, author, and facilitator working with evidence-based learning methods. In her work with organizations and individuals, Shank helps solve hard training problems through a laser-like focus on techniques that have actually been shown to work. She’s also a prolific author on instruction, contributes to online publications such as the ATD Science of Learning Blog, and speaks at conferences.

Sivasailam Thiagarajan

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As CEO and “resident mad scientist” of the Thiagi Group, Dr Sivasailam Thiagarajan focuses on helping people improve their performance through enjoyment. He has designed leadership, soft-skills, and technical training for companies as varied as Chevron and Fujitsu, to the American Red Cross and the Peace Corps.

Dr Thiagi, as he’s known, also holds the unusual honor of having twice been elected as president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), 27 years apart.

Diane Elkins

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Diane Elkins is an award-winning e-learning developer with 20 years experience as a trainer, instructional designer, and e-learning project manager. She’s spoken at big national events like eLearning Guild DevLearn and Learning Solutions, and received awards from the eLearning Guild and Articulate. Elkins also co-authored the E-Learning Uncovered book series.

Elkins co-founded Artisan E-Learning, where she helps companies from government agencies and non-profits, to Fortune 500 corporations develop e-learning initiatives.

Will Thalheimer

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Will Thalheimer is Principal at TiER1 Performance, where he helps organizations put their learning strategies into practice. In fact, Thalheimer has been at the vanguard for the research-to-practice movement in L&D for over 20 years, developing theories like the Learning-Transfer Evaluation Model (LTEM) and the Performance-Focused Learner Survey methodology. His belief in research- and evidence-based L&D approaches influences every corner of Thalheimer’s work, including his co-organization of the Learning Development Accelerator (LDA), a group for L&D professionals aiming to support research-based practices.

Richard Mayer

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Educational psychologist and Professor of Psychology Richard E. Mayer is best-known for his multimedia learning theory, co-developed with Roxana Moreno. Since developing the multimedia learning theory in the early 2000s, Dr. Mayer has extended his research into areas such as using words and pictures to explain scientific and mathematical concepts, and learning in computer-supported environments.

Dr. Mayer has received numerous awards during his career at the University of California, Santa Barbara, including the Thorndike Award for career achievement in educational psychology, the Scribner Award for outstanding research in learning and instruction, and the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Contribution of Applications of Psychology to Education and Training Award. Contemporary Educational Psychology ranks him as the most productive educational psychologist in the world.

Luke Hobson

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Dr. Luke Hobson is a Senior Instructional Designer and Program Manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In addition to his role at MIT, he is also an Online Instructor for Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). He is an expert in online learning with a range of skills including learning sciences, andragogy, learning experience design, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and relationship management. He is the author of the book What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Instructional Designer and has a podcast, blog, and YouTube channel to help IDs learn more about the industry and create meaningful online learning experiences.

Clark Quinn

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Clark Quinn combines cognitive science, learning experience design, and technology to come up with learning technology strategy for organizations. From his self-designed major in Computer-Based Education, to his PhD in cognitive science, Quinn has sought to apply evidence-based practices about how people think, work, and learn for organizational performance improvement.

He’s developed mobile learning apps, web-based learning, effectiveness evaluation methodologies, and is the author of many L&D books, including Make It Meaningful: Taking Learning Design from Instructional to Transformational and Learning Science for Instructional Designers: From Cognition to Application.

Mirjam Neleen

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Mirjam Neelen is a seasoned learning and development professional with a passion for driving change and improving the impact of L&D in the workplace. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, she has a deep understanding of adult learning, instructional design, and technology-enhanced learning, and is skilled in needs analysis, learning strategy design, development, assessment, and evaluation. She is the co-author of the book Evidence-Informed Learning Design: Creating Training to Improve Performance. In her current role as the Head of Global Learning Design and Learning Sciences at Novartis, Mirjam is working to redefine how the company's associates build competence and become a trusted advisor to increase business impact.

Saul Carliner

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Saul Carliner is a Concordia University professor specializing in the design of learning and communication materials for the workplace. His numerous published works include books like Career Anxiety: Guidance for Tough Times, and Training Design Basics, as well as over 50 peer-reviewed articles, and over 150 news and magazine articles. Outside of his faculty work, Saul offers learning and communications consulting to business leaders for companies like Boston Scientific, Bronx Zoo, and PwC, among others.  He also uses his expertise in the community, serving on the board of organizations, including the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education and the Institute for Performance and Learning.

Jane Hart

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Jane Hart is an independent consultant focused on helping organizations modernize their approach to workplace learning. Jane has spoken internationally on workplace learning methods and continuous learning, and founded the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. She’s also the author of online resource guide Modern Workplace Learning.

