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The Unexpected Benefit of Dynamic Learning Paths

Posted by Josh Cardoz on Thu, Nov 17, 2016

When you're a full-service learning design & production agency, you get all kinds of requests: 

"Do you do games?" 

"Can you include some CGI?" (We are not a hollywood studio.) 

"Can you fix our LMS?" (A personal favorite of mine.) 

But one that's becoming increasingly popular is, "Can you do individualized learning paths?" 

Individualized learning has always been the dream. The only things that have ever gotten in the way of achieving this have been budget, time and resources (so, basically everything). But with the growing maturity of technology fused into everything we do, this dream is alive and kicking. Yes, we "do" individualized learning paths. We call it Dynamic Learning and it is revolutionizing the way our customers are thinking about learning, in the most unexpected ways. 

Before going further, perhaps let me define what I mean by Dynamic Learning. Dynamic Learning Paths is technology-supported automation of learning through a thorough diagnosis of learner needs, and a resulting curation of learning assets (e.g. courses, quizzes, flashcards, general resources) that become a path of highly individualized (and targeted) learning. 
This is more than just an LMS telling you what module to take next. This is dynamic learning on a much more granular level. On a skill level, on a fact level, we are trying to be highly targeted in what we are trying to accomplish.  It's the L&D response to what the Marketing world has known for a while: The more relevant we can make the experience, the more valuable it will be.
My job is to design and network the content architecture within our ECHO reinforcement programs; to create the intelligence that drives the dynamic learning engine we have within the app in order to serve smart retrieval practices that can promote learning retention and address knowledge gaps. I've partnered with our customers (ranging from sales to transportation industries) to help think through their content and reimagine their learning ecosystem. Some of the questions we ask in our design sessions include: 
"If a learner has knowledge gaps in this area, what is the appropriate plan of remedy?" 
"How granular can we get in identifying (and resolving) learning needs?" 
"What does it mean when the analytics reveal trends of group-wide deficiences in a particular competency?" 
We break down content (countless hours of learning) and bring it down to a highly granular level, so that our dynamic engine can take over and work its magic. The result is a powerful (seriously, I could talk for days about this) solution that can identify and seek to resolve learner needs in real time. The technology is sophisticated and the solution certainly meets our client's immediate needs, but what we've been finding out is that something larger is at work here. 
Whereas in the past, as learning units, we were so focused on our learning events (e.g. workshops, eLearning courses, PPT decks), in a way, dynamic learning paths allow us to easily transition away from events to an ongoing learning culture by giving us insight into learner behavior and needs. 
What do I mean by this? In a recent data analysis session with a customer, we were going through pilot findings from our ECHO app. The customer (a global head of learning within the organization) was so excited by what he was able to see in the analytics that he said it was unprecendented within his entire organization (a Fortune 500 company) to be able to know so much about the learner. It was like having an X-ray into your learner's needs at all times. At this point in meeting, his mind was already racing to what he had to do next. It wasn't about learning events, it was about helping his learning ecosystem evolve. 
When you have a networked content architecture (tagged with seemingly unlimited sets of taxonomies), you suddenly start to see things you haven't before.  (I often tell clients it's like seeing the matrix.) 
The point is: This is more than just automated asset curation. This is a diagnostic and remedial tool all in one. Everything has a relationship - dependencies,  predecessors - all dynamically curated within a living, breathing learning ecosystem that can now evolve. You can look into the past, home in on the present, and forecast the future. Quite the dream fulfilled. 

What we're quickly learning is that while Dynamic Learning Paths possesses tremendous value for the end-user (highly targeted, personalized learning), it has even more value for learning design teams (and the organization as a whole) in terms of in-depth evaluation of prior learning events and more importantly, forecasting where priorites should lie in terms of future action.

Dynamic Learning and individual learning  don't just make learners smarter, they make organizations smarter too. They help us build a strong foundation for our learning cultures, and help us answer a key question for all learning units: Where do we go next? 

Have you used your dynamic learning paths (or intelligent content retrieval) within your organization? If so, what has your experience been thus far? If you haven't, what's holding you back? 

Let's connect and chat further! 

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Topics: Learning Journey, Learning Reinforcement

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