It Takes More Than a Learning Path

Although having a set of prescribed job relevant-only information, instruction and experiences laid out in a path that then enables you and your boss/ peers/ team to down-select from the master list and suggested-sequence, and then re-sequence them in a formal Training Plan to meet your specific knowledge/skill needs and the timing of those needs – given your real-world set of task and output responsibilities is a good thing. It takes more than that.

But first let’s focus on the path itself. What is a Learning Path or as known by other names/labels?

I have been designing performance-based, Enterprise-context, PUSH Target Audience “Learning Paths” since 1982 – using what is now known as my PACT Process for CAD – Curriculum Architecture Design. In 74 projects I have designed over 125 T&D Paths or Learning Paths.

I think of a Learning Path initially as a framework – as initially framing the beginning, middle and end of a T&D Path – my term since the mid-1980s for what has more recently been called a Learning Path – say since the late 1990s.

I use that to initially organize a modular set of curricula to enable the real planning efforts by the learner and their management, and/or peers, teams, etc. into 3 buckets: B-M-E.

That modular set of curricula can include performance tests for performance certification (versus knowledge certification via knowledge tests).

So conceptually now, let me share with you more about my thinking about your initial framing of a Learning Path using the Beginning, Middle and End framework, which you can later reframe into 5 to 10 Phases, or Blocks, or Levels – whatever makes sense later in terms of numbers and labels. My clients over the decades have called them by a variety of names. That’s unimportant to me. To them, it may be a big deal.

To decide what to teach/expose when so that learning occurs when you want it to – as dictated by the real-world context of the learner/Performer is an important task for PUSH Target Audiences, less so for PULL Target Audiences. When you are targeting for ROI that is.

The goal of the Path designers are to create something “as flexible as feasible and as rigid as required.”


Every situation and context might be slightly unique from others. Let that be reflected in each of the Paths produced within an Enterprise. Be flexible when you can – and be rigid when you must be. Reflect that reality! No more, no less.

And if you are using Master Performers as your Analysis and Design Team members – then they will steer you onto the straight and narrow (or curvy and wide) Path as appropriate to the situation as they know it.

Who else would you ask?

The Beginning of the Path
The Beginning of the Path is the “on-boarding to initial competence” – which gets the learner to whatever level of competence is required. Before they take the wheel or take the floor – so to speak.

The level of competence required upon crossing the line in the path – the first finish line ribbon if you will, differs for every job, say for airline pilots and for department store sales associates. The former needs to pretty much have mastered everything before we can let them take the wheel so to speak – even with backup in the next seat – because of the high risks/rewards. And the latter needs to only have mastered the basics before going solo – with backup there in the form of other sales associates and management – and the much reduced risks/rewards.

So the path is either just the basics – or it is the basics and intermediate and advanced job skills training. The Beginning of the path for some is quick. For others it is long.

As always – it depends.

We use that initial framework – B-M-E – to help us sort the tasks-sets and the enabling knowledge/skills that I have assembled in my prior analysis efforts with a group of Master Performers. I now facilitate that same group or a sub-set of the Master Performers to sort that analysis data into my initial sorting framework of three: Beginning, Middle or End.

To do that we’ve got to “talk about” the path and what would B-M-E mean? When would the typical learner pass from B to M? From M to E? And complete E? Just to provide guidance to ourselves as a Design Team for our initial sorting of Tasks and enabling K/Ss from the Analysis Team’s prior efforts.

The Beginning of the T&D Path would most likely include the highest percentage of Formal Learning components, with the Middle and End of the Path having more Informal Learning.

Social Networks might be used for accomplishing an Event’s Task assignments, getting feedback from Peers before turning in assignments to a local coach or to the manager, etc.

The Middle of the Path
The Middle of the Path is the set of information, instruction and experiences that include more Electives than Highly Recommended, and fewer Mandatory (unless there are annual compliance training requirements to complete).

I’ve found that Design Teams of people from the target job/audience reflect the variance or the lack of variance of the job’s realities from whence they came, and that is a good thing. They will drive a higher level of modularity – so as to let people skip things that may not be relevant to their version of the job but relevant to others holding that same job title.

Job Titles are either broad or narrow buckets in which to group people for compensation purposes.

As always – it depends.

The broader they are in reality, the more modular your Learning Path needs to be. The more modular your Path the more likely the learning might be less efficient where pre-requisites might be sequenced improperly by the learner and their management – unless you bundle those modules “of the modular design” into one Event – to kind-of “force” the proper sequencing of the learning.

Your Path might prescribe sequences in some place – and have a more “open menu” in other places – along the Path.

Learners may not know what they need to know let alone what they don’t know. And in what order to learn things that would be more efficient – and EASIER for them.

When we suggest a sequence of Learning and empower they and their management to plan from there…depending on our situation we may be able to trust that most will do a good job at it.

Or we may conclude that given the realities of that context we have to empower less and disempower more – by bundling modules of content into Events and making those Mandatory or Highly Recommended – and then tracking who has taken what and when.

Sometimes in my Curriculum Architecture Design projects, many of the T&D Path’s Events are built with one Module in an Event, with a few Events that might have dozens and dozens of Modules in their composition.

The End of the Path
The End of the Path would have the most Electives, a few Highly Recommended, and probably no Mandatory training (unless there are annual compliance training requirements to complete).

Given the situationally feasible blend of deployment modes used in the Path, and the entire set of Enterprise Paths, there may be many deployment channels that needed to be put in place or re-engineered and then managed. These could include everything needed to enable Instructor led training to happen, or self-paced “e” learning or book reading to happen, or Coached or structured and unstructured OJT to happen via Social networking within, or within/without, the Enterprise to happen.

As always – it depends.

The Infrastructure Requirements for Supporting Learning Paths are Driven by the Process Requirements
I don’t know about your Enterprise’s model or methods for capturing and presenting it’s Processes, but my model for a function/ department/ team that might have been called T&D in the past and L&D in the current state, and might be called P&D in the future state, looks exactly like this:

My 47 Processes are bundled into 12 Systems and those are in three groupings, Leadership, Core and Support. Leadership and Support Systems and Processes are generally owned outside the department. Owned by others. Core are typically the Systems and Processes that are Unique to the department, that they “own.”

I use this template to assess the systems and processes that a L&D organization has in place to help them look at Risks and Rewards to our Stakeholders if we are too loose with our Process management – and where we need to tighten up. Most of the time that is what is needed, but there are times when some Processes were too tight and themselves needed to be loosened.

As always – it depends.

In 2007 I made these two books – and others – available as free PDFs – as well as paperbacks and Kindle books. Please check the Resource Tab.

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