Much has changed in training recently. Learning professionals are adapting to new technology, new blends, new tools and a completely new approach. Overwhelmed by the plethora of information, learners feel that they no longer have time for classes, let alone curricula that force them to take a linear view. They want to learn, but they expect a consumer experience. Thus, the drive toward digital learning.

More flexible than traditional constructs, digital learning still has a taxonomy. A group of related content is a learning path or pathway. Pathways contain a new blend of elements that can include a number of different modalities, formats and solutions. Learning paths can be linear (following steps 1 through N) or not. They can include a blend of microlearning and macro-learning. And they can mix modalities like courses, articles, videos, livestreams, text and quizzes. Lastly, paths should address the different ways that different people learn.

The best learning paths require a new mindset: design to solve an immediate need followed by greater depth. This mindset means creating and curating to build specific knowledge – quite different from what is typically created in an LMS.

Learning Experience Platforms

We have dealt with bad user experience for a while, which we can see in the low net promoter scores that L&D and LMSs currently receive. Some enterprises have written new front ends to their LMS or used new tools to create content outside of the LMS. Some have subscribed to one or more of the new online learning libraries, which provide basic content on a variety of subjects or focused content in one area. The result? Multiple sources on multiple sites. There’s good content, but it’s hard to find or use.

Today, there are a number of learning experience platforms (LXPs) that aggregate these sources and provide one interface to the learner. These platforms can also help create, curate and blend content into learning paths. The result? One platform that aggregates all of the content with a great user experience and, therefore, more use. An LXP gives you the ability to solve the discovery challenge and build the continuous learning habit. Now, you can create true digital learning paths that blend formal, informal, internal and external content.

Content Discovery

Research has shown that many knowledge workers spend as much as one day per week searching for answers. Once they have found an answer, is it the right one? There’s no question that whether or not we are millennials, we all Google for answers.

Let’s say a new manager is about to have her first coaching session with an employee. She has not taken the “Welcome to Management” course for her area in three months. She can Google “employee coaching” and find 56 million answers. None of the results on the first page discusses the G.R.O.W. model (which her company prefers) or uses the voice or method her company prefers. She has a moment of need.

If her company had an LXP, she could discover a learning path that starts with a quick video on the model and key ideas to implement it. The path could contain a quick course from a subscription vendor, an article from a journal, another video and a link to a longer course. She would see insights simply by typing “coaching” into the tool; the right answers would appear in a blend of internal, external, formal and informal content.

Creating and Curating the New Blend

What are the best practices to create effective learning paths? The first imperative is to solve the moment of need. Do that well, and you can drive the learner to want to learn more. Digital learning does not mean an end to creative creation. It means new tools to create engaging content with animations and interactivity as well as learning curation.

Curation is both an art and a science. Mixing internal and external content gives a broader perspective and requires good design. Good curation has three basic steps: find, filter and blend. To find internal and external sources, you can Google or use subject matter experts and influencers, as well as your knowledge of the subject, to search and select content. The key to good curation is to then filter what you have found. Ask:

  • Why does the content exist?
  • Is it an ad?
  • Does it use the company’s point of view and voice?
  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it worth the time to consume?
  • Is there a flow or a story?

Make sure that your final content addresses the moment of need and builds with a variety of modalities and types of content. Remember that people learn in different ways, and address each way.

The Bottom Line

Consumerization has driven new expectations from our learners and leaders. Expectations are driving change to aggregate and curate from multiple content sources, from LMSs to external subscriptions. Using learning paths solves the moment of need and drives employees to want to learn more. Paths tell a story or create a flow that addresses how we all learn best. Training professionals who learn to create and curate effective learning paths will build the skills needed today.