Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

29 November 2016

Thoughts on Learning Design Strategy

Clark @ 8:10 AM

learning design strategy questionsAt the DevLearn conference, I ran a Morning Buzz on Learning Design Strategy. I’m happy to say that the participants threw in lots of ideas, and I thought they were worth capturing. I started with a set of questions to address, so I’ll go through their comments in roughly that order (though we didn’t exactly follow this structure):

What is learning design strategy?

I had in mind the approach taken by an organization to their learning design.  Attendees suggested it’s your goals and approach, ensuring you are delivering effectively.  It’s also your review approach, and metrics.  These are all elements that indeed contribute to strategy.

What gaps are we seeing in learning design strategy?

The participants offered up a suite of places that were problems, including aligning with organizational goals and access to support measuring impact, both of which are indeed strategic issues.  They also raised problems with prioritization of the demands, the need to move beyond just courses, and the lack of learning design knowledge. All are real problems.

What do we need to be able to improve?

The audience offered up a number of suggestions.  For one, there was a desire for strategies (probably more tactics) for doing beyond ‘the event’.  Support for selling changes in the way of doing things was mentioned as well.  The shift to self-learning was mentioned, leading to concern over how to support this. Attendees also mentioned a need of awareness in designing ‘backwards‘. Finally, a culture of learning was expressly discussed.

What are possible solutions?

The participants offered a suite of suggestions. One was adopting a learn-apply-perform model, which another termed a learn-practice-demo. Both were getting at the need for active practice and an ability to actually demonstrate performance.  There was also a mention of looking to social networks and peer recommendations to lower the demand and facilitate self-learning.  A culture shift was suggested, supported by the methods used to teach! A final solution was to move quickly to mentoring, which implicitly suggests including mentoring in the design.

Steps to take to move forward?

I also wanted to know what how they might move forward, and what they needed.  Two clear suggestions emerged.  One was for examples, and I reckon both of better learning designs, and approaches to implement those learning designs in organizations.  The other was for tools. Here it was clear that they weren’t talking about tools to develop learning, but tools to support them doing good design, and following processes.

At the end I left with mixed feelings. It’s good to know that the problems I see are reflected in what the practitioners reports; we see the same problems  It’s also sad that these problems exist.  I do believe that the Serious eLearning Manifesto is one piece of support.  And I’ve written on practices (e.g. with SMEs), but it’s clear that some practical scaffolding would help. I’ve worked with a few organizations, but I’m struggling to find ways to help more.  (Maybe this is the topic of my next book?) So, what ideas do you have?

(I’m offering a webinar next week that will address these issues, if you’re serious about making changes.)


  1. Hey Clark — hope all is well! Did the participants discuss learning technology and the role it plays in facilitating these different ways of learning (social learning, collaboration, WOL, curation, etc.)? I see a wide range of approaches to workplace learning, from companies just now implementing their first LMS, to companies building or recreating their L&D org around social learning from the ground up, and everything in between. It seems to me that a discussion about learning design would necessitate conversation around learning technology strategy in a holistic approach.

    Comment by Amy Rouse — 29 November 2016 @ 1:21 PM

  2. Amy, thanks for the interest. And I welcome hearing about some of these new approaches you’re seeing! This discussion was largely premised on how they were approaching their design of elearning at the tactical level. That is, how can they get strategic about their design processes. There is, of course, a higher level that you suggest where it’s about other approaches than courses. And I agree that’s a huge opportunity. It’s just that there’re also opportunities to improve what’s being done at the level of elearning course design, and this discussion was largely focused on that.

    Comment by Clark — 29 November 2016 @ 10:29 PM

  3. I also attended DevLearn and in reading your synopsis found you surfaced the conflict/agita I felt while there. I believe there is something of a sea change/turbulance in the elearning force right now. First, all the disruptions had to do with tools/technology/internet (the HOW) and now I believe the wrestling is with the WHY. Because everything else (wireless technology, efficient development tools) make the WHAT and the WHERE/WHEN so easy, the focus is now on the WHY and the conflict is between content-driven versus context-driven training. I believe we need to shift to “learning at the point of work” and training/performance support almost like a hand-shake. This is a significant change as it impacts how we all work with our clients and stakeholders (who are often content-driven) and how we justify our projects with performance-based objectives and metrics. It also turns a critical eye to the tools (the ones that make porting a million works of content with cheesy graphics into a big long elearning deliverable). And yes I think it is your next book. I believe the answer is to be old-school and new-school at the same time — facilitated (like old-fashioned teacher) collaboration (like social media). Anyway — thanks for posting.

    Comment by Carol Cohen — 5 December 2016 @ 7:48 AM

  4. Carol, as I reflect on the year, I can’t support your thoughts more. We definitely need to shift into only doing courses when we need a major skill shift, and then our notion of course must change. We can and should do more in the work flow: performance support and continuing development. I’m not clear we really have an instructional design model for this, but we could and should. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

    Comment by Clark — 31 December 2016 @ 9:47 AM

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress