Effective & Efficient Learning Paths

A Learning Curve Leads to Something

They can be deliberate or inadvertent. Learning Curves that is.

Also known as Learning Paths. Development Paths. Development Road Maps. Learning Maps. Learning Blueprints. A rose is a rose is a rose. Kinda.

But I digress.

They – Learning Paths – lead to “deliberate learnings” versus “any learnings” if they are indeed deliberate Paths of learnings, well designed, analysis inspired/guided, modular set of content – and not just a Collection of Modules. Very loose Paths are more Wandering Paths than Learning Paths.

Deliberate, performance-focused Learning Paths are therefore capable of being more efficient with their investments – to develop and deploy the content to enable learning to enable performance on-the-job, or why bother?

Targeted Learning is more efficient than Non-Targeted Learning.

Both can be effective or ineffective for that efficiency. Being more efficient with this years budget expenditures is kind of meaningless without a baseline of the metric and some understanding of the investments it took to change that number on the Score Card. Or did most numbers respond due to some outside influence?

You should want your Learning Solutions/Products to be both effective and very efficient in being effective.

Work On Effective Content First

Be focused on Performance. The performance of tasks to produce outputs to stakeholder requirements. Requirements of both the Product produced, but also of the Processes. Understanding the authentic performance requirements of the Learner is key. Otherwise your content is merely a collection of interesting – or not – titles.

I also use naming conventions to insure that the intended level of depth is understood when making the decision to put that content on the Path, or not.

And then used likewise when the Learner and their management or others – decides to put that content on the Path onto the Individual Development Plan (IDP) for the individual Learner. To plan the development of an individual consistent with the demands of the job – and – the incoming knowledge, skills, and abilities (Performance Competence). Deliberately.

Performance Competence graphic

Work on Efficient Content Second

Good design, of the entire Path for a learner Population, is key.

Incremental Design of each little, or big, chunk, leaves a lot to be desired.

Holistic Design of the entire Path, and the modular content – versus collecting modules – enables the designers to insure that performance is taught. And taught to the levels of awareness, knowledge, or skill needed back on the job.

The Incremental Design approach does not enable one to plan the holistic development of an individual to a level of targeted Performance Competence. Holistic Design does.

Incremental Design is a Big Problem in Learning Functions

Incremental Learning cannot be most efficient. But yet that is how most Learning functions approach each of their audiences.

I think Holistic Design is typically inappropriate for any learning path design and then development’s for a fairly non-consequential Target Audience.

That, in a Pareto sense, would suggest that 80% of the Target Audiences in any one Enterprise would be in that category.

Consequential Target Audiences should get the Holistic Design treatment, approach.

Can you tell if this next Path was produced using an Incremental Design approach, or the Holistic Design approach?

Or this one?

CAD Path Global Clinical Trials

Or this one?

CAD Path Supervisors

Or this one?

CAD Path Prod Mgrs

Sometimes you need to create a logical Path without all of the analysis and design effort – where you create a collection of Modules – and that Target Audience gets something.

Perhaps not effective, ultimately, and definitely not efficient.

Perhaps there will be too much un-Learning that needs to happen at first and/or along the way – down the Path.

Each Target Audience may be different.

golf 2

And so a Holistic Design – of the entire Learning & Development Path – would need to address the things that need to be un-Learned, one way or another, but successfully, for ultimate success.

It’s all about Performance.

At the Worker, Work  and Workplace levels.

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3 comments on “Effective & Efficient Learning Paths

  1. Hey, Guy –

    Hope your new year is fabulous. Maybe you can help me understand the difference between what you mean by incremental and holistic. I have terms I use that “I think” mean the same thing but I’m not sure what you intend to describe by incremental.

    Are you referring to the difference between insulated and integrated? Or is this something else entirely?


    • Hi Steve! By incremental design I mean designing (and developing) one event/course/ experience at a time and not being able then to plan spaced learning throughout. Not being to plan the incremental build of skills up front, by design. In any of those path examples I and the Design Team were able to logically build initial skills and reinforcements of easy K/Ss later on the pat, by design.

      I’m not familiar with “insulated” term in an ISD context.


      • Gotcha. Yes, we see quite a bit of that. One and done, fire and forget, on to the next unrelated endeavor. This is related to what I mean by insulated.

        In my lexicon, an insulated intervention (or classification of insulated interventions) doesn’t connect to anything. For example, one might have a library of online learning modules to transport information in support of a topic but very little that services the entire journey surrounding the core skills related to that topic. The bricks and mortar services may be thought of as a service line that is independent of any other intervention type. Stuff like job aids may rarely be seen as training aids because of the insulated “inner” view of the training function.

        We do pretty well in our organization with apprenticeship training and, in many cases, with our specialized formal training options. We also have informal mechanisms (decades old) for continuing the journey of proficiency (PQS, leadership structures). Even so, we’re still insulated in silos of function where the formal (push) components are concerned and I’m not sure we account for the power of all of the options or give much thought to spacing practice. I don’t think that’s *always* a bad thing but having these blinders on prevents big picture shifts towards better things.

        I think the isolated / insulated / incremental view is common in execution, if not in the visions that drive “solutions”. Organizations and people are big picture stuff. Getting folks like us to think about solutions in a big picture (holistic), connected, way is a challenge:)


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