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Learning journeys: Worth the trip?


They say it’s not the destination that matters, but how you get there that counts. Cheap flights to Barcelona? Awesome. A detour to Prague and 12 hour stopover in Inverness? Hmm… not quite such a good deal. But if the destination is knowledge and competence, does it matter how you travel?

When it comes to learning journeys… are they worth the trip?

Let’s imagine Point X is a place of little or partial knowledge on a subject. You want to get your learners to Point Z; a place of understanding and/or competency. A single learning intervention – for example, an elearning module – may hope to ‘teleport’ your learners to success. A learning journey acknowledges the conceptual space there is to traverse between these points. A variety of experiences can be carefully selected to support learners along the way.

This approach has its benefits. After all, who doesn’t love an itinerary? Learning journeys can make complex topics feel more manageable. Sightseeing and pit stops feature in a variety of media to delight, inform and entertain. They can also help learners imagine the future and make aspirations and goals feel tangible. Learning and Development professionals can also benefit. Learning journeys give us the flexibility to adapt our approach if, for example, requirements change or we want to improve based on learner feedback. 

But they also come with their fair share of traffic jams. Designing a learning journey takes time, dedication and commitment - particularly from your Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The horizon scanning and ‘big picture’ view they demand can be difficult to grasp, and your path may feel meandering. Not forgetting the delays you may encounter waiting for input on different learning journey elements.

But with some fresh approaches, you can navigate around these obstacles. Hop aboard for some top tips to help you design your next learning journey. 

Choose method over media

Now, this isn’t exactly a new concept… but it bears repeating. Learning journeys can include a vibrant mix of media – for example animation, adaptive elearning, 360 video, magazine-style resources to name a few – but it’s not media that drives your learning journey approach. Rather, it’s the learning requirements that shape your structure and flow. Which in turn, guide you to select the most suitable format. Remember that you should be able to justify the what’s, where’s and why’s of every element of your learning journey design. This should also help you steer your SMEs; think of them as your local tour guides helping your learners at specific pit stops of a bigger adventure.

Promote an autonomous experience

Remember those people on your last city break, the miserable ones dragged around by an energetic tour operator wielding an umbrella? Those are your learners being spoon-fed a learning journey. There’s nothing more discouraging than being in a new and exciting place and not being able to see the things that you want to see, or explore in the ways that you find most enjoyable. Exactly the same can be said for learning. It can make or break the experience – so why not give the learners some options? Let them search, filter and find; make recommendations for how they might navigate a learning journey, but don’t lock things down. It’s all part of the adult-to-adult approach that help learning journeys get off the ground.

Keep a curation mindset

Curation allows you to overcome bumps in the road caused by a) content overload and b) the demands of keeping content fresh and up-to-date. This can make the prospect of designing a learning journey feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Remember this is your chance to construct meaning and prioritise the content for your learners, so if it feels too much – get rid. Once a learning journey is up and running, remember that you can feed and shape it with updates. Whether it’s user-generated tips or the latest SME insights, curated content will take your learners off the beaten track.

Make tracking work for your learners (and you)

How many selfies did you take on your last trip away? We have an undeniable impulse to track our experiences and the journeys we take, and learning is no different. A gamified approach – a bit like adding stamps to your passport – can allow learners to check their progress and see how far they’ve got left to travel. As a learning professional, you can use tracking to get data on user experience, completion rates and success stories. This can be ‘macro’ – the whole learning journey and the big picture results – or micro, with a focus on progress or completion of individual elements. This will give you an impressively accurate snapshot of what’s working, and letting you know when you might need to change direction.  

Talk to us about these insights and more; we’ll help you get started on learning journey design, and prepare you for your own voyage of discovery. The destination? Using learning journeys to achieve future-proofed learning strategy, tangible business results and success for your learners. It’s definitely worth a visit.

Author: Liz Hardwell, Senior Learning Designer and Sub-Team Leader, Sponge