The Learning Cluster Design (LCD) model is both a method (a way of doing) and a philosophy (a way of thinking) about designing and delivering learning. It was created by Crystal Kadakia and Lisa MD Owens in response to gaps in traditional learning design when applied in the digital age.
The LCD model changes the job of anyone who is helping others learn. Rather than the goal being to deliver a single class, course, video, immersive experience or learning asset to a target audience, the goal is to deliver a Learning Cluster. A Learning Cluster is a set of learning assets, across times, ways, and places, tailored to meaningful learner personas to change on-the-job behavior.
The LCD Model, through five Actions, each with its own Tool, shows you how to create a Learning Cluster.
To get an overview of the model and learn more about the goals, you can watch these videos or see our About page:
Why is Designing for Modern Learners Hard and What’s the Solution?
When Crystal and Lisa benchmarked over 50 other learning theories and models, the biggest gap was the basic fundamental presumption. Every model assumed the goal for a learning designer is to design one learning asset (think course, eLearning, set of videos, etc) — and those theories and models certainly help designers do that well!
What we found was that there was no model to show us how to strategically design more than one thing or multiple learning assets to meet a business goal.
The LCD model truly acts as a comprehensive umbrella, that can help a designer designing one initiative and at the same time, can help a leader develop a whole new strategy or culture around learning.
What Stands Out About the Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design Model?
While the LCD model has roots in the workplace training and development industry, the reality is that there are many roles where it is vital to help others learn.
These are just a few of the roles we’ve seen gain value from building capability in the model:
Training Professionals At All Levels and Roles – from instructional designers to facilitators to training managers to VPs of Talent Development
Customer Education Professionals – those involved in sales and marketing of a product. After all, every point of marketing involves a point of learning for prospective customers!
Change Managers & Organization Development Practitioners – Those looking to move beyond traditional powerpoint heavy/training roll outs + communication as the way to manage change, find the LCD model as a crucial way to truly create and implement a long term, long lasting change strategy
Executives & Leaders — leading a team or organization often involves constantly building capability and a learning culture. Often with the help of our consulting team, leaders use the LCD model as a foundational building block of their strategy, alongside other pieces.
Educators — Professors, teachers, and those managing the L&D of higher educators are finding the model incredibly useful in our remote learning world to re-imagine classroom learning approaches
External Consultants – Those who are hired by clients to create learning products are finding that being certified in the LCD model gives a significant competitive edge and new product offering, than the traditional outsourced design firm.
Education-Oriented Companies and Professional Associations — Organizations who sell training or offer education as their value proposition are reimagining their product strategy from classes and courses to learning clusters
Hear from Jen and Karen who share from their perspective and see our Case Studies page for use cases:
How the Learning Cluster Design Model Applies to Professionals Outside of the Training Industry
Who Is The Learning Cluster Design Virtual Practicum A Good Fit For
The Learning Cluster Design (LCD) model is both a method (a way of doing) and a philosophy (a way of thinking) about designing and delivering learning. It was created by Crystal Kadakia and Lisa MD Owens in response to the gaps in traditional learning design when applied in the digital age. In 2015, they were asked by the Association for Talent Development to explore modern learners and modern learning and the LCD model became the answer.
Some of these gaps include:
Gap #1 One-and-done events or programming – Digital age learners use many different ways to learn and use these ways in different times and places. If all we deliver is one class, curriculum, e-learning, or a set of videos, we are not able to meet the need.
Gap #2 One size fits all – Traditionally, we think of our audience as a single target audience and feel overwhelmed if we try to personalize or tailor. Yet, for learning to make a difference, digital-age learners look for their unique needs to be met.
Gap #3 Technology Without a Why – Though there is lots of new technology, learning fails to have a strategic method for determining which technology to invest in and often relies on the same old tools we are familiar with. We also struggle to leverage the full capability of today’s technology, because we don’t have a way of thinking and doing to pair with the tools.
These are just a few of the gaps Lisa and Crystal sought to address. You can learn more about the origin story and what LCD model solves below:
The Learning Cluster Design Model Origin Story | Designing for Modern Learning Beyond ADDIE and SAM
What Does the Learning Cluster Design Model Solve? | Designing for Modern Learning | Crystal Kadakia
We have a lot of evidence (and growing every day) on the impact and grounding of the model:
Lisa and Crystal, co-creators of the model, started teaching the model in 2015 and have now reached over 500 graduates
The Association for TAlent Development, the leading global association for the learning industry, published Designing for Modern Learning, Lisa and Crystal’s book showcasing the model. It continues to be a best seller and supported as a new foundational approach for all learning professionals to consider.
