A learning path is the tool that can take your training program from confusing to constructive – building on knowledge incrementally to get your learners from A to B efficiently.
A learning path is designed to give learners a clear route through a training program. It breaks course content down into manageable chunks, allowing learners to easily absorb information and progress smoothly through each course.
Here’s everything you need to know about designing a learning path – including what is a learning path, what makes a good learning path and types of learning paths.
What is a learning path?
A learning path is a route that learners take through a training program. Learning paths gather together a selection of courses and transform them into a cohesive learner journey, while breaking the whole learning process into manageable chunks.
Your goal as an educator is to get your students from A to B in their learning journey. But getting your learners to their final destination requires a series of smaller steps. It’s not enough to dump all the information on learners in one go. Instead, a learning path allows you to map out how learners will move through your program and gradually acquire knowledge along the way.
For learners, a learning path provides a roadmap for how they’ll get from their current knowledge place to their desired future. It gives them a clear picture of how you will help them achieve their final learning goals and the route they will take to get there. Grab our Learning Sequence Examples and Template
Learning pathway examples
To help you understand exactly how a learning path can help you, let’s take a look at 4 learning pathway examples.
Learning paths for employees
From employee onboarding to compliance training to upskilling and more, education is an essential part of building an efficient and productive workforce.
Learning paths give you the opportunity to streamline your employee training by providing a focused approach to learning. With tools like this employee training tracker template, you can communicate employee milestones and track their progress.
Importantly, a learning path also cuts down on education-related admin. Instead of enrolling employees for individual courses, you simply add them to a learning management system and let the learning path guide them from there.
Read more on learning paths for employees and how software-company Procurify saved 15+ hours a week by building an online training academy for their workforce.
Partners are a valuable resource for increasing sales and growing your business. A learning path can be used to simplify partner education by providing a clear process for partners to learn about your brand, improve their product knowledge and ensure compliance across-the-board.
When it comes to partner education, a learning pathway allows you to hit key onboarding targets, including:
- Gaining a sense of your partners strengths and weaknesses
- Providing partners with the documents and materials they need to sell your products
- Delivering essential brand training
- Gathering feedback from partners
Use this partner onboarding template to instantly improve your partner education.
A learning path can also be used to improve customer education by taking customers on a structured journey. With the right learning path, you can move customers seamlessly from learning about your product to making an informed buying decision and finally helping them get the most value out of your product.
For businesses, implementing a learning path in your customer education process can help you to:
- Move leads down the sales funnel
- Provide a focused approach to learning about your product
- Help customers to better understand your product value
- Assist with product adoption
- Provide ongoing education for customers
- Improve brand loyalty
Find out more about optimizing your customer success through customer education here.
Online course businesses
If you’re building an online course business, a learning path will help you create learning solutions that stick.
As an educator, you have in-depth expertise in your subject area but you need to find a way to share that knowledge with a non-expert audience. With a learning path, you can break down your expertise into easily absorbed modules that help learners progress through your course material.
By taking learners step-by-step, you hugely increase their chances of success and improve the learning outcomes. Here’s one example of how a learning path can help you.
Example: Learning magic
Imagine you are a magician and you want to help other people become magicians too.
- Think about your total knowledge as a whole academy rather than just one course – in this case ‘how to become a professional magician’.
- Split your knowledge into different topics or bundles – for instance, card tricks, vanishing tricks, levitation tricks etc.
- Within these topics, define the skills learners need to gain in order to reach the learning goal – within card tricks, the skills might be card handling, performance skills and more
- Then define the methods you will use to pass on the knowledge for each skill – these will form the chapters and individual lessons you will teach within each course
Rather than offloading all your expert knowledge in one go, a learning path gives you the chance to simplify the learner journey.
How to design a learning path
Now you’ve heard what a learning path is and learning path examples, the next question is how to design a learning path?
Here’s a framework for designing your own learning path.
Conduct a training needs analysis
First things first, you need to do a training needs analysis. This is your chance to consider your learners’ goals and what they are currently lacking to allow them to achieve those goals.
In your training needs analysis, you might want to think about:
- What is the target audience?
- What are their learning goals?
- What is their current skill level?
- What are the main barriers to their learning right now?
