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Understanding the Learning Process...

Learning Process Development (LPD) professionals should be called upon to ensure that all major learning projects throughout the organization follow a standardized instructional development process that employs business case methodology. The process should address the five major phases of assessment of needs, design, development, implementation, and evaluation of instruction. Here are some guidelines in implementing this process.

1. Input is sought from the following sources to determine performance gaps or opportunities:

Next Point Customers and clients

Next Point Laborforce

Next Point Supervisors

Next Point Management

Next Point Future studies on potential changes in:

sub point employee roles, responsibilities, work processes, characteristics, competencies;

sub point industry trends; and

sub point technology that might affect the organization/business or the way work is done

Next Point Organization environmental studies.

Next Point Infrastructure and people/performance management studies.

2. The data gathered are rooted in the performance required for individual, team, and organizational success both currently and in the foreseeable future. At the same time LPD professionals help the organization close current performance gaps, they also support the development of the competencies needed at all levels to successfully meet future requirements.

3. The conclusions from the studies are summarized and competency profile and learning project recommendations developed by a team with representatives from all key stakeholder groups. The data, conclusions, and recommendations are presented to the leadership team to be used as input into organizational and management project and budget planning processes.

4. State-of-the-art learning strategies are designed as databases of options and multiple learning paths to support the competencies defined for the organization. Instead of a curriculum plan that applies to a large group of people, learning plans tied to the competencies are customized using variations of the LPD function's products. This provides flexibility for the constant, rapid, and often unpredictable changes in organizations' markets, environments, and stakeholder requirements.

Next Point Many learning resources offered within the curriculum are no longer offered on a set schedule at a central or regional location.

Next Point Now, more learning is made available at every organizational location, often electronically, so that it can be accessed when needed by the learner. This approach is called "point-of- need" or "just-in-time" training.

Next Point Classroom learning will continue to be useful to bring people together for shared learning experiences. These experiences allow for the sharing of insights among learners and the networking that is key to the success of many organizations.

5. Stakeholder partnerships, among managers, learners, LPD professionals, customers and co-workers, are developed to build transfer (full application of learning on the job) into the learning process. Learning that results in performance enhancement is an ongoing process involving multiple interventions by stakeholders throughout the analysis, design, delivery, and evaluation stages. These partnerships ensure that:

Next Point organizational infrastructure and management barriers to the desired learning and performance change are removed or minimized;

Next Point the learner has the appropriate supervisor support, job, and task assignments;

Next Point organizational performance measures and HR systems consequences are appropriately aligned with the performance desired; and

Next Point information, tools, and coaching needed to support the learner are available, easy to use, and readily accessible.

6. Learning process design/development methodology is standardized throughout the organization:

Next Point Learning projects are identified as outcomes of performance requirements studies and changes in strategic plans, stakeholder value, etc.

Next Point Cost/benefit analysis is consistently used in learning project proposals, including:

sub point Audience size.

sub point Expected life/usefulness of the proposed learning process.

sub point Scope of learning process — the desired performance outcome and the competency skills and knowledge components to be developed.

sub point High-level conceptual design of the learning process.

sub point Design alternatives (see existing materials review and make/buy descriptions below) and potential migration strategies for incremental or staged delivery of the learning process.

sub point All costs associated with the design, development, implementation, delivery, and maintenance of the learning process for its estimated life.

sub point Statement of anticipated benefits:

~anticipated impact of the performance/behavior changes (identified in scope above) on existing organizational process and results performance measures; and

~ contribution to organizational goals, mission, competencies.

sub point Evaluation plan that will be used to measure the degree to which planned benefits were achieved and provide information necessary to improve and maintain the effectiveness, efficiency, and impact of the learning process.

sub point Statement of risks that includes:

~ risk/cost of not developing and implementing the learning process; and

~ risks that might cause an inefficiency or unsuccessful design, development, or implementation.

Next Point Learning and performance support strategies are selected to maximize learning and performance enhancement in a minimal amount of time.

sub point Problem-based learning;

sub point Action learning;

sub point Structured on-the-job training;

sub point Performance support systems;

sub point Systems that are available to the learner "just in time" provide "just the right" amount of content.

Next Point Designs of all learning strategies include the appropriate amount of each the five conditions for learning:

7. Existing materials reviews are part of all projects. Identification of existing internal and/or external materials that can support the learning process design, development, and implementation prevents duplication of effort; is a source of good ideas and content; and lowers project costs and cycle times. This step identifies vendor products that meet the organization's needs and enables a "make/buy" decision based on the cost/benefit analysis of the alternatives.

8. The vendor review and selection process, if applicable, is managed by a key stakeholder group (including members of LPD). This team identifies the selection criteria and the relative importance of each (e.g., high=3, medium=2, low=1); develops a vendor evaluation matrix; and makes final selection in compliance with any procurement rules, regulations and policies. Following selection, one or more products are tested and evaluated with the target audience to ensure "fit" and determine adaptation requirements. Selection criteria include:

Next Point Product attributes that indicate the degree to which the vendor product should contribute to the desired performance outcome and competency skill and knowledge components to be developed;

Next Point Vendor cost;

Next Point Costs of any adaptation required to maximize organizational or learning process/performance goal outcomes;

Next Point Vendor's record of reliability in the areas of product quality and timeliness;

Next Point Ease of use of product and vendor administrative processes;

Next Point Vendor's past projects and results within the organization and a reference check.

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