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Seven tips for designing learner journeys

This post first appeared on the LINE blog on 20th June 2012.

LINE’s Design Director, Andrew Joly, gives valuable tips for designing learner journeys as part of a learning architecture. Third part in an ongoing series of posts about implementing learning architectures.

We are living in a world where the course is fast ceasing to be the default unit of instruction for organisational learning; where we think more about learner resources than about courses, and how these can be deployed so as to create effective, engaging experiences that can improve performance and develop individuals in the right way.

But without the backbone of the course to fall back on as a way of structuring these experiences, how do we go about creating meaningful, effective learner journeys within a learning architecture?

LINE has identified three critical elements of the implementation process that together provide the ‘mortar’ holding the bricks together in a learning architecture. These are:

  • Marketing
  • Learner journeys
  • Engagement

This post zeroes in on the second of these, learner journeys, and gives seven tips for designing them.

Building personalised learner journeys

team journeys

Personalisation of learning – moulding it to the needs and capabilities of each individual learner – is one of the most powerful new things web technology has brought to the world of learning. Where a course in the past would be a static structure that each had to follow, no matter what their level of existing knowledge, we now have the capability to deliver learning that flexes to the learner.

So, having launched and marketed our new learning initiative (See previous post, on marketing.) we now need to define and present the appropriate learner journeys for our audience. We need to ensure each learner engages in their own learning programme according to their specific needs, existing knowledge and experience, speed of learning or different roles and responsibilities.

This presents a challenge for those designing the programme; the challenge of delivering the right learner journey for every learner, keeping the learning experience flexible, evolving, live and appropriate at all times.

Below I give a number of tips to help with meeting this challenge.

Diagnostics

Carefully defined diagnostics will help ensure a targeted learning experience. Diagnostics can range from the use of surveys, deep competence analysis, psychometric testing and self-reflection, to intelligent curriculum restructuring and quiz or game engines. All can be used to develop an appropriate learner journey at the outset.

Effective tracking, feedback and evolution of the learner journey is also critical to continued success. We know that once a learner has left a programme, they are many times harder to get back; the key is for them to feel that their learning programme is live and adapting to their own experiences.

Curriculum Design

While we may be leaving the course model behind we still need to look at what change the learning initiative is aiming to achieve at the highest level and ensure that our learner journeys are developed to drive this change.

This may mean designing at a curriculum level, defining the knowledge and change requirements into core knowledge or change topics, and sub topics to reflect the broader requirements. We can then build the learner journeys through and around these. Look to focus on action, application, goal and the use of collaboration tools and nodes within the journeys.

Make best use of what’s there

Many of the larger and more complex projects that LINE has worked on over the last few years have involved the integration of existing media and learning content into new frameworks. Avoid re-inventing the wheel wherever possible, and make the best use of your organisation’s past investment in learning and knowledge content.

Sharing

One of the key foundations of our Learning Architecture approach is the use of collaboration and knowledge sharing in a learning programme. Look at current networking channels within the organisation and how you can integrate them into the learning journey design.

Getting the mix right

Ensure that the variety of media and approaches used in your programme enable engagement with a broad audience of potentially different learner types. Some organisations we work with now strongly favour video in the media mix. Others, again, effectively use pdf resources at the heart of a blended programme. We believe that a broader mix of media can offer real engagement, always keeping the user and learning focused.

Metacognition and signposting

Metacognition literally ‘knowing about knowing’ refers in this context to the learner’s own sense of the journey, and the strategies they need personally to employ in order to reach their learning goal.

Critical to success is that the learner has a clear view of their own journey; that they always know what is expected of them, how they are progressing and what to expect next.

Style

Ensure that the style and language used in a learning programme fits with a goal-oriented, bottom-up approach. Ask yourself, from the point of view of the learner: ‘why would I want to do this?’ – and let that viewpoint govern your approach, rather than taking the didactic (‘do this’) style of some traditional training. Difference in tone and style can have a great effect on a user’s perception of a learning initiative.

I’m going to conclude this post, as I did the previous one, with an example of LINE client programme where we helped to create successful learner journeys.

The journey towards change for The Body Shop

LINE worked closely with The Body Shop to develop and deliver a complex change programme aimed at leaders and managers, moving through phases tackling difficult structural change and transformation through to a positive ‘Team Energy’ phase. We also developed multi-media collateral under a programme sub-brand to ensure a cohesive experience.