Maria Montessori

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Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator known for her philosophy of education and her contributions to the field of scientific pedagogy. Born in 1870, she was one of the first women to attend medical school in Italy, graduating with honors in 1896. Montessori's educational method, which is still in use today, was influenced by the work of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, Édouard Séguin, Friedrich Fröbel, and Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. She is best known for her work at the Orthophrenic School, where she used sensory exploration and manipulatives to teach children with learning difficulties, and at the Casa dei Bambini, where she developed her own pedagogy based on observations of children at liberty in an environment prepared to meet their needs. Montessori believed that children have an innate program of development and that the role of the educator is to remove obstacles to this natural development and provide opportunities for it to proceed and flourish. Her educational method has been widely adopted and continues to be influential in classrooms around the world.

Richard Edward Clark

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Dr Richard E. Clark works at the Rossier School of Education as Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology and Technology. In that capacity, he focuses on researching best practices for human performance improvement, the attainment of advanced expertise, and new applications of instructional technology. Richard has written books such as Turning Research Into Results: A guide to selecting the right performance solutions, and has received several awards throughout his career, including the Thomas F. Gilbert distinguished professional achievement award, and the Thalheimer Award for bridging the gap between science and practice.

Nathan Pienkowski

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Nathan Pienkowski is Partner and Co-founder at BCL, a consultancy handling design and delivery of digital learning for companies. From British Petroleum to IBM and Johnson & Johnson, Nathan and BCL have brought learning tech and focused instructional design to some of the world’s biggest companies.

Julian Stodd

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Julian Stodd is an author, researcher, and consultant focused on the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems. He has written 14 books and over 2,000 blog posts and articles. As the founder of Sea Salt Learning, he is an evidence-based practitioner who works with organizations around the world to help them adapt and become fit for the Social Age.  He has an academic background in communication theory, psychology and neurophysiology, learning design, educational psychology, and philosophy, and is a mentor with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and a Trustee of Drake Music, a charity that works to break down barriers to music education and research.

John Robert Anderson

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John Robert Anderson is a professor of Psychology and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and has a PhD in psychology from Stanford. His research ranges from work on cognitive architecture and rationale analysis, to intelligent tutoring systems.

John’s work on cognitive stages when solving math problems is particularly interesting. Alongside Jon Fincham, Anderson mapped encoding, planning, solving, and response stages while subjects solved a formula, and determined how much time participants spent in each problem-solving stage

Additionally, John is known for rebutting non-evidence-based claims in mathematics education, including some claims that actively contradict agreed findings in cognitive psychology.

Barry Sheckley

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Barry Sheckley is an Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Connecticut and an expert in the relationship between experience and learning. Over three decades, his research has suggested that engaging individuals in ongoing inquiry about problems of practice is the most effective way to help them learn effectively.

In addition to his role at the University of Connecticut, Barry is also a former Ray Neag Professor of Adult Learning, and former Head of the Department of Educational Leadership in the Neag School of Education. He has received professional awards such as the Association of Continuing and Higher Education’s Marlowe Froke Award for Excellence in Professional Writing; the American Society for Training and Development’s Excellence in Research to Practice Award; a Doctor of Humane Letters, honorus causa, from the Board of Trustees University of New Hampshire. He also won a lifetime achievement award from the Council for Adult and Experiential Education for contributions to the field of adult and experiential learning.

Hadiya Nuriddin

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Hadiya Nuriddin has over 20 years of experience in learning and development and is the owner and CEO of consultancy Duets Learning. Nuriddin focuses on instructional design and development for both corporate and academic environments. She has extensive experience in designing, developing, and delivering both technical and professional development courses. She also designs and develops eLearning courses using Articulate Studio, Articulate Storyline, and Captivate. Hadiya is the author of the book StoryTraining: Selecting and Shaping Stories That Connect.

Ellen Wagner

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Ellen Wagner has run the gamut of educational experiences, from research professor and administrator in continuing education, to edtech entrepreneur and founder. Ellen is currently a partner of North Coast EduVisory Services, LLC, helping people understand emerging technology initiatives in education, including things like augmented reality and blockchain.

Ellen is perhaps best known for co-founding the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework, a predictive analytics research effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Saundra McGuire

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Dr. Saundra McGuire is the Director Emerita of the Center for Academic Success at Louisiana State University (LSU), where she was previously a chemistry professor and assistant vice chancellor. Sandra centers her work on the application of cognitive science to improve academic performance, particularly among university students. To that end, in 2015, Sandra wrote Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. She followed this with a version directed at students themselves in 2018.

Ant Pugh

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Ant Pugh is a freelance learning design consultant and instructional designer with over twenty years of experience in the field of learning and development (L&D).

Working with global clients such as ANZ, Westpac, Link Group, Microsoft, and Carnival, Ant is renowned for using a performance-based approach to design training and is passionate about implementing human-centered solutions to change behavior, improve performance, and deliver measurable business results.

