Wouldn’t it be nice if every training program you worked on was starting from a clean slate, with no history, no background? You could do all of the cool things you hear about and not worry about learner and stakeholder expectations. We often focus on the new, but yet, our work is most often on the transition.
A transition implies that letting go of something you were doing to move on or include something new. In my work, what I encounter is most people have been designing training to accomplish learning and now, they want to design learning clusters instead.
What’s a learning cluster you ask? A learning cluster is a strategically selected set of learning assets, across ways, times, and places tailored to meet the needs of diverse learners, in order to close a specific on-the-job capability gap (Designing for Modern Learning, 2020).
A learning cluster is more than blended learning, which controls the learner's path through multiple learning assets in a preset, defined sequence, often online before and after a class or other event.
It is about learning creators and leaders:
>> Setting their sights on on-the-job change, not end-of-classroom
>> Customizing and building inclusive learning by designing for meaningful learner personas, not a single target audience
>> Moving outside of the classroom/vILT, elearning, videos to a set of learning assets across social, formal, and immediate means
>> No longer using intuition to select these assets, but a consistent methodology and set of principles to make an optimal learning experience
I love what Margaret Wheatley says in her book, Leadership the New Science:
“We cannot hope to make sense using our old maps. It won’t help to dust them off or reprint them in bold colors. The more we rely on them, the more disoriented we become. They cause us to focus on the wrong things and blind us to what’s significant. Using them, we will journey only to greater chaos.”
You might have a learning design model and a learning strategy already in place. It might be one that everyone on your team is skilled in and familiar with. It’s your well worn map you always use.
But, that map doesn't help you identify gaps in modern learning design. It helps you do what you’ve always done, go where you’ve always gone.
Which means you will get what you’ve always gotten.
How to Identify Gaps in Learning Strategy using the Learning Cluster Design Model
The Owens-Kadakia Learning Cluster Design model, or LCD model for short, was designed with an entirely new job for learning creators in mind: to deliver more than one thing always for any business initiative. Rather than assuming the job is to deliver a single course to meet a business challenge, the new assumption is that we are and will deliver multiple learning assets.
Why is that our assumption? Because that is how modern learners learn. Think about the last time you learned something. Did you use one thing, go to one place? Or did you go to multiple? Did you go at one time? Or did you spread your learning across time? This is the first and biggest gap in our learning strategies. Are we still assuming our goal is to deliver a curriculum given a learning challenge? If so, we have a gap we need to address between what we are delivering and how our learners are learning.
So we set a new goal. Whenever we change our goal, we also need to change our strategy and tactics.
As outlined in the book, Designing for Modern Learning, the LCD model is made up of five Actions, each of which enables a meaningful transition towards the goal of delivering learning clusters that target on-the-job behavior change.
- Change On the Job Behavior Action - in this Action, we set the goal for the learning cluster through a set of statements that creates a connection between stakeholders’ business pain and learners’ on-the-job performance.
- Learn Learner-to-Learner Differences Action - in this Action, we develop distinct and meaningful learner personas for the initiative at hand
- Upgrade Existing Assets Action - in this Action, we assess the content and experience of each of our existing learning assets and determine what to reuse, repurpose, or sunset.
- Surround Learners with Meaningful Assets Action - in this Action, based on the data from the earlier Actions, we select the 5-10 learning assets that will make up the learning cluster.
- Track Transformation Action - in this Action, we select up to 5 measures that tell the story of the business impact our cluster will have
A picture (or in this case, a video!) is worth a thousand words. Here’s an example of the output - a learning cluster with learning assets tied to learner personas.
Below, we share a few examples of Learning Clusters in action and what gaps they identified from those who have invested in learning the model at an intermediate or expert level.
Identifying the Right Project to Go After
How many of our projects really seek to address a critical business problem? We might find ourselves pushed into the compliance corner, which, while important work, is the lowest hanging fruit in learning and creates a vicious cycle of proving our worth to our organization. A large part of our work, whether we are leaders or individual contributors, is to pick the right work out of all the work we could possibly do.
Jeff Irwin, L&D leader at Brandt Holdings, uncovered exactly that gap in his organization during his upskilling experience on the LCD model. When working on the Change Action, he switched gears from a run-of-the-mill project with low business impact to one with a potential of $12 million in savings for the organization. Irwin works on training technicians in the field and realized the biggest unmet need is to build capability to make accurate estimates.