By defining these points now, you can make sure you design your program in a clear, structured way.
Identify skill gaps
You can now identify the current gaps between the skills your target audience has and their desired learning outcomes. This is the time to figure out what skills your target audience lack and what they will need to achieve their goals.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- What does my target audience want to achieve?
- Where do they want to be at the end of the course?
- What does my course need to include to get them there?
- What essential skills do they need to learn?
- How will my course help?
You can refer back to your answers later to make sure your course delivers on its aims.
Define your learning goals
Now take all the information from steps 1 and 2 and turn it into your learning goal. Here you will identify the skills, knowledge and capabilities you want learners to achieve by the time they have completed your program. This is the foundation that everything is built on!
To borrow from our magician example, a learning goal might be: After completing the training, the learner will be able to perform 5 magic tricks with no assistance.
This learning goal clearly defines who will be doing the learning, what they will be able to do and the degree of mastery involved.
Create an eLearning Storyboard
Next you can create a storyboard for your course.
An eLearning storyboard allows you to map out the learning path, describing what content you will create and how you will produce the content. In your eLearning storyboard you can include:
- How you will deliver the education
- What instructional materials you will use
- What order your content will go in
- How your modules will fit together
- Who you need to work with to deliver the program
The storyboarding process is your chance to get the meaty part of your course planning sorted. In this step, you’ll figure out exactly what you need to include in your course and how you will deliver it.
Optimize content subject matter and packaging
After the initial eLearning storyboarding, you can work on optimizing your content to make sure it hits your learning goals. Refer back to the objectives you defined at the start of your process.
The important thing here is to make sure that your current learning path doesn’t overload learners with too much information all at the same time. Check out this blog on cognitive load theory to learn more.
Create steps and milestones
To refine your learning path even more, you need to build in the steps you want your learners to take. Clearly defined steps and milestones help to make the journey through your course smooth and enjoyable.
A great way to implement steps in your learning path is using a hierarchy of online learning that builds on Bloom’s taxonomy.
The hierarchy of online learning breaks learning down into six stages:
- Remembering facts
- Demonstrating understanding
- Applying learning to actual situations
- Analyzing ideas and understanding how they all fit together
- Using knowledge to propose new solutions to a given problem
- Creating, designing, and implementing new things based on the learning
This system creates a scaffold for designing your learning path. As learners move through each level, they will build on their knowledge from the previous stage. By keeping this structure in mind, you can ensure that your learning path follows a logical progression.
Read more about methods to make learning stick using Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction.
Implement and monitor your learning path
Designing the best possible learning path is a continual process. After you’ve designed and implemented your learning path, you can monitor its performance and collect feedback from learners.
If there’s something that isn’t working, it’s a good idea to take another look at your learning path. What is missing? How can you make the journey even smoother? The best learning paths are the ones that respond and adapt to the needs of your learners.
What makes a good learning path?
Now you have a good idea of what is a learning path and how to design a learning path, let’s take a look at what makes a good learning path.
Here are some key considerations if you’re looking to make a brilliant learning path.
Produce evergreen content
For online courses to be effective, they need to be standalone with minimal input from you or the course instructors. That means you need to try and anticipate the learner’s needs and plan your learning path with those needs in mind.
One of the main reasons to implement a learning path is to reduce the amount of input that is needed day-to-day. With evergreen content, you can set learners up on the learning path and leave them to it. This makes your job easier and makes sure there’s no delays on the learners’ end.
Consider different learning styles
Remember that everyone learns differently. Not all your learners will have the same preferences when it comes to learning styles.
When you’re designing your learning path, try to create resources that cater to multiple learning styles. Think about producing a range of different content, for instance a combination of image-rich content and auditory content like podcasts or lectures. The more variety of activities and exercises you can offer the better!
Make it bite-sized
Small and simple is key! One of the main advantages of a learning path is that it allows you to break the learning journey into small bite-sized chunks.
Not only does this help to make your course easier to follow, by transforming your program into small learning steps, you also add an extra level of flexibility. Learners can take course modules one at a time, allowing them to structure their learning around their other commitments. A learning path creates a continuous journey for learners without overloading them with too much information all at once.
Learn more about Micro-Learning Strategy.
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