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Designing for Modern Learning - Book Brief

Three learning strategies that will significantly improve your Learning and Development game.

The future of Learning and Development depends on you reading and embracing this excerpt from Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM. So dramatic… and so true.

highlighted book text on the future of learning and development
A Modern L&D Organization chapter excerpt, p 10

Bravo. I am 100% in agreement with this statement and the value training and development teams can and should bring to organizations. Crystal Kadakia and Lisa M.D. Owens have articulated it eloquently and accurately.

book entitled "Designing for Modern Learning", pen, journal, vase with spiky leaves and candle

I came across Designing for Modern Learning late 2020, and colleagues, let me tell you, I was quickly a fan of their approach. My team will be using the guidance the authors offer as we shape the future strategy of learning and development for our employees. I'd like to share with you three key points from the book that I see are relevant for every Talent Development Professional.

Book Briefs are not book reviews or summaries. They offer talent-development specific application from business, leadership and sundry books. In this Book Brief, we'll discuss three points from Designing Modern Learning that you can apply to your work in Talent, Learning and Development.

Learning Clusters Give Learners Multiple Strategic Touchpoints on a Topic

Learning clusters. Yes, we need those. Lots of learning clusters. Really, we should have been designing with learning clusters in mind all along. Training should not be a one-and-done activity. We need to reinforce it, re-experience it and often relearn it. Learning clusters will help nick that issue and give training stickiness*. It also addresses other training gaps, such as:

  • Providing learning in a format that is best for each learner

  • Stretching training dollars by using content for multiple purposes

  • Spacing out learning across a learning journey

"Learning clusters are a set of learning assets intended to address a specific performance gap across multiple contexts, which we call learning touchpoints." p 15

These learning touchpoints should be structured into social learning, formal learning and immediate learning touchpoints. It's a great match for the 70-20-10 guiding principle for developing employees, originally from the Center for Creative Leadership. 70% of what we learn is immediate, on-the-job, in the moment. 20% of what we learn, we learn from others - coaches, colleagues, mentors, via observation. The other 10% is in formal settings such as classrooms or online sessions. Designing a cluster of learning touchpoints allows learners to experience a topic in multiple ways, with various learning modes and when it's most needed for them.

*Stickiness is a technical term (not really) describing the phenomenon when training participants use and refer to what they've learned in a program.

Strategic Performance Objectives Connect Learning's Goal to Business' Goal

I love strategic performance objectives (SPOs). LOVE them. Here's why:

An "SPO describes the linkage between the desired workplace behavior (not end-of-class behavior) and the benefits of this behavior for the business, in terms that the business cares about." p 31

Strategic performance objectives in learning connect your efforts to business goals and how we help employees deliver on those goals. It's jazzy and it's exactly what the business needs from us Talent Pros.

An SPO is the central objective of the learning clusters you're going to design. All items included in your learning cluster must support the behavior change needed to achieve the strategic performance objective. We can use our practice of writing sharp learning objectives to create objectives that reflect the on-the-job behaviors that need to shift.

This extends our reach from the classroom or virtual learning space to the job floor, the desk or the assignment that are our learners' work environments.

Here's the model... it's lovely:

blue boxes, black lettering describe designing strategic learning objectives
Strategic Performance Objectives Model, p 31

Learners Want Material and Choices Designed For Them

Personalization is in. We want choices curated for us on our shopping platforms and social media encounters; we want the same consumer-driven experience in our HR and learning platforms, too.

This means that we, Talent & Learning Folk, at times need to think more like curators than creators. If we walk in learners' shoes, we can imagine that they'd like learning paths and content curated for them and on-demand. Searching for the best course in a vast library on the LMS (learning management system) is not helpful and we'll lose learners' interest quickly. They'll jump over to the web, make a quick search and get to learning. Let's do the curation for them to make the best courses on common topics readily available. Better yet, let's curate a learning path with clusters of available learning options. Kadakia and Owens call this the "For Me" element of modern learning elements (p 64).

Further, learners want to access learning when they want it. Isn't that how our brain works? We're in the middle of a task and we need a quick refresher, so we toggle over to Google, do a quick search, watch one minute of a video and then we're back focused on our task, applying what we learned. Let's provide access to high-quality, curated content when they need it. According to Kadakia and Owen's research 52% of learners want learning at the point of need (p 76).

Props to the Authors for Sharing Their Training & Development Expertise

As a wrap, I'd like to give props to Kadakia and Owens for sharing their expertise in a nicely packaged format in Designing for Modern Learning. They have enhanced traditional instructional methodology, showing how each model or technique is important and supportive of their approach.

I think you'll appreciate Kadakia's and Owens' action-oriented guidance. Each step of the model includes practical guidance on how to apply it. The examples and direction throughout are relevant and helpful.

You can find them online at Learning Cluster Design with classes, a community and helpful tools.

If you're in a learning and development role, you'll find plenty of useful advice in Designing for Modern Learning. Order a book today - you'll be able to apply the concepts quickly.

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Kadakia, Crystal and Lisa M.D. Owens. Designing for Modern Learning: Beyond ADDIE and SAM. ATD Press. 2020.

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