Learning isn’t always linear, and it helps to take various lessons on a learning experience platform and combine them creatively to form what’s known as a learning path. So what is a learning path, why should you use them, and how can you design them in ways that encourage your employees to pursue growth?
What is a learning path?
Similar to a course, learning paths for employees are made up of multiple lessons and are meant to educate learners on a wide range of skills for a particular role. While lessons tend to zero in on one skill in particular like web programming fundamentals, learning paths may pair this lesson with two or three other skill-based lessons to create a learning path for front end development. They are usually designed in a way that builds complexity, and by the end of a path, learners are thoroughly equipped for a particular specialty, role or something more specific like a new product launch.
The ‘why’ behind learning paths
Learning paths are also customizable to the user. One employee may feel the need to pursue a path on front end development while another may be interested in refining their customer and sales techniques. And when paired with additional features such as gating or test-outs (an exciting new Loop feature—more on this later), learning paths meet the learner where they’re at. Gone are the days of forcing every employee to move at the same pace and complete the same set of assignments; modern learning has opened the door for a custom experience that motivates improvement and creates excitement around employee education.
When should I use learning paths?
There are some instances where learning paths may not be the best choice. However, there are a couple of contexts that are ideal for incorporating learning paths for employees.
1. Use learning paths when there are multiple job roles and learning contexts
If your company has many different job roles that require different skill sets, learning paths are ideal. Take some time to identify key skills for job roles and create paths that focus on those skills. You can create learning paths for each job role, or you can create some for all employees before splitting off into more specialized paths.
2. Use learning paths when there are differences in learner experience
Even if your employees are training for a similar role, there’s a chance your team has differences in experience. Learning paths can also be created for different levels of understanding in order to meet each learner where they’re at, ensuring that each employee will be challenged and engaged throughout the learning process.
Now, let’s learn how to design a learning path.
How to design a learning path
Because learning paths are made up of lessons, there isn’t a lot of work to do in terms of designing the content itself when it comes to designing a learning path. However, there are a few key principles which are super important to making learning paths that work.
1. Discover as much as you can about the learner
At Loop, we’re all about creating a learner-centered experience. This means spending as much time upfront understanding learner motivation, desires, and goals so that every learning path feels tailor made for them. When learning feels custom, it motivates employees to not only complete courses but retain what they learn.
2. Outline your content to understand your objectives
When you’re creating learning paths for employees, start by discussing intended outcomes, and spend time mapping out which lessons would best help you meet your objectives. This is the time to cast a wide net and think about all possible skills that would contribute toward employee success in a particular area. Later on, you will take everything you’ve written down and distill it further for maximum impact.
3. When it comes to content, move from general to specific
Have you ever heard of the inverted pyramid approach to journalism? The inverted pyramid system suggests that articles should always lead with essential information, followed by unessential information in order of importance.
In the same way, we think learning paths work best when going from general, fundamental concepts, towards specific, specialized concepts. From your initial content outline, you can work together with your team to determine fundamental lessons, placing them at the start of your learning path. From there, all that’s left to do is decide the order of importance for the remaining, more specific lessons.
4. Incorporate features that streamline your learning path
Finally, it goes without saying that you should use every helpful feature available to you on your learning experience platform to add that final polish to your learning path. There are a few Loop features we find particularly handy: gating, sequencing, and our upcoming test-out feature.
Gating is a tool to help ensure that employees move through a learning path in a particular order. The reality is that sometimes, employees may attempt to skip ahead or rush through lessons, and gating helps prevent that while helping with learner retention.
Sequencing is the tool used within Loop to create the final order. Once you’ve finalized your outline, it’s simple to drag each lesson on a learning path to the correct spot.
There’s not always an easy way to know where each of your learners are at in terms of experience, and the last thing you want is to bore employees that could use their time to refine more advanced skills. Test-outs allow users to take assessments that determine whether or not they have mastery over a particular concept. If they pass, they can move ahead to the next lesson.
Test-outs are a great way to create a culture of learning on your team, because every employee will be able to pursue education that both enhances their skills and helps them reach their professional goals.
Finally, use learning paths to acknowledge your employees
Because learning paths allow employees to gain specialized skills in a given role, companies can reward their hard work directly on the learning platform through certificates, badges, or rewards. This might seem like a small gesture, but employees want to know that what they do matters, and acknowledging their professional growth is a wonderful way to encourage and motivate them.
There’s almost nothing learning paths can’t do, and with these tips on how to design a learning path effectively, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start to see a difference.