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Designing a large scale learning programme - 1Presentations & Workshops, Large scale programmes 8231 views
When it comes to designing a large-scale learning programme, the processes you work through are probably not much different to building something just for your team. The difference is that you will need to be much more explicit in your thinking, rather than relying on gut instinct.
When I start out with a new learning programme I try to split my work into three core areas:
- Learning architecture
- Technology infrastructure
- People (probably the most important)
Getting the learning architecture is important, but, if you get the technology or the people aspects wrong then nothing's going to make the learning work!
Much of the thinking is iterative; as soon as you get one thing sorted you need to go back and work out its impact on the rest of the design.
Throughout the process, the role of the Solutions Architect is to balance the needs of the organisation and the needs of the learner with the resources available (eg. systems, budgets, people).
Just like in a real-world building project, getting the architect in early is essential. On large-scale projects there's no point giving the builder their instructions on what to build, and then bringing in an architect to make sure they do it properly. The architect is the link between your organisation's real (rather than perceived) needs and the solution to those needs.
Building a learning architecture
Before you even start thinking about what the learning programme is going to look like you need to consider the problem that it is meant to solve.
It might be that your client organisation is wanting to explore new approaches to a particular aspect of its work, where the outcome is uncertain.
Or there may be a need to proove that the organisation has complied with particular legal or regulatory requirements. (I'll leave it for others to debate whether that means training is the only solution.)
Perhaps the organisation needs to ensure that there is a consistent skill base across the whole workforce.
Your client might have decided that people need a raised level of knowledge and understanding of what you do.
Or perhaps there's a strategic need to change behaviours across the organisation.
Whatever the business need, you must understand it. And you must get to the bottom of the reasons behind that business need. Alongside that you'll need to know very quickly what drives the organisation's culture. Without those two converging streams of understanding, you will find it extremely difficult to create a learning solution that matches the client's needs and expectations.
There are two tools that really help in this process with clients. One is Cathy Moore's action mapping presentation. This, very clearly, shows the client the importance of focussing on what they want people to do, rather than know.
The other tool I use considerably, especially in client workshops, is some sort of visual mapping tool. Options here include:
- MindManager - a very powerful mind mapping tool that integrates well with MS Office.
- Freemind - an open-source mind-mapping tool. Fast and simple to use.
- CmapTools - a free concept-mapping tool
These tools are useful to both collect ideas together, and then to re-present those ideas back to the client as your understanding of what they are trying to achieve.
As an adjunct to understanding the business need, you will also need to understand your client's expectations of what they will measure.
As soon as you put any part of a learning programme online, you run the risk of measuring things just because they are easy to measure, rather than because they are important. Online learning provide huge amounts of data about what learners are doing and when they're doing it. Much of that data might be useful as aggregated statistics (given a large enough population sample), but it tells you very little about the individual learner.
The challenge is to find the things that you can measure that will give you meaningful information about whether you are achieving your business needs.
Consider what it is you want to find out:
- Learners' skill levels before and/or after the learning intervention?
- How your learning intervention is perceived?
- How many people took up your offer of the learning intervention, and to what extent
- Whether your learning intervention made any difference to learners' behaviour?
You'll also need to consider whether the measurements are "high stakes". In other words, are other actions dependent on the results of the measurements.
In the next installment of this post, we will look at the routes a learner will take to, through and after your intervention - the learner's eye view...
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