As Crystal and Lisa developed the LCD model, they conducted a literature review of over 50 learning design theories and models to ensure that the LCD model is distinct as well as supported by the latest neuroscience
We now have reached thousands with the book, speaking engagements, and our own learning assets to upskill in the model. More results are being shared every day on the impact of the model. Stay tuned to our YouTube channel and newsletter to hear these.
Blended learning, while using different ways of reaching and engaging learners, is designed with a particular start and stop, sequence, and often a cohort in mind. In Blended Learning, the learning deliverer retains control of when, where, and how learning will take place.
A Learning Cluster includes learning assets that are independent of time and place, that the learner decides when and where they want to engage. A Learning Cluster may still include formal assets that have a start and stop or time and place, but also includes social (through people) and immediate (accessible 24/7, on their own) learning assets. In these social and immediate assets, we let go of our control as designers and learning deliverers.
Social, Formal and Immediate are what we call the three learning touchpoints – and an effective learning cluster will have assets in all three touchpoints, addressing the needs of 3-5 learner personas.
We think of Blended Learning as the early 2010s evolution for learning. Learning Clusters is the evolution for the late 2010s and 2020s and beyond.
No, not at all! One of the great things about the LCD model is that it’s an evolution, not a revolution. We want you to use everything you know and everything you observe in your workplace. To that end, we share how the model works with other models (such as Bloom’s Taxonomy, Kirkpatrick’s Levels of Evaluation, Design Thinking, etc.) in our book, practicum, and other learning assets. Our Tools are designed to work with your intelligence – they are frameworks to guide you – not prescriptions!
Do You Suggest that L&D Stop Using Other Models? | Designing for Modern Learning Beyond ADDIE and SAM
For L&D consultants, we have an exclusive 30-Day L&D High Value Client Bootcamp designed to help you take your business from technical instructional design work to strategic consulting work
What sets us apart from other learning programs is that all our learning experiences come with a year-long membership.
Ask the Experts: You get access to our dedicated support team. After you’ve completed the formal learning components, you have experts who are always available to answer questions or provide feedback as you continue to practice the model
Learning Cluster Library – As an added bonus, you get unlimited access to our library of learning clusters for easy reference
Community of Practice calls – Ensure you stay ahead of the curve by building community, learn leading trends, and brainstorming challenges live.
Join thousands of successful learners today who have already tapped into the power of the LCD model to move their careers forward and improve the reputation of L&D in their company – join one of our LCD Courses now!
While our book certainly says a lot in thousands of words, learning by doing is a crucial way to change your behavior towards application. As the many alumni of the practicum share below, it gives you a chance to actually experience what you’ve read – with expert guidance and coaching to push you to new edges and learning.
Why Should I Take The Learning Cluster Design Workshop If I’ve Read The Book
We first start with a discovery calls to clarify the scope and contracting. We can help you figure out where to start and what the engagement would entail. Some of the most common types of engagements we do are:
LCD “Lite”: Based on existing data you already have and talking to 1-3 stakeholders, we can pull together a recommendation for a learning cluster within 2-3 weeks
LCD by the Action: You might just want help with a specific action, such as the Learn Action and developing Learner Personas, for an initiative. This can be as short as a one-day engagement (for the Change Action for example) or can be multiple weeks (usually for the Learn or Upgrade Actions)
Full LCD Execution: For business critical or complex initiatives, we can engage in a multi-month execution of the LCD model, including upwards of 30 learner interviews as well as developing learning assets. These projects usually take 3 to 6 months.
We then select the best resources to work on your project. You decide how involved you would like to be – from getting a window into our design process to just staying involved during major milestone reviews.
The magic is in the scoping – we are not order takers ourselves! We will work with you to understand your context and your why, before deciding what and how to approach the solution.
Our community of professional learning & education leaders is growing globally!
5,000+ readers of the top-selling ATD book, Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM
Over 300 graduates of the LCD foundational learning experience: the 2-week practicum
1,000+ attendees across the past year of free monthly dialogues on modern learning
130+ videos, 75+ articles and podcasts, and more!