One of the first times I remember designing learning was in high school. I had dry erase walls for my closet doors and every couple of days, I taught myself and three other friends physics. After reading the textbook and hearing the teacher, I would take a go at the homework. And then, I would share where I’m at with my friends and we’d work through it together. I was learning by not only doing but teaching my thought process at the same time.

Even before digital technology, people have been learning in a variety of ways. Digital technology has just made many more ways, times, and places possible.

So it struck me, why do we focus all of our energy on designing one learning asset at a time when it comes to workplace learning? 

Especially when you consider that the stakes are high: businesses need talented individuals and talented individuals love to learn.

In 2015, a colleague and I designed a new model for designing learning, the Learning Cluster Design Model.

 The model’s goal is to change on-the-job behavior.
 How? Through five Actions, each with its own Tool, that help learning creators design something new: a learning cluster
→ What is a Learning Cluster? A set of meaningful learning assets across ways, times, and places.

It’s a simple enough idea – instead of designing one thing, be it a class, a video, blended learning, or e-learning, start designing a collection of learning assets.

Yet, this simple idea breaks through many of L&D’s limitations.

→ Meeting Diverse Learner Needs. Because we aren’t limited to putting all of our content into a single course or program, we no longer have to design for the lowest common denominator learner. We can tailor different assets towards different learners and their needs (and we do this through our learner persona method, which is quite different from other approaches).

→ Make Business Impact. Because we aren’t relying on a single asset to make the change on the job, we can be more confident that more than one asset targeted to a variety of learners can have business impact. We can share that greater confidence back with the sponsors of our work.

→ Drive Learning Transfer. We can also free ourselves from wondering what happens after the class or the first time learners learn something. We know that what happens is that learners will have other learning assets for learning more when they apply or run into a challenge.

To do this seemingly simple idea of multiple assets is not so simple in practice. Usually, learning creators primarily rely on their own intuition to pick and design different assets that address the same topic.

Having a concrete model to follow gives a consistent way to develop a strategic design, over and over again. Especially a model that has now been tried by thousands of users and across many industries and even countries.

It’s amazing to me how my own experiences as a learner have fueled me to help evolve the learning industry.

Some food for thought:
What is it like for you personally as a learner in today’s world?
When you are serving learners, how are you helping on-the-job impact today and what do you wish for?

The above article was first featured in the Offbeat magazine.