Performance-based Curriculum Architecture Design and Learning Paths Have Been Around Since the Early 1980s!

Every Target Audience could have their very own T&D Path, Learning Path, Learning Map, Learning Continuum, etc. Be they PUSH or PULL Target Audiences.

But start with PUSH. First things first. Address their needs deliberately. And offer what of that “fits” for all of the other PULL Target Audiences as well, as appropriate. For financial rewards – where and when it makes business sense. Just because they could doesn’t mean they should. Think R for I.

Note – I’ve been writing about how to do this “CAD Stuff” since that first article that I co-authored with my business partners and one of our new employees (who wasn’t busy with billable work), published in Training Magazine in September 1984.

The Curriculum Architecture Design process of the PACT Processes has been more recently covered in my 1999 book: lean-ISD.

Lean-ISD is available as a free, 404-page PDF at – and more recently was covered in ASTD’s Links’ In Practice series in August 2004 – and even more recently in ISPI’s monthly Performance Express – see the 12-part series for 2007.

It all started – this CAD stuff – with a project back in 1982 – another story for another time.

This is about T&D Paths – also known as: Learning Path, Learning Map, etc. it is all about a formal Learning Continuum for both formal and informal learning.

A path to guide planning efforts. A path as rigorous as required and as flexible as feasible. This is not a new concept.

The Beginning-Middle-End of the T&D Path
The beginning of the Path is about On-Boarding needs.

The beginning of the beginning of a Path should typically be Orientations to the organizations, processes, teams and all other jobs relevant to the Target Audience’s own job. This could include videos, interactive e-learning, self-paced readings online and on paper, structured interviews with one’s boss, peers, internal clients and suppliers and all other relevant stakeholders and their representatives. There are many viable means to the ends of getting a clear picture of the organization and one’s place in it. And for many jobs this is critical. For other jobs this is less critical. Self-paced and S-OJT are practical deployment strategies.

The middle of the beginning of this Path should include detailed Orientations to the Areas of Performance of the Target Audience’s job. These serve as advanced organizers for all of the learning to follow. Formal or informal – but all “by design.” Self-paced and S-OJT are practical deployment strategies when having it all done in a series of classroom experiences, even with labs some of the time, is not the right route.

The end of the beginning of this Path should be all of the Immediate Survival Skills needed…enough of their total training needs covered – to keep them out of the ditch as they develop over time. Because that apparoach is deemed “safe enough” given the risks and rewards – which should not be significant – and are not for many jobs. But not all jobs. Self-paced and S-OJT are not always the practical deployment strategies – sometimes employing “hands on” in a simulation/lab environment for drill-and-practice with appropriate corrective and reinforcing feedback is needed. “You can’t learn to ride a bike by reading Google,” a phrase I attribute to Clark Quinn – I’ll check on that. Hmmm.

But for some jobs it is really necessary to teach them all of the job before allowing them to do the job – airline pilots. Nurses. Nuclear power plant operators. Etc.

So the end of the beginning is the end for many. But for others it truly is just the beginning.

The Middle-to-the-End of the Path
The middle to the end of the Path is about On-Going Development needs. For where appropriate.

Above, the Design Team of Master Performers who had all been on the Analysis Team, with the guidance of the CAD Designer, organized the analysis data into a configuration that made sense to them as they systematically processed the data, embellishing as they went, to create the T&D Paths (there were two produced in that project). For a supervisor and that job’s boss.

The Design Team’s involvement insured that the design was practical/feasible. It could be done. Would management make the investments required for the highest priority gaps/maintenance areas? After all, not all opportunities are equal in their ROI potential. Just because you can….

Another Path example – below – where The End of the Beginning covered the immediate survival skills which covered the whole job. As needed for this Target Audience.

Their “On-Going” Path content (not included in the Path with the Client’s understanding that it would still need to be deployed/accessed) would only contain all changed/new content – for new/changed products, tools, processes, etc. And then any of those changes would be reflected in the updated Path for all those trainees/learners/Performers to come.

The Path, again, is to provide a visual for creating initial awareness – and allowing some people to scan the Path and mentally plan their development. Of course they might need or want to do that more formally, as their Enterprise requirements dictate or not. Think: menu of learning downselected from the very many to the appropriate subset for further consideration.

Below – a T&D Event “item/descriptor” from one Path/Menu. This must pass the “sniff test” of all who scan the Path for it’s logical organization, timing and the sequence of titles, their deployment means and their lengths – it either makes sense to its Target Audiences and their stakeholders – as “a whole/integrated set of performance-enabling content” – or it does not.

It either works – or it does not.

Where the red dot is “half” that signal that we have some content – but it needs modification/maintenance. When there is no dot – there is a total gap of content. But we now have a “specification” for those gaps – at two levels – Event and Module. Modules in CAD efforts are typically reconfigured within their Events later in the MCD efforts – as Lessons. And detailed further into Instructional Activities – the third level of design in PACT’s MCD/IAD methods/processes.

Click to enlarge/copy:

After The Beginning
If the job was totally taught in the “end of the beginning” of the Path by design, then the only training that one would find here post On-Boarding, are again, only the “delta/change content” for all of the changes in content previously seen/taken, but now changed/updated – or – brand new content. Changed procedures for equipment. New equipment and procedures. Etc.

If the job was not totally taught in the “end of the beginning” – then the middle to the end of the path is the “by design” content in a suggested sequence for downselect and development of an IDP – Individual Development Plan.

The most important thing about this device, the T&D Path, is the analysis data that feeds its design. But assuming that YOU CAN inform your design steps with accurate, complete and appropriate data about terminal performance and enabling knowledge/skills – then the Path is a great place to accumulate that data to inform design and development functions.

A Blend of Existing Content and Gaps
A T&D path immediately after a CAD project is a representation of the as is state of the formal curriculum offerings – and what is left currently being left to to informal means – but now can be “directed” – so what is it – formal or informal? Anyway – the CAD effort reconciles existing T&D’s fit to the performance-based needs – as directed by Master Performers.

It’s a starting point for development and maintenance and then requires continued “management” to keep it all evergreen (current).

Or why start in the first place with these investments?

Beware of GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out.
Make that GIGO – Good-stuff In Good-stuff Out in your ISD processes.

The devil is indeed in the details! And so is godliness. The trick is to design the analysis data-set and the processes/methods for its gathering – and then its processes for massaging into a design – all with that downsteam terminal objective in mind – the ability to perform tasks to produce outputs to meet stakeholder requirements. It “is” as simple as that.

This is all covered in the book lean-ISD – for the PACT Processes – and in greater detail with examples elsewhere in this Blog – and at my web site at – and at other online sites referenced elsewhere in this Blog.

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