Etienne Wenger-Trayner

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Etienne Wenger-Trayner is recognized in the field of social learning and has authored several popular books on the subject: Situated Learning, where the term “community of practice” was coined; Communities of Practice, which lays out a theory of social learning; Cultivating Communities of Practice, for practitioners in organizations; and Digital Habitats, about the use of technology.

His more recent books, co-authored with Beverly Wenger-Trayner, include Learning in Landscapes of Practice and Learning to make a difference. The latter **proposes a new framework for understanding and supporting social learning.

Etienne is also one of the most cited authors in the social sciences and the recipient of two honorary doctorates. To further develop social-learning theory, practice, and leadership, Etienne and Beverly recently founded the Social Learning Lab in Sesimbra, Portugal.

Robert Mager

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Robert "Bob" Mager was an American psychologist and author who focused on understanding and improving human performance. Bob's work on learning objectives, goal analysis, and the whole criterion-referenced instruction (CRI) framework also made a lasting impact on the field of instructional design.

He was also a pioneer in areas such as goal orientation, student evaluation, student motivation, classroom environment, educational change, performance technology, and instructional design.

Bob passed away in May 2020 at the age of 96.

John Sweller

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Dr. John Sweller is the brains behind cognitive load theory. An Emeritus Professor at UNSW Sydney in Australia, John formulated the idea of cognitive load in instructional design using our knowledge of evolutionary psychology and human cognitive architecture. The theory is now widely applied to instruction and training design across disciplines.

John has also authored over 180 academic publications and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia.

Paul A. Kirschner

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Paul A. Kirschner, dr.h.c. is an accomplished educator and researcher, with a wealth of experience in the field of educational psychology. He is currently Emeritus Professor at the Open University of the Netherlands, Guest Professor at the Thomas More University of Applied Science in Mechelen, Belgium, and owner of kirschner-ED, an educational consultancy company.

He is a research fellow of the American Educational Research Association, the International Society of the Learning Sciences, and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Science. Paul has published over 350 scientific articles as well as many popular articles for teacher journals and several books, including How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology, Evidence Informed Learning Design, and Urban Myths about Learning and Education.

Heidi Kirby

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Heidi Kirby is perhaps best known for her ‘pandemic podcast’ BLOC (Building Learning and Organizational Culture), in which she and fellow L&D experts help organizations improve their learning culture. She is also the co-founder of Usefull Stuff where you can get practical advice about L&D and instructional design.

With a Ph.D. in Instructional Design and Technology; and experience working with companies like NASA, Medical Mutual, and The University of Florida, Heidi’s expertise is in designing, developing, planning, and implementing learning solutions.

Brad Hokanson

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Brad Hokanson is a professor of Design at the University of Minnesota, and current Director of Graduate Studies at the same institution. With a background in the arts and design, Brad received a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology and now teaches creative problem-solving with a particular focus on problem-solving for learners. He’s published books on the topic, including Developing Creative Thinking in Learners and runs a super-successful Coursera MOOC on creativity.

Brad also walks the walk on great instruction—in 2002 and 2008, he won his college's awards for outstanding teaching and served as the Mertie Buckman Professor of Design Education from 2016–2021.

Philippa Hardman

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Dr Philippa Hardman is the creator and founder of the DOMS™️ Learning Design Engine, an evidence-based learning design process using learning science to help instructors design evidence-based learning experiences. The DOMS Engine is designed to 10X learner motivation & mastery.

Philippa didn’t come up with the process overnight. She’s spent 20+ years researching online & hybrid course design at institutions such as Cambridge & Harvard. Along the way, she’s also held titles such as Chief Learning Officer and VP of Learning at private companies and startups. In all her roles, she tried to connect “what we know about how humans learn with how we design learning experiences.”

Donald Norman

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Don Norman is co-founder the Nielsen Norman group, a user experience, and usability consulting firm. He’s also had a storied (and varied) career ranging from electrical engineer and computer scientist to university professor and Apple VP.

Don has had a deep influence on the discipline of cognitive systems engineering and is an energetic advocate for user-friendly design in everything, including learning. He’s honed his craft at places like Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, and has three honorary degrees as well. Don has over 10 published books to his name, including well-known titles such as *The Psychology of Everyday Things*.

Jane Bozarth

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Jane Bozarth is director of research for The Learning Guild, and the author of several books, including eLearning Solutions on a Shoestring, Social Media for Trainers, and Show Your Work: The Payoffs and How-To's of Working Out Loud.

Jane’s areas of expertise range from social media and eLearning to communities of practice. While she started out as a classroom teacher, Bozarth made the leap to eLearning in the late ‘90s and has since then gained a Ph.D. in training and development, and won the Guild Master Award in 2013 for her accomplishments and contributions to the eLearning community.

