In Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM (ATD Press, June 2020), L&D experts Crystal Kadakia and Lisa M.D. Owens introduce the Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design (OK-LCD) model to address the question of how L&D professionals can better design for modern learning.

In a world where learning is needed every day, the role of L&D is more important than ever, but the toolkit used by L&D professionals is outdated and incomplete. The expectations and realities of today’s learning environment are far more complex than traditional instructional design models were intended for. The holistic answer to learning in the modern workplace is the OK-LCD model. Owens states, “We believe that the OK-LCD model is more compatible with our current context of learning and working within a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. The model has greater potential to help learning professionals make a bigger impact with modern learning design.”

Developed and iterated over the past five years, the model is grounded in the fields of instructional systems development, neuroscience, cognitive and developmental psychology, and organization development. The OK-LCD model does not replace other ID models that guide L&D in how to create effective learning from start to finish; in fact, these models should still be used to design specific learning assets. But modern learning is about continuous, daily learning, across the flow of work, which is where OK-LCD comes in.

The model is based on four principles:

  • Go beyond one-and-done: Create multiple planned and unplanned learning assets across the flow of work—not just one asset, such as an event- or cohort-based course or class— to build employee capability.
  • Design the whole, not the parts: Design a strategically integrated set of learning assets—coined “learning clusters”— as opposed to designing random assets that don’t consider the impact of one asset on the others.
  • Focus on learner needs: Rather than focusing on what L&D can do (and most often does), focus on delivering learning assets for when, where, and how the learners need learning.
  • Change on-the-job behavior: Target the design to improve specific performance on the job where it counts, rather than only committing to knowledge and skills during a learning program.

OK-LCD is more than a philosophy and is composed of five Actions that L&D professionals can use to design learning clusters:
C: Change On-the-Job Behavior
L: Learn Learner-to-Learner-Differences
U: Upgrade Existing Assets
S: Surround Learners With Meaningful Assets
T-ER: Track Transformation of Everyone’s Results.

“If you approach a learning project as designing training and enabling knowledge acquisition, then you are living by time-honored, traditional instructional development principles and assumptions,” says Kadakia. “However, if instead you approach a learning project as designing and facilitating access to a wide variety of learning assets, and as empowering and measuring behavior change in the workplace, then you are living by the principles embedded in the Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design model—and you are seamlessly connecting learners with the resources trainers need to change behavior on the job to deliver the desired business results.”

Read more on at