Why we should consider the entire learning journey
Posted on 8th July, 2015 by Imogen Casebourne
At LEO, we believe that learning journey design is key to creating learning impact. In this blog, I am going to talk a little about what the term means and explain why we think it is so important and what the implications are.
What do we mean by the term ‘learning journey’?
A learning journey is a designed learning experience that occurs over a period of time and involves a whole series of different learning elements and learning experiences involving different methods and channels.
Evidence from DDI research (Be Better Than Average: a study on the state of frontline leadership) makes a strong case for the importance of this approach:
“DDI’s Global Leadership Forecast 2011 found that organizations that have highly effective development programs use 32 percent more methods of development. But it is not just about the quantity; it’s about the quality. And the quality comes from a focus on more than just formal learning; it comes from a true focus on continuous learning and learning journeys.
Training should not be approached as a one-time event. Instead, training should be seen as an integral part of the “learning journey,” which should be closely aligned with the challenges facing an organization and what leaders must do to drive the business forward. This journey takes place over time and consists of multiple formal and informal learning components and experiences. It begins with a review of relevant organizational and assessment data, the business drivers, and the target audience’s development gaps. This information can then serve as the starting point for designing the learning journey.”
Why is this approach so effective?
That learner journeys can be extremely effective is further evidenced by two projects that LEO worked on, both commissioned by the NHS but for very different audiences: a learning journey that formed part of a Master’s course for leaders, and a learning journey aimed at unqualified palliative carers working in care homes. In both these cases, we worked with experts to design learning journeys that consisted of multiple touchpoints, delivered flexibly over an extended period of time.
Both were extremely well received by both learners and commissioners. In the latter case, independent research by the University of Bedfordshire showed significant impact on key measures such as learner confidence in having difficult conversations with residents, manager confidence and bottom line measures such as numbers of preference forms filled out and reduction in hospital admissions.
What learners find especially helpful is the structure provided by the learning journey, which makes it clear what people should do next and how much time they should set aside, but also offers a high level of flexibility around where and when they should study, together with the multiple modes and channels for learning, which help embed key skills rapidly and effectively.
How do you design a learner journey?
Designing a learning journey is very different from designing a classroom session or an e-learning module.
We need to think about the learning process over quite a prolonged period of time. A timeframe for a learner journey might be weeks, months or even (and quite often) years.
We need to think about all the other things that may be happening to the learner over that period of time – things which may contribute to peaks and troughs in their enthusiasm for the topic concerned and to their tenacity when the going gets tough. We need to think about threshold concepts (things that may be sticking points which may cause frustration and despair, then elation when things suddenly become clear). And we need to think about the different modes of learning that will come into play along the way and the media and channels through which people will best learn.
Modes of learning might include listening, reading, watching, writing, talking to others and solving problems as a group. Media might include videos, podcasts, books, emails, workbooks, diaries, learning lockers and more and delivery channels might include face-to-face sessions, portals, video calls, discussion groups, e-learning, mobile-enabled learning and more.
If this all sounds complex, that is because it is. Designing a learning journey is no simple task, and we draw on insights from psychology, education research, design thinking and communications technology to put learning journeys together. The good news is that the results can be both powerful and impactful, and LEO’s experts know how to bring all these elements together to deliver impressive bottom line results.
Our ebook, ‘The art of the possible’, shows how you can use some of today’s most exciting technology to design a learning journey that really works.
Imogen Casebourne is LEO’s Director of Learning.