Do you know the way to Learning Paths?

I

believe that moving your content into a learning path is the best way to address learner needs today.

A bold statement that generates lots of questions from learning professionals: what are paths, what makes a good learning path and where do I start to move my content?

The answers depend on your role, but generally, this is a change that requires people to evaluate learner needs, prioritize solutions and come up with a new strategy. All actions we have taken before. And the good news is that there is new technology that makes it easier.

First, what is a learning path?

A learning path offers answers to learners using a variety of modalities that start with simple and short, followed by increasing depth. They provide a way to become as knowledgeable as the learner wishes or needs. They address what people are calling the consumerization of learning. Giving learners the options to find and consume learning as they need it. The role of learning paths is to be a guide.

If you ski, you are familiar with the trail maps that ski resorts have. Trails are cut and created with the end user’s level of competency in mind. Beginners, marked with a green circle, have gentle slopes with wide paths. Experts, marked with a black diamond, have lots of steep terrain with bumps and challenges. A great ski resort offers skiers a variety of choices at each level. Beginners start on the Bunny Slope – the widest and easiest trail but then they can ride a lift to the top and take a gentle, winding slope down.

What makes a good learning paths?

· Paths should answer a moment of need

· Paths should give choices

· Paths should have different modalities

· Paths should have depth

· Paths should include a social aspect

· Paths must be engaging

One of the choices is do you build a strong path that covers many subjects or many paths separated by subject. I am in favor of the latter. If you create many paths, you can then set up a curriculum that would drive learners to address multiple needs.

For example, you need a solution for new managers. A classic case of what got you here won’t take you there. There are many new skills for them to learn. Often, these are given months after the new manager starts in a typical 2-day scenario. Typically, they forget most of that content. Using a curriculum of paths, the content can be delivered in focused pieces that are easy to find and to reference. They can find what they need today and build their expertise in virtual cohorts. That would be more experiential, and help to build relationships.

Learning paths, micro learning and technology can provide short immediate help and a way to deepen their knowledge in many areas.

Where to start?

Most corporate paths start with a moment of need. Create bite sized, mobile enabled content that solves the top questions your learners have. Give them a point of reference that is way better than “googling an answer” that is in corporate brand and builds a learning culture.

If you have read my other posts, you know that I am an advocate of the new learning portals. There are lots of them now and more variations each month. Some sit on top of an LMS, some can replace an LMS, some sit within Salesforce.com. Which one would work best for you? That depends [insert ad here]. That analysis is part of what I and my WillLearn associates do.

Generally, look at your current infrastructure. Do you need a hosting service (like an LCMS or some LMS) or a user interface? Do you have social, interaction, requirements for personalization and mobility? Do you need content in bite sizes in addition to your content? And do you need single sign on or ties to an HRIS?

The key is to have a system that allows content curation and assets search, along with a way to tie in more assets to dive deeper into a topic. If you are a training provider, there are also systems now that allow you to host your content on the cloud and integrate paths.

Other investments

There are investments to be made to create innovative learning. Fortunately, startups are emerging every day that address many of those need. There are platforms, animation creation software, video hosting and editing, programs to convert slides to interactive videos and more. Many of these new programs are significantly more sophisticated than just a year ago. Many allow people to create bite sized learning that looks quite professional with a drag and drop, no programing interface.

I recently signed up to take a course on one of the huge libraries in programming in a sophisticated e-learning tool. The course was set up in 2-5 minute segments that allowed me to learn in pieces. But it was 32 segments. Thirty two! Boring and not engaging. I did not finish.

Having a social element is a great investment. If you already use a tool (Yammer, Chatter, Slack, Jive, etc.), add communities and discussions. Many portals have social aspects that tie into paths.

If you build it…

Lastly, you need to communicate the solutions you are offering. Marketing still rules.

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