Cammy Bean

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Cammy Bean is an expert in instructional design and eLearning; and author of the industry-favorite book The Accidental Instructional Designer. She is currently a Senior Solutions Consultant at Kineo, a global company that provides custom e-learning solutions to its clients. In addition to her work at Kineo, Cammy is an accomplished public speaker and blogger. She has a B.A. in English and German Studies from Cornell University.

Lori Niles-Hofmann

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Lori Niles-Hofmann is a senior learning strategist with over 20 years of experience in the L&D industry, including expertise in international banking, management consulting, and marketing. She is known for her specialization in large-scale digital learning transformations and has a passion for helping companies navigate the complexities of change. With a track record of successful EdTech implementations, Lori has developed data-based methodologies and frameworks to empower L&D teams to become strategic drivers for their organizations. In addition to her work as a consultant, Lori is also the author of an eBook called Data-Driven Learning Design and a course about the same topic on LinkedIn Learning.

Joellyn Pollock

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Joellyn Pollock is a partner at Rising Stars LLC consultants, and Principal at Organizational and Instructional Innovators. There, Pollock consults on organizational process effectiveness and leadership development to increase employee and team performance.

With a Ph.D. from Arizona State in Educational Technology, Curriculum & Instructional Design, Joellyn has a wealth of extensive experience in organizational effectiveness, as well as creating effective work teams and leaders.

Michael Allen

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Dr. Michael Allen is the founder and CEO of Allen Interactions, a consultancy that optimizes business performance through eLearning and software. Over an almost 5 decade career ****in teaching, developing, and marketing interactive learning and performance support systems, Dr. Allen has defined unique methods of instructional design, including CCAF-based design and the SAM process for iterative instructional design.

On top of that, Michael has eight published books on eLearning to his name. In 2011, he received ATD’s Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance Award. A year later, he won the 2012 Ellis Island Medal of Honor. In 2014, the e-learning Guild presented Michael with its Guild Masters Award, which recognizes an individual for consistently contributing to the e-learning community in both quantity and quality of content.

Michael also has MA and Ph.D. degrees in educational psychology from The Ohio State University and is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

Olaf Zawacki-Richter

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Dr. Olaf Zawacki-Richter is a professor of educational technology at the University of Oldenburg in Germany and has more than 25 years of experience in open, distance, and digital education. He has edited several books, including Online Distance Education – Towards a Research Agenda, and Systematic Reviews in Educational Research. He also acts on several editorial boards and recently co-published (with Professor Insung Jung) the open-access Handbook of Open, Distance, and Digital Education (ODDE).

Olaf has also served as a consultant and advisor for institutions such as the United Nations' International Labor Organization, the Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, and the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat).

The Research Behind the List

How did we construct this list?

In order to find the most influential people, we talked to hundreds of people within instructional design and L&D. We asked them to name the people who had influenced them the most. We then reached out to the people who were mentioned as influencers, and in turn asked them who they have been influenced by. This way, we built a network of influence. We collected recommendations from more than 177 people and in total collected 799 recommendations (so around 4.5 recommendations per recommender).

As an example, William Cronje from our team has drawn influence from Guy Wallace, who in turn has been influenced by Jane Bozarth (among others). With this network, we could then map out the most influential people. We analyzed who were mentioned as an influence often, but also who influenced the influential people. So if many of the influential people were influenced by the same person, then that person has influenced the whole industry even more. In order to rank people by their "network influence", we used the PageRank algorithm developed by Google to assess importance of websites - they realized that websites were important if other important websites linked to them.

Based on this analysis, we have selected the 100 people who have had the most influence on the industry. They are the people listed here.


As with any piece of research, there are of course limitations to the methods we used. Here we have tried to list some of them.

  1. When building a network of influence, we are for good reasons not able to talk to people who are dead. Consequently we don't get to see who influenced some of the original thinkers. One way to address this in a future update would be to use their academic citations (when available) to determine which other researchers they were inspired by.
  2. Given that the fields are broad and overlapping, people chose different strategies for who to recommend. Some people went back to the original thinkers (like Socrates), and some people said that their biggest inspiration was one of their current colleagues. Similarly, some people were inspired by people within their own field, and some people drew their inspiration from outside of their own field. As a consequence, the influence network contains recommendations of different types. We decided to treat them all in the same way to get as much data as possible. This also allows us to illustrate the complex network of influence that exists.
  3. While the PageRank is excellent in design, it does come with some arbitrary results. What is better - getting recommended by three people, or getting a recommendation by a top influencer? We used the default parameters of PageRank as recommended by Google in order to create our list - but of course changing parameters could change the order. That being said, most of the top 100 list was quite stable under different parameters.

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