Keeping learners engaged with relevant course material can be quite a challenge in today’s fast-paced information environment. Although there are more resources available to learners than ever before, they may not always know how to select the most beneficial content for their professional development. At the same time, they may find traditional online courses too restrictive and not entirely relevant to their individual needs. That’s why the most successful instructional designers have incorporated learning pathways into their continuing education strategies.
What Are Learning Pathways?
Unlike traditional eLearning course structure that follows a linear path from one lesson to the next, learning pathways consist of linked course modules and resources that learners can consume based on their development needs and interests. The distinguishing feature of a learning pathway is that it makes connections between that content to help learners better retain what they’ve learned and identify where they need to go next.
These connections are what set learning pathways apart from a simple collection of online courses. While learners maintain some level of control over their journey, they will also encounter opportunities for reinforcing prior knowledge connecting that information to new material. A common analogy for this approach to eLearning is a road trip that provides general directions for getting from point A to point B, but lets the driver select which roads to take and which sites to see along the way. By contrast, a traditional virtual course might be more akin to a road trip that sticks strictly to an interstate path that, to quote legendary journalist Charles Kuralt, allows people to “travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.”
Characteristics of Learning Pathways
While learning paths can take many different forms, they tend to share a few essential characteristics.
- Flexibility: Since learners have some ability to choose the next step of their learning journey, they are more likely to remain engaged in the process.
- Diversity: A well-designed learning path should branch out into multiple related topics and disciplines to provide learners with the opportunity to broaden their expertise.
- Holistic: Far more than a collection of unrelated modules, a learning pathway creates a complete picture of a topic or subject area that helps learners identify key connections and dependencies.
- Personalization: Learning pathways take the specific needs and interests of the learner into account by serving up content that will support their individual development journey.
Benefits of Learning Pathways for Learners
Designing clear learning pathways as part of a continuing education strategy is especially helpful because it allows organizations to set specific learning goals that can accommodate different types of learners. Rather than simply providing a collection of loosely related courses and hoping that learners will find the resources they need, a learning pathway sets clear objectives for learning and makes sure that learners are connected to the right resources.
Checklists, milestones, and digital badging can be used to further shape the learning journey and encourage people to remain engaged. For example, a sales training course may provide lessons on common knowledge that would be beneficial for newcomers but tedious for experienced learners. A simple assessment could be included to allow someone to skip over content in favor of newer material that’s more appropriate for their current career stage. At the same time, a learning pathway can also circle back around to that information in the future to reinforce knowledge.
Periodic milestones provide checkpoints to help learners assess their progress towards the primary objective, no matter what path they take to get there. These moments create natural stopping points that make it easier to draw connections between previous material and determine what step should be taken next. Critically, learning pathways give learners the flexibility to choose how to proceed, offering them a range of choices that are still contribute to the program’s overall objective without locking them into a prescribed experience.
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Benefits of Learning Pathways for Organizations
For organizations that already have a catalogue of learning modules, learning pathways are an ideal way of leveraging those resources more effectively. Rather than placing on-demand learning assets in a resource center where they may be ignored or overlooked, relevant courses can be connected to one another via learning pathways that cater to specific career development needs or meet distinct training objectives.
For instance, a video module that covers the core elements of a software platform might be equally relevant to newly hired employees who need to learn how to use it, experienced professionals who need a quick refresher course, and channel partners looking for insight into how the platform works. Rather than directing each of these learners to a single resource, the content could be incorporated into a learning pathway that provides everything they might need to know in order to excel in their role.
By creating personalized pathways, organizations can also manage the educational life cycle of every learner. They can set development objectives to build competencies and ensure that learners acquire the appropriate certifications and training. This personalized approach helps to keep learners engaged and encourages them to take an active role in their professional development.
Create Engaging Learning Pathways with Crowd Wisdom
Building a personalized learning path for multiple careers and roles can be a time-consuming and challenging process, especially without a centralized learning hub to manage content or experienced instructional design specialists on staff. Although most organizations have access to subject matter experts (SMEs) who can provide valuable educational content, they often lack the ability to turn that knowledge into an engaging course that resonates with learners.
Crowd Wisdom is a versatile learning management system (LMS) that makes it easier than ever to develop and deliver continuing education content to a wide variety of learners. Our Content Creation Services team works directly with organizations to craft personalized learning pathways that provide flexible course content to keep learners engaged as they work toward set objectives, build competencies, and attain vital certifications. From basic content conversion that turns existing material into SCORM-compliant coursework to comprehensive instructional design, we help create interoperable learning content that promotes ongoing professional development and revenue opportunities.