About the Model

The Learning Cluster Design (LCD) Model is both a philosophy (new way of thinking) and a process (how to do it).

The Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design Model

The Learning Cluster Design (LCD) model guides L&D on how to surround learners with meaningful learning assets for a given performance gap. It is both a philosophy (way of thinking), with four principles, & a process (a way of doing), described by five Actions.

It was developed by Crystal Kadakia and Lisa MD Owens, experts in Learning & Development and Organization Development, through research and practice.

The Issues with Traditional ID Models

The goal of a traditional model no longer aligns with modern times. They inherently are designed to  help you design just ONE learning asset, such as a class, a course, or videos, at a time.

Traditional models like ADDIE and SAM are limited to guaranteeing learner performance and capability gain ONLY when using the asset – be it a class, video, e-learning, or app.

Traditional models don’t consider how to connect one asset to another. For any given topic, learners are left to navigate the overwhelming choices on their own .

The Possibilities with Learning Cluster Design

The LCD model is the first model to strategically guide and call for L&D to create a set of learning assets, or “learning cluster”, as the deliverable.

Because the focus is multiple assets across times and spaces, the LCD model enables targeting and impacting learner performance on-the-job — where it counts.

Rather than isolated assets, designed without considering one another, learning clusters take the work out of finding the best assets for learners and puts their energy towards learning.

The actions in the model guide L&D to put the learner needs and the business reality first – not what tools L&D has in their toolkit. This empowers L&D to continue exploring and including the latest technology.

What Stands Out About the Learning Cluster Design Model?

What People Think About the LCD Model?

Don’t just take our word for it – hear from the users of the model below.

The Five Actions

Each Action has a set of tools and expertise behind bringing them to life.

Change on-the-job behavior

Change On-the-Job Behavior – The Change Action is focused on setting the target goal (or strategic performance objective) for the overall process, specifically to affect employees’ performance in their day-to-day work.

Learn Learner-to-Learner Differences

Learn Learner-to-Learner Differences – The Learn Action is focused on investigating nuances within the target learner group of the effort, particularly those nuances that contribute to meeting the target goal.

Upgrade Existing Assets

Upgrade Existing Assets – The Upgrade Action is focused on applying the nine elements of modern learning to improve current programs quickly and effectively.

Surround Learners With Meaningful Assets

Surround Learners With Meaningful Assets – The Surround Action is the heart of the model. It is focused on selecting learning assets to subsequently design, based on the inputs of the first three early Actions.

Track Transformation for Everyone’s Results

Track Transformation for Everyone’s Results – The Track Action is focused on evaluating the impact of the learning cluster, with a particular emphasis on Levels 3 and 4 of the Kirkpatrick model.

The Four Principles

Go Beyond One-and-Done: L&D’s new role is to deliver and facilitate access to multiple learning assets, not one asset, per capability gap.

Design the Whole, Not the Parts: Multiple learning assets must be viewed and designed as part of an integrated whole. They must not be created ad hoc, with lack of consideration for one another.

Focus on Learner Needs: Whereas in the past L&D had limited tools to deliver learning, today we can and have an obligation to deliver learning when, where, and how the learner needs it.

Change On-the-Job Behavior: L&D can and should be held accountable for improving performance on the job, not just at the end of a classroom training, course, or program.

Did you know

Going a Little Deeper

An overview of the LCD Model

Who is a Modern Learner?


What is the Job of the Modern Learning Professional?

What is the value of the LCD Model?


What does the LCD Model solve for?

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.

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 a few others who share from their perspective and see our Case Studies page for use cases:

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, curricula, e-learning, 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 for below:

Join the Learning Cluster Design Movement

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!