Learning Design Is Our Learning Product — And the Data Businesses Demand

Business people listening to colleagues presentation in the office

Learning professionals are essential to organizational success because they build employee capability that drives business results. They create programs that generate employee skills, change performance, and lead to improved business outcomes.

The effectiveness of learning programs determine the value of a learning department.  Learning design is our product, and enables us to make organizational change. 

We know that learning programs are our means to accomplish performance goals.  We understand the way we design our instruction determines the results.  Much like the architect designing a building, the decisions made in learning design dictate the strength of the program.  Consequently, understanding how learning design influences learning outcomes is crucial to improving practice and verifying results.

What Can Measurement Professionals Learn by Paying Attention to Learning Design Data?

Think of all the decisions made during the instructional design process and consider how those decisions lead to the expected outcomes.

Certainly, our jobs involve a lot of project management and coordination with others, but the most important part of our jobs is the design decisions we make when we create a program. Learning design dictates learning results, so learning designers must make decisions on key elements during the design process.  Important decisions include:

  • Which organizational metric is addressed by the program?
  • What behaviors are addressed by the program?
  • What instructional methods do we use ensure that students learn?
  • Which evaluation methods can we use verify learning?

Properly designed learning materials answer these questions. Different components of design reflect the answers.  The learning objectives show the behaviors and metrics addressed in the program. The instructional plan identifies the teaching methods used (such as lecture, small group discussion, demonstration/discussion etc.). Evaluations show the level of capability that employees should reach by taking the program.

In other words, the learning design identifies all the things (targets and methods) we need in order to examine and show results.  The question remains, why do we measure activities (LMS reports) or opinions (survey results) when we could directly measure the achievement of performance targets (knowledge, critical thinking skills, behavior, and metrics) outlined in the design of our programs?

Learning Design Provides the Road Map for Performance Change and the Benchmark for Success

During learning design, the learning professional clarifies the expected outcomes, yet most current measurement methods ignore the design process. Instead of holding ourselves accountable and measuring the achievement of the program targets, we ask others (in a survey) to tell us if we did a good job, we crunch data on employee opinions of impact.

Let’s be clear, in learning measurement, the goal is not to inform leaders on activities we do, or subjects we covered in our courses.  Those things do not translate into employee capability or changes in performance.  The goal is to report on how learning programs increased employee knowledge, critical thinking skills or behavior skills.  The goal is to show and how those capability changes drove changes in organizational metrics/results.

Simply put, reporting on activities and employee opinion does not give us (or our Leaders) the information/evidence we need.  Worse, reporting on these things reinforces our lack of creditable data on how learning enables organizational success.

Harnessing the Power of Instructional Design Data

When learning professionals create programs using a standard design model, they can measure outcomes and gather analytics that allow them to do some important things. With a standard design model that includes learning objectives, corresponding evaluations, and documented instructional methods they can:

  1. Identify design decisions that were successful and those that were not so they can diagnose and repair their courses using hard facts on the effectiveness of design decisions
  2. Identify both the behaviors and the metrics that learning impacted
  3. Verify the need for the requested program
  4. Verify if the learning was lost or applied to the job
  5. Name the organizational metrics driven by learning programs

Consequently, if we hope to convey the value of learning, we need to standardize our learning design methods to understand our practice. We cannot improve or measure a moving target. When learning programs do not identify objectives, corresponding evaluations, and instructional methods, there is no ability to get information on which behaviors are targeted/achieved.  There is little knowledge on which learning methods were effective. Standardization (which permits measurement) enables us to compare apples to apples and improves our understanding of our work.

PowerPoints Won’t Cut It

The days of learning programs comprised of PowerPoint slides delivered by a subject matter expert are gone. That model does not allow for capturing the intellectual capital we need to supply to employees. Therefore, it is not a scalable model for organizational growth or an efficient means to enable employees to learn.

The point is, companies can hand out titles to learning professionals to address learning impact, but until these professionals capture learning design data, they will never get the answers they seek. Consequently, learning professionals will not be offered a seat at the table until they can reliably inform others on the methods that work to create employee capability.

Do you understand how learning design creates our learning product? Do you have formal training in instructional design skills? If you need a better foundation in learning and instructional design, please contact us here at eParamus. We train L&D professionals to create standardized design programs that lead to measurable learning.

Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss your specific learning challenges.

Photo copyright: Wavebreak Media Ltd / 123RF Stock Photo


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