Every L&D professional brings their own skill and style into designing learning experiences, but they may not always appreciate the connection between approaches to design and the overall learning models. Designing, producing, and delivering learning appropriate to the desired outcomes is key. For instance, if we take Charles Jennings’s 70:20:10 model (70% of learning from on-the-job experience, 20% from informal interactions, and 10% from formal training), we might sense that L&D would be making a mistake gearing a majority of its training for formal learning experiences, which account for a minority of learning impact.
Yet, for most of L&D’s history, the 10% of formal learning has received the most attention, both in resources and measurement. But in the post-learning-revolution world, we’re finally getting the technology and framework to effectively design for the 70% of experiential learning near the workflow and 20% of informal learning. What I hope to do with this week’s blog is to highlight the learning design styles that capture all 100% of the learning that happens in the ecosystem.
I’ve found that there are two perspectives to consider in planning the Design phase: the type of learning and the production of learning. In order to cover both features in adequate detail, part one of this blog will focus on types of learning, while next week’s blog will look at production.
How Soon? How Important?
When I say “types” of learning, I do not mean learning styles, such as visual or auditory, but rather individual training experiences at the level of actual participants. A participant may have no awareness of the difference between learning models, but certainly understands the difference between, say, new-hire training versus continuing education, which are types of learning programs.
Types of learning are categorized along two variables: time and sensitivity. The time spectrum represents the speed demanded to develop, deliver, and respond with learning experiences. An example of high time dependent learning might be developing employee talking points to respond to customer complaints of a critical network failure. Meanwhile, an example of low time dependent learning might be an employee onboarding program, which generally has plenty of time for response, development, and delivery.
The sensitivity spectrum indicates the risk to the business, essentially how significant a learning experience is to the overall business. A high sensitivity example of learning would be compliance training on a new industry regulation carrying considerable penalties if not completed. A low sensitivity example of learning might be a departmental request for a competitive matrix to be included in an optional training course.
Following are five major types of learning that fall along the Time/Sensitivity axes:
Low time dependence, low sensitivity – Formal learning typically seen as part of initial training or a new program. Onboarding training for new hires falls into this category.
Medium time dependence, low sensitivity – Additional, formal topical learning often associated with continuing education programs. Examples might include a continuing education workshop on overcoming sales objections, or simulated skills practice to keep employees fresh.
Low time dependence, high sensitivity – Formal, mandatory training necessitated by legal or regulatory compliance requirements. An eLearning module on professional standards of conduct or employee rights would be included in this category.
High time dependence, medium sensitivity – Informal learning for topic updates relevant in the near-future. Examples would include a PDF detailing upcoming product features, or a route change for drivers announced via social network.
High time dependence, high sensitivity – Informal learning needed to address critical, serious issues and situations. Such a learning experience might be a mass email to employees addressing response to an emergency or other relevant breaking news.
As you may have gathered, different types of learning require different levels of formality, corresponding roughly to their level of time dependence. As we’ll see in the Delivery section of the LMC, time and sensitivity are also design concerns in models like Gottfredson and Mosher’s Five Moments of Learning Need. This is an important lesson to keep in mind when considering your desired learning model. Companies operating in a model with high levels of formalized learning, such as the University, may be less equipped to deal with the high time dependent type of learning.
The type of learning required in any situation can suggest the Design of any learning initiative, but it is just half of the equation. In next week’s blog, I’ll explain why the production of learning experiences is another important factor. If you have questions about types of learning or the Design portion of the LMC in general, drop me a line or leave a comment below.
While this is a topic I’ll revisit in the Key Resources portion of the LMC, it’s important to keep L&D’s staffing in mind when executing different types of learning design. If you need informal, high time-dependent learning experiences, your team should be a flexible group of information facilitators and field trainers that can respond to situations on the fly. On the other hand, if you’re aiming for more formalized training with low time dependence, you should build a team of technical developers and project managers that can handle the planning and coordination necessary for long-term initiatives. Good people are worth their weight in gold, but you should still make sure you’re employing them in the right learning conditions for their skillset.