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Construction time: new architectures for learning and mobile

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 24th February 2012.

In the final installment of a three-part piece, John Helmer concludes his report from the Learning Technologies /Learning & Skills Conference and Exhibition with a summary of LINE’s Design Director, Andrew Joly’s seminar, Building on Learning Architectures.

Learning architectures – one year on

It was almost a year to the day since Andrew Joly’s first presentation in any public forum of LINE’s take on Learning Architectures, at the previous year’s Learning Technologies exhibition in January 2011. Since that time, LINE has seen the concept take hold, both with clients and in the wider arena of learning.

In the process of explaining this new architectural approach to learning, Joly found that it resonated with clients, many of whom were acquainted, to varying degrees, with the 70/20/10 concept, and looking for help in taking a structured approach to informal and social learning. The architecture metaphor, and the ‘3 dimensions’ model put forward by Joly provided a structure and a strategy for the different pathways through various interactions that can happen within today’s blended learning programmes.

The ‘Mailiens’ programme created by LINE was initially used as the example of a learning architecture, relatively simple as it was. Through the year, LINE found itself involved in larger-scale, more complex architectures as the concept began to be implemented with more and more clients. It has proved very effective and successful. Programmes for Jaguar Land Rover, British Airways and BP, among others, have all used this architectural approach. In the months ahead, there will be detailed case studies to share that will hopefully add to public understanding of learning architectures through examination of specific programmes.


LINE’s ideas about learning architecures were developed within the company during the year, through writings on the blog and articles in the trade press by Steve Barden, Head of Consulting, and Piers Lea, CEO. A white paper was issued. Account Director Patrick Thomas contributed a notable broadside on the death of the course called RIP e-learning?.

In the public arena too, the concept has taken root and grown.

February 2011 saw the publication of Clive Shepherd’s book The New Learning Architect which ably attacks the subject from the practitioner point of view.

Clive joined LINE as guest speaker at the Learning Architectures Symposium held at London’s Royal Institution, where the concept was explained to an audience of practitioners and was further developed in some interactive group workshops.

Throughout the year, Joly found more and more people talking about learning in an architectural way and using the same type of thinking and language. A notable example was this Clark Quinn blog piece.


Towards Maturity’s latest benchmark report, released in Autumn of 2011, provided some quantitative data to show the spread of learning-architectures-style behaviours within organistions, e.g.:

  • Learning moving closer to the workplace
  • Organisations using different content strategies
  • More nuggetisation, less courses, a wider range of tools and modalities
  • An increasing amount of learning happening outside the remit of L&D

The future

A key focus for the months and years ahead is going to be the applicability of Learning Architectures: how can success and learnings achieved on one project or programme be distilled in a way that can help others?

LINE’s experience has been that it is hard to do this from one organisation to another – organisations are diverse, and their needs and situations differ widely. However it is easier to do when they face the same learning challenge, or training type – e.g. Sales training, induction, etc. Following this latter route, LINE is beginning to define patterns and architectures that can be benchmarked and reused.

A further important focus, as was made extremely clear at this year’s Learning Technologies, is going to be mobile learning. As Joly said, it is no good just talking about apps. Mobile learning needs an architecture of its own within an organisation. At the same time, an architecture that describes a particular learning programme, or the overall learning provision within an organisation, will increasingly have to factor in the growing role of mobile.