Let’s face it: Learning is tough. It’s messy. It’s effortful. And of course, it takes time. As learning professionals, we all know these truths, but the realities of our organizations and our learners often dictate otherwise. We focus on one-off “events” (e.g. online courses, ILT, bloated PowerPoint decks, etc.) in the hopes that something will stick and transfer of learning will occur, but everyone familiar with the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve knows just how much is retained in the days and weeks after those events. The need for journey-based learning is an imperative for organizations looking to secure better training ROI. Of course, these habits are difficult to break, so here are five ways you can start moving the needle toward journey-based learning within your organization.

1. Start With a Learner Journey Map.

Journey-driven learning is all about knowing what your learners need in any given moment. To develop this knowledge, empathy is key. A good empathy exercise is learner journey mapping, a strategy borrowed from customer journey mapping, which attempts to map out the entire customer buying experience in order to make sure the customer is supported at every stage. A learner journey map does the same for our “internal customers” by breaking down the various stages of the learner’s journey and mapping out their needs, thoughts and feelings across that journey. A learner journey map is a great way to gain internal buy-in by illustrating how learner needs are constantly evolving and need to be accommodated. Learner journey maps show how long, effortful and messy the journey to competency and performance is, emphasizing how ineffective one-off solutions can be.

2. High Context Is High Value.

How do you meaningfully break down a three-hour course into a six-month learning journey? What goes where, and in what format? Journey-based learning instills a new cadence of learning into your organization. Large, one-off events are replaced with shorter, more frequent interactions, forcing learners to re-engage at every touchpoint. How do you make these interactions meaningful? By giving learners what they want! Understand who they are and what they need in any given moment throughout their journey. The higher the context, the greater the buy-in. This strategy will provide you with focus when designing the journey.

3. Know When to Switch to Performance Support.

Training is a means to an end, and at a certain point, learners stop caring about “learning,” because they are too busy “doing.” Support them in their performance moment by providing them with instant impact instead of forcing them to deviate from their workflow. Work within your organization to curate the right resources. Involve your learners in the design of your performance support pieces so that you give them exactly what they need. A strong performance support strategy will provide tremendous impact in bridging the learning/performance gap.

4. Pay Attention to the UX of the Journey.

Journey-based learning requires multiple learner touchpoints, so it’s important to pay attention to how learners access them. Here, learning technology typically plays a critical role. If it takes five clicks and two minutes of troubleshooting for learners to reach where they want to be, there’s a good chance they won’t try it again. If your technology is prohibitive to accessing the learning experience, your learners will not make the investment. Make sure the technology aids, not impedes, the experience. Mobile technology has become an effective solution to this user experience (UX) challenge because of how well it aligns with the high-frequency, high-touchpoint cadence that journey-driven learning requires. Whether you are executing a reinforcement strategy or providing job aids, mobile deployment allows for quick access to what learners need, when they need it, in an easily digested format.

5. Data Is a Game-Changer.

In journey-driven learning, multiple touchpoints with the learner means multiple data points as well. From the learning designer’s point of view, access to these data is like finding gold. Now, you have a benchmark to measure change, a way to understand current and future learner needs, and tangible insight into what is working and not working at any given point in time along the journey. Whether it is knowing that after the six-month threshold, all your learners tend to struggle with topic A (rather than topic B), or that they prefer infographics to video in the performance moment, using data to better understand your learners on an ongoing basis will help you design smarter. That way, you can optimize your learner’s journey and help them reach where they need to be as quickly as possible.